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PhD in Political Science

The page header has a fragment from the collection of Estonica dissertatsions: Johannes Erici Stregnensis, Disputatio Politica Prima, De Natura Et Constitutione Politices In Genere, Dorpati Livonorum:Typis Acad, 1640

PhD programme in Political Science is offered entirely in English, and the Institute welcomes applications from international students. The Political Science PhD programme has full accreditation and has received a positive external review in 2011 and 2019. The nominal study time is four years. From the academic year of 2022/2023, PhD students will be admitted to the Doctoral Programme of the Faculty of Social Sciences, with a specialization in Political Science. 

Currently, around thirty PhD students are enrolled in Political Science doctoral programme, about 20 of them as resident PhD researchers. An increasing number of them are international students, coming from Germany, Japan, China, the UK, Sweden, Canada, Kosovo, Serbia, Latvia, Ukraine, Romania and Russia.

  • For general information about doctoral studies at the University of Tartu, guidelines and regulations, as well as funding, please visit the University of Tartu’s website on doctoral studies.
  • For detailed information about the curriculum and organisation of studies, please see the Faculty of Social Science’s webpage.

Competition in spring 2022

The admission round in 2022:

  • 1-15 May is the application period for international applicants
  • 1-15 June is the application period for Estonian citizens and/or graduates from Estonian universities. Please note that in this round the application will have to be submitted through an online portal that requires Estonian ID-card/residence permit. In case you do not have an active ID-card, you should follow the deadline in May.

In 2022, the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies invites applications for fully-funded PhD/junior research fellow positions with a focus on:

Funding: monthly salary of 1,550€ (gross salary) (see funding details here)

Research project entitled “Self-Determination of Peoples in Historical Perspective” is announcing a call for applications for a PhD position.

Self-determination of peoples is one of the key normative principles in contemporary politics. Yet its meaning and implications are notoriously difficult to pin down. The notion of the people is elusive and its relationship to those of the state and nation undetermined. There is also a tension between two common interpretations of this principle. On the one hand, e.g., in the UN Charter, the ‘self-determination of peoples’ is understood as referring primarily to state peoples, thus adding a further layer of legitimacy to the state-centric international order. On the other hand, it is also widely believed that sub-state peoples have a right to determine their political status, which potentially challenges state sovereignty. The project rests on the thesis that uncovering the concept's historical origins will help to illuminate these uncertainties, and the ways in which the latter are exploited in international politics. Experimenting with the approach of ‘serial contextualism’, the project seeks to offer a novel transnational intellectual history of self-determination from the Enlightenment to the present (including its links to related terms such as autonomy, popular sovereignty, principle of nationality, self-government). The project suggests that diverging understandings of self-determination are grounded in theories of radical, constitutional, and federal republicanism, proposing to reconstruct the ways in which these understandings were modified at different historical junctures related to the evolution of the modern state and international competition. The project’s main focus is on continental European political and international thought, while it also explores some of its global transformations.

The proposed PhD project linked to “Self-Determination of Peoples in Historical Perspective” may have a historical or a contemporary focus. Historical projects may propose to explore 1) debates about individual self-determination, popular sovereignty, and international relations in German Idealism, German Socialism, Austro-Marxism or French republicanism in the nineteenth century; 2) debates among German Socialists on national self-determination in the early twentieth century; 3)  ideas about self-determination in Baltic projects of federalism during the WWI or in the Interwar period, or 4) the ways in which the Baltic diaspora sought to link decolonisation debates and the nationalities-question within the Soviet Union in the post-WWII period. Projects proposing to explore the concept of the self-determination of peoples from a contemporary perspective might focus on the concept of relational self-determination (I.M. Young), on debates between neo-Kantians and liberal nationalists, or on the self-determination of indigenous peoples.

Interested candidates are invited to prepare a research proposal outlining the specific research project they would pursue under this general topic.

