Background Information on the Case of the Termination of the Emeritus Professor Contract of Lassi Heininen

On 8 May 2024 the University of Lapland terminated the contract with Professor Emeritus Lassi Heininen, being accused of “collaboration with Russia” as a reaction to his participation in an international conference which took place in Moscow (see press release:; in Finnish). Below is a statement on the background of the case, written by Lassi Heininen.


As requested a background information on Emeritus Professor case

(Heininen – 20 May 2024)

On 5 March 2024 I participated in, as an invited speaker, the round table “International Cooperation: Opportunities and Prospects”, including Russian and non-Russian speakers (from China, Iceland, Norway, USA), and organized by the Northern Forum (NF), an international organization between northern regions and sub-national governments of the Arctic ( It was a part of the IX International Scientific and Practical Conference “Far East and Arctic: Sustainable Development”, annually since 2016, at the venue of Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Moscow. I attended / was invited in the capacity of an individual researcher and Editor of The Arctic Yearbook, which was known by the organizers. 

My presentation, “Geopolitical Features’ of the Arctic in Place – Yet, unclear if ‘Shared Interests’ still valued?” was about a state of common interests between the Arctic states and Indigenous Peoples, and that of special geopolitical features of the Arctic after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as I referred climate, science, knowledge & governance based on the AY 2023. In my PP presentation I titled myself as Professor & Editor, the name of University of Lapland was not mentioned, yet in the conference program (in Russian) was Professor, University of Lapland & Editor-in-Chief of Arctic Yearbook (NF organizers didn’t ask, as they have known me for years as a professor of ULapland).

My short visit was a (routine) fact-finding trip to Russia with two concrete goals: First, to collect new information / update my knowledge on a state of development and that of the environment of the Russian Arctic, as well as impacts of national policies there for my (forth-coming) article, “Geopolitical Features, Common Interests and the Climate Crisis – the Case of the Arctic” (accepted to be published at Geneva Center for Security Policy Publication Series, Geneva Papers); Second, concerning science diplomacy to inform (individually) a few Russian researchers / experts about the High North Talks (HNT), which I’m involved in, organized by Geneva Center for Security Policy (GCSP) (; e.g. Paul Dziatkowiec’s commentary at Arctic Yearbook 2023). The main aim is to enhance international Arctic (scientific, environmental, climate) cooperation by having confidential discussion (Chatham House) between and individual researchers / experts from the Arctic states, including Russians, Asia (China, India, Japan) and Central Europe (France, Germany, Switzerland). 

Behind the visit, as well as my entire scientific work, is independence of science & academic freedom, as main criteria of science. Arctic research, which has become very international including researchers from all Actic states and beyond, is been mutually benefitial and successfully running for 35 years or so. At the turbulent times of the climate crisis and great power rivalry, scientific cooperation generally, and in particular in certain scientific fields (environmental & climate sciences, glaciology, antropology, political sciences, arms control), should be excluded as targets of the (Western) sanctions and restrictions of cooperation by (Western) universities, and flows of research data should be secured by the Arctic states’ governments. 

This is supported by the 2017 Agreement on Enhancing International Scientific Cooperation between the Arctic states. It is legally-binding, in force, and does not “provide an explicit provision for its termination, withdrawal or suspension because of armed conflict or heightened political tensions”. This approach is also supported by the new guidelines for the Arctic Council WGs, argeed in 2023 under the Norwegian chairmanship. 

Finnish universities applied new guidelines / regulations to pause the collaboration with Russian universities and other institutions, after Russian invasion, yet collaboration between individual researchers is not explicitly prohibited. Similarly according to UArctic Board’s statement (April 2022) “collaboration between individual researchers in Thematic Networks and educational activities for students shall continue where possible”; and the Human Right committee of the Council of Finnish Academies recommended (August 2022) that sanctions targeted to states and institutions should not be extended to scientific cooperation between individual researchers.

My attendance to the NF round table, which I neither tried to hide nor advertised, was revealed by Ilta-Sanomat (a Finnish yellow press), which interviewed me. As a result, research and scientific cooperation became politicized by media and a sensitive issue for universities. Based on the (one) report, University of Lapland terminated my emeritus professor contract with the Faculty of Social Sciences, without asking any response or clearance from me, or even contacting me – only an e-mail message. Unlike, the Faculty of Humanities of University of Helsinki did not terminate my contract of a Visiting Researcher at Aleksanteri Institute (of Helsinki University) after having my clearance of my action. 

After the University’s press release, I’m been interviewed by several Finnish media (e.g. MTV, Helsingin Sanomat, YLE, Lapin Kansa) asking my motives & tasks of attending the round table, and technical details about my emeritus (professor) contract with ULapland. As the latter one is a secondary issue, I have concentrated, and partly managed, to clarify my motives, ie. independence of science & academic freedom, as well as scientific cooperation - hope that these principles / big issues will be in a focus in further discussions. 

A big part of my career (circa 25 years), I was a staff member (ASP coordinator, senior scientist, university lecturer, professor) at Lapland University. After I retired from my professorship I signed (January 2019) an emeritus professor contract with the Faculty of Social Sciences, which is been renewed annually; according to the instructions of the Finnish Union of University Professors once retired full professors are recommended to use professor emeritus / emerita, or professor. According to the contract my tasks include/d supervision of PhD candidates (currently five), own research, activities enhancing research (Calotte Academy, TN), whereas no honorarium. As emeritus / emerita professors are not (hired) staff members, they neither have duties nor traveling money, nor they are required to follow same guidelines / regulations as staff members, and hence, there is neither procedure nor duty to inform about your other activities (e.g. traveling abroad). 

All in all, as collaboration between individual researchers is not prohibited, and the round table was organized by an international organization, I consider that my fact-finding trip to Moscow does not violate the guidelines / instructions of Finnish universities. In contrast, it is according to the principle of academic freedom, the 2017 science agreement, and the growing need for collaboration between Arctic scientists and scholars.


Lassi Heininen

Dr., Professor (emeritus), and Visiting researcher at Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki 

Leader of UArctic Thematic Network on Geopolitics and Security 

Editor of Arctic Yearbook