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20 Years independence openness professionalism




Centre for Independent Social Research (CISR) is a nongovernmental research institute working in four main areas sociological research projects professional development of young sociologists the formation of professional networks in the social sciences sociological expertise and consultations

WE follow the humanitarian tradition in sociology are open to new people, ideas, experience are independent in assessment, thematic choice, and the design of research projects approach our work professionally and creatively


Our activities are financed mainly through Russian and international scientific funds and philanthropic organizations. Since 2001, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has been a key partner of CISR.


Our History The idea of establishing an independent sociological center first came in the late 1980s. It was the initiative of Viktor Voronkov and Oleg Vite, who, at the time, were employees of the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (the Leningrad branch). Inspired by the rapid social and political changes taking place in the country, they gathered a group of enthusiasts and started conducting their own independent research projects that were unthinkable in the framework of the Soviet academic system. Eduard Fomin, Elena Zdravomyslova, and Ingrid Oswald actively participated in the practical implementation of this idea. They all shared a desire to create a flexible, democratic research institution that would be capable of responding to the demands of a quickly changing Russian society and of promoting the integration of Russian sociologists into the international sociological community. The new institute was also tasked with becoming an intellectual and resource center for social scientists and nongovernmental Russian and international organizations. The Centre actually began working a few years before it was legally registered in 1991. All of the Centre’s activities, including the organization and running of constant seminars, were conducted at Viktor Voronkov and Elena Zdravomyslova’s apartment. Graduates and students of sociology (who have since become employees of the Center) were drawn to the Centre’s research work. It was at this time that the principles of the Centre’s work crystallized. To this day, the place that CISR occupies in the sociological community is defined by its methodological priorities: the Centre’s team works in the tradition of constructionism and interpretative sociology and applies qualitative research methods to its work. In 1994, the Centre acquired an apartment in the Vasilyevsky Island area of St Petersburg that became its office for the next six years. Thanks to the active participation of Ingrid Oswald and the support of Peter Lock and other colleagues and friends, CISR grew, received grants from international foundations, conducted various research projects, and became

a visible actor in the Russian and international sociological communities. At this time, CISR developed a strong partnership with colleagues from Germany and Finland, with whom several major projects were completed concerning issues of ethnicity, migration, civil society, gender, and others. By its 10th anniversary, the Centre had more than 30 researchers, the majority of whom were recent graduates of Russian universities. One of the main Centre’s activities has always been the training of young researchers. Since 1998, CISR has been partners with the Heinrich Boell Foundation (Moscow/Berlin) working to create a scholarship program for talented young social researchers. In 2000, the German-Russian Forum and the Robert Bosch Foundation awarded CISR a commemorative medal for “Contribution to the training of young researchers.” Researchers of the Centre worked hard to ensure that the constructionist approach (marginal for Russia in the 1990s) and qualitative methods became part of the toolkit of social sciences in Russia. To do this, CISR held international methodological conferences such as “The Biographical Method in Post-Socialist Societies (1996)”, carried out educational projects focused on the popularization of qualitative methods for research among young sociologists, and published books detailing the results of empirical studies, including “The Construction of Ethnicity. Ethnic Communities in St. Petersburg (1998)”. From 1995 to 2004, the Centre issued volumes in Russian and English presenting the results of CISR’s research projects and conference proceedings (list of publications: editions.html).


Viktor Voronkov

Archival photo. 1998

Oleg Vite

Eduard Fomin

Elena Zdravomyslova

Ingrid Oswald


In 2000, CISR was able to acquire new office on Ligovsky Prospect thanks to a grant from the Ford Foundation. The next year (2001), the Center received its first institutional grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. This support allowed CISR to significantly upgrade its infrastructure for research, make this research available to a larger audience, and geographically expand its activities. Furthermore, CISR was able to introduce new forms of work: for example, field summer schools aimed at training researchers, exchanging fieldwork experience, and forming teams of researchers from various regions of Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Since 2003, CISR has been running workshops on qualitative research methods for the students of intensive courses organized by the Centre for Sociological Education (Institute for Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow). In 2004 and 2005, an analogous program was carried out for Swedish students in partnership with the upper school Osterlens Folkhogskola (Tomelilla, Sweden). In 2010, CISR launched the training project “The School of Writing for Researchers” [‘Shkola π’]. The school aims to develop the academic writing skills of practicing researchers and to teach editorial and review skills. Since 2000, several independent research centers have been established in various cities (including Krasnodar, Irkutsk, Kazan, Tbilisi, Yerevan, and Baku) with CISR’s support.

