The Advanced Social and Political Research Institute (ASPRI) is the research institute of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Latvia. Since its creation in 2004, the task of ASPRI has been to coordinate interdisciplinary research projects involving the academic staff and graduate students of the four departments in the faculty, which are political science, sociology, information and library sciences, and communication studies.
The primary areas of research include the following:
Latvia in international affairs, particularly relations with Russia and new European neighbours. Recent ASPRI publications in this area include The Geopolitics of History in Latvian-Russian Relations (2011), Manufacturing Enemy Images? Russian Media Portrayal of Latvia (2008), Georgian Security: A Latvian Perspective (2008), Moldova, Minorities and the International Community (2008), and Latvian-Russian Relations: Domestic and International Dimensions (2006). ASPRI has also published work on other foreign policy topics, including Latvia and the USA: From Captive Nation to Strategic Partner (2008),The Baltic Sea Region after the Enlargement of the European Union: Future Prospects (2005), and Latvia in the Crossroads of Europeanization (2005, in Latvian).
Current activities in this area involve a series of seminars on „Europe in the World” in cooperation with the Centre d’etudes et recherches internationales (Paris), the Embassy of the Republic of France in Latvia and the French Cultural Centre in Latvia. The first seminar, entitled „Why Is It So Difficult for Europe to Speak with One Voice in the World?” took place on 11 February 2011. Two other seminars are planned for spring/summer 2011 – one on the Eastern Partnership, the other on Europe’s energy policy. In June 2011, ASPRI is cooperating with the Aleksanteri Institute of the University of Helsinki in organizing a summer school for Ph.D. students entitled „Creativity and Control: Rephrasing Closed Societies” with a focus on Stalinism and Soviet/Russian culture. In addition, since spring 2010, ASPRI has been the moving force behind an interdisciplinary graduate seminar entitled “Analyzing Political, Social and Economic Processes in the Post-Soviet Space,” which brings together more than 40 graduate students from a variety of disciplines.
Democracy, Social Integration and Minorities. Recent publications in this area include a substantial study entitled How Integrated is Latvian Society? An Audit of Achievements, Failures and Challenges (2010), a working paper entitled Immigrant Integration in Latvia (2009), and a Latvian language study entitled The National Minorities Convention - the Prevention of Discrimination and the Preservation of Identity in Latvia (2007). Using a methodology pioneered by the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), ASPRI published a substantial study entitled How Democratic Is Latvia? Audit of Democracy (2005) and a follow-up Monitoring of Democracy 2005-2007 (2008). ASPRI intends to conduct a new democracy audit in 2011-2012 in cooperation with various civil society and media partners within Latvia.
In 2010, ASPRI joined a consortium including the Latvian Academy of Sciences and a number of other partners to spearhead the social science dimension of a four- year State Research Programme entitled “National Identity.” The social science dimension of the research programme includes conducting a host of sociological surveys to measure various aspects of national identity and studying the links between identity and social memory, communication, human capability and human security (see www.nacionalaidentitate.lv).
Regional and Human Development in Latvia. In 2005, ASPRI won a competition organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to take over production of human development reports on Latvia. Together with partners from regional universities, ASPRI has published three reports – Latvia Human Development Report 2008/2009: Accountability and Responsibility, Latvia Human Development Report 2006/2007: Human Capital, and Latvia Human Development Report 2004/2005: Human Capability. Currently, ASPRI and its partners are involved in preparing Latvia Human Development Report 2010/2011: National Identity, Communication and Mobility.
In 2009, together with four regional universities in Liepaja, Daugavpils, Valmiera, and Jelgava, ASPRI began to implement a large-scale project funded by the Norwegian Financial Instrument entitled “Promoting the Utilisation of the Research Potential of Local Universities for Regional Development in Latvia.” Through a series of seminars, training exercises, research activities and the development of electronic resources (see www.petnieciba.lv), the project has sought to strengthen the links between universities and other stakeholders in regional development. The project comes to a conclusion in April 2011 and will produce a substantial publication exploring the links of Latvian universities with regional development stakeholders.
