The first research focus of the IOS consists, on the one hand, of the analysis of the legitimizing practices of institutional systems and, on the other, of the investigation of the limits of governmental actions and the reasons for institutional inefficiency. In view of the multiple changes to national affiliations and the discontinuity of institutions, societal structures and elites caused by wars, revolutions and regime changes, institutional systems in East and Southeast Europe have, since the 19th century, been repeatedly confronted with the question of the enforceability of their claims to legitimacy.
One of the starting hypotheses of this focus area is the assumption that it may be precisely this marked discontinuity that causes the widespread personalization of social relationships in East and Southeast Europe. Similarly, the lack of continuity seems to be causative for the frequently stated distrust of formal institutions. With this approach we oppose culturalistic explanations of these phenomena and emphasize the importance of situational logic instead. This makes individual patterns of behavior understandable even without recourse to cultural traditions. However, this does not imply that factors identified by the longue durée approach to historical analysis should be ignored. Certain attitudes towards institutions may manifest themselves and become part of the societal horizon of experiences and values – that is, culture. In order to take into account the temporal dynamic of the manifestations of statehood and governance and to create diachronic comparative cases the focus area concentrates on four phases during which institutions are subject to fundamental change:
- Moments of concentration of state violence in imperial contexts;
- Wars and post-war periods as especially critical junctures;
- The 1960s to 1980s as period of the change of real-socialist statehood;
- The post-socialist period of transformation.
Symbolizing Practices for the Legitimization of Institutions
Thematically, this is about the analysis of the symbolizing practices with which elites wish to showcase institutions with governmental and societal regulatory functions and give them legitimacy. This issue is studied, in particular, on the basis of imperial interrelations, with the symbolic representations of the central tasks and institutions of the imperial state being at the forefront: the court of the monarch (project: “The Rule of the Phanariots: Court Culture and Cultural Relationships in the Danubian Principalities of Moldova and Wallachia in the 18th Century”), warfare (project: “The Image of War During the Tsardom of Muscovy under Ivan IV, 1547–1584”) and the ruler personality (project: “Representation and Realization of Monarchical Rule: The ‘Emperor’s Journeys’ of Joseph II and Francis I, 1768–1835”). New visions of the political sphere and the concomitant (re)presentations of the desired system in the 19th and early 20th century between the poles of imperial and national status are also studied (project: “Political Ideas and Movements, 1800 to 1945”). This temporal and spatial range allows both a diachronic and a synchronic comparison in order to verify the context dependence and relevance of different factors.
Scope of Institutional Control Functions
The second, thematically central issue is the question of the scope of institutional controlling functions and, inversely, the practices of social appropriation, negotiation and refusal. Friction between governmental and social practice can particularly be observed in times of upheaval (projects: “Limits of the Early Modern Administrative Rule: Dalmatia in the 1830s”; “Acceptance of Market-Based and Democratic Institutions in East Europe”). The analysis of the functioning of governmental bodies in volatile times, particularly with regard to the continuity of administrative actions despite radical changes in politics and government, such as during World War II, produces tremendous insights too (project: “Institutions in a Time of Extremes: Local Administration in Bessarabia and Transnistria, 1939–1945”). The tension between the far-reaching interventional dispositif of a state, and social practices of evasion and withdrawal manifests itself in a particularly striking manner during the period of state socialism (projects: “Communist Social Policies and Politics in East and Southeast Europe”; “Configuration and Change of Rule and Power in Socialist Yugoslavia Using the Example of Aleksandar Ranković, 1944–1966”; “Health, Hygiene and the Assimilation of Roma in Hungary and Austria from an Intersectional Perspective, 1950s–1980s”). Furthermore, the consequences of supranational interlinkages for the control capacities of formal institutions are analyzed (project: “Openness and Institutional Change: The Example of the Rule of Law”). The question of which factors lie behind the non-acceptance of formal regulations and the choice of informal measures is studied from the perspective of the social players (projects: “Institutional Trust and Corruption in the Territories of the Former Habsburg Monarchy”; “Corruption, Electoral Behavior and Employment as Exemplified by the Parliamentary Elections in Russia”). An important role is assigned to the question of which problems and specific societal perceptions lead to the assumption of new functions by the state, but also to the reciprocal questioning of statehood; here, special attention is paid to ecological issues (projects: “Radioactive Landscapes in East and West”; “Options for Environmental Policy in Systems of Weak Statehood”).