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

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

Seminar with Victor Kipiani: Georgia’s 30 years from regaining the independence

February 15: Georgia’s 30 years from regaining the independence: accomplishments, challenges and opportunities

RUCARR seminar with Victor Kipiani, chairman of the think tank Geocase: Georgia’s 30 years from regaining the independence: accomplishments, challenges and opportunities. Welcome!

When: February 15, 3.15-5.00 (CET)
Where: Sign up here for zoom link


Short bio

Victor Kipiani is the Chair of a Georgian think tank organization Geocase. His interests include international relations, security, governance, implications of the global order for Georgia and for its neighborhood and macro economy. Victor Kipiani is the author of various articles and surveys on Georgian legal system and related matters in domestic and foreign periodicals.  He is also a frequent commentator on recent political developments in Georgia as well as on various global geopolitical trends and events. Victor Kipiani is a member of Georgian Bar Association, a member of International Advisory Board for the Association of International Politics and Security Studies, a board member of the Independent Directors’ Association, and an advisory council member at the Service for Accounting, Reporting and Auditing Supervision Service.

Seminar with Dr. Nino Antadze – October 19

The role of traditional rituals in resisting energy injustice: The case of hydropower developments in Svaneti, Georgia

RUCARR seminar with Dr. Nino Antadze (University of Prince Edward Island)

October 19, 3.15 pm (zoom)

Sign-up here

Abstract

This study with co-author Kety Gujaraidze intervenes in the energy justice literature by bringing to the foreground the local, emplaced, and bottom-up perspective. We specifically explore the potential of place-based agency, expressed in the form of traditional rituals, to expand the repertoire of extra-institutional means of resistance against various manifestations of energy injustice. We investigate the recent developments in the hydropower sector in the Svaneti region of the Republic of Georgia. Based on a qualitative research design involving personal interviews and document analysis, we explain how and why the traditional ritual of taking the oath of unity on the icon of St. George has been used to oppose hydropower developments, and how the employment of this extra-institutional action is linked to the changed political opportunity structure. In addition to underscoring the need to recognize and respect the cultural and religious importance assigned to traditional rituals by local communities, the findings of our study imply a need to consider traditional rituals not merely as symbolic or/and performative means of resistance, but also as political tools that may have a significant impact on the development of energy projects.

Bio

Dr. Nino Antadze is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island (Canada). Dr. Antadze studies environmental planning processes with the emphasis on environmental and energy justice, and large-scale environmental change with the focus on climate justice and just transitions. Dr. Antadze earned a PhD in urban and regional planning from the University of Waterloo, Canada. She also holds an MSc in Environmental Management and Policy from Lund University, Sweden and an MSc in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Central European University, Hungary.

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

 

Seminar with Tornike Metreveli

Welcome to the RUCARR zoom seminar on February 9, 15.15.

Dr. Tornike Metreveli (Postdoctoral Researcher on Christianity, Nationalism, and Populism in Lund University) will present his new book Orthodox Christianity and the Politics of Transition: Ukraine, Serbia and Georgia (Routledge, 2021).

Contact rucarr@mau.se for the zoom link.

The book Orthodox Christianity and the Politics of Transition: Ukraine, Serbia and Georgia discusses in detail how Orthodox Christianity was involved in and influenced political transition in Ukraine, Serbia, and Georgia after the collapse of communism. Based on original research, including extensive interviews with clergy and parishioners as well as historical, legal, and policy analysis, the book argues that the nature of the involvement of churches in post-communist politics depended on whether the interests of the church (for example, in education, the legal system or economic activity) were accommodated or threatened: if accommodated, churches confined themselves to the sacred domain; if threatened, they engaged in daily politics. If churches competed with each other for organizational interests, they evoked the support of nationalism while remaining within the religious domain.

Bio

Tornike Metreveli is a sociologist of religion focusing on Orthodox Christianity’s interaction with secular politics and nationalism. Before joining Lund, he had various research fellowships at the University of St. Gallen, Harvard, and London School of Economics. His recent book Orthodox Christianity and the Politics of Transition: Ukraine, Serbia and Georgia (Routledge, 2021) focuses on the comparative-historical church-state interactions, giving a grassroots and institutional account of counterintuitive secularization agendas, church involvement in public policies and revolutions, as well as interdenominational competition for the status of the national church.

 

Säkerhetspolitik i Sydkaukasien

I ett samarrangemang med Norsk Utenrikspolitisk Institutt (NUPI) bjuder RUCARR in till ett Zoom-seminarium 9 november på temat: ”Säkerhetspolitik i Sydkaukasien”.

Seminariet äger rum online genom Zoom. Förhandsregistrera dig här för att kunna ansluta. Diskussionen kommer att hållas på svenska. Seminariet stöds av Tidsskriftforeningen/Fritt Ord och utgår från en temasektion som tidskriften Nordisk Østforum publicerade i september 2020:

Sydkaukasien betraktas ofta som en krutdurk. Regionen innehåller tre stater (Armenien, Azerbajdzjan, Georgien) men också tre icke erkända ”stater” (Abchazien, Nagorno-Karabakh, Sydossetien) som förlitar sig på stöd utifrån. Bland de externa intressenterna har både Ryssland och EU liksom Turkiet en framträdande roll, vilket de senaste veckornas stridigheter i och kring Nagorno-Karabach illustrerar. Detta regionala säkerhetskomplex är ämnet för dagens seminarium. Paneldeltagare från FOI, Malmö universitet och Uppsala universitet kommer att dela med sig av sin kunskap om Kremls intressen i Kaukasien, EU:s påverkansmöjligheter samt den svåra geopolitiska balansgång som lokala aktörer står inför.

Program

10:00-10:05 Moderator Christofer Berglund hälsar välkommen

10:05-10:35 Paneldeltagarnas presentationer

10:35-11:00 Diskussion och frågor från åhörarna

Paneldeltagare

Jakob Hedenskog arbetar på enheten för säkerhetspolitik, Totalförsvarets forskningsinstitut (FOI). Han specialiserar sig på rysk utrikespolitik och länderna i Rysslands närområde.

Michel Anderlini är doktorand på Institutionen för globala politiska studier, Malmö universitet. Hans avhandlingsprojekt handlar om relationen mellan EU och Georgien.

Per Ekman är doktorand på Statsvetenskapliga institutionen, Uppsala universitet. Hans avhandlingsprojekt handlar om utrikespolitiska strategier i Ukraina och Georgien.

Li Bennich-Björkman är Skytteansk professor i statskunskap, Uppsala universitet. Hon leder ett VR-finansierat forskningsprojekt om säkerhetspolitiska perceptioner i Sydkaukasien.