Institute of Middle East, Central Asia and Caucasus Studies

The Institute of Middle East, Central Asia and Caucasus Studies (MECACS) promotes cross-disciplinary education and research through the provision of fora and venues to academics and practitioners of History, International Relations, Social Anthropology and Film Studies. The Institute is a means through which to promote a wider knowledge of these locales and to understand their importance to their respective disciplines.

Originally a joint initiative between the Schools of History and International Relations, the Institute now also includes Social Anthropology and Film Studies.

MECACS encourages and organises:

Research Associates

Ahmed Fawaz

Dr Fawaz attained his PhD in International Relations from the University of St Andrews, the UK in 2011. Currently, he is an associate professor in political science at Cairo University, Egypt. He earned his BA and Master’s Degree in Political Science from Cairo University, and his Master’s dissertation was published (in Arabic) in a book titled The State and the Ethnic Groups: A comparative study of the Russian policy towards Chechnya and Tatarstan [1991-2000], published by Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in 2005. He wrote articles on minorities such as Kurds, Chechen, Abkhaz, and Tatar, and topics such as The Muslims in Russia, political Islam, social movements, violence and social media platforms, and transitional justice.



  • Ahmed Fawaz, Opportunity, Identity, and Resources in Ethnic Mobilization: The Iraqi Kurds and the Abkhaz of Georgia (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2017). 
  • Ahmed Abdel Hafez, Addawlah wa Al-Jama’at Al-Erqyyah: Derasah Moqaranah li Assyassah Arrussiyah tejah Ashishan wa Tatarstan (1991-2000) (The State and the Ethnic Groups: A comparative study of the Russian policy towards Chechnya and Tatarstan [1991-2000]), (Cairo: Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, 2005).

Articles or Chapters in books or online

  • Ahmed Abdel-Hafez Fawaz, “The Caucasus after a quarter century of the dissolution of the USSR: The map of Powers and Reactions, Nazarat (January 2017), Civilization Center for Political Studies, available online.
  • Ahmed Abdel-Hafez Fawaz, “The Muslims in Russia: between historical legacy and contemporary problematics,” Contemporary Arab Affairs, Vol. 9, No. 3 (July 2016), pp. 365-382. DOI: 10.1080/17550912.2016.1201939
  • Ahmed Abdel Hafez Fawaz, “The Political Utility of Tribe in Iraq: from Monarchy to Post-Saddam,” Al-Mustaqbal Al-Arabi Journal (Beirut: Center for Arab Unity Studies, August 2016), pp. 28-50. 
  • Ahmed Abdel Hafez Fawaz, “Identity Violence and Political Opportunity in Iraq,” [In Arabic] Arab Journal of Political Science (Beirut: Center for Arab Unity Studies, Summer-Summer/Fall 2015), pp. 131-150.
  • Ahmed Abdel Hafez Fawaz, “The Muslims in Russia: between historical legacy and contemporary problematics,” [In Arabic] Al-Mustaqbal Al-Arabi Journal (Beirut: Center for Arab Unity Studies, December 2015), pp. 77-96.
  • Ahmed Abdel Hafez Fawaz, "Rumours and Psychological Warfare from the Ancient Ages to Social Networking Sites," [In Arabic] in Sacred Violence and Social Media Platforms (Dubai: Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre, March 2015), pp. 9-44.
  • Ahmed Abdel Hafez Fawaz, "Sufism and Salafism in Russia," [In Arabic] in Islam in Russia: History, Horizons, and Concerns (Dubai: Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre, December 2013), pp. 59-86.
  • Ahmed Abdel Hafez Fawaz, "The Big Winner: The Kurdish Challenge to the Regional Structure after the Arab Spring," [In Arabic] Al-Siyassa Al-Dawliya 193 (July 2013).
  • Ahmed Abdel Hafez Fawaz, The Islamic Movement in Tatarstan and Abkhazia, in [In Arabic] Al Mesbar Monthly Book, Vol. 62, February 2012 (Dubai: Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre), pp. 215-241.

Dr Karolina Kluczewska

Karolina Kluczewska, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

Karolina Kluczewska is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the research centre CERAL, Faculty of Law, Political and Social Sciences, University of Paris 13 (France); and an Associate Senior Research Fellow at the Laboratory for Social and Anthropological Research (LSAR), Faculty of Historical and Political Studies, Tomsk State University (Russia).

