Circassian Trans-Nationalism in the 21st Century – Discussion with Madina Tlostanova and Lidia Zhigunova

Navigating Between History, Memory, and Politics: Circassian Trans-Nationalism in the 21st Century

A Discussion with Prof. Madina Tlostanova (Linköping University, Sweden) and Dr. Lidia Zhigunova (Tulane University, USA)

Welcome to this hybrid event at Malmö University campus and Zoom! 

When: Wednesday June 15, 10-12 CET
Where:  Zoom link https://mau-se.zoom.us/s/68871079725. (Passcode 105032). Please, note: the seminar will be held only online.

Photos: Lidia Zhigunva (left) and Madina Tlostanova (right)

Abstract

In recent decades, we have witnessed a renewed ethnic mobilization among Circassians in the North Caucasus region in Russia, as well as among Circassians living in diasporic communities throughout the world. There has been an increased interaction between these two communities, especially since the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011 and the attempts of Circassians to save their compatriots by bringing them back and helping them to resettle in their homeland in the Russian North Caucasus. Our discussion will focus on the new forms of Circassian trans-diasporic mobilization and activism that led to the emergence of grassroots activism, the new civil society organizations and a substantially increased number of internet-based initiatives. Navigating between history, memory, and contemporary politics, Circassians have been able to cross many divides that no longer seem to be an issue in a post-Soviet digital world. They have showed a strong sense of common purpose in response to the many challenges faced by this community, whether defending their political and linguistic rights, or pushing Russia to reexamine its imperial legacy in the North Caucasus.

Seminar with Prof. Timothy K. Blauvelt, May 17 – Clientelism and Nationality in an Early Soviet Fiefdom

Welcome to join us for the RUCARR seminar with Dr. Timothy K. Blauvelt, Professor of Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies at Ilia State University, Georgia, where he will present and discuss his new publication:

Clientelism and Nationality in an Early Soviet Fiefdom: The Trials of Nestor Lakoba

When: May 17, 3.00-4.45 CET
Where: zoom link is available here: https://mau-se.zoom.us/s/61925115052

Meeting ID: 619 2511 5052 Passcode: 707835

Abstract

Based on extensive original research, this book tells the astonishing story of early Soviet Abkhazia and of its leader, the charismatic Bolshevik revolutionary Nestor Lakoba. A tiny republic on the Black Sea coast of the USSR, Abkhazia became a vacation retreat for Party leaders and a major producer of tobacco. Nestor Lakoba became the unquestioned boss of Abkhazia, constructing a powerful local ethnic “machine” that became an influential component of Soviet patronage politics, provoking along the way accusations of nepotism, corruption, blood feuds, embezzlement, racketeering, and extrajudicial murder on a scale that shocked even hardened Communist Party investigators. Lakoba and his group faced a series of trials, investigatory commissions, and tribunals over allegations of malfeasance, yet they were repeatedly able to convince their powerful patrons of their irreplaceability, until at last they were destroyed through a public show trial during the peak of the Stalinist Terror. Through the prism of tiny Abkhazia, this book provides invaluable insights into the nature of the early Soviet system and the governance of Soviet national republics.

Joint seminar Gent University and RUCARR, May 24th

When? May 24, 15:15-17:00

Where? https://mau-se.zoom.us/j/65216457342

Dr Karolina Kluczewska, FWO postdoctoral fellow

Post-socialist welfare in the making: Family policies in Poland, Russia and Tajikistan

This research explores changing conceptions of welfare and approaches to welfare provision in the post-communist space in the last three decades. It involves a comparative study of Poland, Russia and Tajikistan, all of which experienced an abrupt dismantling of the socialist-era state-centred welfare system in 1989/1991. Taking the case of family policies, it looks at what meanings policy-makers and elites in the three countries have attributed to family and how they negotiated their understandings the ‘right’ family model. It also analyses which social policy frameworks and specific, at times controversial, social protection measures were adopted as a result.

