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"The Future of Eastern Europe" - a review by Elena Brandenburg and Fabius Wittmer

Updated: Feb 23, 2023

The future of Eastern Europe - this was the topic addressed by the selected visiting scholars of the Cologne/Bonn Academy in Exile, founded in 2022, and their academic mentors at the Universities of Cologne and Bonn. The interdisciplinary Winter School provided the opportunity for the Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian fellows to present their research projects to the Academy and to enter into dialogue with other actors of the academic public. As Prof. Dr. Johanna Hey, Vice-Rector for International Affairs at the University of Cologne, and Prof. Dr. Birgit Ulrike Münch, Vice-Rector for International Affairs at the University of Bonn, emphasized at the opening of the Winter School, the question of the future of Eastern Europe is central to the issues of democracy, peacekeeping and human rights in Europe. "We would like to encourage our visiting scholars to continue their research at the Universities of Cologne and Bonn in order to contribute with their expertise to the vision of a sustainable and peaceful future of Eastern Europe," said Prof. Dr. Johanna Hey in her opening speech. Prof. Dr. Birgit Ulrike Münch stressed: "Scientific research, exchange and cooperation are a remedy to xenophobia and war, science creates dialogue and plays a decisive role in steps towards peace".

Prof. Dr. Angelika Nußberger, Director of the Academy for European Human Rights Protection, and Prof. Dr. Claus Kreß, holder of the Chair for German and International Criminal Law and Director of the Institute for Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure at the University of Cologne, shed light on the political situation in Ukraine and Russia from a legal perspective. Academy members Dr. Sergii Masol and Dr. Gleb Bogush complemented the legal horizon with their lectures on topics of international criminal jurisdiction and international criminal law.

The historical dimension of the development of German and international Eastern European policy since 1989 was analyzed in the plenary lectures by Prof. Dr. Martin Aust, holder of the Chair for History and Culture of Eastern Europe at the Institute of History of the University of Bonn, and Prof. Dr. Fabian Klose, holder of the Chair of International History and Historical Peace and Conflict Research at the Institute of History of the University of Cologne.

Historian Dr. Tatiana Khripachenko provided insights into the interconnections between Russian emigrants and international law in the history of the Soviet Union from 1918 to 1939. Dr. Anna Medvedovska and Dr. Kateryna Mikheienko were two other historians (of art) whose contributions on the future of Holocaust studies in Ukraine since its independency and on development concepts in the architecture of Kievan Rus, respectively, spanned the thematic arc from the Middle Ages to current research debates in Ukraine.

In addition to the legal and historical foci of the Winter School, sociological, cultural and linguistic perspectives contributed to lively debates among the participants of the Winter School: Dr. Darya Vystavkina discussed the issue of polarization of Ukrainian civilians under the influence of Russian aggression; and the lecture on cultural practices during the war of the cultural studies scholar Dr. Iryna Petrova aroused lively interest among Academy members as well as the audience, too. In his lecture, political scientist Dr. Sergei Akopov presented the "politics of loneliness" practiced by the Russian state in connection with the issues of masculinity and loneliness. Sociolinguistic analyses of the Belarusian language as an instrument of resistance against Russian imperialism was the subject of a contribution by a visiting scholar from Belarus. With the lecture of Dr. Halyna Matviienko on green economy as a central factor for sustainable development in Ukraine, socio-economic aspects also came up during the Winter School.

Prof. Dr. Andreas Heinemann-Grüder, Honorary Professor at the Institute for Political Science and Sociology and Senior fellow at CASSIS and BICC at the University of Bonn, and Prof. Dr. Christoph Witzenrath, Cluster Professor at the Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies, discussed how wars end and what visions might be possible for the time after the end of the Russian war of aggression as well as aspects of liberation and dependency in Russian history.

The program was complemented by two external speakers, Prof. Dr. Adam Bodnar, Professor at the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities (Warsaw) and visiting scholar at the University of Cologne, and Dr. Grazyna Baranowska, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the Hertie School (Berlin) and Assistant Professor at the Polish Academy of Sciences. They presented their expertise on topics such as the future of the Council of Europe and international legal obligations regarding missing persons.

The scientific lectures and discussions were rounded off by a cultural program, during which the academy members visited inter alia the Cologne Cathedral and the House of History in Bonn.

The Winter School ended with a panel discussion about the present challenges for the future of Europe as a whole. Besides personal statements, the participants articulated visions and thoughts on a future for Europe that is as peaceful as possible and on how the German politics could contribute to this.

Following the closing of the Winter School by the Rector of the University of Bonn, Prof. Dr. Michael Hoch, and the Vice-Rector for International Affairs, Prof. Dr. Birgit Ulrike Münch, the guest researchers from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus had the opportunity to discuss the past four days as well as future research projects and cooperations with their mentors and colleagues from the Universities of Cologne and Bonn during a festive reception. Generous financial support to the Winter School was offered by the Marga and Kurt Möllgaard Foundation.

In the end the four-day winter school enabled the academy members and their mentors to exchange ideas about their respective research projects in a calm and collegial working atmosphere at a high scientific level, to get to know each other personally, and to foster new networks. The resulting collegial and harmonious cooperation forms the basis for the future work of the Cologne/Bonn Academy in Exile and should be the reason for a cautiously optimistic view of a common future for the whole of Europe.

Photos: © Volker Lannert/Universität Bonn und Fabius Wittmer/Universität Köln


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