Previously, she was a Maria Sklodowska-Curie Research Fellow and a PhD student in the School of International Relations, University of St Andrews (United Kingdom). In her doctoral research, she analysed the interactions between international and local actors in Tajikistan within western development aid - in the fields of civil society, migration, women’s rights and small business.

Karolina holds a Master’s degree in Middle East and Central Asian Security Studies from the University of St Andrews, and a Bachelor’s degree in Cultural and Linguistic Mediation from the University of Milan (Italy). She has practical working experience in the development sector in Tajikistan, including in the capacity of a project manager at the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Currently, she is also an academic coordinator of a cultural project ‘Mapping Mosaics in Dushanbe’ funded by the British embassy in Tajikistan and hosted by the Cultural Centre Bactria.



Book chapters

Policy papers

Analytical pieces

Dr Ruth Hanau Santini

Ruth Hanau Santini, Research Associate

Ruth Hanau Santini is Assistant Professor of Politics and International Relations at Università L'Orientale in Naples. Her research interests cover European foreign policy, US and EU democracy and security assistance policies, Middle East and North African politics, security and citizenship. She has been Resident Visiting Fellow at The Brookings Institution, Associate Fellow at Johns Hopkins University, SAIS Europe in Bologna, and at SWP in Berlin and CEPS in Brussels. She has coordinated an international research project, EUSPRING, on Citizenship policies sine the Arab Awakening in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, and is currently Principal Investigator of a research project on contentious politics in the MENA region.

She has a book on "Limited statehood in Post-revolutionary Tunisia. Citizenship, economy and security", coming out in April 2018 with Palgrave.


  • "Security Assistance in a Post-Interventionist Era: the impact on hybrid political orders in Tunisia and Lebanon", with Simone Tholens, Small Wars and Insurgencies, April 2018.
  • "A New Regional Cold War in the Middle East and North Africa: Regional Security Complex Theory Revisited", The International Spectator, November 2017.
  • "Between hierarchy and heterarchy: Post Arab uprisings’ civil-military relations and the Arab state" with Francesco N. Moro, Mediterranean Politics, October 2017.
  • "The EU and Its Southern Neighbors: A Fuzzy Model of Citizenship Promotion?" in: Nils A. Butenschøn and Roel Meijer (editors), The Middle East in transition: the centrality of citizenship, Edward Elgar, 2018.

Dr Marat Iliyasov

Dr Marat Iliyasov was born in the small Chechen town of Samashki. He gained his first degree in Political Science and International Relations from the Vilnius University in Lithuania in 2002. He continued his education in the same field and obtained his Master’s degree in the next two years.

For a number of years he worked as a journalist for several Lithuanian media outlets. In 2011 he joined the newly introduced Masters program in the Caucasus Studies at Ilia State University (Georgia). After successful completion in 2013, he began his PhD at the University of St Andrews and obtained his doctorate in 2017.

He has authored several articles on Chechen identity and demography in regards to the last Russo-Chechen wars. His further research uses a framework of ontological security analyzing possible vectors of post-war developments in political sphere. He also investigates post-war remembering and forgetting in Chechnya, which is related to the politics of identity. His work is situated at the crossroads of several disciplines.


Peer-reviewed articles

Journal article

  • "Instability in the North Caucasus: Reasons, Factors, and Implications." The Caucasus and Globalization 6, no. 3, (2012): 48-58.

Book Chapters

  • "Odds and Peculiarities of Family Life in the Caucasus" [Kaukazo taut? šeimos struk?ra ir jos ypat?mai]. InSipaviciene, Audra, and Rita Augutiene (eds.). Handbook for Social Workers. Vilnius: Baltijos kopija, 2013: 99-125.
  • "Models of Behaviour and Islam in Chechen Society" [Elgesio modeliai ir islamas ?e??n? visuomen?je]. InSipaviciene, Audra, and Rita Augutiene (eds.). Handbook for Social Workers. Vilnius: Baltijos kopija, 2008: 35-48.
  • "The Impact of the Regional Organisations to the Dis/Integration of the CIS" [Regionini?-sektorini? organizacij? poveikis NVS erdv?s (dez)integracijos tendencijoms]. In Motieka, Egidijus (ed.). Nepriklausom? valstybi? sandraugos raidos tendencijos: integracij? skatinantys ir ribojantys veiksniai [CIS: Factors Restraining and Stimulating Integration and Development]. Vilnius: University Press, 2007: 35-69.