In 2004, CISR initiated the creation of the Convention of Independent Sociological Centers of Russia which united around 20 research organizations. Under the supervision of the Convention, the first two books in the series “Qualitative Methods in Social Research” were published: I. Shteinberg, T. Shanin, E. Kovalev, A. Levinson “Qualitative Methods. Sociological Fieldwork” (2009) and a collection of articles “Leaving to Stay: A Sociologist in the Field” (2009). Continuing the tradition of researching actual social processes, developing new approaches to social research, and integrating into the international community, CISR has organized several conferences: “The Social Sciences, Racial Discourse, and Discriminatory Practices” (2004); “The Biographical Research in Post-Socialist Space: 10 Years After” (2006); “The Russian Field: A View from Abroad” (2009).


The collections of articles “Sociology Unlimited” [Bespredel’naia sociologiia] (2005) and “Sociology Unlimited: Reload” (2006) are representative of some original CISR projects from the past years. The first collection was issued on the occasion of Viktor Voronkov’s 60th birthday, the second was published for CISR’s 15th anniversary. The collections were conceived as intellectual provocations disrupting the routine of sociological research activity. The CISR researchers’ talent of perceiving the extraordinary amid the ordinary is on full display in these collections.

The focus of CISR’s educational work is developing students’ practical sociological skills. In cooperation with the Centre for Sociological Education at the Institute for Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow), the Heinrich Böll Foundation (Germany), the Association of Independent Centers for Economic Analysis (Moscow), and the Erasmus Program, CISR implements a number of projects teaching qualitative research methods and the incorporation of empirical research into university studies.

The Biographical Method in the Studies of Post-Socialist Societies. Proceedings of an International Seminar (St. Petersburg, November 13-17, 1996) / Ed. by V. Voronkov & E. Zdravomyslova. CISR: Working Papers. Vol. 5. St. Petersburg: CISR1997.

Shteinberg, I & T. Shanin, E. Kovalev, A. Levinson. Qualitative Methods. Sociological Fieldwork / Ed. by Ilya Shteinberg. St. Petersburg: Aletheia, 2009.

Ingrid Oswald, Victor Voronkov (Hg.). Post-sowjetische Ethniziteaten. Berlin: Berliner Debatte, GSFP, 1997.

Racism in the Language of Social Sciences / Ed. by V. Voronkov, O. Karpenko, A. Osipov. St. Petersburg: Aletheia, 2002.

CISR researchers also work as experts in various spheres: human rights, gender and labour relations, urban planning, the environment, and others. CISR is also home to a group of experts registered at the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC, Russia office). In 2008, FSC recognized the group of CISR consultants as the best in Russia.

Leaving to Stay: A Sociologist in the Field / Collection of articles / Ed. by V. Voronkov & E. Chikadze. St. Petersburg: Aletheia, 2009.

Sociology Unlimited. Collection of Essays prepared for the 60th birthday of Viktor Voronkov CISR. Unplugged / Ed. by O. Pachenkov, M. Sokolov, E. Chikadze. St. Petersburg: CISR, 2005.


20 Years of the Centre for Independent Social Research

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Registration of CISR Seminars took place at Viktor Voronkov and Elena Zdravomyslova’s apartment starting at the end of the 1980s

CISR & friends buy an apartment in the Vasilevsky Island area of St Petersburg and CISR moves into its first office

CISR holds its first international conferences “The Biographical Method in the Studies of PostSocialist Societies” and “Civil Society in the European North: Concepts and Contexts” in Russian

CISR publishes the book “The Construction of Ethnicity. Ethnic Communities in St. Petersburg” (in Russian)

The GermanRussian Forum and the Robert Bosch Foundation award CISR a commemorative medal for “Contribution to the Training of Young Researchers”. CISR acquires new premises on Ligovsky Prospect with the help of the Ford Foundation

CISR receives the first grant of institutional support from the the John D. and Catherine T.MacArthur Foundation – the main partner of the Centre

In partnership with the Centre for Sociological Education (Moscow), CISR launches annual programs of training in qualitative methods, gender and nationalism studies, etc


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CISR helps to establish the Convention of Independent Sociological Centers of Russia

In honour of Viktor Voronkov’s 60th birthday, the CISR team publishes a collection of “hooligan” sociological essays “Sociology Unlimited” (in Russian)

CISR publishes “Fighting Windmills? A Socioanthropological Approach to the Studies of Corruption” (in Russian)

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) recognized the group of CISR consultants as the best in Russia.

