Online Summer School: Russia in Covid times

Date: 12-16 July 2021

Focus and goals

Russia remains a key player in international affairs during the COVID-19 outbreak. When the COVID-19 crisis erupted, Russia took several decisive steps to safeguard its sovereignty and increase its soft power capabilities: closing its border to China and developing its own Sputnik-V vaccine for use throughout the world. Over the course of the pandemic, Russia’s preparedness also ran into several difficulties: low levels of domestic interest in vaccination, questions over Sputnik’s effectiveness and production capabilities and concern that the state was more interested in using vaccines as a tool of international diplomacy over domestic needs. COVID-19 thereby serves as a critical issue to assess broader political and societal factors in Russia and its relation to the international system. What exactly is Russia’s role in the world? Does international/regional prestige outweigh domestic demands? How should we envisage the Russian domestic realm, the economic situation, and the means that are employed by the Kremlin to address challenges at home and abroad? This summer school aims at exploring and explaining these questions with a specific focus on the effect that the COVID-19 crisis has had on Russia’s political and societal life over the past year.


We encourage students from 2nd and 3rd-year Bachelor’s, Master’s programme and starting PhD students to apply. Each applicant is asked to fill in an application form to provide personal information regarding education and research interests. Furthermore, we ask each potential participant to write a motivation letter of maximum 500 words. Participants are expected to be fluent in English. Accepted UGent students can participate free of charge. Non-UGent need to pay a fee of 70 euros. The deadline of application is June 27, 2021. Interested students can apply here.

Who are we?

The ambition of the UGent Russia Platform is to coordinate, facilitate and stimulate cooperation with Russia and knowledge about Russia in the field of education, research and service to society. Promoting exchange of students, researcher and professors is the first priority of the Russia Platform. Establishing new research collaborations and broadening existing research collaborations is the second priority. Thirdly, we envisage the Russia Platform as a knowledge centre to understand what is driving the decisions and policies of Russia and to valorise this knowledge with Flemish partners, like the city, the province, VOKA, FIT, the Port of Ghent and Oostende, and Ghent University itself.


The summer school will take place from July 12 till July 16, 2021 in an online format. Students will participate in seven interactive classes, covering a wide range of topics addressed by leading experts to examine the impact of COVID-19 on Russia, whilst gaining a better understanding of Russian politics and society in general. Participants are encouraged to be active in order to create a stimulating and interactive learning environment. In this light, participating students are asked at the start of the summer school to choose a topic relating to the overall focus of the summer school, which they will present at the final day of the summer school in cooperation with other students to a panel of experts. A detailed overview of the programme can be found on the second page of the brochure.

Organisation Committee

Fabienne Bossuyt, Yuval Weber, Ben Dhooge and Servaas Taghon


For further inquiries please contact the coordinator ad interim of the Russia Platform Servaas Taghon via or

