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Interview Ilya Kokorin – ‘Hup, Holland Hup, wasn’t the right answer’

Doing a PhD can be challenging. Moving to a foreign country can be challenging too. PhD candidate Ilya Kokorin, who was born in a small town in Siberia, faced both, while at the same time having to overcome a number of additional challenges and build a future post-PhD.


‘I began my PhD in 2019 and started planning my four years. I had to decide when I wanted to do research abroad, because I wanted to compare different legal systems. So I had set aside time to write chapters in the US, UK and the Netherlands. But for me it didn't really work out because a year later Covid hit and we were all locked in our houses. I hated it, because I found it difficult to be creative if you are just sitting at home all the time. Being able to talk to each other is important for researchers. So it was hard, even though I didn't suffer from Covid on a physical level.’


‘Then, in 2021, I got the opportunity to do research in Oxford. At that time, the Netherlands was in one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe, including a curfew. And then suddenly I found myself in this small town with lots of academic activities and social events.’ He thoroughly enjoyed his time there.

Ilya Kokorin

A juggling act

The turn of the new year was equally promising. Kokorin had just spent the Russian New Year with his family in his small home town in Siberia. ‘This is a big deal in Russia so it was nice to spend some time at home.’

He was energised and ready for the final year of his PhD. He would be putting the various pieces of his research together to produce a coherent whole. Little did he know that 2022 would prove to be the most challenging time yet. In February, a close colleague died. ‘That in itself was a shock. The days leading up to the funeral were also very emotional. And then, on the day of the funeral, I woke up to the news of Russia’s activities in Ukraine. It was a lot to process. All those events together affected my concentration.’

Meanwhile, Kokorin was already thinking about the future, as his PhD contract would expire in less than a year. This meant that he would soon lose his right to stay and work in the Netherlands. ‘So in March I started sending out job applications.’


‘As part of my plan to stay in the country long-term, I also applied for permanent residency. This would give me the security of knowing that I could stay in the country even if, for whatever reason, I didn’t have a job for a while.’

‘I had to take five exams, including one on Dutch society, the “inburgeringsexamen”. I enjoyed preparing for the exams, and even though I prepared well, I didn’t get all the questions right. For example, one of the questions was: which song would you sing when attending a football match? I responded with: “Hup, Holland Hup”, but that was incorrect; I should have said: “The Wilhelmus”, which is the national anthem of the Netherlands.’

‘There were also a number of questions about bike parking, because bikes often get taken.’ When questioned about whether he always parks his bicycle correctly, he chuckles and replies: ‘I live in The Hague and have seen many bikes being removed by the local council, so I am aware that the area is under surveillance’ – an answer that, for anyone familiar with Dutch culture, demonstrates that Kokorin has rightly passed the inburgeringsexamen. He later also obtained his permanent residence permit and proudly places his permanent residency card on the table.

His residency permit has opened many doors, but not all. Kokorin hasn't been able to travel to the UK where he was invited to speak. The current political situation has made it difficult for Russian citizens to travel. By the same token, his family won’t be able to attend his PhD ceremony.


Fast-forward to autumn 2023 and Kokorin has completed his PhD research and is now an assistant professor at the Department of Financial Law.

‘My PhD may not be the most attractive topic to some people, but I enjoy it’, he explains. ‘Most businesses operate in the form of a group of companies, so there are very few standalone companies out there. Within an enterprise group, separate legal entities are linked by various financial arrangements, such as intercompany guarantees and intra-group loans. However, if there is a financial problem or an insolvency, law tends to treat each member separately. I wanted to know: how do we look at these links between the members of the group and how should insolvency law respond to them? Fortunately, we are beginning to see insolvency rules evolve to take these interrelationships into account.’

He investigated the legal systems of the US, UK and the Netherlands, which are key restructuring hubs, says Kokorin.

PhD Ceremony

Kokorin will defend his PhD dissertation ‘Intra-group financing and enterprise group insolvency: Problems, principles and solutions’ on 14 November 2023, at 16.15 in the Academy Building. You can read the summary of his dissertation here and you can follow the livestream of the ceremony here.

A book based on Kokorin’s dissertation will also be published by Edward Elgar Publishing. The book is forthcoming late 2024 / early 2025.

Text: Helena Lysaght

Photo at top of article: Peter Hall via Unsplash

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