CEES Workshops

Die CEES Workshops sind Kolloquien, die Forschenden des CEES sowie Gästen Gelegenheit bieten, ihre Forschungsprojekte und/oder Expertisen der CEES-Forschungsgemeinschaft vorzustellen.

Eine Anmeldung per Email an Dunja Krempin ist erforderlich: cees@hist.uzh.ch


Russia’s War: Impact on Ukrainian Society and Caucasian Perspectives (09.12.2022)

Der Krieg Russlands gegen die Ukraine hat weitreichende Auswirkungen auf die Nachbarländer, Europa und die Welt. Die Folgen sind in humanitärer, wirtschaftlicher, finanzieller, politischer und sicherheitspolitischer Hinsicht zu spüren. Die Menschen in der Ukraine sind die Hauptopfer des Krieges. Aber der Krieg hat auch Auswirkungen auf andere Länder und Gesellschaften. In diesem Workshop werden wir in zwei Panels die vielfältigen Folgen des Krieges für die ukrainische Gesellschaft untersuchen und dabei auch die Perspektiven des Südkaukasus berücksichtigen. CEES Fellows der Universität Zürich und Wissenschaftler:innen anderer Schweizer Universitäten präsentieren ihre Meinungen dazu.

Ort & Zeit: Universität Zürich, KOL-G-222, 09.12.2022, 10:00-16:00 Uhr.

Registrierung per Email unter: cees@hist.uzh.ch

Das Programm findet sich hier (PDF, 590 KB)

Russia’s War Against Ukraine – Views from the Neighborhood (20.05.2022)

Dieser CEES Forschungsworkshop befasst sich mit den Auswirkungen des russisch-ukrainischen Krieges auf die Nachbarstaaten Russlands. CEES Fellows der Universität Zürich und Wissenschaftler:innen anderer Universitäten präsentieren ihre Meinungen dazu.

Ort & Zeit: Universität Zürich, KOL-G-216, 20.05.2022, 10:00-16:00 Uhr.

Registrierung per Email unter: cees@hist.uzh.ch

Das Programm findet sich hier (PDF, 495 KB)


Societies in Transition? Ukraine and the Caucasus (19.11.2021)

Gemeinsamer Workshop von CEES und URIS mit Teilnehmer:innen der Universitäten Zürich, Basel, St. Gallen und Bern.

19.11.2021, 09.30.-16.00 Uhr, SOE-E-1, Universität Zürich

Zum Programm (PDF, 281 KB)



Discover Abkhazia (15.12.2020)

The CEES Fellows Nasta Agrba and Naala Avidzba give a rare insight into the history and society of Abkhazia. They touch on topics such as geography, languages, religions, customs, history, current developments. After the presentation there is the opportunity to ask questions and discuss.

The event will take place on December 15, 2020 at 3 p.m. on Zoom. Please register via: cees@hist.uzh.ch

The meeting will be held in English.

CEES Fellowship Workshop (3.11.2020)


14:00 pm: Welcoming on Zoom

14:10: Gvantsa Salukvadze: Where Tourism and Politics Meet: Consequences of Tourism Dependency in Georgia

14:30 pm: Discussion

15.10 pm Naala Avidzba: Cultural identity and Tourism: The Case of the Republic of Abkhazia

15.30 pm Discussion

16.10 pm: Nasta Agrba: The Ultimate Soft Power: EU-Education as an Integration Instrument for De Facto States on the Example of Abkhazia

16.30 pm: Discussion

17:10 pm: End of Workshop


Official and Alternative Memory Networks in Post-Soviet Chechnya (18.12.2019)

Dr. Cécile Druey (wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin am Historischen Institut der Universität Bern) zum Thema "Official and Alternative Memory Networks in Post-Soviet Chechnya." Datum: 18. Dezember 2019; Zeit: 12.15-13.45 Uhr; Raum: Universität Zürich, KOL-F-123

Flyer & Abstract (PDF, 77 KB)

Abstract: The conflicts in Chechnya have many faces and many layers. Whereas the wars of the 1990s and early 2000s were a direct confrontation between Moscow and local supporters of independence, the conflict has now turned inwards: local government and different factions of society are in a bitter struggle, most of them relying on the material and ideological support of external actors (notably, Russia or transnational Islamic movements). History and historical memory play an important role in these conflicts. Based on data collected in the framework of the SNSF-project “Remembering the Past in the Conflicts of the Present. Civil Society and Contested History in the Post-Soviet Space”, this lecture analyses the different waves of “memory conflicts” in Chechnya since 1991, by taking a closer look at their context, actors and dynamics.