Bios of experts and instructors

Fabienne Bossuyt Fabienne Bossuyt is Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science at Ghent University. She holds a PhD from Aston University (UK) and Ghent University based on a doctoral dissertation on the EU's influence in Post-Soviet Central Asia. She is a lecturer in the MA programme in EU Studies and the MA Programme in Global Studies. In addition, she is co-director of the Russia Platform of Ghent University. She is also a Professorial Fellow at UNU-CRIS and is active as an affiliated researcher of EUCAM and a member of the Academic Board of the European Neighbourhood Council. Her main area of expertise is the EU’s foreign policy and in particular the EU’s relations with the post-Soviet space. Her recent research projects focus on various aspects of the EU’s relations with and policies towards Central Asia and other post-Soviet countries, including democracy promotion, development policy and human rights promotion. She has also sought to further develop and advance research that compares the EU’s relations with Central Asia with those of Russia and China. This has also led to research that looks into the question of possible cooperation between the EU, Russia and China in Central Asia. Most recently, Professor Bossuyt has edited a book together with Peter van Elsuwege entitled Principled pragmatism in practice: the EU’s policy towards Russia after Crimea. As co-director of the Russia Platform, Fabienne will be monitoring the functioning of the summer school, whilst also sitting in the expert panel on the final day to assess student presentations.
Yuval Weber Yuval Weber, PhD, is a Research Assistant Professor at Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service in Washington, DC. Dr. Weber also serves as the Bren Chair of Russian Military and Political Strategy at the Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Creativity at Marine Corps University in Quantico, VA. Dr. Weber has held research positions at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, and the Carnegie Moscow Center. He has published on a range of Russian and Eurasian security, political, and economic topics in academic journals and for the popular press in the United States and Russia. He is currently working on two projects, one that develops a tool to measure hierarchy and resilience in international affairs to chart the course and conduct of great power competition and a second that examines the tension between demands of economic modernization and the security state in Russian political economy. The latter manuscript is scheduled for publication in 2022 (Agenda/Columbia UP). Dr. Weber has worked with the Russia Platform team to organise the summer school and will serve as one of the experts who will provide feedback to students on their day of presentation.
Rashid Gabdulhakov Rashid Gabdulhakov is a Ph.D. Candidate and Lecturer in the Department of Media and Communication of Erasmus University Rotterdam and Lecturer in the Department of Media Studies of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. His research focuses on digital vigilantism - citizen-led justice manifested online - as well as social media surveillance, affordances, and governance. Rashid has written a number of articles on these and other topics and co-edited an open-access book on Vigilant Audiences. Having lived, studied, and worked in five different countries, Rashid likes to describe himself as an ‘academic nomad’. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Whitworth University, USA; a Master of Arts degree in Politics and Security from the OSCE Academy in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic; and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in International and European Security from the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) and the University of Geneva, Switzerland. In his spare time, Rashid enjoys painting, cooking, and blogging. You can learn more on his website: With regard to the summer school, Rashid will give a two-part lecture on a socially highly relevant topic: the social and traditional media in Russia. Furthermore, he will also be present to review the student presentations on the final day.
Samuel Greene Samuel Greene is reader in Russian politics and Director of the Russia Institute at King's College London. His research focuses on the relationships between citizens and the state in Russia, and in societies experiencing social, economic and political transformation more broadly. His first book, Moscow in Movement: Power and Opposition in Putin's Russia, was published by Stanford University Press in 2014. More recently, he is co-author with Graeme Robertson of Putin v the People: The Perilous Politics of a Divided Russia, published by Yale University Press in 2019. He also serves as Associate Fellow in the Russian and Eurasian Programme of the International Institute for Security Studies and a Visiting Professor at the UK Defence Academy. This summer, he will teach a session about Russian domestic policies and what impact Covid-19 had on the situation in the country.
Viacheslav Morozov Viacheslav Morozov is Professor EU-Russia Studies at the University and the Academic Director of the Centre for Eurasian and Russian Studies (CERUS). His research in topics such as poststructuralism; postcolonial theory and critique; ideology and discourses in Russia and EU-Russia relations have been laid out in numerous publications. Professor Morozov has also successfully published books such as Russia and the Others: Identity and Boundaries of a Political Community (2009) and Russia’s Postcolonial Identity: A Subaltern Empire in a Eurocentric World (2015) in which he addresses topics such as Russian national identity and foreign policy and the role of Russia in the international system. In this summer school as well, he will discuss Russia’s place in the world, it’s foreign policy and grand strategy and how all of this resonates with the current Russian vaccine diplomacy. Professor Morozov will also appear in the expert panel to provide feedback to student presentations.
Tatiana Romanova Tatiana Romanova works as Associate Professor at the St. Petersburg State University and the Higher School of Economics. Furthermore, she is employed as Director of the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence. Her research interests include EU-Russian economic, legal and political relations, normative competition, resilience, legal approximation, sanctions, energy markets and security, Russian foreign policy, EU institutions and decision-making. policy, EU institutions and decision-making. Professor Romanova has extensively contributed to topics on EU-Russia relations either through academic publications or by writing book chapters. In 2019, she co-edited and co-authored the book Modernisation in EU-Russian Relations: Past, Present and Future. At the Russia Platform summer school, she will attend as one of the experts providing feedback for presentations given by students.
Koen Schoors Koen Schoors is a Belgian economist and full professor at Ghent University. In the past, he also taught at the Catholic University of Leuven, at the Vlerick Business School and at the Higher School of Economics at Moscow, where he still gives guest lectures. He is ranked in the top 10% of the IDEAS top of economists worldwide. His main field of research is the banking and finance sector, business financing and direct foreign investments, with a particular focus on Russia. Furthermore, he is an expert on economic recessions, a subject he often holds public talks on. Professor Schoors appears on a regular basis in the media as commentator on socio-economic events. Until 2020, he was the head of Ghent University’s Russia Platform. Building on his strong academic and professional experiences, Professor Schoors will lecture on the Russian economy and Covid's impact on its growth.
Aijan Sharshenova Aijan Sharshenova is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the OSCE Academy in Bishkek. Dr. Sharshenova holds a PhD in Politics awarded at the University of Leeds, UK. Prior to joining the OSCE Academy, she has worked at the UN and UNDP country offices in the Middle East. Dr. Sharshenova’s current research project is on Russia’s soft power and public diplomacy in Central Asia. Recently, Dr. Sharshenova published her book ‘The European Union’s Democracy Promotion in Central Asia’. Other research interests of her include Russian colonialism, Soviet Central Asia and Central Asian authoritarianism, the EU in Central Asia, democracy promotion and autocracy promotion in Central Asia, governance and security sector reform. Drawing from these research interests, Dr. Sharshenova will give a session on the Russian response to Covid in Europe and Eurasia, particularly focusing on topics such as soft power and regional support. On the final day, Dr. Sharshenova will be part of the expert panel to assess student presentations as well.
Ben Dhooge Ben Dhooge is Associate professor at the Department of Languages and Cultures (Slavic section) at Ghent University. Professor Dhooge obtained his PhD in 2007 at Ghent University, dealing with Andrei Platonov’s oeuvre. Since then, he has been affiliated with The Institute of World Literature (IMLI) in Moscow, the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at University of Southern California, the Slavic Section of the Department of Languages and Cultures at Ghent University and the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at UC Berkeley. Currently, he is program chair of the study program in East European Languages and Cultures. Additionally, he is co-director of Ghent University’s Russia Platform. Ben Dhooge’s research focuses on early twentieth-century (Modernist) Russian literature, both Soviet and émigré. Central in his research are experiments with language, discourse on language and cultural identity. His focus on cultural identity has led him to develop an online, multidisciplinary MA course ‘Russia between East and West’, zooming in on an issue which has induced many heated discussions in Russia in the past and which continues to (co)determine Russia’s (cultural) politics until today: is Russia a Western, Eastern or a self-contained culture / civilization? Ben will be involved in the daily management of the summer school and will be part of the expert panel on the final day.
Servaas Taghon Servaas Taghon is coordinator ad interim at the Russia Platform of Ghent University. Servaas obtained his master’s degree in International Relations at Ghent University and has also completed the Advanced Master in European Integration at the IES in Brussels. Before joining Ghent University, he was a research intern at the United Nations University in Bruges for a period of six months. During his educational trajectory, Servaas has focused on EU-Russia relations in the post-Soviet space. Among his research interests are EU-Russia relations, critical geopolitics, breakaway regions in the post-Soviet space and spatial theories in international relations. As coordinator, Servaas will be the first contact person for participants. Besides that, he will contribute to the day-to-day operation of the summer school.