Seminar on the history of Caucasian Studies with Prof. Oliver Reisner

On the history of Caucasian Studies in the Tsarist Empire and early Soviet Union

Welcome to the RUCARR zoom seminar with Prof. Oliver Reisner (School of Arts & Sciences, Jean Monnet Chair, European & Caucasian Studies, Ilia State University, Tbilisi). The topic of his talk is On the history of Caucasian Studies in the Tsarist Empire and early Soviet Union.

When: May 25, 2021
Where: zoom, sign up here

Abstract

In the past few years the first systematizing and critically reflective works on area studies in the Tsarist Empire and the Soviet Union appeared. However, neither Eastern European history concentrating on the Slavic peoples nor philological Oriental studies have so far sufficiently addressed the effects of Tsarist and Soviet systems of scientific research into the Caucasus. In contrast, in the young post-Soviet nation-states, scholars often tend to interpret the share of Soviet research in their own national research traditions as a product of external determination, oppression or colonization, or at least they completely ignore it. The establishment of ‘kavkazovednie’ or Caucasiology as area studies represents the focus of my talk. The knowledge gained in this field is not considered as fixed, but seen as part of a culturally negotiated understanding of the Caucasus region. We will take a look at the places and groups supporting research in a concrete ‘microcosm’, here the Faculty for Oriental Languages of St. Petersburg University, the Caucasian Historical Archaeological Institute (1917) or the first Georgian university (1918) in Tbilisi. Research was embedded in varying political and social environments of Petersburg/Leningrad, Moscow and Tbilisi (Tiflis) for the Caucasus. I attempt to clarify the interdependence of these three ‘areas of experience’ in my discussion of the role of scholarship in state and society. Scientific achievement has been of particular importance for the self-understanding and representation of an imperial-state as well as respective nations. Recent studies into the practice of research in the early Soviet Union address most of all the effectiveness of scientific paradigms of nation building, but not so far scope and approaches of Caucasus Studies as area studies as an academic practice.
 

Short bio

Oliver Reisner is professor in European and Caucasian Studies at Ilia State University Tbilisi (Georgia) since 2015. He received his Dr. phil. degree in East European History for a thesis on nation building in Georgia at Göttingen University (2000), coordinated the MA programme “Central Asia / Caucasus” at Humboldt University Berlin (2000-2003). After implementing an EU-funded civic integration project with World Vision in Georgia, from 2005 until 2015 he was working as project manager at the EU Delegation to Georgia. He published a monograph and 28 papers, most recently on Europeanisation, religion, civil society in Georgia as well as the Georgia country reports for the Bertelsmann Transformation Index. He is a member of the board of the “Association of European Studies for the Caucasus” and of the advisory council of the “European Journal of Minority Issues”. Currently he is leading a research project “In Search of Social Cohesion in Minor Urban Settings of Georgia” (Rustaveli National Science Foundation). Finally, he is co-editor of the series “Caucasian Studies” at Reichert Verlag Wiesbaden.

RUCARR Seminar with Dr. Igor Istomin

Limits of Commitment: Responses of Junior Allies to Hegemonic Entrapment

Dr. Igor Istomin, Associate Professor of Associate Professor, MGIMO University and Davis Senior Fellow, Harvard University, will give the presentation Limits of Commitment: Responses of Junior Allies to Hegemonic Entrapment at the RUCARR seminar on May 18, 3.15-5 pm (zoom, CET). Sign-up link

Abstract

 Entrapment represents an inevitable concern for states in alliances. Junior allies are especially exposed to the demands for support from a hegemonic patron on whose benevolence they rely. In this regard, the paper seeks to examine strategies that they use to avoid entrapment by a great power. It draws attention to the manipulation with the salience of their response as a source of leverage. The author argues that junior allies are more likely to pursue low-level evasion from pressure by their hegemonic patron than to demonstrate resolve through loud signaling. By capitalizing on the entry points into the decision-making of a great power, small states rely on quiet diplomacy rather than public statements to express their concerns. Only if they view a hegemonic patron as intransigent, they embarrass it with their high-profile defection. The paper poses these theoretical claims against empirical record in four cases, which include the refusal of several NATO Member States to support the U.S.-led intervention in Iraq in 2003, the opposition of Belarus to the Russian military base on its territory in 2015, the abstention of Israel from Western sanctions towards Moscow in 2014 and the lack of contribution by the CSTO Member States to the Russian operation in Syria in 2017. Within-case analysis on all four instances illuminates the causal logic connecting the salience of the response by small states to the intransigence of a hegemonic patron, while refuting several alternative explanations.