Russia’s Response to Western Sanctions and the “Pivot to Asia” (20.11.2019)

Dr. Mariia Shagina (CEES Fellow, Historisches Seminar, Universität Zürich) zum Thema "Russia’s Response to Western Sanctions and the 'Pivot to Asia'." Datum: 20. November 2019; Zeit: 12.15-13.45 Uhr; Raum: Universität Zürich, KOL-F-123

Flyer & Abstract (PDF, 77 KB)

Abstract: Western sanctions imposed on the Russian energy, defense and financial sectors exposed the country’s severe dependence on foreign goods and technology. As a response to Western restrictions, the Russian government introduced an import substitution program aimed at creating domestic capabilities to safeguard the country’s economic and technological sovereignty. After five years, Russia’s import substitution has failed to achieve tangible results. Due to the lack of domestic capabilities, poor inter-sectoral cooperation and rent-seeking, the progress on substitution was protracted and weighed down by uncompetitive prices and low quality. Gradually, import diversification to non-Western states and localization of foreign products and technology have replaced the strategy of self-sufficiency and the development of domestic analogues. Russia’s pivot to Asia proved to be instrumental in supplanting Western imports and technology. With US sanctions expanding, however, Asia’s private sector is getting increasingly wary of reputational risks and sanctions penalties. 

Russian Nuclear Orthodoxy: Religion, Politics and Strategy in Contemporary Russia (23.10.2019)

Prof. Dr. Dmitry (Dima) Adamsky (The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy & Strategy) zum Thema "Russian Nuclear Orthodoxy: Religion, Politics and Strategy in Contemporary Russia." Datum: 23. Oktober 2019; Zeit: 12.15-13.45 Uhr, Raum: Universität Zürich, KOL-F-123

Flyer & Abstract (PDF, 86 KB)

Abstract: Since the Soviet collapse, the role of the Orthodox faith and the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has grown immensely in Russian national identity, ideology, domestic politics, and security policy. In the latter regard, the intertwining of the ROC and the Russian state is nowhere more visible than in the armed forces, and more specifically within the nuclear-weapons complex—the most significant wing of one of the world’s most powerful military organizations. Since 1991 the nuclear priesthood has penetrated all levels of command and has positioned itself as a guardian of the state’s nuclear potential. This is a major, counterintuitive, and totally overlooked phenomenon in contemporary Russian history. This talk, based on the speaker’s recent book, Russian Nuclear Orthodoxy (Stanford UP), highlights social-political sources and strategic implications of the role of religion in Russian foreign and security policy.

The Russia File: Russia and the West in an Unordered World (15.05.2019)

Dr. Daniel S. Hamilton (Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation Professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, SAIS) zum Thema "The Russia File: Russia and the West in an Unordered World." Datum: 15. Mai 2019; Zeit: 12.15-13.45 Uhr; Raum: KOL-G-217.

Flyer & Abstract (PDF, 82 KB)

Abstract: Russia and the West are stuck. Experts and officials from each side are talking past each other. During the quarter century since the end of the Cold War, the paradigm prevailing in the West was of a robust, largely unchallenged, and gradually expanding Western-led order, in which a reformed Russia could potentially find a place. Discordant Russian views were often discounted or ignored. Today, as Russia challenges that order, this post-Cold War framework has become a paradigm lost. How might Europe’s security architecture evolve? Will Russia continue as a spoiler, or could it be a stakeholder?

Central Asia’s Place in the Global Strategies of China, Russia and the West (10.04.2019)

Dr. Stanislav Pritchin (Institute of Oriental Studies, RAS, Moscow; Chatham House, RIIA, London) zum Thema "Central Asia’s Place in the Global Strategies of China, Russia and the West." Datum: 10. April 2019; Zeit: 12.15-13.45 Uhr; Raum: KOL-F-118.