CISR holds the international conference “The Russian Field: A View from Abroad”. CISR receives the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions (МАСЕI). The first issue of journal “Laboratorium: Russian Review of Social Research” is published

Several new original interdisciplinary projects (UrbLabor [GorLabor], CityCult. ure) are created. The new education center “The Institute for Advanced Social Research Technologies” is registered. The book “Militia (The Police) and Ethnic Migrants: Practices of Interaction” (in Russian) is published.

CISR holds the international conference “A Complex Gaze at a Complex World: Challenges of Comparison in Social Research”


For twenty years, Viktor Voronkov had been CISR’s irreplaceable director. Under his leadership, the Centre has developed into a significant research organization with its own identity and has achieved recognition in the professional community. In 2009, CISR received the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions (MACEI) that is presented annually by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to some organizations which “generate provocative ideas, reframe the debate, or provide new ways of looking at persistent problems”. In 2012, CISR’s employees elected Viktor Voronkov as president of the Centre. Since 2012, Oleg Pachenkov has been acting as Centre’s director.




CISR employs 22 research fellows: 12 hold Ph.Ds, several others are working on their dissertations.

CISR provides ideal conditions for research, the formation of international professional networks, internships and apprenticeships for young researchers, the development of civil initiatives, etc. Six of the Centre’s employees are responsible for its infrastructure’s support and development.

Professional areas of research include: Migration, Ethnicity, and Nationalism; Studies of Borders and Border Communities; Gender Studies; Environmental Sociology; Social Studies of the Economy; Law and Society; Urban Studies. Yearly, approximately 30 research projects are carried out across a wide spectrum of topics. Over 50 articles are published every year in leading national and international journals. CISR researchers teach in leading Russian and foreign institutions, including: European University at St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg State University, the Higher School of Economics (St. Petersburg), Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, the University of Freiburg, the University of Eastern Finland, Helsinki University, John Hopkins University (USA), Yale University (USA), and others. All courses taught by CISR staff refer to their original empirical research work.

The library contains more than 18,000 volumes and its electronic catalogue is available via the Internet. CISR’s archive contains research materials (interviews, etc.), rare magazines and newspapers, and a unique base of newspaper articles (in over 60 research areas since 1991). Every year at CISR, more than 100 students from various St. Petersburg universities participate in an introductory internship program and more than twenty other individuals work as interns and visiting scholars. Researchers and volunteers from various countries also work in the Centre. Since 2011, multidisciplinary residency programs have been in development in Berlin (BIRUS) and St. Petersburg (InHouse).



The Centre is known in Russia and abroad for its particularly creative and friendly atmosphere. Conceived in the kitchen conversations of friends as a fundamentally new research organization different from official academic institutions, CISR supports progressive research and continues to serve as a place of informal meetings and communication for colleagues and friends. Throughout its existence, the Centre has sought to be a space for open and reflexive interdisciplinary dialogue and to enable the professional development of people sincerely interested in understanding the current changes in Russia and all over the world. For many people, CISR is not simply a research institute, but rather a laboratory for new ideas, an intellectual and social milieu, and a place for gaining new professional skills. CISR team strives for further development of the Centre both as an environment that attracts active creative people and as a platform for already existing and new interesting ideas and initiatives.





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Over the past twenty years, more than 40 research projects have been completed, the most important being: “The Forming of Ethnic Communities in St. Petersburg and Berlin� (1995-1996), “‘Caucasians’ in a Big City: Integration in the Context of Xenophobia� (19971999), and “The Police (Militia) and Ethnic Minorities: Practices of Interaction in Kazan and St. Petersburg� (2006-2008). The publication of the following collections of articles based on the results of projects and conferences was seen as a major event for the scientific community: “Construction of Ethnicity. Ethnic Communities in St. Petersburg� (1998), two collections regarding racism in discourse of the social sciences (2002) and education (2008), the collective monograph “The Police (Militia) and Ethnic Migrants: Practices of Interaction� (2011), Ingrid Oswald’s monograph “Die Nachfahren des “homo sovieticus�. Ethnische Orientierung nach dem Zerfall der Sowjetunion� (2000) and textbook “Migrationssoziologie� (2007), Alexander Ossipov’s monograph “National-Cultural Autonomy. Ideas, Decisions, Institutes� (2004).

Today, CISR is known as one of the leading research centers for ethnicity and migration studies in Russia. This area of interest continues to expand, encompassing the study of various types of migration and mobility in the post-Soviet space and beyond. In 2012, an interdisciplinary group was founded in the Centre, bringing together experienced and early career researchers for mutual work in the field of researching migratory processes in Russia and other countries.



