History Before 1945
The Institute for South East European Studies was set up in Munich in 1930 by the Stiftung zur Erforschung des deutschen Volkstums im Süden und Südosten (Foundation for the Research on German ethnicity in Southern and Southeastern Europe). Under its first director, Karl Alexander von Müller, the institute focused first of all on the history of Bavarian settlement and „Germanness“ in Bohemia, Austria and in South Tyrol. This was expressed by the first few volumes of its publication series on Southeastern European Studies which were jointly published with the Institut für Ostbairische Heimatforschung (Institute for Research on Eastern Bavarian History) in Passau. From 1935, when Fritz Valjavec joined the institute, its research also included Southeastern European studies. Valjavec was asked by the Foundation Board to launch a new historical journal. In the following year, the Südostdeutsche Forschungen (Southeastern German Studies) went into print and was re-named in 1940 to its current title Südost-Forschungen (Southeastern Studies). The journal focused on the history of the Germans in Southeastern Europe as well as the regional history of the separate states. For this purpose, Valjavec began from the very beginning to contact scholars in Southeastern Europe, the vast majority of whom were not „Southeastern Germans”. In general, the amount of „German” content was not the highest priority and these became even less important during wartime. At the beginning of World War II, the institute was affiliated with the Deutsches Auslandswissenschaftliches Institut (Institute for German-Foreign Sciences); furthermore, Valjavec was appointed Professor of the Faculty for Foreign Sciences at the University of Berlin. In the course of the affiliation with these institutions in Berlin, the Southeastern European Institute had to answer to the Department VI G of the Reich Main Security Office starting in 1943, like most or probably all of the institutions focussing on foreign studies located within the Reich. Valjavec himself travelled for Task Force 10b of the Operation Group D of the Security Police and the SD during the second half of 1941 to Bucovina. On the other hand, he had been cultivating close contacts to Bavarian monarchist circles that opposed the system of the Third Reich and also left further evidence that indicates his distance towards the regime so that his general attitude towards National Socialism is difficult to ascertain. Although the institute was moved in 1944 to Arbing in the countryside of Lower Bavaria, the library collection remained in Munich where it was devastated during a bombing raid.
Post-War Reconstruction (1945–1960)
The role Valjavec had played during the Third Reich, the nature of which has never been entirely clarified, initially prevented him from aspiring to an academic position. (The person and work of Valjavec are the focus of Volume 119 of the Südosteuropäische Arbeiten, edited by Mathias Beer and Gerhard Seewann, the former head of the Institute's library: Südostforschung im Schatten des Dritten Reiches. Institutionen, Inhalte, Personen [Southeast Studies in the Shadow of the Third Reich. Institutions, Content, Persons]. Munich 2004) This is also one of the main reasons why it took until 1951 to revive the Institute for Southeast European Studies under the aegis of the Bavarian Ministry of Science and with the involvement of the German Chancellery. However, as Valjavec had maintained his contact with important people from the political and academic worlds, the Institute soon experienced another renaissance under his leadership after he became Director in 1955. In addition to the History Division, studies of contemporary life became a new focus. The journal Wissenschaftlicher Dienst Südosteuropa (Academic Service Southeast Europe) has appeared since 1952 (under the title Südosteuropa [Southeast Europe] since 1982); in 1957, the first volume of the series Untersuchungen zur Gegenwartskunde Südosteuropas (Survey of Contemporary Studies on Southeast Europe) was published. Furthermore, starting in 1956, the publication of the Südosteuropa-Bibliographie (Southeast Europe Bibliography) filled a gap in literature research, which had become increasingly difficult during the Cold War. In the same year, the Institute moved to its Munich premises in Güllstraße 7, and its formal supporting organization, renamed in the meantime the Foundation for Research on Southeast Europe, was given a new set of bylaws. By that time, federal ministries had joined the Bavarian Ministry of Culture as sponsors. This did not change when Fritz Valjavec died suddenly in 1960.
Prosperous Decades (1960–2000)
The temporary state of shock caused by the death of the person who had played such a decisive role in the Institute over the previous 25 years was overcome by the quick appointment of Mathias Bernath, a Berlin-based professor of Southeast European History, as the new head of the Institute. Staff contracts that had been temporary were transformed into permanent posts. Departments for individual countries that specifically satisfied the increasing demand for expertise on communist Southeast Europe were set up within the structure of a newly established Contemporary Studies Division. With the Biographisches Lexikon zur Geschichte Südosteuropas (Biographic Encyclopedia on the History of Southeast Europe) and the Historische Bücherkunde Südosteuropa (Historical Bibliography Southeast Europe) the History Division produced two comprehensive reference works. The fact that authors from Southeast Europe and the Western world were involved in their preparation is a reflection of the international contacts that have been consistently maintained by the Institute for Southeast European Studies as well as its good reputation across the area of study. However, this reputation also brought in its wake intensive surveillance of the activities of the Institute and its staff by the foreign services of some partner countries. Towards the late 1970s, the Institute itself underwent a generational change, and, unlike in previous times, only a few members of the new staff originated from the area of study. In 1990, the Munich-based historian Edgar Hösch succeeded Bernath as head of the Institute.
During the 1990s, when systemic transformations in the formerly communist states promoted the exponential expansion of general, intersocietal contacts, and war brought about the violent disintegration of Yugoslavia, Southeast Europe became the focus of public interest. The Contemporary Studies Division developed into a sought-after contact point for those in the media and in the political sphere. Furthermore, after German reunification, the Federal Republic grew in importance in the field of foreign affairs; and the Federal Government recognized the value of the up-to-date political analyses prepared by the Institute for Southeast European Studies.
The Crisis and the New Beginning (from 2000 until 2007)
|Location of the Institute for |
Southeast European Studies in
Güllstraße 7 from 1956 to 2007.
Drawing: Volker Hütsch (1980)
Under the umbrella of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik –SWP), the Federal Government decided to establish a new foreign-policy think tank, to which the German Federal Institute for East and International Studies (Bundesinstitut für ostwissenschaftliche und internationale Studien – BIOst) and the SOI's Contemporary Studies Division were to become a part. As a result, at the turn of the year from 2000 to 2001, many scholars had to move to Berlin at short notice. In this way, the Institute for Southeast European Studies was reduced to only three research fellows with the field of history as its predominant focus. The Bavarian State Government's rigid fiscal policy at that time led to a reduction in the number of technical staff and affected the work of the library. In the meantime, on 12 March 2002, the Bavarian Cabinet decided to relocate the Institut für Ostrecht (Institute of East European Law), the East European Institute and the Institute for Southeast European Studies from Munich to Regensburg. In 2004, an academic-political initiative tried to oppose the concept of a mainly Southeast European focus and the consolidation of the institutions in Munich. In the same year, the Institute produced another standard work, the ‟Lexikon zur Geschichte Südosteuropas" (Encyclopedia on the History of Southeast Europe). Despite the dissolution of the Contemporary Studies Division, the journal ‟Südosteuropa" was successfully retained at the Institute thanks to the joint commitment of the remaining staff and, in particular, its main editor, who had been transferred to Berlin. Since 2006, the ‟Untersuchungen zur Gegenwartskunde Südosteuropas" have been continued with intensified editorial supervision as part of the ‟Südosteuropäische Arbeiten". The Institute moved to Regensburg in 2007 to enter a new phase in its history, which will be dealt with together with the recent history of the East European Institute at the end of the following outline of the latter's history.