Seminar on Georgia and the Russian invasion of Ukraine with Prof. Alexandre Kukhianidze, Dec. 13

Georgia: history and memory in the conditions of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

RUCARR online seminar with visiting researcher Alexandre Kukhianidze, Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences,  Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University University (Georgia).

When: December 13, 15.15-17.00 CET (6.15-8.00 pm Tbilisi)
Where: Zoom link will be available here

Abstract

The online seminar discusses how Russia’s attack on Ukraine in the early morning of February 24, 2022, led not only to a rethinking of international security and stability, of Russia’s entire policy towards its immediate neighbors, but also to international assessments of Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008. The war led to a complication in relations between the ruling “Georgian Dream” party and the Ukrainian leadership, influenced the relationship of the Georgian leadership with the political opposition and leading non-governmental organizations, as well as the relationship of the ruling party to the European Union and the United States. Against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, the Georgian political opposition is increasingly accusing the political leadership of Georgia of pro-Russian orientation, rejection of European and Euro-Atlantic integration and insufficient assistance to Ukraine, attacks by individual representatives of the “Georgian Dream” on the ambassadors of the European Union, the United States and the leadership of Ukraine. Meanwhile, the scale of mass rallies held in Georgia in support of Ukraine and aimed at criticizing the Georgian leadership has sharply decreased by the autumn of 2022, which has an impact on the stability of the latter. Based on personal observations and analysis of the entire post-Soviet period in Georgia, the speaker explains the reasons for the behavior of the Georgian leadership and the public against the backdrop of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

 

 

Seminar on China’s policy towards the countries of South Caucasus with Dr. David Aptsiauri, Nov 15

Specifics of China’s policy towards the countries of South Caucasus during continuing global crisis

Welcome to the RUCARR seminar on November 15 with Dr. David Aptsiauri, who has served many years as Georgia’s Ambassador to China, Mongolia and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Where: Zoom seminar,  Link: https://mau-se.zoom.us/s/64464981144

When: 1.15–3.00 pm Malmö CET (04.15–6.00 pm Tbilisi), November 15

Abstract

The presentation will be based on consideration of the current trends in development of cooperation between China and countries of South Caucasus, its influence on the region’s economic growth and security environment, particularly in the context of continuing pandemic crisis and war in Ukraine. The cooperation of the countries of South Caucasus in the frame of Chinese ,“Belt and Road Initiative” presents an important part of the analysis. The role of global and regional players in politics and economics of South Caucasus should enrich the knowledge of the updated situation in the region.

Bio

Ambassador David Aptsiauri, Dr. in International Economics, currently takes a position of General Director of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Georgia, earlier worked as Senior Fellow at the Levan Mikeladze Training and Research Diplomatic Institute of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. He is a career diplomat with almost 30 years of professional experience in diplomacy, that started in the United States in early 90s, where he was sent among the first group of Georgian diplomats to the newly established Embassy of Georgia to the United States and Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York. During 2000-2004, Dr. Aptsiauri served as Deputy Minister, and later as First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. In 2014-2018, he served as Ambassador of Georgia to the People`s Republic of China, Mongolia and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Prior to that, he was appointed as Ambassador of Georgia to the Republics of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (2004-2007), Republic of Lithuania (2007-2008). 

In parallel with his diplomatic background Ambassador D. Aptsiauri has been actively involved in academic and research activities in the field of international economic relations as Visiting Professor and Senior Scholar in Georgia and abroad, he is the author of a wide range of publications on international economic relations. Currently he is a Senior Researcher at Tbilisi State University, runs the Center of the Black Sea Regional Development problems at the Georgian Technical University, is appointed as Member of the Board of the Georgian analythic Center “Geocase” and, as visiting professor, delivers lectures at Tbilisi State University, Beijing University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) and Astana International University (AIU), Kazakhstan. In 1994-2000, Ambassador Aptsiauri conducted academic and research activities in the United States, including lecturing and key presentations at Columbia University, University of Florida, the New York Bar Association. During 2004-2013 Dr. Aptsiauri also delivered lectures and ran training courses in educational and research organizations of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Sweden, Belgium, Greece, China, Baltic and other countries. In 2019 he was invited by the Azerbaijani Diplomatic Academy, (ADA-University) to conduct training program for senior diplomatic personnel on economic diplomacy. In addition, he has participated in numerous high level workshops, seminars and training courses / including the statements before Special Sessions of the United Nations General Assembly/ in Europe, the United States of America, Asia, Latin America, covering the crucial topics of international security and economic cooperation, conflict resolution and sustainable development, problems of children, regional and interregional collaboration, in particular the East-West dimension.

Dr M Tyshcenko promoted to Honorary doctor at the Faculty of Culture and Society

Our warm congratulations to Dr. Mariia Tyshchenko (Kyiv National Economic University and NGO “PORUCH”), promoted today to Honorary Doctor of the Faculty of Culture and Society, Malmö University. From the motivation for her appointment: “… in every way an exemplary person whose work and commitment impresses, inspires and gives hope for a better, more just and more peaceful world”Promotor Prof Derek S. Hutcheson.
 

Seminar with Gregg Bucken-Knapp on the new book – Messages from Ukraine – Oct 25

Welcome to the joint GP, MIM and RUCARR seminar, where Prof. Gregg Bucken-Knapp, School of Public Administration at the University of Gothenburg, presents his new book “Messages from Ukraine”, co-authored with comic artist, illustrator, and graphic designer Joonas Sildre

When:  October 25, 3.15–5.00 CET 
Where: Zoom link https://mau-se.zoom.us/s/66628861480 

 About the book from the Toronto University Press: 

On February 24, 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine that dominated headlines around the world. Millions of Ukrainians would flee the country, and a third of the population would be displaced. In the days following the invasion, Swedish migration expert Gregg Bucken-Knapp sent text messages to his Ukrainian colleagues, offering support and assistance. These were their responses.  

