Metaknowledge Perspective on Russian Studies

Detailed analysis is available in the following preprints:

(1) Guba, Katerina and Chechik, Elena and Tsivinskaya, Angelika and Buravoy, Nikita, Global Organization of Russian Studies: Large-Scale Scientometric Analysis of Publications and Citations, 1990-2020 (January 16, 2024, pdf available at SSRN).

(2) Guba, Katerina and Tsivinskaya, Angelika and Chechik, Elena and Buravoy, Nikita, Global Ranking of Expertise in Russia (January 16, 2024, pdf available at SSRN).

Key takeaways


The data on publication output from the Web of Science database indicates two stages regarding an interest to Russia — a relatively stable production in the 1990-s and a consistent increase in global research activity starting 2008 with noticeable peaks in recent years. Total Russian studies output increased 45.6%, from 794 articles published in 1990 to 1156 in 2020. The total publication output for the 30-year period covering 1990–2020 is 25851 articles.


In the 1990-s, the number of countries with a pronounced interest in Russia was very small with the UK and US accounting for major output. By the 2000-s, the production of knowledge became less concentrated as European countries began to publish more articles focusing on Russia. In 2012, European countries together exceeded the publication output of the United States. The Northern America’s authors continue to publish almost the same number of articles, while other regions have substantially increased their publication numbers. As a result, from 1990 to 2020, the share of Northern America dropped from 63% to 28% of the overall output, the European share increased from 22% to 37% and the Russian output expanded from relatively low 9% to 23%.


Over the 30-year period, the countries with the largest publication numbers were the United States, with 34% of global output; Russia, 14%; and the United Kingdom, 12%.


Globally, publications focusing on Russia are represented by history and political science. Together they account for 38 % of publications in 2020. Humanities not only have a small share in total output, but have also seen a steep decline since the 2000-s, especially in the fields of arts and literature.


The data shows considerable variation between Russian and Western countries regarding the dominant research fields. Publications in history and political science are produced predominantly by Northern American and European countries, while Russia makes a noticeable contribution to research in education and philosophy.


The data on article citations shows that Europe and Northern America have been outperforming other regions by having more publications among the world’s top most impactful publications focusing on Russian studies. The impact of the US articles has decreased steadily over the last 30 years, while the number of highly cited articles from Europe has grown dramatically. Although Russia is the major producer of research on Russia, the impact of its articles is below the world average. However, the last decade has shown a steady improvement.


While knowledge production in Western countries is distributed across a range of institutions, in Russia only a handful of organizations is capable to produce international output and only one institution produces highly impactful research comparable with the world average.


The list of major producers, i.e., organizations which published at least 50 articles during the 30-year period covering 1990–2020, includes 78 organizations from 11 countries. These 78 organizations (18% of all the organizations under study) generated 58% of all the published articles during the 30-year period. Only 6 Russian organizations published more than 50 articles in the period 1990-2020.

Among the major producers, 54 organizations are top performers. They produce articles that are cited above the world average and articles that receive an exceptional number of citations. The top performing producers are those from the United States (65%) and the United Kingdom (24%), as well as Canada, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Russia that are represented by a single organization.


Across the three time periods (1990-2000, 2001-2010, 2011-2020), the group of best performers regularly occupies top positions — 65% were best performers either in three or two time periods.