Laura Luciani, PhD Candidate

Re-politicising Human Rights ‘Promotion’: EU Interventions and Civil Society Agency in the South Caucasus

In the last decade, under the Eastern Partnership, the European Union has stepped up its support to civil society in the South Caucasus, considering it as an asset for bottom-up democratic ‘transition’ and an important partner in the promotion of human rights. Foucauldian literature has problematised the depoliticising and homogenising outcomes of the EU’s value promotion and funding for human rights organisations: through the transfer of neoliberal rationalities, human rights are rendered a legal-technical issue and indicator of partner countries’ approximation to (superior) EU standards, disregarding domestic contexts, legitimacy and power dynamics. Simultaneously, within a broader contestation of the Western liberal order in Eurasia, the norms promoted by the EU – notably, gender equality and LGBT+ rights – have become increasingly politicised, while the space for civil society to operate has been shrinking. In a shifting geopolitical context, human rights activists in the South Caucasus find themselves in a liminal position, caught in-between external interventions/dependencies and domestic resistances to EU-sponsored paradigms. However, these actors’ perspectives have remained so far understudied in EU external relations literature. Informed by poststructuralist and postcolonial thinking, this talk explores the strategies activists in the South Caucasus deploy to navigate these tensions and retain agency in the context of EU interventions. Building on a combination of qualitative methods including in-depth interviews, multi-sited observations and discourse analysis performed on a variety of texts, it provides empirical illustrations of how activists in the South Caucasus respond to and negotiate EU human rights interventions, by re-politicising them. It is argued that grassroots, critical alternatives to human rights promotion are being articulated across the region, which challenge both the EU’s neo-colonial governmentality as well as domestic authoritarianisms. At a time when the EU is showing a more assertive posture on the international scene, the talk also raises critical questions as to whether this entails the recognition of locally-grounded calls for social justice.

Gaëlle Le Pavic

Access to social services in de facto states – Case studies of Transnistria and Abkhazia

The end of the USSR resulted not only in 15 countries (re)proclaiming their independence but also in the emergence of de facto states, aiming at being independent but lacking a (full) international recognition. De facto states have been studied mostly form a (geo)political and economic perspective but little is known about social aspects, in particular about the impact of the de facto statehood on access to social services and the crucial role of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). To address this gap and understand how de facto borders and de facto bordering practices impact the provision of social services in Abkhazia and Transnistria, this PhD research focuses first on the impact of de facto borders on local CSOs as a key actor to bridge the gap left by the de facto statehood in social services provision. The support provided by international organizations and donors is also investigated. Secondly, we aim at documenting and analyzing the impact of de facto borders and bordering practices on beneficiaries of social services in Abkhazia and Transnistria focusing on the strategies to access social services and copying mechanisms they develop. To achieve this, we rely mostly on a qualitative methodology including semi-structured interviews, in-situ observations and focus groups.

Louise Amoris

Liminality and Armenia: a bridge between the EU and Russia?

Whereas there exists a wide literature in IR on the degradation of the EU-Russia relationship, with a consensus that there is little prospect for improvement in the near future, it mainly focuses on these two regional powers, discarding any true agency of countries in the so-called ‘shared neighbourhood’ on the evolution of the regional environment and their own future. The countries of the Eastern European and South Caucasus region are too often seen as objects rather than subjects, stuck between two regional powers and their respective projects, namely the Eastern Partnership and the Eurasian Economic Union. Shifting the focus on the ‘in-between’ countries from the perspective of liminality allows us to transform them into subjects with the potential for bringing about change in the region. Based on the theory of liminality, in dialogue with the post-colonial concept of hybridity, the paper qualifies as liminal those who fall in-between established categories, who are partly-Self partly-Other. Through this ambiguity, liminal actors have the capacity to subvert and challenge the established order, thus opening up possibilities for new orderings. From this view, the paper asks to what extent Armenia, being on the ‘margins’ of both the EU and Russia, tries to turn this rather uncomfortable position into a source of agency and constitutive power. Concretely, considering the country’s specific position as a member of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, while still striving to deepen its cooperation with the EU, we wish to question whether Armenia perceives itself as a bridge between the EU and Russia, and how perceptions of its Self and these two Others are changing over time. Interviews with political elites, experts and civil society representatives have been conducted in Armenia in the spring of 2022, from which preliminary findings will be presented.