 In a series of graphic vignettes, Messages from Ukraine takes the words of Ukrainian migration professionals and transforms them into snapshots of how war affects the lives of everyday people: those who are forced to flee home and seek safety elsewhere, those who choose to stay and volunteer or fight, those who witness events unfolding from afar, and those who find themselves trapped in cities under siege. Messages from Ukraine captures a moment in time to tell a timeless story about war, displacement, determination, and resilience. 

Roundtable on Russia-China relations – Oct 4

Welcome to join us for the Roundtable on Russia-China relations – a joint event organized by RUCARR, Malmö University, Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies, Lund University and the Swedish Society for the Study of Russia, Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Abstract

Russia’s all-out war against Ukraine and its escalation on February 24, 2022, was seen by many observers as an attack on the security architecture that was established in Europe after the end of the Cold War. During the first weeks and months after the invasion, speculations abounded that China was the only actor that could prompt Putin’s Russia into a de-escalation of the war. China was attributed a key role in the development of the war. If it sided with Russia in supplying arms and helping it to evade the effects of the international sanctions, this could lead to a decisive Russian victory and a change in the global correlation of forces. On the other hand, if it leaned towards the side of Ukraine, the United States and the political West in condemning the war, it would substantially weaken Russia’s hand. More than six months after the Russian invasion, China still seems to maintain a wait-and-see position, and the world is still waiting to see what position it will eventually take regarding the war.

Against this background, this roundtable discusses the history, dynamics and current developments of relations between China and Russia, focusing on both political leaders and ordinary citizens, and from the perspectives of historians, anthropologists, and political scientists.

Participants

Dr. Alexander Dukalskis, School of Politics and International Relations, University College Dublin, more info

Professor Bo Petersson, Dept. of Global Political Studies, RUCARR, Malmö University, more info

Dr. Ed Pulford, Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Manchester, more info

Professor Marina Svensson, Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies, Lund University (moderator), more info

Seminar on “Decommunisation and the Politics of Memory in Ukraine” with Dr. Maksym Kovalov, Sept 20

When Lenin Becomes Lennon: Decommunisation and the Politics of Memory in Ukraine

RUCARR Seminar with Dr. Maksym Kovalov, instructor of International Studies at the College of Charleston. Maksym’s research focuses on democratization, populism, politics of memory, and political institutions in post-communist states. His current research projects are on populism in Poland and on the impact of political outsiders on democracy in comparative perspective.

When: Tuesday 20th of September, 15:15-17:00

Where: Hybrid, Seminar room on 9th floor, Niagara

Or Zoom: https://mau-se.zoom.us/j/66119415789
 (no passcode required) (the presenter will attend online)

Abstract

In 2015 Ukraine’s parliament (Rada) passed a series of decommunization laws which set deadlines for clearing Soviet-era symbols from public spaces. Regional and municipal authorities were responsible for renaming the streets but Ukraine’s regions have shown highly uneven degrees of compliance with decommunization laws. How do we explain the differences in the scope of decommunization across Ukrainian regions? Why did some regions comply with the decommunization laws and rename all Soviet-era streets while others resisted and openly sabotaged the renaming process? I argue that political factors, or ‘politics of the present’, rather than structural factors, or ‘politics of the past’, explain the opposition to decommunisation since 2015. More specifically, two mutually necessary factors—the interaction among subnational veto players and the efforts of toponymic commissions—explain the opposition to the renaming of streets. Regions with a high number of subnational veto players and low engagement by toponymic commissions have shown a higher degree of resistance to the renaming of streets.

GPS & RUCARR hybrid seminar with visiting scholar Dr Aliaksei Kazharski, September 7

“OK, realist?” A critical scrutiny of rationalization in Western commentary on Russia and Eastern Europe

GPS & RUCARR seminar with Dr Aliaksei Kazharski, Charles University in Prague, Comenius University in Bratislava and visiting researcher at RUCARR/GPS, Faculty of Culture and Society, Malmö University.

When: September 7, 13-15
Where: Seminar room 9th floor, Niagara and Zoom (link https://mau-se.zoom.us/s/63723147663)

Passcode: 094320

   

Abstract

There is an established tradition of realist-inspired commentary and policy advice on Russia in the West, which traditionally argues for recognition of Russia’s “legitimate interests” and “security concerns.” This commentary hinges on (uncritical) assumptions of the inevitability of anarchy and the security dilemma, as well as on a “structural” logic in virtue of conflict inevitably stems from major shifts in the international distribution of power. This form of realist reductionism tends to ignore or downplay domestic political, organizational, emotional, and ideational factors that drive state behavior. In Russia’s case these factors certainly happen to play a central role, as recognition claims and emotional attachment to former imperial territories as well as siege mentality operating as a regime-survival strategy trump the security or economic-oriented (perception of) interests that rational-choice explanatory models assume to be central to state behavior. By framing the issue in terms of rational choice models, realist commentary ex post facto rationalizes and legitimizes Russia’s transgressive behavior for the international audiences. This discursive industry of non-peer reviewed op-eds on Russia and Eastern Europe, which appear in leading Western media outlets, thus calls for academic scrutiny for both methodological and normative reasons.

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