Flyer & Abstract (PDF, 85 KB)

Abstract: Rich natural resources and a pivotal geopolitical location make the Central Asian region a prime focus of attention for global powers and international multi-national companies. Central Asia is a key region in the implementation of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It is not surprising that Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the launch of this ambitious initiative in Kazakhstan’s capital city Astana in September 2013. Substantial political change is imminent: New transportation initiatives by China, Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkey will, if implemented, reduce isolation from world markets and improve access for Central Asia’s inexpensive workforce and 60 million consumers. Meanwhile countries are entering new stages in their political and economic transformation. As a result, political stability and the investment climate are likely to change significantly. The paper presented in this workshop addresses the policies of key powers towards the Central Asian region, namely China, Russia, and the West, and also analyzes developments which are taking place inside the states of the region, namely in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Ukraine between Church Canons and the Canons of War (27.03.2019)

Dr. Alexander Ponomariov (Universität Passau) zum Thema "A 'Feudal Takeover': Ukraine between Church Canons and the Canons of War (2018–2019)." Datum: 27. März 2019; Zeit: 12.15-13.45 Uhr; Raum: KOL-F-118.

Flyer & Abstrac (PDF, 78 KB)t

Abstract: In January 2019, the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued a document of independence for the newly created Orthodox Church of Ukraine, recognizing it as the 15th church in its global Orthodox rankings. It was perceived by many as a “feudal takeover” of the jurisdiction of Moscow. The current situation has become possible because of what could be called the “Constantinopolitan Consensus,” when the Orthodox communities recognize the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul as primus inter pares based on antique canons. The incumbent Ukrainian President made church autocephaly one of the three pillars in his running re-election campaign (“Army, Language, and Faith”), which should symbolize definitive independence from Russia. In December 2018, for the first time in Ukrainian history, he even imposed martial law in the country in order to convene the required church council in Kiev, and then amended the Constitution regarding NATO membership of Ukraine in the future. The Moscow Patriarchate views such developments as “military operations” against it and is ready to resist with all means possible, both parties instrumentalizing church canons as the canons of war.

Belarus between East and West (27.02.2019)

Benno Zogg (ETH Zürich) zum Thema "Belarus between East and West: Strategic Reorientation or Pragmatic Maneuvers?." Datum: 27. Februar 2019; Zeit: 12.15-13.45 Uhr; Raum: KOL-F-118

Flyer & Abstract (PDF, 77 KB)

Abstract: Belarus and Russia are increasingly at odds over gas prices, the recognition of Crimea, border and visa management, and the terms of their military cooperation. Particularly since 2014, President Lukashenka’s government has been emphasizing its role as a mediator in Ukraine, how its independent foreign policy is valuable to the West, and is fostering a moderate nationalism. This challenges the common perception that Belarus is Russia’s most loyal ally, united through shared language, culture and authoritarianism in a vague “Union State”.  Are these signs of an increasing strategic rift between the two countries, or does this rhetoric cater domestic audiences and implies pragmatic bargaining over the terms of future cooperation? Past disputes imply elements of both. Meanwhile, Belarus’ state-dominated economy requires urgent reforms to diversify, modernize and attract investments. These external and domestic challenges increasingly put pressure on the social contract with the Belarusian people about social security and stability.


Material Developments, Social Inequalities, and the 2018 Football World Cup in Russia (28.11.2018)

Sven Daniel Wolfe, MSc, MA (Department of Geography and Sustainability University of Lausanne, Switzerland) zum Thema "A World Class Party… But For Whom? Material Developments, Social Inequalities, and the 2018 Football World Cup in Russia". datum: 28. November 2018; Zeit: 12.15-13.45 Uhr; Raum: KOL-F-123. Flyer and Abstract Wolfe (PDF, 71 KB)


Why do nations host mega-events like the Olympics or the World Cup, and what happens when they do? Though each host nation’s rationales are contingent on their specific political economies and social contexts, in general we see a tendency to use mega-events as engines for urban development and for the purposes of image enhancement in both domestic and international domains. These rationales are all the more salient as mega-events have moved away from the Global North and into territories previously deemed unsuitable for these prestigious and costly affairs. Away from the glamour of international sport and the celebrations of the transnational business class, beyond the official rhetoric of government and hosting authorities, what actually happens to the people and places that host these events? This paper discusses some common pitfalls exemplified in recent mega-events before moving to the 2018 Football World Cup in Russia. Drawing on three years of documentary and qualitative field research, the paper tracesofficial hosting rationales and explores the mixed outcomes of World Cup preparations on the ground, while delineating some of the difficulties and dangers in conducting politically sensitive research in modern day Russia. In providing examples of notablematerial improvements in several host cities, the research has discovered disparities and growing inequalities that escape the Russian Federal and Regional governments’ narrow definitions of development. The paper argues that the 2018 World Cup has had mixed results as a regional urban development program and that it has come at tremendous human and financial cost.