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Over the course of its existence, ethnic differences, regimes of migration, the daily life and social networks of “ethnic� migrants, modern racism, multiculturalism, patriotic education in Russian schools, and other phenomenon have been the primary focus of CISR attention.

The Construction of Ethnicity. Ethnic Communities in St. Petersburg / Ed. by V. Voronkov & I. Oswald. St. Petersburg: Dmitry Bulanin, 1998.

Oswald Ingrid. Migrationssoziologie. Ein Lehrbuch (Sociology of Migration. A University Reader). Konstanz: Universitaetsverlag Konstanz (UTB), 2007

Militia (the Police) and Ethnic Migrants: Practices of Interaction. The collective monograph/ Ed. by V. Voronkov, B. Gladarev, L. Sagitova. St. Petersburg: Aletheia, 2010.



STUDIES OF BORDERS AND BORDER COMMUNITIES The study of state borders and border communities has been developing at the Centre since the mid 1990s. In their work, CISR researchers approach the border/boundary not only as a phenomenon of physical and political space, but as a key sociological concept that refers to the processes of social bordering and rebordering, social inclusion and exclusion. Researchers at CISR have carried out more than 20 projects on borders and border communities, particularly on the border between Russia and Estonia, which has led to the publication of more than 30 articles. CISR has held two international conferences: “Nomadic Borders” (Narva, Estonia, 1998) and “Borders in Motion” (St. Petersburg, 2000). A collection of articles was published based on the results of the conference in Narva “Nomadic Borders” (1999). Moreover, the Center regularly organizes international summer schools in various locations: on the Russian-Mongolian border (2000), the Russian-Abkhazian border (2005), the Georgian-Armenian border (2007), the Iranian-Armenian-Azerbaijani border (2008), and the Georgian-Turkish border (2010). Some of the results from the Abkhazian border school were published in an issue of the journal “Laboratorium,” “The South Caucasus: New Research” (#1, 2010). Currently, besides implementing individual projects, the CISR team are working on three large collaborative projects on borders. The objective of EUBORDERREGIONS (2011-2015) ( is to evaluate the existing European mechanisms for cross-border cooperation and their implementation and offer new policy options. The EUBORDERSCAPES project (2012-2016) seeks to analyze the evolving concept of borders in terms of mutually linked “post-national”, “post-colonial”, “post-

modernist” and “post-Communist” strands of inquiry. The project looks into how different and often contested conceptualizations of state borders (in terms of their political, social, cultural and symbolic significance) resonate in concrete contexts at the level of everyday life. Both projects, EUBORDERREGIONS and EUBORDERSCAPES, are coordinated by the University of Eastern Finland (Joensuu), conducted by large international research consortia, and supported by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Union. The third ongoing project, “Transborder Citizen Scientists” (2012-2014), is an educational program implemented in two schools from border regions of Finland and Russia. The project is supported by the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) and is carried out in collaboration with the Lappeenranta University of Technology.



GENDER STUDIES This research stream studies sexuality, reproductive technologies, female activism (economic, political, civil), gender socialization, environmental movements in the gender perspective, the gender aspect of migratory processes, gender relations in rural communities, and other issues. CISR is a member of the research network Nordic Institute for Women’s Studies and Gender Research (NIKK). CISR researchers engage in join projects initiated by CISR as well as partner organizations, such as the University of Helsinki, the University of Zurich, the European University at St. Petersburg, the Nordic Institute for Gender Studies (NIKK), the Center for Youth Studies at the High School of Economics (St. Petersburg), Research Center “Region” (Ulyanovsk) and others. Over the past 20 years, CISR researchers have taken part in more than 20 projects, published more than 100 articles in leading Russian and foreign journals, and organized and participated in a variety of conferences and seminars. Several projects implemented by CISR staff have been of particular importance for the development of gender studies in Russia and beyond. Namely, these are “Sexuality and Gender in Russia” (1996), followed by the collection of articles “In Search for Sexuality” (2002) and “New Reproductive Technologies and Making of Bodies, Persons, and Families in Russia and Switzerland” (2006-2009), resulted in the book “Making Bodies, Persons and Families. Normalising Reproductive Technologies in Russia, Switzerland, and Germany” (LIT Verlag, 2009). Another milestone in the development of this research stream is the collection of articles and essays “In the Shadow of the Body” (2008), published by CISR in cooperation with Research Centre “Region” (Ulyanovsk, Russia). In 2011, the Russian language edition of Anna Rotkirch’s book “The Man’s Question: Loves and Lives in late 20th Century Russia” (2000) saw the light as a result of joint effort of Elena Nikiforova (CISR) and Elena Zdravomyslova (EUSPb, CISR).

