LSE IDEAS selects next Sotirov Visiting Fellow to focus on the power competition between the EU, Russia and Türkiye in the Black Sea region

Dr Neli Kirilova has been named the 2024/25 Sotirov Visiting Fellow at LSE IDEAS, The London School of Economics’ foreign policy think tank.

As a Bulgarian scholar with experience in international relations and diplomacy, with particular focus on the power competition between the EU, Russia and Türkiye in the Black Sea region, Dr Kirilova brings regional research perspective to the team. In her PhD dissertation, Dr Kirilova has developed a new theoretical framework on conflict prevention, suggesting the six elements of power as qualitative assessment tool. In exchange of knowledge with LSE IDEAS scholars, Dr Kirilova will apply her new theory to the case study of Bulgaria. Her research will focus on diplomatic negotiations and current strategies, in the background of political instability. The aim of her research at LSE IDEAS is to identify the potential relation between power competition and political (in)stability, in predefined parameters. Based on this case study, similar research can later be conducted in other countries of the Western Balkans and the Black Sea region, thus contributing to the regional stability and conflict prevention. 

Dr Neli Kirilova holds a PhD in International Relations and Security Studies acquired at the Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary, in collaboration with the European Doctoral School on CSDP/CFSP at the European Security and Defence College (ESDC), Brussels, Belgium. As a PhD Fellow on CSDP/CFSP at the ESDC, Dr Kirilova has strong interest in EU research on foreign and security policy strategies. Dr Kirilova implemented diplomatic practice at the Permanent Representation of Bulgaria during the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, and undertook expert interviews. As a visiting researcher at the Brussels School of International Studies – University of Kent, Dr Kirilova developed a theoretical framework on contemporary balance of power theory – six power elements, which she applies to the Black Sea region. Her recent publications are available at ORCID

Dr Kirilova holds an International Master degree in Russian, Central and East European Studies (University of Glasgow, UK), an MA in Political Science (Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary), an MA in International Relations: International Public Administration and a BA in International Relations (University of National and World Economy, Sofia, Bulgaria). She pursued international exchange studies at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain, and held visiting fellowships at the Lobachevsky State University of Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy in Baku, and the Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Professor Chris Alden, Director at LSE IDEAS, says:

‘’We are extremely excited to have Dr Kirilova join us this year as the Sotirov fellow and are excited for the work she will produce. We are ever grateful to the Sotirov family for their generous support over the years and the value that this fellowship has brought to the think-tank.’’

Dr Neli Kirilova, 2024/25 Mladena and Dianko Sotirov Fellow, said of her appointment:

‘’I am grateful to LSE IDEAS and the Sotirov family, for the opportunity to research contemporary Bulgarian foreign policy, examining the possible relation between diplomacy, strategies, external interests and political stability. I will apply the theoretical framework on conflict prevention which I developed in my PhD research, to a case study country, in a great academic environment. If the logical model proves to be successful, it can later be extrapolated to other countries of the Western Balkans and the Black Sea region. As a result, this research has the potential to bring valuable contribution to regional stability and conflict prevention. This is my career goal. Thank you.’’

If you would like to support LSE IDEAS to provide more fellowships such as this and in many other ways please visit our supporters page here.