Unlocking Russia
The Russia Program Digital Training Week
"Unlocking Russia" trains the new generation of Russia scholars and analysts to use digital investigation (OSINT) tools.
"Unlocking Russia" is organized by GEODE, a Paris based multidisciplinary research and training center dedicated to the study of the strategic and geopolitical issues of the digital revolution. It is hosted by the French Institute of Geopolitics at the University of Paris 8.
It is also organized in partnership with the George Washington University's Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech.
« Unlocking Russia » : why ?
The invasion of Ukraine has deprived most scholars from accessing Russia to conduct fieldworks or to browse archives. Unless a major political shift happens, the situation is likely to persist and gradually impoverish our empirical knowledge of contemporary Russia, with countless consequences in terms of decision making. We think we can circumvent parts of this problem by training the next generation of Russia experts to conduct "digital fieldworks" based on OSINT techniques.
Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) as a new toolbox for academics
OSINT has become a genre in itself, practiced by journalists, activists even magistrates to document crimes and abuses of power. Researchers, on the other hand, have not yet taken up these techniques, partly for various ethical or methodological reasons. However, there is an urgent need to think the use of digital investigation as a strategy for circumventing the dangers and impossibilities of conducting physical fieldwork or investigations in Russia.

The Crystal Platform
GEODE has developped its own platform for collecting and processing large datasets online, named Crystal (https://crystal.geode.science/). Crystal is a set of interoperable tools for conducting digital explorations using OSINT techniques. Its prupose is to allow students and researchers to collect, process and analyze datasets related to their research field. It is designed by a multidisciplinary team of scholars in computer science, slavic studies and geopolitics whose ambition is to set up a "digital swiss army knife" for researchers, as well as a sandbox for training and education.
Go to Crystal

Detailed Program
Day 1 : Introduction to graph theory, web cartography and social network analysis
The aim of this first training day is to introduce the general methodological framework to conduct such relational analysis using sandbox datasets. Training will focus on graph theory applied to social sciences.
Day 2 : Scrapping and mining the Runet
The Russian-speaking Internet (aka Runet) is famous for its specificites in terms of digital practices and platforms. It requires specific tools to collect data. This training will focus on tools to conduct such data mining campaigns.
Day 3 : How to conduct a text analysis in Russian using Natural Language Processing (NLP)
Collecting data is just the first step of digital investigation, as analysts and researchers need to make sense of it. In the case of large datasets, automation is a necessity. This training day will focus on using NLP text analysis to identify lexical fields and semantic evolution in large text corpora in Russian.
Day 4 : Investigating Russian business networks
Official documentation (such as company registries, etc) is plethoric on the Russian Internet. How to use it in a comprehensive way ? This training day will focus on how to conduct an investigation using official digital footprints of companies and people.
Day 5 : Making sense of digital footprints for analyzing (geo)political strategies
Apart from official digital footprints, the Internet hosts various types of technical and human data openly and legally available, which can be used to disclose new informations. Eventually, this last training day will be dedicated to collect such footprints and to fusion it with other types of data collected during the whole week.
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