European Rust Belts. West-East Comparisons – and Beyond
International Conference, Regensburg, 7-8 May 2020
Call for Papers
Deadline for submissions: 15 August 2019
The IOS research group on “Frozen and Unfrozen Conflicts” focuses with a comparative and pluridisciplinary approach on dynamics of conflicts and cooperation in ex-Soviet Union and ex-Yugoslav areas. The research group's leader, Cindy Wittke, focusses on legal and political settlement processes in the post-Soviet space and the politics of international law in the post-Soviet space. Evgeniya Bakalova's current research project focuses Russia’s discursive representation of democratic norms and political practices. A new 3-year project group funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research working on the politics of international in the post-Soviet space started its work in March 2019 and was joined by two research associates, Nargiza Kilichova and Elia Bescotti.
Frozen and Unfrozen Conflicts: their political and academic relevance
The conflict in and around Ukraine since 2014 have drawn the attention of politically interested observers to the unresolved territorial conflicts in East and Southeast Europe again. Parallels are drawn between the conflicts in Donetsk, Lugansk and Crimea and the large number of so-called frozen conflicts along the unstable borders in the post-Soviet and post-Yugoslav space. Thus, the term frozen conflicts is experiencing a renaissance in political and academic discourses. The term refers to ethno-political conflicts, one that results in a permanent disconnection of a secessionist entity from an internationally recognized state (Metropolitan State), with its “hot phase” of conflict largely completed. Although large-scale hostilities become “frozen”, they can always break out again due to internal or external dynamics, especially in cases where an amicable solution to the conflict has not been achieved. Conflicts over unilateral secessions such as Abkhazia, Kosovo, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia and Transnistria, last over 20 years. Despite being on the European periphery, these conflicts have a far-reaching impact on local, regional and international (in-)security structures. They influence the realities of millions of people and confront the international community with demanding challenges. However, the general analytical understanding of the phenomenon is low, which is reflected not least in the dominant terminology: Contrary to its literal meaning this type of conflict is in no way static but highly dynamic. This is why the concept of “frozen conflicts” is misleading and reflects a narrowed focus in academic analysis and political debate. The protracted conflicts are marked next to varying degrees of intensity by diverse forms of cooperation. To reflect this, the research group has studied the dynamics of conflict and cooperation in East and Southeast Europe. Former group member Sebastian Relitz explored the ways of international engagement with de facto states; and Bogdan Zawadewicz dealt with secessionist/separatist movements and strategies in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Ingo Frank was responsible for design and development of digital analysis and visualization tools. Their projects and research findings supported the overall aim to better understand the dynamics of conflict and to explore opportunities for cooperation.
Between Conflict and Cooperation: Politics of International Law in the post-Soviet Space (2019-2022)
The project group explores the differences and similarities of the politics of international law in the so-called post-Soviet space. The investigations depart from the observation that since 1991 the states that emerged from the dissolution of the Soviet Union have been all facing the enormous challenge of formulating and implementing their own politics of international law in the course of their state-building and transformation processes. At the same time, strong conflict dynamics in the post-Soviet region – recent examples are the Russian-Georgian War of 2008 and the annexation of Crimea as well as the outbreak of violent separatist conflicts in the eastern regions of Ukraine in 2014 – confront the international community of states with what appears as the questioning of fundamental principles of international in regional legal and political order(s). The focus of the project is therefore on analysing complex dynamics of conflict and cooperation in the politics of international law in the post-Soviet Space since 1991. In addition to filling research gaps and bringing conceptual innovation, the project will also lead to practice and impact-oriented findings.
The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
Past Projects and Activities (Selection)
“Breaking the Ice” – Annual Conference 31 June to 2 July 2016
The 4th IOS Annual Conference, titled “Breaking the Ice on Frozen Conflicts? Understanding Territorial Conflicts in East and Southeast Europe” was organized by the research group with the focus on Dynamics of Conflicts and Cooperation (DCC). In addition to breaking down the “frozen conflict” concept, the objective of the conference was to deepen the understanding of conflict dynamics in the post-Soviet space as well as to introduce new ideas of identifying ways to break away from the perpetuated conflict cycle. The conference combined the expertise of academic researchers, international community representatives, civil society actors, peace mediators and facilitators in order to identify obstacles for reconciliation and look for best practices and new ways to “break the ice of frozen conflicts”. The conference revealed the complexities of actor constellations and the ambivalent nature of international conflict resolution efforts with respect to de facto states, while at the same time stressing both the need and the opportunities for their international engagement.
Further information can be found here.
OSCE Network Project on Protracted Conflicts
The research group prepared a policy paper for the OSCE Network, titled “New Corridors of Dialogue: Strengthening Durable Formats for Engagement across the Protracted Conflict Zones.” In the paper, key obstacles for dialogue processes were identified and the concept for a new project called “Corridors” was outlined. The former leader of the research group, Tanja Tamminen, together with Sebastian Relitz and Konstanze Jüngling, shared the policy recommendations at the OSCE Network Workshop “Protracted Conflicts in the OSCE Region: Innovative Approaches for Co-operation in the Conflict Zones” organized in Vienna on 4 July 2016, in the “The OSCE as Mediator: Instruments – Challenges – Potentials” conference organized by the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin on 6 July 2016 as well as on the side-lines of the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Hamburg on 8 December 2016.
Further information can be found here.
Corridors for Dialogue through Cooperation – Research and Dialogue Project (2016-2018)
Corridors has been a DAAD-funded initiative. It aims foster "Dialogue through Cooperation" between societies affected by protracted conflicts in the post-Soviet space. Within this framework, projects that enhance knowledge transfer and create new opportunities for direct people-to-people contact over the divide are developed and implemented. The goal is to facilitate cooperation between academic and civil society stakeholders in a cross-regional framework in order to revitalize dialogue between communities. Corridors aims to enhance knowledge and understanding about the context and dynamics around protracted conflicts in the regions and on an international level. In order to initiate a process of scientific and civil society dialogue, the research group organized two preparatory workshops with domestic and international experts in Tbilisi and Kiev as well as a five-day workshop in Germany, bringing together actors from the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, Russia and Ukraine. The objective was to create a new Corridor for direct people-to-people contact, enhance mutual understanding, discuss obstacles for dialogue and develop new ideas for further cooperation in a cross-regional format. During the workshop, people from different conflict-affected regions were able to exchange ideas and work on cooperation measures. They were gaining insights into the developments of other conflict regions and got inspirations for their own fields of action. Together, the participants developed concrete project ideas to enhance dialogue and cooperation over the divide in the field of academia and higher education. In 2017, the group organizes a workshop for young academics from the Georgian-Abkhazian and Moldovan-Transnistrian conflict, Ukraine, Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Germany on “Dynamics of Conflict and Cooperation in Protracted Conflicts”. Furthermore, a “Corridors Fellowship Program” for scholars from conflict affected societies was added. Sebastian Relitz, former member of the research group „Frozen and Unfrozen Conflicts,“ is continuing the project: https://www.opencorridors.de.