Home/IFR Statism Lab

IFR Statism Lab

Teaching Statism in Russian Universities: Between Indoctrination and Re-Interpretation


Ivan Fomin is the head of Ideas for Russia initiative. He also teaches at the Boris Nemtsov Program in Russian Studies at Charles University in Prague. His research is focused on political semiotics, Russian political discourse, and Putin’s regime’s ideology. He has worked at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow but left Russia after the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine. He was a Russia Research Initiative fellow at George Washington University, a fellow of the Fedor Stepun Program at Ruhr University Bochum, a Democracy Fellow at CEPA, and a visiting scholar at Johns Hopkins University SAIS. He also contributed to research projects at INION RAN Center for Advanced Methodologies, Nicolaus Copernicus University, and Jagiellonian University. His publications have appeared in Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Demokratizatsiya, European Journal of International Relations, and International Theory. He holds a Candidate of Sciences degree in Political Science.

Project Description

The project will explore the “patriotic upbringing” course called “Foundations of Russian Statehood” (Osnovy rossiiskoi gosudarstvennosti, ORG), which was introduced in Russian universities in 2023. The course was developed as a part of Putin’s increasingly active efforts to ideologically indoctrinate younger people through schools and universities. The analysis is expected to produce better insights into the ideology of Putinism as well as into how Russians adapt to the regime’s growing ideological pressure.

What makes the issue of ideological indoctrination in Russian education particularly important is the fact that the popularity of Putin and his policies, including the aggression against Ukraine, generally tends to be significantly lower among younger Russians. Thus, the regime’s future depends, among other things, on whether the Kremlin manages to effectively indoctrinate the younger generation.

The study will be divided into two major packages. The first will be aimed at reconstructing how Putin’s regime describes and explains the fundamentals of its ideology when it explicitly specifies them in teaching materials provided to students and educators involved in the “patriotic upbringing.” The analysis will focus on officially distributed teaching aids, textbooks, and syllabi of the “Fundamentals of Russian Statehood” course. It will also contrast the “textbook version” of Putin’s ideology with its other manifestations that can be traced in Russian political discourse.

The second package will seek to understand how the educators involved in teaching the ORG course interpret the contents of the guidelines formally prescribed to them. The analysis will reconstruct what the actual content of their ORG modules is and how it is influenced by those interpretations. More specifically, the study will explore how Russian educators—both those who seek to comply with the official design of the ORG course and those who try to resist ideological pressure—reinterpret the key concepts of the ORG. The analysis will focus on the transcripts of the interviews with both loyalists and dissident professors who teach ORG modules in Russian universities. It will also dissect ORG-related academic publications that Russian educators produce.

The lab interns will conduct qualitative analyses of textual data, including interview transcripts, teaching materials, and academic articles. They will also gather relevant texts online (manually and with automated parsing tools) from websites of Russian universities, scientific funding bodies, and bibliographic databases.

The project’s early output is expected to be published on reputable analytics-oriented platforms focusing on policy-relevant expertise on Russia, such as PONARS Eurasia, Re:Russia, Russia.Post, or Riddle Russia.

Intern Workload

30 hours per month

Intern Requirements

Russian language skills: Applicants with at least B2 Russian will be considered, but some tasks will require C1 Russian or higher.

English language skills: B2 or higher.

Other skills: Coding skills in Python or R will be an advantage but are not mandatory.

Internship applications to this laboratory can be submitted in English or Russian.