  • Main supervisor: Eva Piirimäe, Associate Professor of Political Theory, Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies,
  • Potential co-supervisor: Kaarel Piirimäe, Associate Professor of Contemporary History, Institute of History and Archaeology

Please contact Dr Eva Piirimäe for advice and approval of your proposal ahead of the application deadline! Please note that the prospective supervisor(s) is not in a position to provide extensive comments or help develop project descriptions at the application stage, given the large number of applicants.

Funding: monthly salary of 1,550€ (gross salary) (see funding details here)

PhD projects submitted under this heading should engage in a study of popular discourses of national identity and their foreign policy significance. The successful applicant will join the theme of the project National identity and Estonian-Russian relations: a longitudinal study of elite and mass discourses, led by Professor Viacheslav Morozov and supported by the Estonian Research Council. While existing studies focus on the national identity discourses of elites, this project creates comprehensive interpretivist datasets focusing on wider societal discourses. It is part of a global network ‘Making Identity Count’, whose scope so far has only included great powers. By adding Estonian data (on both Estonian and Russian-speaking communities) and expanding the already existing database on Russia, the project team re-assesses the history of bilateral relations based on a comparative analysis of the two countries’ identities through time. It identifies the circumstances under which popular views of national identity can impact foreign policy, which can be used in policy planning and risk assessment.

The PhD application may focus on Estonia, Russia or any other country or region, provided that it shares the interpretivist approach to the national identity – foreign policy nexus and includes a significant emphasis on the study of popular culture, mass common sense and none-elite perspectives on foreign policy. Preference will be given to projects employing discourse analysis (broadly understood) as the main method of study.

The successful applicant will be required to contribute to the ERC-sponsored project by participating in source selection, coding and analysis, as well as by (co-)authoring research publications. Knowledge of the Estonian or Russian language will be a strong advantage.

Interested candidates are invited to prepare a research proposal outlining the specific research project they would pursue under this general topic.

  • Main supervisor: Professor Viacheslav Morozov, Professor of European Union and Russian Studies, Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies,

Please contact Prof. Morozov for an approval of your proposal ahead of the application deadline! Please note that the prospective supervisor(s) is not in a position to provide extensive comments or help develop project descriptions at the application stage, given the large number of applicants.

Funding: monthly salary of 1,550€ (gross salary) (see funding details here)

We invite applicants to propose PhD projects that focus on changing political cleavages in Europe and use survey data to examine these. Patterns of political conflict and contestation are transforming around the world, including in Europe. Such transformations have potentially far-reaching impact on political behaviour and public attitudes (e.g. voting behaviour, support for parties, political incumbents and institutions). The traditional cleavage theory developed by Lipset and Rokkan in 1967, which positions voters along the social-economic and religious-secular dimensions, is facing multiple challenges. The European debt crisis and the migration crisis have revealed new social and political divides which focus on globalisation, European integration and immigration, resulting in a successful politicisation of these issues by mainstream as well as populist actors. The rapid rise of digital technologies has transformed the public sphere and altered political processes. Moreover, liberal democracy is no longer considered to be “the only game in town.” Some of the new cleavages have proven to be extraordinarily divisive, contributing to high levels of political polarization and undermining societal cohesion. Taken together, these developments suggest that European societies may have reached a critical juncture in their political development – one where liberal democracy, shared identity and societal cohesion are at stake.

Applicants are invited to develop project proposals that respond to the need to better understand these new and emerging realities, and investigate changing political cleavages and their impact on European politics and polities. Priority will be given to projects that use quantitative methods and will rely on data from large-n cross-national surveys, e.g. the European Social Survey, Eurobarometer, Comparative Study of Electoral Systems or the European Election Study. Applicants for this position are expected to have basic statistical skills and be familiar with widely used data analysis methods such as regression modelling.

Interested candidates are invited to prepare a research proposal outlining the specific research project they would pursue under this general topic.

  • Main supervisor: Prof. Piret Ehin, Professor of Comparative Politics, Deputy Head for Research of the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies,
  • Co-supervisor: Dr Liisa Talving, Research Fellow in Comparative Politics

Please contact Prof. Piret Ehin for an approval of your proposal ahead of the application deadline! Please note that the prospective supervisor(s) is not in a position to provide extensive comments or help develop project descriptions at the application stage, given the large number of applicants.