Short Bio

Igor Istomin is an Associate Professor, Department of Applied International Political Analysis, MGIMO University, and Senior Fellow, Davis Center, Harvard University. He holds Ph.D. and M.A. degrees from MGIMO as well as undergraduate degree from St. Petersburg State University. Igor Istomin teaches undergraduate and graduate classes in applied foreign policy analysis and international relations theory. He also delivered lectures and talks in several institutions, such as Columbia University, Fletcher School at Tufts University, Georgetown University, Harvard University (all U.S.) and Jilin University (China). Igor Istomin is an executive editor at the Mezhdunarodnye Protsessy (International Trends), a leading Russian academic journal.

Seminar with Erica Marat: The Politics of Police Reform

The Politics of Police Reform: Society against the State in Post-Soviet Countries

When: April 20, 3.15-5.00 CET

Where: Sign up here for Zoom link

Dr. Erica Marat is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Regional and Analytical Studies Department at the College of International Security Affairs, National Defence University. She has previously directed Homeland Defense Fellowship Program at CISA.

Dr. Marat’s research focuses on violence, mobilization and security institutions in Eurasia, India, and Mexico. During our seminar, she will present her book – The Politics of Police Reform: Society against the State in Post-Soviet Countries. What does it take to reform a post-Soviet police force? Across the region, the countries inherited remarkably similar police forces with identical structures, chains of command, and politicized relationships with the political elite. Centralized in control but decentralized in their reach, the police remain one of the least reformed post-communist institutions. As a powerful state organ, the Soviet-style militarized police have resisted change despite democratic transformations in the overall political context, including rounds of competitive elections and growing civil society. This book explores the conditions in which a meaningful transformation of the police is likely to succeed and when it will fail. Based on the analysis of five post-Soviet countries (Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan) that have officially embarked on police reform efforts, the book examines various pathways to transforming how the state relates to society through policing. It develops a new understanding of both police and police reform. Departing from the conventional interpretation of the police as merely an institution of coercion, this study defines it as a medium for state-society consensus on the limits of the state’s legitimate use of violence. Police are, according to a common Russian saying, a “mirror of society”—serving as a counterweight to its complexity. Police reform, in turn, is a process of consensus-building on the rationale of the use of violence through discussions, debates, media, and advocacy.

Seminar April 9 – The process of restoration of Georgia’s statehood

This year marks 30 years since the 1991 referendum on the restoration Georgia’s statehood and the following declaration of independence. The years 1988-91 were a period of profound changes in the republics of the Soviet Union, subsequently leading up to the dissolution of the USSR at the end of 1991. In the RUCARR seminar on April 9 the presenters Merab Chukhua and Tina Tskhovrebadze approach and discuss the process of restoration of Georgia’s statehood from two perspectives:

Merab Chukhua

From the 9th of April to the 9th of  April – a brief glance

Dr. Merab Chukhua was active in the national movement in Soviet Georgia during the last years of the Soviet Union and is currently Professor of Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Department of Caucasiology, and also Director of the Circassian Culture Center (Tbilisi).

Tina Tskhovrebadze

Politics of Memory in the Process of Georgian Statehood Restoration

Tina Tskhovrebadze is a PhD Candidate at the Dept of Political Science Tbilisi State University and currently working as a research assistant in the project Politics of Memory in Georgia in 1988-1991 at the Institute of Political Science. She a former visiting PhD Candidate to Caucasus Studies, Malmö University.

When:  April 9 13.15–15.00 (Zoom, CET, Swedish time).

Special thanks to Chargé d’affaires Levan Machavariani of the Embassy of  the Republic of Georgia to Sweden for his kind contribution in the organisation of this event and introduction to the seminar.

Merab Chukhua: From the 9th of April to the 9th of  April – a brief glance

Tina Tskhovrebadze: Politics of Memory in the Process of Georgian Statehood Restoration

 

Panel April 6 – Strategies for legitimation and political succession in Eurasia

This panel was originally proposed to, and accepted by, the annual convention of the International Studies Association to be held in Las Vegas, April 6-9. As the convention for known reasons moved into a virtual mode, we decided to hold this panel outside of the formal ISA framework.

The panel provides a series of perspectives on the issue of succession in the post-Soviet states of Eurasia. The countries under consideration are similar to the extent that they are authoritarian, that (with the exception of Kyrgyzstan) they have been ruled for a long time by the same person, and that rules and practises of succession have not been tried and tested. The panel combines two more general papers with three case studies – the contrasting recent cases of Kazakhstan (Silvan) and Kyrgyzstan (Joraev), and the currently uncertain case of Russia (Petersson). Du Boulay’s paper examines how charismatic leaders have been succeeded, and how successors adopt charismatic regime features, in a number of cases. Smith considers the application of theoretical possibilities and models of succession to the Eurasian cases. Two political science concepts are key to the approach of the papers – the well established concept of legitimacy, and the more recently developed one of charismatic leadership. The contrasting successes and failures of managed succession are considered within cultural as well as institutional contexts. By considering outcomes as well as strategies, the panel thus seeks to go beyond dominant approaches which stick to institutional and realist explanations of succession.