Dr Nina Lutterjohann

Nina Lutterjohann is Project Coordinator and Research Fellow in the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence at the University of Bielefeld in Germany. She has gained prior work experience in EU and UN institutions.

She holds a PhD from the University of St Andrews in International Relations, earned a M.A. double degree of the Erasmus Mundus Programme Euroculture and a B.A. in European Studies from Maastricht University. Her PhD addressed the relative successes and failures of International Organisations in post-Soviet Conflicts between 1992-2013.

She has published in New Eastern Europe, the European Security and Defence magazine and the Brussels based European Neighbourhood Policy briefs.

Dr Roger McDermott

Roger N. McDermott is Senior Fellow in Eurasian Military Studies, The Jamestown Foundation, Washington DC and Senior International Research Fellow for the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO), Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, USA.  He is also Non-Resident Research Fellow, International Centre for Defence and Security in Tallinn.

McDermott is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Slavic Military Studies, Russian Law & Politics, Central Asia and the Caucasus and the scientific board of the Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies. He specializes in Russian and Central Asian defence and security issues.

His interests in Russia’s defence and security developments are mainly in the areas of defence reform, force structure, training, strategic exercises, military theory, perspectives on future warfare, planning and combat capability and readiness, as well as operational analysis.

Dr Aliya Tskhay

Aliya Tskhay holds a PhD in International Relations from University of St Andrews, United Kingdom. Dr Tskhay's areas of specialization are energy policies in the Caspian region and identity politics in Central Asia.

She currently works on a book on implementation and internalization of international norms, on the example of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) implementation in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Norway. Also, she's involved in policy-related and consultancy work for international organizations and national governments on issues related to Central Asian region and security in wider Europe.

Dr Elena Zhirukhina

Elena Zhirukhina, MECACS

Dr. Elena Zhirukhina is an international security expert with a professional background in research and teaching/training.

She was a Marie Curie Fellow and gained a PhD in International Relations from the University of St Andrews (Scotland, UK) where she explored the Russian counterterrorist tactics employed in the North Caucasus. Elena applied her research experience to designing postgraduate courses and taught for a year at the Institute of Diplomacy, Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Currently she holds a position of a Senior Researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague.

Her work focuses on international cooperation and state strategies towards violent non-state actors and their various illicit activities, micro dynamics of irregular conflicts, and Russia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. She engages in data-focused research and design/management of a regional N-large data-sets on micro dynamics of violent non-state actors.

Currently, Elena works on the co-authored book 'The Price of Peace: Chechnya and Russia', specifically, looking at a peace process in Chechnya from an operational repressive perspective and a perspective of a discourse, or how governmental strategy has been framed since termination of the Second Chechen war.

Mr. Paolo Zucconi

Paolo Zucconi is a Research Fellow at the Global Center for Security Studies and freelance political and country risk analyst for private consulting firms, European think tanks and global publications. He is an independent geopolitical analyst and Contributor for The Foreign Policy Centre, The Journal of International Security (Intersec), and other international publications in the UK, Canada, the United States, Australia, Italy. He holds an MA in International Security Studies, a postgraduate certificate in Intelligence and National Security and a BA in Political Science and International Relations.


Journal article

  • Internet Extremism, The Journal of International Security (Intersec), August 2019.
  • Iran's missile and tech programs: a real concern?, The Journal of International Security (Intersec), May 2019.

Online contributions

  • The Sahel Uncertainty: Climate change and Insurgency, Global Risk Insights, July 28, 2019.
  • The Strategic Role of the Fezzan Region for European Security, The Foreign Policy Centre, London, UK, May 30, 2019.
  • The Italy-China MoU: Opportunity or Risk for Rome?, Foreign Brief, May 21, 2019.
  • Chad, An Evolving Dramatic Context of Insurgency and Poverty, Global Center for Security Studies, Brussels, Belgium, May 13, 2019.
  • Sri Lanka: Jihadism and Separatism in an Ethnically-Divided Country, Global Security Review, April 26, 2019.
  • The Resilience of Jihadi Extremist Groups in North Africa, Global Security Review, April 15, 2019.
  • Haftar Makes His Move on Tripoli, Geopolitical Monitor Intelligence Corp., April 10, 2019.
  • Libyan Elections: Are the Abu Dhabi Meetings a Turning Point?, Geopolitical Monitor Intelligence Corporation, Canada, March 2019;