Zulfiyya Abdurahimova-Carberry

Democracy promotion by the United States and the European Union in Azerbaijan: Why do authoritarian regimes react to democracy promotion differently?

Under what conditions do authoritarian regimes accept or reject democracy promotion by external actors? Empirical observations show that the responses of authoritarian regimes to democracy promotion vary across regimes and in some cases over time. This dissertation project investigates the causes and consequences of the divergent reactions of the Aliyev regime to Western democracy promoters from 1994-2021. In doing so, I examine the strategies of two governments: Haydar Aliyev’s (1993-2003) and that of his son Ilham Aliyev (2003-2021) in dealing with Western democracy promoters with a particular focus on the EU and the US. The starting point of the dissertation is that while Aliyev Sr. had balanced relations with Western actors without preferring one over another, Aliyev Jr. devised various instruments to control the activities of foreign actors in the country by demonstratively targeting the US organizations and their domestic partners, especially after the 2014 Ukraine crisis. What factors contributed to Aliyev Jr.’s departure from his father’s legacy? And why did he eliminate the DPP of the US while accepting (but reducing) that of the EU? These are two central questions that will steer the focus of this dissertation. The goal is to explain the underlying causes of the Aliyev governments’ different attitudes to the DPP by the EU and the US.

 

Karolina Kluczewska                                 Laura Luciani                                            Gaëlle Le Pavic

Louise Amoris          Zulfiyya Abdurahimova-Carberry

Seminar on “Endangered Languages Network TADNET: The status of Laz and Circassian in Turkey”

Welcome to the presentation of the Endangered Languages Network TADNET and the seminar on the status of Laz and Circassian in Turkey.

When: April 29, 1.15 CET
Where: Zoom link https://mau-se.zoom.us/j/69596662782?pwd=MGExY1ZrblZYTmdDdjRlY2pxM1dtZz09)

The lead applicant of the “Laz-Circassian Civil Society Network” is the Laz Institute and the co-applicant is the İstanbul Caucasian Culture Association (IKKD). TADNET is a part of the project. Presenters at the seminar are Eylem Bostanci, project coordinator, Ismail Bucaklişi, Chairman of the Laz Institute and Murat Topçu, İstanbul Caucasian Culture Association.

About TADNET

The Endangered Languages Network TADNET was established in 2020 within the “Laz-Circassian Civil Society Network” and is financed with support from the EU Delegation to Turkey. The aim of the network is to increase the awareness of Turkey’s native languages and to develop activism that would enable endangered languages in Turkey to survive. TADNET investigates the satus of endangered languages in Turkey and globally, analyse successful studies of these languages, distribute literature in this field, provide correct sources and information on the Laz and Circassian languages, developing relationships and networks with similar NGOs across the globe.

Book presentation with Tinatin Japaridze – Stalin’s Millennials, April 5

Stalin’s Millennials: Nostalgia, Trauma, and Nationalism

Welcome to the book presentation with Tinatin Japaridze on her debut monograph Stalin’s Millennials: Nostalgia, Trauma, and Nationalism
When: April 5, 3.15-5.00 pm CET
Where: Zoom https://mau-se.zoom.us/j/61617665776

Abstract

In her monograph Tinatin Japaridze examines Joseph Stalin’s increasing popularity in the post-Soviet space, and analyzes how his image, and the nostalgia it evokes, is manipulated and exploited for political gain. The author argues that, in addition to the evil dictator and the Georgian comrade, there is a third portrayal of Stalin—the one projected by the generation that saw the tail end of the USSR, the post-Soviet millennials. This book is not a biography of one of the most controversial historical figures of the past century. Rather, through a combination of sociopolitical commentary and autobiographical elements that are uncommon in monographs of this kind, the attempt is to explore how Joseph Stalin’s complex legacies and the conflicting cult of his irreconcilable tripartite of personalities still loom over the region as a whole, including Russia and, perhaps to an even deeper extent, Koba’s native land—now the independent Republic of Georgia, caught between its unreconciled Soviet past and the potential future within the European Union.