Funding: monthly salary of 1,550€ (gross salary) (see funding details here)

We invite applicants to propose PhD projects that explore and assess the impact of endogenous and/or exogenous factors on the speed, direction, and intensity of the process of European integration.

The proposal would possibly highlight the political and institutional dynamics, the role of the key actors involved, and the related developmental trajectories.  

Starting from the early 2000s, following the most ambitious enlargement in its history and the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty in 2005, the European Union (EU) has been facing multiple and successive challenges that have put to test the resilience of its decision-making and increased its degree of politicization of the process of integration. While COVID-19 and the Russian aggression against Ukraine are the last of such challenges, they are clearly not the only ones. 

The diverse nature of these challenges includes – but is not limited to –internal and external security threats, migration flows and humanitarian emergencies, party-based populism and Euroscepticism, economic crisis and financial instability, complex multicultural societies, and identity-related dividing lines.  

From a comparative perspective, the emergence, consolidation, and diffusion of rival regional integration projects in the Eurasian context add further geo-political complexities to the scope and direction of European integration in terms of competing interests and values.  

Both qualitative, quantitative, and mixed research designs are welcome.  

Interested candidates are invited to prepare a research proposal outlining the specific research project they would pursue under this general topic.

  • Main supervisor: Dr Stefano Braghiroli, Associate Professor of European Studies, Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies,  

Please contact Dr Braghiroli for an approval of your proposal ahead of the application deadline! Please note that the prospective supervisor(s) is not in a position to provide extensive comments or help develop project descriptions at the application stage, given the large number of applicants. 

Funding: monthly salary of 1,550€ (gross salary) (see funding details here)

You can submit a proposal on a topic of your own choosing, on the condition that the proposal fits the research interest of one of the supervisors at the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies (click on grid view to see supervision competences).

The proposal should fall under (one of) the following broad areas of supervision:

Comparative Politics:

  • Electoral studies, political participation, and political culture;
  • Democracy and democratization;
  • Nationalism and ethnopolitics;
  • Memory politics and transitional justice;
  • E-services, e-governance and e-voting, and the impact of information and communication technologies on political participation and electoral behaviour.

International Relations:

  • International relations, international security, and foreign policy;
  • Identity, sovereignty, geopolitics;
  • Borders, regions, regionalism;
  • European integration;
  • Historical and contemporary theories of international justice, nationalism, and cosmopolitanism.

Our regional focus is mainly on:

  • Russia and Eurasia
  • Eastern Europe
  • European Union

Admission requirements, including guidelines for the research proposal, can be found here.

We require applicants to establish contact with one of our faculty before submitting an application to receive a preliminary consent on supervision, in order to avoid rejection on thematic grounds. However, please note that the prospective supervisors are not in a position to provide extensive comments or help develop project descriptions at the application stage, given the large number of applicants.

Please contact either the potential advisor directly or Ms Kristel Vits, Coordinator of PhD programme (, for advice on potential advisor(s) for your proposal ahead of the application deadline!


For more information about the research areas, publications and current research projects of the faculty, please visit the institute members' website for an overview of their supervision competences (click on the grid view). You are also welcome to look for our staff members’ individual profiles in the Estonian Research Information System. Additionally, please familiarize yourself with the main research directions of the institute. It is a precondition for acceptance into the PhD programme that the Institute has the necessary expertise for supervising the project suggested.

Prior to the submission of documents, applicants should contact a prospective supervisor from among the Institute’s faculty or seek advice from the PhD programme coordinator Kristel Vits ( about who to contact. It is essential for the success of the application that prospective PhD students approach us with a sound research project and seek to establish a preliminary agreement on supervision with one of our faculty members before submitting their application.


Persons holding a Master's degree or a corresponding level of education may apply for PhD studies.

  • Applicants with Estonian citizenship should follow the instructions given here.
  • International applicants, including applicants with a previous degree from an Estonian institution of higher education, should follow the instructions given here.