Making Bodies, Persons and Families. Normalising Reproductive Technologies in Russia, Switzerland and Germany / Willemijn de Jong and Olga Tkach (eds.). Berlin, Hamburg, Munster...: LIT Verlag, 2009

In the Shadow of the Body. A Collection of Articles and Essays / Ed. by N. Nartova & E. Omel’chenko. Ul’yanovsk: Ul’yanovsk State University, 2008.

Ezhova L.. Nartova N., I. Olimpieva Gender Inequality in the Labor Sphere. The Study of WomenWorkers Employed in Critical Process Productions of the Ship Building Industry in St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg: Ladoga, 2008.



SOCIAL STUDIES OF THE ECONOMY One of the priorities of this research stream are studies of the informal economy. Working in international teams with researchers from the Jefferson Institute (USA), the University of Chicago (USA), and others, CISR researchers have implemented such projects as “Prospects for Fighting Corruption in Post-Socialist Countries: the Case of Hungary and Russia” (20032004), “’The Intermediaries’ Boom’ and Informal Relationships in the Business Sphere and Everyday Life” (2005), and “Media Piracy Social Benefits and Side Effects” (2008-2009). Another important theme is labor relations (in particular, the 2008 project “Gender-Based Discrimination in the Workplace) and Labor Unions as Institutionalized Intermediaries between Workers, Employers, and Government (“Trade Unions and the Working Class in Contemporary Russia” (2009), “Alternative Trade Unions in the Regulatory System of Social-Labor Conflicts” (2010)). Projects carried out in this field by CISR researchers also embrace the studies of small and medium businesses, organizational culture, civic activism in the business sector, and other themes. What distinguishes the Centre’s work from most of the research on the economy in Russia is its focusing on the micro level and analysis of economic reality from the perspective of stakeholders of the studied processes.

The research results are presented in more than 40 publications in Russia and abroad, among which are the collections “The Informal Economy in the PostSoviet Space: Problems of Research and Regulation” (2003), “Fighting Windmills? A Socio-Anthropological Approach to the Study of Corruption” (2007), Irina Olimpieva’s monograph “Russian Trade Unions in the Regulatory System of Labor Relations: Peculiarities, Problems, and Perspectives of Research” (2010).

The Informal Economy in the Post-Soviet Space: Problems of Research and Regulation / Ed. by I. Olimpieva & O. Pachenkov. St. Petersburg: CISR, 2003.

Fighting Windmills? A SocioAnthropological Approach to the Study of Corruption / Ed. by I. Olimpieva. & O. Pachenkov. St. Petersburg: Aletheia, 2007.

Olimpieva I. Russian Trade Unions in the Regulatory System of Labor Relations: Peculiarities, Problems and Perspectives of Research. Moscow: MSPF, CISR, 2010.



ENVIRONMENTAL SOCIOLOGY Transnational processes and their influence on local communities are the focus of the environmental sociology group. Some of the research themes include: the development of civil society in resource-dependent communities, problems of resource management in the forest, oil, and mining sectors; the influence of globalization and transnationalization on corporate social responsibility of resource-extracting companies, the development of multi-stakeholder governance of natural resources. Since its formation (1997), the group has implemented more than 80 projects: 58 research projects, 12 practical projects, and seven projects connected with the formation of networks uniting scientists from Russia, USA, Finland, and Sweden. The group has more than 110 publications (31 of which were published in peerreviewed journals), including in special issues of the Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology “Internationalization, Trust and Multi-Stakeholder Governance of Natural Resources ” (2010) and “Governance by Private Authority in Global Society” (2006). Some of the most important research projects realized in this area have been carried out in cooperation with researchers from the University of Eastern Finland: “The Transnationationalization of Forest Governance” (2008-2011) and “Trust in Finnish-Russian Forest Industry Business Relations ” (2008-2010). Another important project entitled “National Interests and Transnational Governance: Russia’s Changing Environmental Policy” (2011-2013) is implemented in cooperation with American political scientist Prof.Laura Henry.

In parallel with academic research, the group caries out applied and activists’ projects, conducts trainings for companies and civic actors and does consultancy work. In particular, researchers help to create a dialogue between local communities and other stakeholders of transnational governance of natural resources, build capacity and foster self-organization and sustainable development in traditional rural communities and eco-villages. Currently, the group is working on the project “Promoting Democracy and Citizens’ Rights in Resource-Dependent Communities”, supported by the European Union (2010-2012). Besides, researchers of the group work as consultants registered at the FSC-Russia office. In 2008, FSC recognized the group of CISR consultants as the best in Russia.