Chair: Natia Gamkrelidze (Linnaeus University)

Papers

Sofya du Boulay (Oxford Brookes University): The politics of post-charismatic succession and autocratic legitimation in the former Soviet space

Bo Petersson (Malmö University): Dealing with the Putin Predicament: Dilemmas of Political Succession in Russia

Jeremy Smith (Zayed University/University of Eastern Finland): Patterns of managed succession in Eurasia

Emilbek Dzhuraev (OSCE Academy in Bishkek): Caught in a (Vicious) Cycle? Informal and Formal Underpinnings of Leader Succession in Kyrgyzstan

Kristiina Silvan (University of Helsinki): All about legitimacy? Explaining the leadership succession in Kazakhstan

Discussant: Colleen Wood (Columbia University)

Tuesday, April 6, 3 pm – 5 pm CET

Welcome to join us at what promises to be a stimulating discussion of highly topical issues! The panel will convene by zoom.

Seminar with Prof. Marlene Laruelle – March 16

Is Russia fascist? Unraveling propaganda East West

Welcome to next RUCARR seminar with Prof. Marlene Laruelle, George Washington University, where she will present and discuss her latest book Is Russia fascist? Unraveling propaganda East West.

When: March 16, 15.15–17.00 (Swedish time)
Where: Zoom, Sign up here

In the book Is Russia fascist? Unraveling propaganda East West, Dr. Laruelle argues that the charge of “fascism” has become a strategic narrative of the current world order. Vladimir Putin’s regime has increasingly been accused of embracing fascism, supposedly evidenced by Russia’s annexation of Crimea, its historical revisionism, attacks on liberal democratic values, and its support for far-right movements in Europe. But at the same time Russia has branded itself as the world’s preeminent antifascist power because of its sacrifices during the Second World War while it has also emphasized how opponents to the Soviet Union in Central and Eastern Europe collaborated with Nazi Germany. She argues that ultimately the current memory fight is a struggle to define the future of Europe, and it is the key question of Russia’s inclusion or exclusion that draws the line of divide.

Bio

Marlene Laruelle, Ph.D., is Director and Research Professor at the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES), Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University.  Dr. Laruelle is also Director of the Illiberalism Studies Program and a Co-Director of PONARS (Program on New Approaches to Research and Security in Eurasia).  Dr. Laruelle received her Ph.D. in history at the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Cultures (INALCO) and her post-doctoral degree in political science at Sciences-Po in Paris. She has recently published Russian Nationalism. Imaginaries, Doctrines, and Political Battlefields (Routledge, 2018), and Memory Politics and the Russian Civil War. Reds versus Whites (Bloomsbury, with Margarita Karnysheva).

Seminar with Dr. Peter Eltsov

The Long Telegram 2.0: A Neo-Kennanite Approach to Russia

Dr. Peter Eltsov, Associate Professor of International Security Affairs at the College of International Security Affairs, National Defense University (Washington), presents his recent book The Long Telegram 2.0: A Neo-Kennanite Approach to Russia. When: April 12, 4-6 pm (zoom, CET)

In this book, Eltsov lays out an original argument for understanding Russia that goes deep into its history, starting with the tri-partite dictum “orthodoxy, autocracy, nationality,” formulated in 1833 by count Sergey Uvarov. Eltsov explores Uvarov’s triad in the context of modern Russia, adding five more traits: exceptionalism, expansionism, historical primordialism, worship of the military, and glorification of suffering.

The author argues that, as presently constituted, Russia cannot become a democracy, and, sooner than later, it will disintegrate, replicating the fate of the Soviet Union. The key reasons for these, according to the author, are: weak mechanisms for the transition of power, poorly developed institutions of the state, feeble economy and education, frail ideology, and, most importantly, the lack of a unified national identity. Following this assessment, Eltsov defines a strategy for dealing with Russia, based on a combination of offensive realism and realpolitik, recommending that the West copes with Russia in a more pragmatic manner. Eltsov also will connect his ideas to most recent events in Russia, such as the adoption of a new constitution and the relations with Belarus.

Bio

Peter Eltsov is an anthropologist and historian. He holds MA in South and South East Asian Studies from the University of California at Berkeley and PhD in Anthropology from Harvard.  Prior to the National Defense University, Eltsov held positions at Free University in Berlin, the Library of Congress, Harvard University, and Wellesley College. Eltsov has published both in academic and mainstream venues and provided numerous commentaries for the media. In his current research, he is particularly interested in how competing interpretations of the past affect modern politics, including conflict and war.