Applicants seeking admission to the PhD programme in Political Science are evaluated based on a PhD research proposal (50%) and an admission interview (50%).

The PhD research proposal (at a minimum of 5 pages, including a list of sources) must be added to the application documents. It should include the following:

  • the topic of the proposed PhD thesis (presentation of the research problem, positioning it in the context of the existing literature);
  • objectives of the thesis;
  • description of data and research methods;
  • expected results, their novelty and importance;
  • a brief timeline of the proposed research;
  • list of sources;
  • brief summary of previous academic or practical experience relevant to the proposed PhD research.

Applicants whose research proposals are evaluated positively (see details below) are invited to an admission interview with the aim of determining their motivation and academic potential. Topics discussed during the interview can include the following:

  • the applicant’s prior academic and work experience (based on the applicant’s CV);
  • choice of topic and the research proposal -- in particular, its relevance and feasibility;
  • motivation to receive a PhD in Political Science and future career plans;
  • readiness to adapt to new institutional and cultural settings.

The interview lasts around 20 minutes. Invitations to the interviews are sent 5-7 days before the interview. Applicants who reside abroad can participate in the interview via telecommunication means. Assessment criteria for the research proposal:

  • Appropriateness and justification of the chosen theoretical and methodological approach (40%; 20 points);
  • Novelty and relevance of the proposed research (30%; 15 points);
  • Feasibility of the proposed project (30%; 15 points).

Assessment criteria for the interview:

  • Motivation to pursue a PhD in Political Science and readiness to commit to the programme (30%; 15 points);
  • Relevance of previous academic and work experience to the programme and the proposed PhD research (30%; 15 points);
  • Ability to justify the research proposal, including in the context of major debates in the field (30%; 15 points);
  • Presentation skills, interpersonal skills (10%; 5 points).

Both the research proposal and admission interview are assessed on a scale of 0 to 50  points. To be invited to an interview, the applicant must earn at least 35 points for the research proposal. To be considered for the position, the result of the admission interview must be at least 35 points.

In 2022, admission interviews will take place on June 27 at Lossi 36-323, starting at 9:00.

The interview time will be agreed with each interviewee individually after submission and evaluation of the research proposals.

Art Alishani, MA (TalTech)

Topic: "Harnessing the potential of algorithms and intelligent technologies to build robust and human-centric public administrations: Cross-border digital public services"
Supervisors: Robert Krimmer, Mihkel Solvak

Butrint Berisha, MA (Stockholm)

Topic: "Exploring the role of civil society organisations in the foreign policy of contested states: An analysis of Kosovo, Palestine and Taiwan since 2010"
Supervisor: Eiki Berg

Logan Carmichael, MA (Auckland)

Topic: "Cybersecurity Uplift in the Estonian Digital Governance Model, 2007-2021"
Supervisors: Robert Krimmer, Mihkel Solvak

Ionut-Valentin Chiruta, MA (Oslo)

Topic: "Reconstructing collective memory in the time of Populism. A study of mnemonic reverberations of the Magyar minority from Romania"
Supervisor: Vello Pettai

Michael Cole, MA (Birmingham)

Topic: "The influence of Russian discourse on right-wing populist discourses in Ukraine and Georgia"
Supervisor: Andrey Makarychev

Stefan Dedovic, MA (TalTech)

Topic: "Interoperability governance of the cross-border mobile electronic identification"
Supervisors: Robert Krimmer, Mihkel Solvak

Radityo Dharmaputra, MA (Glasgow/ Tartu)

Topic: "Contemporary Russian Foreign Policy Discourse towards Asia: Assessing the Logic of Causality in the Discursive Structure of Identity"
Supervisor: Viacheslav Morozov

Sandra Hagelin, MA (Amsterdam)

Topic: "Understanding the role of borders and boundaries in European Integration following the Covid-19 crisis"
Supervisor: Stefano Braghiroli

Biao He, MA (OsloMet)