The Role of Civil Society in the Stimulating of Corporate Social Responsibility in Russia’s Forest Sector / M. Tysyachnyuk (ed.) / MPSF Scientific Reports, № 202. Moscow: MPSF, CISR, 2008.

Cultures of Contamination: Legacies of Pollution in Russia and the US. Research in Social Problems and Public Policy. M.R.Edelstein, M.Tysiachniouk, L.V.Smirnova. Elsevier Ltd. 2007



LAW AND SOCIETY Law and Society is a new interdisciplinary research stream at CISR, the focus of which is the connections between social processes and society’s normative regulatory orders. Research experience in this field has been developed over the past ten years. The use of qualitative methodology enables researchers to uncover the multilayered structure of law, its limitations and dynamics; it allows to go beyond the restrictions of the positivist understanding of “black letter law” and, by studying practices, deconstruct the norms and principles that regulate society.

A series of international interdisciplinary seminars is also run within this theme. The participation of colleagues from related fields (lawyers, anthropologists, political scientists) as well as political representatives provides a more complex view on the socio-legal topics.

Over the past five years, the efforts of CISR have led to the realization of research projects on the issues of transitional justice and, in particular, three projects devoted to problems of Russian Justices of the Peace. The last of these projects was “Improving Access to Justice for Low-Income Groups in Russia” (2009-2010). Based on the results of this project, a collective monograph was published, “Recommendations for Improving Access to Justice for Low-income and Vulnerable Citizen Participants in Civil Processes” (2011).

“Law and Society” is a member of the following research networks: “Contracting Flexibility” (initiator University of Eastern Finland) and the Empirical Program Religion and Human Rights (initiator - Vyurtsberga University, Germany).

In addition, researchers examined the following issues: the status of legal education (“Issues of Contemporary Legal Education in St. Petersburg” (2009)), transnational law and legal pluralism (“Companies Coping with Multiple Regulatory Systems in Russian Resource Extracting Business” with the University of Eastern Finland (2011-2014), the rights of sexual minorities (“Legal Wounds: the Deconstruction of Value for the Rights of Gays and Lesbians in Russian Legal Discourse” (2011), the realization of rights for victims of political repression in rehabilitation (“A Tale of Two Laws: the Twenty-year History of the Law on the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression” with New Hampshire University (2012-2014), and others.

Bogdanova E. & Ezhova L., Olimpieva I. What One Should Know about the Judges of the Peace. St. Petersburg: Aletheia, 2008.



URBAN STUDIES For two decades CISR researchers had completed more than 20 research projects, related to the studies of urban environments and published around 30 articles in Russian, English, and German. This laid the foundation for a specialized research stream which finally took shape in 2011. Today, the objective of “Urban Studies� is to create a multidisciplinary professional community for urban researchers in Russia and provide for their integration into international networks. The research stream aims at the further development of CISR as a communicative platform and resource center for young researchers interested in urban studies. In 2011, CISR started interdisciplinary seminars in urban studies. Interested in the production of new interdisciplinary knowledge. In 2011-2012 CISR researchers have taken part in a number of academic and applied projects on the transformation of urban environments, which also involved architects, designers, developers, and IT specialists. One more new offshoot of the Centre is a multi-institutional laboratory for urban studies [GorLabor]. This project works in the format of a regular seminar for undergraduate and graduate students of several universities from St. Petersburg and Moscow (sociologists, anthropologists, geographers, and designers) and is unique for St. Petersburg. In 2011, work began on the Berlin Interdisciplinary Residence in Urban Studies program (BIRUS). The main goal of the program is to form a global network of active and reflexive young professionals from various backgrounds and disciplines who are concerned with the problems of modern cities and strive to improve the urban environment and way of life.

OPEN/CLOSED / Public Spaces in Modern Cities / Lilia Voronkova & Olea Pachenkov/ Berlin, 2010



BESIDES ESTABLISHED THEMATIC STREAMS, THE CENTRE CONDUCTS RESEARCH ON A WIDE VARIETY OF OTHER TOPICS. CISR’s work began with the study of social movements and civil society. The Centre’s first major international seminar, “Civil Society in the European North was organized in December of 1996 in partnership with the Karelian Institute, Joensuu, Finland. The third issue of CISR’s working papers, “Civil Society in the European North”, Concepts and Contexts (1996), was published based on the materials of this seminar. Three major research projects, 50 articles, and three books have been completed in this area. Among them, the collection of materials “Civil Life in Leningrad During Perestroika. 1985-1991,” which was published in 2009 with CISR’s participation.

