Investigating Putin’s dark side

Posted on December 6, 2011

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La Trobe’s Dr Horvath, left, and Dr Fernando with Senator Carr, right.

A leading authority on Russia, historian Dr Robert Horvath, has received a prestigious federal government ‘Future Fellowship’ worth more than $600,000 for research into state-sponsored nationalism and the ominous rise of militant xenophobia in Russia.

Dr Horvath’s Fellowship is part of a series of Australian Research Council (ARC) awards announced in November by Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr.

Senator Carr said the awards promote ‘research in areas of critical national importance’ and ‘help Australia grow its vital research workforce’.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Tim Brown, in congratulating the successful La Trobe researchers, said their success follows recent ARC and National Health and Medical Research funding in which La Trobe received more than $5 million.  (See other stories this issue.)

Dr Horvath’s four-year Future Fellowship will help him examine the relationship between the Russian state’s ‘managed nationalism, its promotion of pro-Kremlin nationalist tendencies, and the recent upsurge of ultranationalist activism and racially-motivated violence’.

‘It will enhance our understanding of the nature of the current regime and of the emerging nationalist opposition, which ranges from liberals to overt fascists,’ he says.

Author of ‘The Legacy of Soviet Dissent: Dissidents, Democratisation and Radical Nationalism in Russia’ and an occasional media commentator on Russia and Eastern Europe, Dr Horvath spent three years in Moscow probing the influence of dissidents on Russia’s transition to democracy.

His recent ARC-funded research has focused on the impact of the ‘coloured revolutions’ in the former Soviet space on Russian politics.

The winners of ‘Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards’, valued $375,000 each, are:

Islam and foreign policy: Dr Luca Anceschi is probing the link between Islam and foreign policy to illuminate ideological foreign policy making in the post-Cold War era. He says his work will explain crucial decision making dynamics in the political systems of Saudi Arabia and Iran, two key actors in the Greater Middle East – a strategically crucial region for Australia.

Plant toxicity and climate change: Dr Denise Fernando’s research tackles a neglected yet important agricultural problem in Australia, that of manganese heavy metal toxicity in plants. She says novel Australian plants which exhibit extreme manganese tolerance, along with recent US findings on plant manganese toxicity, will offer new insight to help agricultural research and the forecasting of climate change impacts.

Christian right and sexual politics: Dr Timothy Jones is researching the Christian right and sexual politics in ‘post-secular’ Australia, delving into the relationship between sexuality and religion. The study will show how ‘connections between religion, sex, love and romance have evolved in recent years, and improve our cultural understanding of conflicts between religious liberty and sexual discrimination’.

Endangered languages:  Dr Stefan Schnell is investigating endangered languages. He is probing ‘striking similarities in information management’ across under-studied, non-European languages with varying grammatical patterns. Using ‘innovative quantitative methodology’ to study natural language usage, his is a pioneering research project in the emergent field of ‘text-based language typology’.

Displaced by development: Dr Brooke Wilmsen is providing critical insights into the Three Gorges Dam project in China which has displaced 1.13 million people. She will investigate what happened to the people who were evicted, drawing lessons for nations and institutions that displace some 10 million people each year as a result of major infrastructure programs in our rapidly developing world. (ER)

 See also this issue:

La Trobe receives more than $3.2 million in Discovery and Infrastructure Grants from the highly competitive ARC grants scheme to further the work of its leading research teams.

The University wins nearly $2 million in funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council to investigate major health issues affecting Australians.