REWI Uni Graz: Did your stay at the Faculty of Law meet your expectations?
Michael Antonov: Yes, I am glad to say that my expectations have even been exceeded. In the beginning I became part of the extremely active academic life with several top-class conferences and seminars each month. Later on, because of pandemic restrictions, these activities were continued online, but still remained a rich source of inspiration for me. The university has an excellent library and all the facilities that a scholar would need for successful research.
What were interesting findings of your research during your four months at REWI Uni Graz?
Four months is not a sufficient period to produce academic findings, but I feel that my stay at REWI Uni Graz provided me with both inspiration and knowledge that will help me on the way to such findings in the future. At the faculty, I got to know many nice and highly qualified colleagues who gave me very well-informed feedback and friendly support in my research. Discussions I had with colleagues in Graz gave me important insights, especially in such matters as minority rights, law and politics, or comparative legal cultures.
How did you experience recent media coverage here on Russia?
Robert Burns, an 18th century British poet, once said that if we had the power to see ourselves as others see us, many ridiculous errors could be prevented. It can be true also for nations, their mentalities and institutions – people can learn a lot about their own country and culture looking at them from a different perspective, through someone else’s eyes. I always feel it when I am watching Western media coverage on Russia. Recent Austrian media coverage on Russia seems to be quite fair. Although, I had the impression that this coverage insufficiently relies on the expertise of academics specialized in Russian studies – as compared with the extent that this professional support is part of the coverage in German or US media.
Did Graz surprise you?
It was not my first time in Graz. I have already been twice at REWI Uni Graz, as a conference speaker. My decision to apply for the Land Steiermark Fellowship was informed of the good experience I had acquired during these previous visits. However, these visits were short and I had no opportunity for getting to know Graz better. Luckily, this time I had this opportunity. The large variety of hiking trails in the hills that surround Graz was a nice surprise, as well as the interesting musical culture of this city that I appreciate much.
What do you plan next?
First of all, I will have to take up again my teaching at the Law Faculty of the Higher School of Economics in Saint Petersburg, my home university. Also, in my dockets I have drafts for a couple of articles, on the interplay of moral and legal reasons in court argumentation in religious minorities cases and on how public opinion can be instumentalized as a source of contra legem argumentation in minorities cases. Follow-up discussions with Graz colleagues on the presentations I held here on the topics of these article drafts were thought provoking. I am eager to deepen my reflections and to further develop the arguments in support of my theses in the draft articles and to finalize them. As to more general plans: I am currently working on a book on the comparative history of concepts of law and state in Russia and in the West. During my research activities at Uni Graz, I put this book project on hold. Now, it is time to revert to it.