Since the mid 1990s, the Centre has studied Soviet institutes and practices, and their transformation in the post-Soviet context. In this field, CISR researchers have completed several historicalsociological research projects, focused on the Soviet communal apartment, nobles in the Soviet city, factory dynasties in Soviet and post-Soviet society, complaints of Soviet citizens, Soviet holidays, and history education in schools. One of the most important publications in this field is Sofia Chouikina’s “Noble Memory: “Byvshie” [ex-noblemen] in the Soviet City: Leningrad, 1920-1930” (2006).

Chouikina S. Noble Memory: “Byvshie” [ex-noblemen] in a Soviet City (Leningrad, 1920-1930). St. Petersburg: European University at St.Pb., 2006.


CISR researchers are also interested in the study of philanthropy and social policy (poverty, drug addition, homelessness, children left without parents, and others). Work in this area fulfills both academic and practical goals and is connected with the study of the lives of social groups typically characterized as marginal, closed, and vulnerable. In the 1990s, several research projects were carried out under the supervision of Eduard Fomin, deputy director and cofounder of the Centre. These works were important for the development of the theme and include the project “Philanthropy in Russia as a Sociocultural Phenomenon� (19981999), followed by a book.


Since 2000, 14 projects have been conducted and more than a dozen articles have been published on the issue of HIV and drug addiction. Between 2007 and 2011, the major project “The Governance of HIV/ AIDS Prevention in Northwest Russia” was completed in cooperation with the Norway Institute of Urban and Regional Studies.

The Centre has been researching the transformation of science institutions and the adaptation of scientists to new conditions since the beginning of the 1990s. Five major research projects and more than 20 publications were devoted to this topic. As of late, CISR has actively engaged in the study of socio-cultural and institutionalized aspects of modernization and of the professional field of technology specialists.

Researchers of the Centre also work in such areas as the media and new information technologies, political movements and processes, the social environment and social structure, history and memory, the healthcare system and relations to health, and many more.

Social Inequality. The Changes of Social Structure. European Perspective / Ed by V. Voronkov & M. Sokolov. St. Petersburg, Aletheia: 2008.

The Study of Local Lore and Civil Society / Ed. by O.Karpenko & E. Chikadze. St. Petersburg: “Zvezda”, 2004.


Though founded as a research center, CISR has always supported various educational, publishing, and activist projects. Since 2002, CISR has initiated several institutional and network projects that currently exist relatively independently:

Agency “Expertise” is a project started in 2002 under the direction of Lyubov Ezhova and primarily engaged in marketing research and consulting services. Over the past ten years, more than 100 projects have been completed in the area of social politics, court reform, and the defense of human rights in court. The Agency also partners with companies, does research on the factors of internal environments and the preparedness of companies for innovations and runs training sessions for personnel.

“Laboratorium. Russian Review of Social Research” is a journal established by CISR in 2007 and published with the financial support of the MacArthur Foundation. The journal was conceived as a laboratory of sociological thought and space for international and interdisciplinary discussion for specialists in the social sciences. By 2012, seven issues were published. The full electronic version and information regarding the journal are available on the site


In 2011, CISR opened the education center “The In��� stitute for Advanced Social ResearchTechnologies” which is intended to unite existing educational programs (internships, lectures, and seminars for Russian and foreign students) while initiating new educational projects. In 2011 a multi-institutional laboratory for urban studies [GorLabor] was opened. This project works in the format of a regular seminar for undergraduate and graduate students of several universities from St. Petersburg and Moscow (sociologists, anthropologists, geographers, and designers) and is unique for St. Petersburg.

“Art-Social Science” is a transdisciplinary project focused on finding new forms of the production and presentation of social research. In partnership with designers and artists, original projects are being conceived at the intersection of art and science, which unite three important elements: expert knowledge, esthetic, and event. Interacting with a wide audience and provoking public discussion, Art-Social Science projects contribute to the development of the social sciences and art as well as civil society.

Several multidisciplinary seminars (with the participation of artists, designers, and activists), six sociological exhibitions in St. Petersburg and Berlin (2006, 2009, 2011, 2012) (some of which became noticeable events in the life of the city) were held in this area. Since 2011, with the support of the Goethe Institute and the Consulate of the Netherlands, a series of public lectures on urban culture, City.Cult.ure (http://, has been held at Loft Project ETAZHI. Lecturers have involved artists and scientists from Germany, Austria, and Holland.


