Episode 55

Swedish Community in Finland, PhD & Depression, and Municipal Elections with Arseniy

This week, we welcome Arseniy Lobanovskiy to our podcast. A PhD student at Turku university, Arseniy has lived in Finland for nearly 6 years. Arseniy is originally from Nizhny Novgorod in Russia, a sister city of Tampere.

After earning his master’s degree in Social Sciences from the University of Tampere, Arseniy began studying in a PhD program and working on his dissertation.

In addition to learning Finnish, Arseniy began studying Swedish during his time at university. He feels that learning Swedish has not only helped him academically, but also in terms of integration into Finnish society. The particular dialect spoken in the south of Finland has easier pronunciation rules than written Swedish.

“It’s very different in the way it is spoken from the Swedish “proper” language that is spoken in Sweden and the dialects there,” he said.

In addition to developing language skills to help with integration, Arseniy recommends becoming involved in student and nonprofit organizations to get involved in society. These organizations can be joined and participated in online.

“If you have the will and the desire to do things, even a little bit, you are always welcomed into this sort of life,” he said.

Arseniy himself is a board member of the feminist Swedish publication Astra. Astra organizes events on and offline, and creates spaces for involvement by marginalized groups in its events and publications. Other than speaking and understanding Swedish at a B1/B2 level, this publication does not have strict requirements for membership.

Since the coronavirus pandemic moved many organizations online, participation and involvement in nonprofit causes has become easier than ever. Arseniy believes that involvement is especially important for international students, because they are at higher risk for mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.

Arseniy himself has experienced mental illness, and he was on sick leave for a year recovering from depression. Taking leave was essential to him; it allowed him to recover, to focus on language-learning, and to get involved in Finnish society. It also taught him to be grateful for the mental and physical health services that he has access to as a working PhD student.

“A PhD project is associated with a lot of freedom,” he said. “It’s also associated with a lot of stress… to have to be creative all of the time, to have to create a space for yourself to think.”

Arseniy recognizes that the research profession is generally susceptible to inequality. The scarcity of public sector research jobs leads many professionals to constantly seek private sector grants, which need to be renewed often. People work from contract to contract, sometimes for only six months at a time. Women and minorities who work in research are most affected by the insecurity involved with accepting temporary teaching positions.

Arseniy followed politics closely from a young age. His experiences observing inequality within his own profession motivated him to seek public office in Finland. He is a candidate for the Social Democratic Party in the upcoming municipal elections. Arseniy stressed the importance of municipalities in deciding aspects of day-to-day life in Finland, and hopes to offer an often overlooked perspective to local governance.

“If you don’t have any migrant voices on the council, if you don’t have any minority voices on the council, if you don’t have any people who rent their apartment on the council, young people, people who  know what insecurity in life is, then you end up with decisions… that don’t favor the vast majority of people in the city,” he said.

Give episode 55 a listen to hear more about Arseniy’s platform, the process of becoming a candidate in the municipal elections, and best practices for voting responsibly. As always, please take a look at the links below for more information on organizations and topics mentioned in the podcast.

We especially encourage you to take a look at YLE’s election compass. We have linked it below in English, but you do have the option of toggling between five languages at the bottom of the page.


Astra Magazine

YLE Election Compass in English