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2017 Doctoral Students Awards

Category: Central Europe 

Mark Kettler (UC Berkeley, USA)

Colonial object or Staatsnation?: German assessments of Polish nationhood in the First World War.

German historiography has frequently sought the roots of Nazi violence against Slavs in the German Empire’s relationship with its Polish-speaking minority. Recently, scholars have emphasized the  “colonial” nature of attitudes towards Poles in Imperial Germany. Some have focused on the legacy of colonial practice, contending that overseas colonialism informed the chauvinistic efforts of groups like the German Eastern Marches Society or later directly inspired National Socialism’s brutality in Eastern Europe.  Alternatively, some scholars have deployed concepts like eurocentric diffusionism to highlight what they see as a colonial mindset towards Poles in Imperial Germany. These studies argue that German assertions of their own superiority, and anxieties about the corrupting influence of Polish barbarism, were used to justify German dominion over Polish territory.  This paper challenges the perceived centrality of colonial rhetoric in German-Polish relations by examining the attitudes of an influential circle of German intellectuals towards Polish nationhood during WWI. I argue that recognition of Poland as a civilized nation influenced German policy towards Congress Poland significantly more than colonial attitudes. This group of intellectuals, centered on the journal Das Großere Deutschland, challenged colonial depictions of Poland, insisting on Poland’s status as a constituent of occidental civilization. Many of these authors actually supported overseas colonialism, and some, like Paul Rohrbach, endorsed extreme violence to rule Africa. Yet, when given the opportunity to propose colonial methods in their plans for Congress Poland, they refrained, instead emphasizing the fundamental parity of German and Polish culture as civilized nations.

Category: Caucasus 
Egor Lazarev (Columbia U/Yale U, USA)

The Politics of Legal Pluralism: When and Why Do Governments Promote Customary and Religious Legal Orders in the North Caucasus? 

When and why do subnational governments promote non-state legal orders based on religion and tradition? I argue that the government can deliberately promote the hybrid legal order to increase its legitimacy, discretion, and autonomy vis-à-vis the federal center. However, this strategy is constrained by the strength of opposition: if opposition is relatively strong, the government abstains from promoting legal pluralism or even suppresses it because of the fear that opposition might hijack the alternative legal orders. Opposition, in turn can also appeal to religious and traditional authority to increase its power, when the incumbent dominates formal politics. I test this argument with the case studies of subnational government and opposition policies towards Shari’a and customary law in the post-Soviet Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, the Muslim-majority Republics in the North Caucasus in Russia. The study is based on archival materials and semi-structured interviews with state officials, opposition members, traditional, and religious leaders. I find support for the political logic of legal pluralism promotion. I show that regional leaders personal religiosity and traditionalism are poor predictors of government policies towards Shari’a and customary law. In contrast, shifts in government-opposition balance have large predictive power for promotion and suppression of legal pluralism. 

Yu Sasaki (U of Washington, USA)

Publishing Nations: Technology Acquisition and Language Standardization for European Ethnic Groups

Of an estimated 7,000 ethnolinguistic groups in the world today, why have some 200 achieved the status of the “nation-state” while half of those 7,000 are expected to become extinct in the next few generations? This article examines the causes and variation of cultural and political development for ethnic groups with a focus on language standardization in Europe. Although language has long garnered interest in the study of ethnicity and nationalism, how language becomes standardized has yet to be offered. 
    In this paper, I argue that the acquisition of the printing press is critical to explaining the occurrence and variation of standardization. The print technology reduced the cost of access to information and reduced the price of the book by two-thirds following the first 50 years of the invention. I identify two processes of how the adoption of print technology leads to language standardization. The first is the selection process, in which the adoption of the technology leads to greater innovations in vernacular book production and to fixity in the vernacular. When language standardization is deemed viable or necessary, the ability to produce print material in the vernacular becomes useful. The second process is by conscious choice. Printers actively translated high-demand books (like the Bible) into vernaculars. Even when the goal of this translation was not language standardization, the presence of vernacular books proves useful when ethnic groups in the modern period want to standardize their vernacular and mobilize the population for self-determination.

Category: The Balkans 
Koen Slootmaeckers (Queen Mary U of London, UK)

Does Pride Still Matter? Analysing the Domestic Consequences of European Politics that Created the Belgrade ‘Ghost’ Pride 

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and Transgender (LGTB) rights, and the practice of pride parades in particular, have are considered to be a litmus test for countries stance on human rights, and are considered to identify modern, LGBT friendly nations from backward, homophobic countries. However, the globalisation of LGBT rights as part of some sort of ‘standard for civilisation’ has not without consequences. As domestic LGBT politics do not occur in isolation, but shape and are shaped by these international politics of the ‘homonationalist’ historical moment. Ignoring this international context can lead to a problematic transference of visibility strategies that serve an international agenda but remain domestically irrelevant. 
In this paper, I question the universal effectiveness of pride, arguing that the international litmus test politics can lead to the domestic depoliticisation of the pride as activist strategy. Analysing the history of the Belgrade pride between 2001 and 2015, I demonstrate that the Belgrade pride has not been able to create visibility of the lived experience of Serbian LGBT people, nor did it manage to engender a political community which would stand up for their rights. Instead of being an activist tool, the Belgrade pride developed into a litmus test for fundamental rights and the rule of law as part of Serbia’s EU accession process with no connection with the local LGBT population. Indeed, the increasing symbolism of pride as symbol of Serbia’s Europeanness (as EU condition) and the increasing disconnect between pride and LGBT people, allowed the Serbian state to transform the controversial pride into a political tool of its own. Thus, the Serbian government uses the pride on the international scene to demonstrate Serbia’s commitment to the European integration process by aligning to homonationalist ’standards of civilisation’, whilst domestically the militarisation of pride, created a ‘Ghost pride,’ i.e. a state tolerated, yet invisible, ritualistic walk through the city, void of domestic LGBT politics.

Category: Russia 
Marthe Handå Myhre (U of Oslo, Norway)

Forced migrant “compatriots” from Ukraine. Encountering the Russian migration and citizenship regime. 

Since the escalation of conflict and war in South-East Ukraine in the spring of 2014 many Ukrainian citizens have fled to neighbouring Russia. In October 2015 the then Russian Federal Migration Service (FMS) estimated that 1 million of the 2.6 million Ukrainian citizens in the country were from South-East Ukraine. Russian authorities rapidly responded to this migration influx by making arrangements for the Ukrainian citizens’ prolonged stay in Russia. In an interview with the newspaper Rossiiskaia Gazeta on September 23, 2014, Konstantin Romodanovskiǐ, then head of the FMS, assured the readers that access to Russian citizenship had already been simplified for Ukrainian citizens: “After all, they are practically our relatives (rodnye l’yudi). Therefore, this is almost internal migration.” The opinion that the Ukrainian forced migrants constitute a qualified labour potential needed by the Russian state was also articulated in Russian media in this period.

This study goes behind the welcoming rhetoric and inquires into the Ukrainian forced migrants’ own perception of their welcome in Russia and the very act of migration. Based on qualitative, semi-structured interviews in six Russian regions, the paper provides insights into how these people, now living with varying legal status in Russia, have experienced their encounter with the Russian migration and citizenship regime. What do the perceptions and experiences of the forced migrants from Ukraine tell us about the citizenship regime in Russia today? Who is entitled to full integration into Russian society in the form of citizenship?