Summer greetings!

Summer is here and most of us at the UCRS will soon go on vacation.

The spring term has been a highly productive period for us at the UCRS. During the spring semester has UCRS in cooperation with Tartu University and Kent University initiated a three-year "Twinning" project under the EU's "Horizon 2020" program. The project was named "Uptake" (Upsala-Tartu-Kent) and aims at enhancing research productivity and excellence at Tartu, and promoting the international visibility and integration of all three partners in the field of Russian and East European Studies. We have also arranged an international conference on human trafficking and human rights. The conference under the title "Human Trafficking in the 21st Century" gathered researchers, practitioners, journalists and representatives of international organizations like the UN and the Council of Europe. Several prominent guests attended the conference including Her Majesty Queen Silvia, Chancellor of Justice Anna Skarhed and the Chief Inspector of the National Police and the National Rapporteur on trafficking Kajsa Wahlberg. During the last semester, several guest researchers from Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, the US, Russia, the Netherlands and Ukraine have visited the Centre. Finally, we have had an exciting and varied seminar programme with researchers and practitioners who have held presentations around various issues - from digital intelligentsia in Russia to homophobia in Latvia.

Autumn seminar programme begins on September 6 with Alexander Golts, who will talk about the growing militarism in Russia. A complete seminar programme will be posted on our website in August.

We at the Centre would like to thank everyone who in various ways has been involved in Centre’s activities and want to wish you a great summer!

From Russia with (Bear) Love

Russian Polar bear which arrived as a royal gift in Stockholm in 1685. Painting by David Klöcker Ehrenstrahl (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm)

In April 1685, King Charles XI of Sweden received a polar bear as a gift from the only 13-year old Tsar Peter I of Russia. In return, as diplomatic relations continued to develop, the Swedish king sent a white and brown fighting dog called Turck (‘Turk’) to the young Tsar.

There are precedents from earlier times of this kind of exchange. Skeletons of large dogs similar to Borzoi sighthounds have been found for instance in Iron Age burial sites with boat graves in Vendel and Valsgärde near Uppsala in Sweden. They are considered to be diplomatic gifts between magnate families, perhaps arriving from the East Slavic territories (now Russia).

The exchange of animals as gifts between rulers or giving animals as gifts to royalty (and more recently, presidents or prime ministers) is a long-standing tradition not only between Sweden and Russia. In history all kinds of exotic or special animals have been sent or given away, including giraffes, elephants, big cats and naturally, hunting dogs or fine specimens of horses. This custom is still practiced in Europe. When Vladimir Putin visited Bulgaria on 13 November 2010, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov handed over a big Karakachan puppy, an impressive breed used as a livestock guardian dog by herdsmen in Bulgarian mountain massifs, as a gift to his obviously surprised but delighted Russian guest. The dog was later named Buffy and is now living in the home of the Russian president in Moscow.  

With Russia as an important and powerful neighbouring country, Sweden and in the recent past also Finland have been eager to keep up diplomatic relations. These relations have been manifested partly through animal gifts, with more animals arriving from Russia than the reverse. Exotic and unusual animals are still given as a diplomatic gesture, today however on a smaller scale and usually less exotic than previously in the face of changed social attitudes and protection laws. In modern times, presidents Urho Kekkonen and Mauno Koivisto from Finland have received horses, including the rare Orlov breed, during visits to the Soviet Union, Kazakstan and Uzbekistan. President until 2012 Tarja Halonen, who is a well-known cat-lover and whose both cats had died recently, received a Siberian kitten from Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedyev and his family in 2013.

Turck – a magnificent hunting dog given to Tsar Peter from King Charles XI in 1689. Painted by David Klöcker Ehrenstrahl (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm)

A Russian Bear in Stockholm

Back to the historical polar bear, however. This seventeenth-century bear, which became a popular sight in Sweden, originated from the island of Novaya Zemlya. It was brought to Sweden by the commissary Christoph von Kochen and was kept at the royal stables on the island Helgeandsholmen in Stockholm. A special building (“Biörnhuus”) for the bear was built close to the royal stables. The bill for the construction materials is still preserved.

The polar bear could be conveniently observed from the windows of the royal chambers and also people passing by could watch it. The priest and Member of Parliament Olaus Bodinus saw in 1686 the polar bear swimming in Lilla Norrström. It was fed with fish and impressed the public, because it could stay for a long time below the water surface.

The polar bear was alive in the autumn of 1686, but when it died is not clear from the sources. The dead polar bear was stuffed and preserved in the Armoury and it was also painted by David Klöcker Ehrenstrahl. The painting is still kept in Strömsholm Palace in Västmanland.

