Areas of expertise
I studied political history at the University of Helsinki and completed my MSc thesis in 1991 about the emergence of the new labor movement (CUT, PT) which gained political power in Brazil at the end of the 20th century. I continued my studies in social and economic history and defended my PhD thesis in 2001. After that I worked as a researcher of the Academy of Finland, a Lecturer of Environmental Policy at the Department of Environmental Studies in Helsinki and as an (acting) Professor of Environmental Policy at the University of Joensuu in Eastern Finland. I was also a Visiting Fellow at Södertörn University, the University of Stockholm and the University of Kansas. Since 2010 I have worked as a Senior Lecturer of Landscape Studies at the University of Turku.
I have held courses on various subjects in several countries, universities and faculties including social sciences, the humanities, natural sciences and environmental technology. Currently I am running courses on the methodology of landscape studies, militarized landscapes, and cultural history of winter.
My main research theme is the environmental history of pollution and protection of the Baltic Sea. Hence I have directed national projects in Finland and multidisciplinary projects that have examined urban and national water pollution and protection issues in Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, and Scandinavian Countries over the past century. The main results of these projects have been published in two Special Issues (Laakkonen et al. 2001 and 2007) in Ambio: A Journal of the Human Environment, which is a journal of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Peacetime developments in societies and environment cannot be understood without taking into consideration the impact of war. After coediting with ecologist Timo Vuorisalo our first book in Finnish on this subject, that is, Sodan ekologia. Nykyaikaisen sodankäynnin ympäristöhistoriaa (Ecology of war. Environmental history of modern warfare), (Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2007, 775 pp.) I directed also two other projects that provided the first books published on the environmental history of WWII, that is, S. Laakkonen, R. Tucker, T. Vuorisalo (Eds.), The Long Shadows: A Global Environmental History of the Second World War (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2017) and S. Laakkonen, J. R. McNeill, R. Tucker, T. Vuorisalo (Eds.), The Resilient City in World War II: Urban Environmental Histories (New York, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).
Currently I am directing an international research project funded by the Kone Foundation (2021-2024) that explores from a comparative point of view environmental history of water pollution and protection in Finland and the Soviet Union and Russia from the end of the 19th century until today.