Media, Information, Culture and Social Memory. Recent research includes a study commissioned by the Ministry of Culture evaluating the Latvian library digitalization project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The study is in Latvian and is entitled Local Public Libraries: Value, Trust and Satisfaction with Services (2009). Other work includes volumes on The Song and Dance Festivals in a Changing Social Environment (2008), Political Communication, Ethics and Culture during the 9th Saeima Elections (2007) and The Information Environment in Latvia: The Beginning of the 21st Century (2006).
A growing area of research involves social memory and communication about the past. ASPRI and the department of communications studies has issued three collections of research in 2006 and 2007 under the title Agora devoted to consumerism, the 1905 revolution, and the era of interwar authoritarian ruler Kārlis Ulmanis. In 2005, a member of the European Parliament commissioned ASPRI to prepare research on differing societal stances towards Latvian history, which was published in Latvian and English entitled The Past in the Future: Assessment of the Events of 1940 in Latvia. Currently, ASPRI is engaged in two research projects – a comparative study of the commemoration of March 16 (Legionnaire Day) and 9 May (Victory in World War II Day), as well as issuing a volume comprised of the diaries of World War II soldiers from Latvia who fought on the Nazi and Soviet sides.
Conferences, Seminars and Guest Lectures
ASPRI regularly hosts conferences, seminars and guest lectures by visiting scholars and public figures. Among recent noteworthy guest lecturers have been the foreign minister of Turkey and the deputy prime minister of Israel. In addition to organizing its own seminars and conferences, ASPRI has also been a partner to other organizations in Latvia and abroad. Already mentioned above is the series of seminars in 2011 entitled “Europe in the World” in cooperation with the Centre d’études et de recherches internationales, the Embassy of the Republic of France in Latvia and the French Cultural Centre in Latvia. In November 2009 ASPRI cooperated with the Public Policy Centre Providus in organizing an international conference on social integration “Inclusion Unaffordable? The Uncertain Fate of Integration Policies in Central and Eastern Europe”. In September 2009 ASPRI organized an international conference entitled “Twenty Years After the Fall of the Berlin Wall: Politics of Memory and Democratization in Europe” in cooperation with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the Baltisch-Deutsches Hochschulkontor. In 2008 ASPRI was the host and partner for the European Consortium on Political Research in organizing the Fourth Pan-European Conference on EU Politics.
Staff, Partners and Funding
ASPRI has a small core staff, but as of March 2011 involves 44 academic staff and graduate students from the Faculty of Social Sciences and partner organizations in projects. ASPRI’s director is Janis Ikstens.
Important local partners include Latvia’s regional universities – Daugavpils University, Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences, Latvian Agricultural University, and Liepaja University. As noted above, ASPRI spearheads the social science dimension of the State Research Programme “National Identity” which involves a host of partners, including regional universities, the National Library and the Latvian Academy of Sciences. ASPRI has also cooperated on projects with the Latvian Centre for Human Rights, the Public Policy Centre Providus, the Latvian Institute of International Affairs and others.
ASPRI receives core funding from the University of Latvia and the Faculty of Social Sciences. However, ASPRI has also received project support from the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry for Local Government and Regional Development, the Norwegian Financial Instrument, the Open Society Institute Think Tank Fund, the Secretariat of the Special Assignments Minister for Social Integration Affairs, the Soros Foundation – Latvia, the Strategic Analysis Commission under the auspices of the President of Latvia and others.
Contacts, Location and Cooperation
ASPRI is open to cooperation with international partners on any of our areas of research. Please contact ASPRI director Janis Ikstens at Janis.Ikstens@lu.lv or firstname.lastname@example.org. Our telephone is +371-67241025.
Our address is:
Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Latvia
Lomonosova St. 1 A
Riga, LV –1019
Our offices are located in rooms 107, 108 and 109 at the Faculty of Social Sciences. The easiest route from the city centre is by trolleybus No.15 from the stop at the main building of the University of Latvia at Raiņa Blvd.19 to the Lomonosova Street stop, where the Faculty of Social Sciences is located.