Category: The Balkans Marlene Spoerri (U of Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Crossing the Line: Examining the Consequences of Partisan Party Assistance in Post- Communist Serbia
This paper explores one of the most widely discussed examples of pro-democracy international intervention: regime change in Serbia. Taking the contemporary scholarship one step further, it examines not only the international effort leading up to Milosevic’s ouster, but most importantly, that which followed. The author provides evidence of the overtly partisan character of party aid to Serbian political parties and shows how, despite the widely cited premise that it does not seek to determine electoral outcomes, foreign aid to Serbian political parties has often been designed to do precisely that. Consequently, partisan party aid has detracted from donors’ larger efforts to promote democracy abroad. In the final analysis, a partisan approach to party aid might not only compromise the legitimacy of democracy’s promotion abroad, but also undermine fledgling democratic processes in post-authoritarian states.
Category: Central Europe Cristian Cercel (Durham U, UK)
The Relationship between Religious and National Identity: The Case of the Transylvanian Saxons, 1933-1944
In his paper, Cercel analyzes the radicalization of the Transylvanian Saxon community in Romania between 1933 and 1944 by applying a conceptual framework developed by Donald Horowitz in the early 1970s. Horowitz makes a distinction between criteria and indicia of identity: the former are used for defining someone’s membership in a group, while the latter are evidence and markers of it that can function as “surrogates” in identity definition. Employing this analytical framework, the author argues that, especially after 1933, Lutheran affiliation, which was highly important for the production and reproduction of the traditional model of Transylvanian Saxon identity, shifted from the status of a criterion of identity to a mere identification indicum. At the same time, the attraction of (Pan)German identity, with its Nazi anchors, became stronger. Consequently, the center of gravity for Transylvanian Saxon identity moved towards German ethnicity.
Category: Caucasus Russia Ukraine Nicole Eaton (UC Berkeley, US)
German Blood, Soviet Medicine: Ideology Disease and Contamination in a Kaliningrad Oblast Hospital, 1945-1948
This paper explores municipal administration and daily life in the German-Soviet city of Königsberg-Kaliningrad in the first years after WWII, focusing on Kaliningrad Oblast Hospital — an exceptional case study of German-Soviet ethnic politics and the foundations of postwar communist ideology. One of the few institutions in Kaliningrad with active participation by the German population, the hospital was a site of continuous social observation between new Soviet settlers and their defeated German counterparts. Eaton analyzes their interactions, highlighting everyday Soviet and German formulations of ideology, nation and class, ideas of collective and individual responsibility, the everyday Soviet conception of the relationship between ordinary German citizens and the ideology of fascism, ideas of purity and contamination, and ethnic politics of exclusion. Both sides used the stereotypes of modernity to define themselves against the other and ultimately, the local Soviet administrators used their own peculiar understanding of socialism to transform a capitalist, “fascist” hospital into a socialist institution.
Category: Caucasus Russia Ukraine Michal Simecka (University of Oxford, UK)
Making Revolutionary Waves?: Structural Variables and the Diffusion of Mobilization Techniques in Colored Revolutions
Simechka examines the dynamics of transnational diffusion and civil society mobilization in the so-called “colored revolutions”. Pointing to limitations in the structure-versus-agency debate, the paper proposes an analytical framework focusing on the interplay of domestic variables and diffusion in structuring mobilization in Ukraine and Georgia. In the two countries, youth and civic movements that spearheaded mobilization efforts were modeled on the example of Otpor, the Serbian resistance group. The author argues that emulation of Otpor’s techniques was crucially determined by structural shifts in elite power configurations in Georgia and Ukraine that engendered favorable “opportunity structures” for anti-regime mobilization ahead of elections. This dynamic rendered Georgian and Ukrainian activists particularly receptive to diffusion, as the expansion in domestic political opportunities accentuated parallels with prior electoral breakthroughs in Serbia and Slovakia. Thus, local activists realized that similar strategies would lead to similar outcomes despite cross-national differences in context.
Category: Eurasia Turkey Mateusz Laszczkowski (Max Planck Institute, Germany)
Where Shrek Meets the President: The Aestheticization of Politics in Astana
This paper analyzes the cultural mechanisms manufacturing consent for authoritarian rule in Kazakhstan. Laszczkowski argues that a fundamental ideological process currently underway is a shift of rule and power arrangements away from the political, i.e. subject to debate, and towards an aesthetic domain of the ‘grand’ or ‘beautiful’. Symbols of political origin are perpetually mixed with those of pop-culture, while charisma and funfair merge. The new capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, serves as the primary site of this process and a symbolic resource pool. The visual features of public space, celebratory events, the imagery of the city, and the design of particular sites strengthen the aestheticization of rule and its dissociation from political antagonism. Moreover, this system is not a top-down imposition of ideas, but rather an active symbolic economy. While the power-elite benefits the most, the system essentially depends on the participation of countless citizens who pursue their own gains, tapping into the flows of symbolic capital.