Scientific conferences

Eurasia in Transition: Geopolitics, Connections and Challenges, 13-15 May 2020

International conference organized in cooperation between the Center for Eastern European Studies (CEES) at the University of Zurich and the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH Zurich.

Venue and date: University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, May 13–15, 2020

Call for Papers: Deadline 30 November 2019.  Download (PDF, 51 KB)

Description

Eurasia is transforming. Since the emergence of fifteen new national states on the territory of the former Soviet Union, this vast region saw major political and socioeconomic transformations, and repeated reconfigurations of its geopolitical and geo-economic landscape. If the 1990s were marked by Russia’s retreat from the region, in recent years, Russia has emerged as a key power trying to counter the eastward expansion of Western states and organizations, as well balancing China’s growing economic influence, especially in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. In the meanwhile, the post-Soviet states of the region have developed their own foreign policy agendas: The three Baltic states have become members of NATO and the EU, and Ukraine and Georgia aspire to join Western institutions in the near future. Others, including Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, have integrated more closely into Russian-led organizations such as the Eurasian Economic Union or the Collective Security Treaty Organization (including also Tajikistan), or have shown no clear geopolitical preference (Azerbaijan, Moldova, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan).

The transformations in the central Eurasian space will have far-reaching repercussions on the international order and present challenges, but also opportunities, for the West, Europe and Switzerland. However, the trajectories are still little understood and have not received the attention that they deserve by the academic community. The key aim of this international conference is therefore to get a better understanding of the changes in this key part of the central Eurasian landmass, by exploring three major issues:

Geopolitics: In a region as vast as Eurasia, geographical factors play a crucial role for politics and international relations. This is especially true for the landlocked post-Soviet states of the Central Asia and Caspian regions, which face significant obstacles to participation in the global economy. The ways these countries engage with one another and with outside powers, including Russia, the West and China, impacts the larger political and economic contours of the central Eurasian region in important ways. Analyzing the interests and motives of the key actors, and understanding the various interactions taking place between regional and outside actors, is a key aim of this conference.

Connections: Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, post-Soviet Eurasia has evolved into several regional groupings. These new regions have formed as societies become linked through multilateral organizations, trade, culture, shared memories and identities, or infrastructure. A second aim of this conference is to understand how these connections have changed and evolved over time and space. Of all the connections, infrastructure, namely transportation routes and energy transportation networks, are especially important, as it is believed that these structural relations among states are important for the emerging regional contours of Eurasia.

Challenges: Another goal of this conference is in seeking to identify and understand key challenges affecting both regional and international dynamics: The trajectories in central Eurasia do not only depend on outside influence, but also on transformations taking place within individual countries, resulting from internal political dynamics or societal responses. A key task of this conference is therefore to analyze internal social dynamics, assess the likelihood of political changes within individual countries, and consider possible consequences for existing patterns of international relations and interactions. At the same time, the members of this conference will also aim to understand the broader global impact of these trajectories, assess current Western policies, and discuss ways in which Europe and the larger West– including Switzerland – should react.

Scope and organization of this conference

By bringing together scholars from the Eurasian/Asian region, as well as Russia, Europe, the United States, and Switzerland, this conference represents a pioneering endeavor to approach these questions in a comprehensive manner and put them into a broader context. The total number of active participants will be around 40, about half of the participants will be recruited through a Call for Papers, the other half are either members of the CEES/CSS or specialists who will be invited directly by the CEES/CSS.

The conference will be held during the spring semester 2020, which enables students from the University of Zurich, the ETH Zurich, and other Swiss universities to attend the conference or individual conference sessions. The conference will be open to non-academics, and practitioners from the relevant Swiss ministries and departments are especially welcome to attend.

Preliminary conference outline with main topics

Panel 1: The Geopolitical Dimension: Main Actors and Interests

  • Russia
  • China
  • Europe
  • USA
  • India/Japan/Iran/Turkey

Panel 2: The View from the Region: Central Asia

  • Kazakhstan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Tajikistan
  • Turkmenistan

Panel 3: Energy, Infrastructure & Trade Routes

  • Oil, gas and pipelines
  • Rails and roads
  • Hydropower
  • Old and new trade routes
  • Digital space/Internet

Panel 3: Energy, Infrastructure & Trade Routes

  • Oil, gas and pipelines
  • Rails and roads
  • Hydropower
  • Old and new trade routes
  • Digital space/Internet

Panel 4: Multilateral Organizations & Initiatives

  • China’s “One Belt One Road”
  • The Eurasian Economic Union
  • Shanghai Cooperation Organization
  • Collective Security Treaty Organization
  • Western initiatives

Panel 5: Regional Conflicts and Conflict Potential

  • Afghanistan/Islamic extremism
  • Nagorno Karabakh/frozen conflicts
  • Water management in Central Asia
  • The Uighur question/Muslim factor
  • Ukraine crisis and its regional impact

Panel 6: Challenges from Within

  • Authoritarian regionalism
  • Migration
  • The potential of revolution & regime change
  • The role of youth
  • Education system and transnational exchanges

Panel 7: Challenges for the West, Europe and Switzerland

  • The US
  • The EU
  • Switzerland

Contact

Center for Eastern European Studies (CEES)
Prof. Dr. Jeronim Perović, CEES Director
Universität Zürich, Historisches Seminar
Karl-Schmid-Strasse 4, KO2-G-283
CH-8006 Zürich
E-Mail: jeronim.perovic@hist.uzh.ch
T: +41 (0)44 634 38 76

Center for Security Studies (CSS)
Prof. Dr. Andreas Wenger, CSS Director
ETH Zürich, Haldeneggsteig 4, IFW
8092 Zurich / Switzerland
Email: andreas.wenger@sipo.gess.ethz.ch
Tel.: +41 (0)44 632 40 25

The conference is funded by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI