My general area of expertise is Environmental Social Studies, which includes: Politics, Inequality and Justice, Resource Policy, Discourse, Communication, Culture, and Informality. Currently, I am working on finishing my dissertation that explores environmental policy, deforestation discourse, media, and their changes under Russia’s turn to authoritarianism. Given Russia’s role in international politics, the vastness of Russia’s natural resources, and its potential to exacerbate or mitigate the consequences of global warming depending on its policy orientation and political goals, my research makes meaningful and timely contributions to the studies of environmental governance, environmental knowledge production, inequality, and discourse. Two of the dissertation chapters are under review in peer-review journals.

Dissertation Project

My dissertation titled "Morality, Politics and Ecological Inaction in Russian Forests" studies the perceptions of deforestation and the construction of alternative environmental knowledge on the basis of logging in Russia. In this dissertation I approach the problem of logging from an intersectional point of view, allowing for the overlapping systems of meaning to shed light on this complex socio-environmental issue. I evaluate the problem of deforestation from two distinct levels. First, the macro, federal level, that explains the role of 1) national anxiety 2) resource nationalism 3) power and state agenda in the formation of the blame for the forest loss. Second, the micro, interpersonal, level that helps understand 1) the role of culture, ideology, and inequalities, 2) the role of workers’ own perceptions of deforestation in the construction of alternative environmental knowledge. In this project, I evaluate logging and deforestation and analyze its underlying cultural and socio-economic rationale through field research focused on logging industry workers, as well as through critical discourse analysis focused on federal newspaper publications.

Map of Russia's Forest Loss. Brown-Fires, Green-Logging. Based on data from the Global Forest Watch.

In the first chapter of my dissertation, I explore how scientific and logging sector workers' personally-witnessed forest and industry problems get overpowered by prejudices and misconceptions of China embedded in shared culture and Russians' understanding of historical events. I use the concept of "scapegoat ecology" to refer to this process of overpowering the environmental reality with catchy widely-available misconceptions of China. I conclude by stating that scapegoat ecology is a common occurrence in Russian environmental discourse, and it is widely used by industry and the government to distract the media consumer from the many problems of the logging industry and the complex reality of forest degradation. The article version of the first dissertation chapter is currently under review in an academic journal.

Photos from my Dissertation fieldwork

The second dissertation chapter approaches deforestation and logging discourse through the lens of media. The primary analytical goal of this qualitative research is to evaluate the changes in newspaper discourse on the logging industry and forestland over the past 20 years. The objects of this research are articles published between 2000 and 2020 by prominent Russian national newspapers. My findings indicate a connection between the media takeover of the mid-2000s, as well as an overall power centralization and the nature of deforestation discourse. Newspaper analysis shows that depersonalization of the central government’s blame for the spread of illegal logging and deforestation went along with objectifying “black loggers” and China as the main source of loss of forestland and revenue from logging. The article version of the second dissertation chapter is currently under review in an academic journal.

Previously Published Work

Previously I published a research article on informal exchanges and reciprocity in Russia. Research Article "What Does a “Thank you” Cost? Informal Exchange and the Case of “Brift” in Contemporary Russia", was published in Qualitative Sociology in 2021.

This article addresses the complex nature of informal exchange in contemporary Russia. I borrow the term “brift” from Abel Polese in order to analyze a hybrid nature of informal transactions that have a ternary nature embodying bribery, gift-giving, and a mechanism of building social capital. While there exists a wealth of studies on informal exchange in Post-Soviet states and modern Russia, the question of how participants of the exchange make sense of the transactions and conditions of the exchange, how they morally and mentally estimate the value and price of the favors, and how they choose appropriate items for reciprocating for the favors still remains understudied. The study addresses this theoretical dilemma and provides a detailed investigation of the meaning-making process intrinsic to this type of informal transaction. The article provides an analysis of the in-depth interviews with citizens of St. Petersburg and demonstrates the complexity of the cognitive work of calculating the right price and estimating the proper value and fitness of the items to be used in the brift transactions. This research generally points to the need for greater sensitivity to intricacies of meaning, practice, and cognitive work that saturate informal exchange, and further calls for a wider acceptance of the concept of brift.