Bio

Tinatin Japaridze is currently the Director of Policy and Strategy at The Critical Mass, whose mission is to transcend existing global security assistance silos by supporting a critical mass of professionals with the capabilities and sustainment architecture needed to meet and defeat persistent and emerging threats and vulnerabilities. Prior to this position, Japaridze worked for the City of New York, first as the Field and Digital Community Engagement Specialist at the NYC Census, a Mayoral initiative, and later as the Press Secretary for New York’s COVID-19 Response at NYC Health & Hospitals. Previously, she was the United Nations Bureau Chief for Eastern European media outlets and U.N. Radio host and producer of her own radio show on current affairs and security in the international arena. In 2019, she became a Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs Student Ambassador on Cyber Ethics and Digital Leadership. A graduate of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, Tinatin was a University Consortium fellow. She worked as a “Go Big” Officer at the European Leadership Network (ELN), crafting a digital campaign to extend the New START between Russia and the US, and in 2021, Japaridze became a member of the ELN’s Younger Generation Leaders Network. In her previous musical career, Tinatin co-wrote and performed an award-winning United Nations anthem based on the UN Charter, “We the Peoples,” and her song, “Is It True?” was the silver-prize winner at the Eurovision Song Contest representing Iceland in 2009

April 26th, 15:15-17:00: Seminar with Dr. Isaac McKean Scarborough, “What Constitutes Post-Soviet Sovereignty? Tajikistan and the (re)Formation of National Security after the Collapse of the USSR”

When? April 26th, 2022, 15:15-17:00

Where?: https://mau-se.zoom.us/j/66662568106

What Constitutes Post-Soviet Sovereignty?  Tajikistan and the (re)Formation of National Security after the Collapse of the USSR

Isaac McKean Scarborough

As recent events attest, the state of post-Soviet sovereignty is, to put it lightly, contested.  Yet this is nothing new: since 1991 the traditional boundaries of sovereignty, from national borders to state security services to control over populations have existed in fluctuating and hybrid forms across the former Soviet Union.  This paper argues that the hybridity of post-Soviet sovereignty and the blending of national security structures across national borders in the post-Soviet space is directly related to the collapse and reformation of the Soviet security services in and around 1991.  Using the case study of Tajikistan, it demonstrates that the breakdown of state order across the Soviet divide was accompanied by a close and immediate reintegration of security services between Tajikistan and Russia, which over the coming decades would have important consequences both for Tajikistan’s sovereignty and the engagement between the countries’ governments.

Seminar with Dr. Félix Krawatzek, “Defending History? The Impact of Context and Speaker in Russia”, March 15th

Defending History? The Impact of Context and Speaker in Russia

When? March 15th, 3:15pm

Where? Zoom: https://mau-se.zoom.us/j/64203597686

Summary:

As part of their nation-building efforts, political elites in post-communist Europe have increasingly regulated how the past can be talked about in public. Critical historical discourse has been eradicated from public discourse through memory laws in particular. However, we lack insights into the implications of such laws for what people make of the past and under what circumstances people are prepared to accept critical comments on a country’s history.

Employing an original vignette experiment conducted in 2021, this article addresses these lacunae in the context of the Russian Federation, where the memory of the Red Army’s victory in World War II has been overwhelmingly embraced by the population. Our results demonstrate that in-group criticism of a shared norm is accepted, while criticism by an out-group member is rejected. Additionally, we find that the state has little power to shape what citizens hold to be true about a specific past event; rather, the interpretations historical events are given reflect existing lines of political support and opposition within Russia.

Biography: Félix Krawatzek is a political scientist and, since September 2018, a senior researcher at ZOiS, where he coordinates the research cluster Youth in Eastern Europe. He is also an Associate Member of Nuffield College (University of Oxford). His research focuses on post-Soviet politics and European politics more broadly. Félix Krawatzek is particularly interested in the role of youth in politics, the significance of historical representation in political processes, and questions related to migration and transnationalism. Before joining ZOiS, Félix Krawatzek held a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford’s Department of Politics and International Relations. He finished his doctorate at the University of Oxford and was a visiting fellow at Sciences Po Paris (Centre d’études et de recherches internationales) and at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University.