 Sabira Ståhlberg and Ingvar Svanberg

About UCRS

UCRS is an integrated multi-disciplinary long-term research program with an in-depth focus on recent developments in Russia, and in the post-Soviet space. It is designed to meet the highest international standards of scientific excellence and spans across the humanities and the social sciences, as well as law and theology. Read more...


Victoria Leshchenko 17 Jun-12 Sep

Complete guest researchers list 2016


To see more publications from the UCRS, please go to Publications.

Mikhail Suslov (ed.), 2016.  "Digital Orthodoxy in the Post-Soviet World. The Russian Orthodox Church and Web 2.0". Ibidem-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-8382-0871-8

Fabian Linde, "State Civilisation: The Statist Core of Vladimir Putin’s Civilisational Discourse and Its Implications for Russian Foreign Policy." Politics in Central Europe 12, no. 1 (2016): 21-35.

Kåre Johan Mjør, "Eit evig Russland: Oleg Platonov, Institutt for russisk sivilisasjon og nasjonaliseringa av russisk tenking," Nordisk Østforum 30 (2), 2016, 98-117.
Sven Eliaeson, ”Max Weber’s Methodology and the Comparative Sociology of Religion”, in Review Internationale de Philosophie, Numéro 2/2016, pp 253-272.
Fabian Linde, ”Future Empire: State-Sponsored Eurasian Identity Promotion Among Russian Youth”, in Eurasia 2.0: Russian Geopolitics in the Age of New Media 149-165. Edited by Mark Bassin and Mikhail Suslov. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016.
Andrey Makarychev & Alexandra Yatsyk. Celebrating borderlands in a Wider Europe: Nations and Identities in Ukraine, Estonia and Georgia. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2016.

Susanna Witt "Translation and Intertextuality in the Soviet-Russian Context: The Case of Georgii Shengeli’s Don Juan.”  Slavic and East European Journal,  60:1 (2016), 22–48

Sofie Bedford "Turkey and Azerbaijan: One Religion-Two States?". In: Murad Ismayilov & Norman A. Graham (eds.) Turkish-Azerbaijani Relations: One Nation - Two States?, London: Routledge, June 2016

Mark Bassin and Mikhail Suslov (eds.), 2016. “Eurasia 2.0. Russian Geopolitics in the Age of New Media”, Lexington Books, ISBN: 9781498521413

Sofie Bedford & Emil Aslan Souleimanov, Under construction and highly contested: Islam in the post-Soviet CaucasusThird World Quarterly, Published online: 29 Apr 2016, DOI:10.1080/01436597.2016.1166047 

Igor Torbakov, Managing Imperial Peripheries: Russia and China in Central Asia, in The New Great Game: China and South and Central Asia in the Era of Reforms. Ed. Tom Fingar. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016.
Susanna Witt, “Byron’s Don Juan in Russian and the ‘Soviet School of Translation,’”  Translation and Interpreting Studies. 11:1 (2016):  23–43. 
Greg Simons, News and Syria: Creating Key Media Moments in the Conflict, Cogent Social
2, 2016: 1170583,

Ann-Mari Sätre "Women’s entrepreneurship in Russia: impacts from the Soviet system", Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, Vol. 10 Iss. 1, 2016, pp. 53 - 69.

Greg Simons & Dmitry Strovsky, Geopolitical Interests and Information War: US and Russia Reaction to Russia’s Proposal on the Syrian Chemical Weapons Issue, Tamkang Journal of International Affairs, 19(3),

Review by Johan Matz of "The Concept of Neutrality in Stalin’s Foreign Policy, 1945–1953" by Peter Ruggenthaler. Lanham, MD, Lexington Books. I Scandinavian Journal of History, 2016.

Vasil Navumau “The Belarusian Maidan in 2006: A New Social Movement Approach to the Tent Camp Protest in Minsk”, Peter Lang GmbH, Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften, 2015.
Volodymyr Kulikov "Industrialization and Transformation of the Landscape in the Donbas Region (Late 19th - Early 20th Century)." In Migration and Landscape Transformation. Changes in Central and Eastern Europe in the 19th and 20th Century, edited by Heidi Hein-Kircher and Martin Zuckert. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016.
Julie Hansen. “Translating the Translingual Text: Olga Grushin’s Anglophone Novel The Dream Life of Sukhanov in Russian,” Translation and Intrepreting Studies. 11.1 (2016): 100-117