Topic: "E-governance for all: How does the Chinese local government bridge the digital divide that persons with disabilities experience in the use of e-governance services?"
Supervisors: Robert Krimmer, Mihkel Solvak 

Urmas Hõbepappel, MA (Lund)

Topic: "Changing History – Changing the Present? Postmodernist Historiography and Political Change in China"
Supervisor: Andrey Makarychev

Sanshiro Hosaka, MA (OUJ)

Topic: "Covering Former Empire 'Peripheries': Academia's Reception of Russian Strategic Narratives in International Conflicts"
Supervisor: Andrey Makarychev

Kristjan Kaldur, MA (Tartu)

Topic: "Early patterns of integration among the newly arrived migrants: the case of Russian-speaking new migrants in Estonia"
Supervisors: Piret Ehin and Kristina Kallas

Ivan Ulises Kentros Klyszcz, MA (Glasgow/ Tartu)

Topic: "Russia's perception of Turkey's engagement with the North Caucasus autonomous republics"
Supervisor: Eiki Berg

Natalia Kovyliaeva, MA (CEU)

Topic: "Gaining Voice: Digital Feminist and Women's Movements in Post-Soviet Countries"
Supervisor: Katrin Uba and Andrey Makarychev

Thomas Michael Linsenmaier, MA (FU Berlin)

Topic: "The interplay between regional international societies – towards a European security architecture?”
Supervisor: Viacheslav Morozov

Lelde Luik, MA (Tartu)

Topic: "'We the people': political representation, power and popular sovereignty in Latvia"
Supervisor: Viacheslav Morozov

Tatiana Lupacheva, MA (Tartu)

Topic: "The electoral consequences of personalised parliamentary behaviour: A comparative textual analysis of legislative speeches"
Supervisor: Martin Mölder

Mariia Maksimova, MA (Tartu)

Topic: "Envision, regulation, management, and impact of the implementation of cloud-based solutions for e-government: public-private collaboration in value creation"
Supervisor: Mihkel Solvak

Eoin Micheal McNamara, MA/MSc (Tartu/ London)

Topic: "What determines the NATO contribution of small post-2004 allies? A comparative analysis of Estonia, Slovenia and Bulgaria"
Supervisor: Andres Kasekamp and Eiki Berg

Andrii Nekoliak, MA (Tartu)

Topic: "Understanding the origins of ‘memory laws’ in Eastern Europe: case studies of Estonia, Ukraine, and Poland"
Supervisor: Vello Pettai

Maria Reinfeldt, MA (Tartu)

Topic: "Conceptualizing the European Union as an international actor: an analysis of the moving position of the EU’s Self and the construction of Europe from within"
Supervisor: Viacheslav Morozov

Bogdan Romanov, MA (Tartu)

Topic: "Electronic voting in Russia: the scrutiny of 'i-voting' in an authoritarian context"
Supervisors: Mihkel Solvak, Robert Krimmer

Oliver Rowe, MA (Geneva)

Topic: "The White Movement at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919-1920: People, Nations, and Self-Determination in the Russian Revolution and Civil War and their Contemporary Legacies"
Supervisor: Eva Piirimäe

Anselm Schmidt, MA (Regensburg)

Topic: "Russian versus Ukrainian 'International' News Media and the War in Ukraine: Between Actors and Instruments of State"
Supervisor: Andrey Makarychev

Annika Siirak, MA (Tartu/ Bruges)

Topic: How political change towards democracy can end up stuck in a hybrid regime
Supervisor: Eiki Berg

Mari-Liis Sulg, MA (Tallinn)

Topic: Small State Foreing Policy strategic options: Estonian Example
Supervisor: Eiki Berg

George Spencer Terry, MA (Tartu)

Topic: The Far Right as a Cultural Phenomenon: Searching for Definitions in Italy, Poland, and Estonia
Supervisor: Andrey Makarychev

Märten Veskimäe, MA (Tartu)

Topic: Measuring the impact of government e-services 
Supervisor: Mihkel Solvak

Maili Vilson, MA (Tartu)

Topic: "The Europeanization of national foreign policy during the crisis in Ukraine"
Supervisor: Viacheslav Morozov and Piret Ehin

Kristel Vits, MA (Tartu)

Topic: "De facto states and dependences: disentangling the interrelationship between de factostatehood and patronage"
Supervisor: Eiki Berg

Louis Wierenga, MA (Toronto)

Topic: "Women in radical right, populist parties in Europe"
Supervisor: Andres Kasekamp and Vello Pettai

Dissertations defended at the Institute since 2006

Click on the link to access the full dissertation online.