The CISR Team (2012)


Viktor Voronkov,

CISR president

Oksana Karpenko,

Elena Bogdanova,

Boris Gladarev,

Alexandr Kondakov,

Olga Brednikova,

Lyubov Ezhova,

Natalya Kravets,

Dmitry Vorobyov,

Elena Zdravomyslova,


Ph.D. in Sociology, researcher

Ivan Kulyasov,

Lilia Voronkova,

Anna Isakova,

Alexandra Berezkina,

Ph.D. in Sociology, coordinator of “Law and Society,” member of the editorial board for Laboratorium

researcher, co-coordinator of “Studies of Borders and Border Communities”

coordinator of “Art-Science projects”

Ph.D. in Sociology, researcher

director of Agency Expertise

office manager


co-coordinator of “Law and Society”

head librarian


Antonina Kulyasova,

Ph.D. in economic sciences, researcher


Anastasia Meylakhs (Zolotova),

Oleg Pachenkov,

Elena Chikadze,

Peter Meylakhs,

Tatiana Safonova,

Evgeny Shtorn,

Nadya Nartova,

Olga Tkach,

coordinator of “Gender Studies”

Ph.D. in Sociology, coordinator of “Migration. Ethnicity. Nationalism”

Elena Nikiforova,

Marina Trubitsyna,

coordinator of “Studies of Borders and Border Communities”


Irina Olimpieva,

Maria Tysiachniouk,


Ph.D. in Sociology, researcher

Ph.D. in economic sciences, coordinator of “Social Studies of the Economy”

Ph.D. in Sociology, CISR acting director

Ph.D. in Sociology, researcher

Ph.D. in Biology, coordinator of “Environmental Sociology”


PR manager


CISR is a member of

Our Partners:

The Convention of Independent Sociological Centers

European University at St. Petersburg (Russia) Centre for German and European Studies (CGES), Bielefeld, Germany/St. Petersburg, Russia Center for Youth Studies (NRU HSE, St. Petersburg, Russia) Institute for Law and Public Policy (Moscow, Russia) Centre for Sociological Education, Institute of Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow, Russia) Centre for Citizenship and Identity Studies (CCIS, Moscow, Russia) Center for Independent Social Research and Education (Irkutsk, Russia) Institute for Social Research and Citizen Initiatives (Kazan, Russia) Research Center “Region” (Ulyanovsk, Russia) Center for Social Policy and Gender Studies (Saratov, Russia) Sociological Faculty of Samara State University (Samara, Russia) Institute for Regional Development (Pskov, Russia) Human Rights NGO “Citizens Watch” (St. Petersburg, Russia) Human Rights Center “Memorial” (Moscow) “German-Russian Exchange” (St. Petersburg, Berlin) Russian Red Cross Charity Organization “Every Child” Center for Transboundary Cooperation (Tartu, Estonia) Institute for the Research of Social Practices (Tbilisi, Georgia) “Novator” Social Research Center (Baku, Azerbaijan) Institute of New Social Studies (INSS, Erevan, Armenia) Institute of Anthology at Humboldt University (Germany) Magdeburg University (Germany) Helsinki University (Finland) South Karelian Institute, Laapeenrata University of Technology (Finland) University of Eastern Finland (Joensuu, Finland) Karelian Institute at the University of Eastern Finland (Joensuu, Finland) Institute for Applied International Research (Fafo, Norway) Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research (NIBR, Norway) Barents Institute, University of Tromso (Norway)

The Association of Independent Centers of Economic Analysis (AICEA) The International Sociological Association (ISA) The European Association of the Researchers of Transformation (EART e. V.) The International Research Network on the Study of Civic Culture in the Northeast of Europe and Russia (“Civic Culture Forum”) The Nordic Research Network “Micro Perspectives on Post-Soviet Transformations” The Nordic and East/Central European Network for Qualitative Social Research (NECEN) The Nordic Institute for Women’s Studies and Gender Research (NIKK).


Most CISR researchers are members of the St. Petersburg Association of Sociologists (SPAS), some are members of the European Sociological Association and other international associations and research networks.


CISR has been supported by


CISR Ligovsky prospect, bld. 87, office 301 191040, Saint-Petersburg, Russia E-mail: T. /F.: +7 812 718 37 96

Centre for Independent Social Research  

20 Years Centre for Independent Social Research (CISR) is a nongovernmental research institute working in four main areas sociological rese...

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