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
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.
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.
Limits of Commitment: Responses of Junior Allies to Hegemonic Entrapment
Dr. Igor Istomin, 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
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.
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.
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.