Maksim Kulaev, "Trade unions, transformism and the survival of Russian authoritarianism", 2021.
Supervisor Viatcheslav Morozov

Juhan Saharov, "From economic independence to political sovereignty: inventing “self-management” in the Estonian SSR", 2021.
Supervisor Eva Piirimäe

Shota Kakabadze, "'The Caucasian chalk circle': Georgia’s self at the East/West nexus", 2020.
Supervisors Andrey Makarychev and Maria Mälksoo

Lukas Pukelis, "Informal mutual oversight mechanisms in coalition governments: Insights from the Baltic states for theory building", 2018.
Supervisor Vello Pettai

Ryhor Nizhnikau, "Externally induced institutional change in the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood: migration and environment reforms in Ukraine and Moldova in 2010–2015", 2017.
Supervisor Viatcheslav Morozov

Kats Kivistik, "Relevance, content and effects of left-right identification in countries with different regime trajectories", 2017.
Supervisors Piret Ehin and André Freire

Kristian Lau Nielsen, "Soft Power Europe: The Lesser Contradiction in Terms and Practices", 2016.
Supervisor Eiki Berg

Birgit Poopuu, "Acting is everything: the European unioon and the process of becoming a peacebuilder", 2016.
Supervisor Maria Mälksoo

Kristina Kallas, "Revisiting the triadic nexus: An analysis of the ethnopolitical interplay between Estonia, Russia and Estonian Russians", 2016.
Supervisor Vello Pettai

Liisa Talving, "Economic conditions and incumbent support: when and how does the economy matter?", 2016.
Supervisors Piret Ehin and Kristjan Vassil

Raul Toomla, "De facto states in the international system: Conditions for (in)formal engagement", 2014.
Supervisor Eiki Berg

Andro Kitus, "A Post-Structuralist “Concept” of Legitimacy", 2014.
Supervisors Vello Pettai and Lasse Thomassen

Mari-Liis Sööt, "Explaining corruption: Opportunities for corruption and institutional trust", 2013.
Supervisor Tiina Randma-Liiv

Kadri Lühiste, "Regime Support in European Democracies", 2013.
Supervisor Piret Ehin

Viljar Veebel, "The role and impact of positive conditionality in the EU pre-acession policy", 2012.
Supervisor Eiki Berg

Alar Kilp, "Church authority in society, culture and politics after Communism", 2012.
Supervisor Rein Taagepera

Maria Groeneveld, "The role of the state and society relationship in the foreign policy making process", 2012.
Supervisors Andres Kasekamp and Alexander Astrov

Heiko Pääbo, "Potential of Collective Memory Based International Identity Conflicts in Post-Imperial Space: Comparison of Russian Master Narrative with Estonian, Ukrainian and Georgian Master Narratives", 2011.
Supervisor Andres Kasekamp

Mihkel Solvak, "Private members’ bills in parliament - a comparative study of Finland and Estonia", 2011.
Supervisor Vello Pettai

Holger Mölder, "Cooperative security dilemma – practicing the Hobbesian security culture in the Kantian security environment", 2010.
Supervisor Eiki Berg

Allan Sikk, "Highways to power: New party success in three young democracies", 2006.
Supervisors Rein Taagepera and Mogens N. Pedersen

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Anna Beitane

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Nathalie Tocci

NearEU Talk: Dr. Nathalie Tocci “The War in Ukraine and the Future of Europe Security"

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Skytte graduation ceremony 2022