Contemporary Hungarian-Russian Relations (14.11.2018)

Dr. Gergely Varga (Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Budapest) zum Thema "Contemporary Hungarian-Russian Relations: Pragmatism or Something More?" Datum: 14. November 2018; Zeit: 12.15-13.45 Uhr; Raum: KOL-G-212. Flyer and Abstract Varga (PDF, 68 KB)


Thepaper presented examines the nature and depth of contemporary Hungarian-Russian relations. In recent years,a rapprochement has taken place between NATO and EU member Hungary and Russia. This development has been viewed by many in the West as a sign of a deeper political alliance in the making between the Hungarian government and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The paper argues that the Hungarian–Russian rapprochement is based on pragmatic interests from the Hungarian side and is focused namely on economic opportunities. In this context, the paper givesan overview of how the two sides perceive each other, identify the main related national interests and examine the key areas of cooperation. Cooperation has clear limits and a strategic partnership,questioning Hungary’s Western orientation,is unlikely to develop.

Russia Today's Global Information Strategy (17.10.2018)

Prof. Dr. Robert Orttung (The George Washington University) zum Thema "Russia Today's Global Information Strategy". Datum: 17. Oktober 2018; Zeit: 12.15-13.45 Uhr; Raum: KOL-F-123. Flyer and Abstract Orttung (PDF, 69 KB)


Many countries now operate state-funded international broadcasters, communi-catingdirectly with foreign publics to promote a variety of foreign policy goals. RT (formerly known as Russia Today) is currently one of the most prominent broad-casters in a crowded field. What do we know about RT’s strategy, the size of its audience, and the effectiveness of its broadcasts in implementing its strategy? To answer these questions, we explore a case study of RT’s YouTube programming utilizing a new dataset of 70,272 video titles spanning the two years from February 2015 through January 2017. RT’sstrategy focuses attention on strategic groups, including Arabic, Russian, and Spanish speakers. It seeks to circumvent local media in the target countries and spread a positive image of Russian accomplishments, particularly in Syria, which it considers aforeign policy success. The data presented here show that RT’s strategy is only partially successful since it underperforms among Arabic speakers, its main target, while overperforming among Russian, global English, and Spanish audiences.

Developing the Oil and Gas Complex During the Cold War (10.10.2018)

Viacheslav Nekrasov (Surgut State Pedagogical University und Institute of World History, Russian Academy of Science) zum Thema "Developing the Oil and Gas Complex During the Cold War: Challenges and Dilemmas for the Soviet Political Leadership". Datum: 10. Oktober 2018; Zeit: 12.15-13.45 Uhr, Raum: KOL-F-123. Flyer and Abstract Nekrasov (PDF, 56 KB)


Why did the Soviet economy and, in general, the Soviet Union, become dependenton rents from oil and gas exports? The conventional answer to this question is that in the 1960s, huge oil and gas resources in Western Siberia were discovered, and in the 1970s, as global prices for oil increased, the Soviet leaders decided to expand theexport of oil and gas to the world market; as a consequence, massive amounts of petrodollars began flowing into the Soviet economy, domestic reforms were put on hold and the Soviet economy became increasingly dependent on rents generated from sales of oiland gas abroad. Until the opening of formerly closed Soviet archives, we knew very little about the concrete motivation and perspectives of the Soviet actors involved in energy policy making. New insights from recently de-classified Soviet documents allow, for the first time, to gain a deeper understanding of the ways key Soviet actors understood the development of the oil and gas complex and how the decision-making process worked. Based on a wide range of new archival material from Russian archives, this paper offers a new interpretation of the history of the development of the Soviet oil and gas complex, explaining how the views of party leaders Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev and their advisers informed Soviet energy strategy during the 1960s and 1970s. This paper will touch on a range of issues such as the value Soviet leaders attached to oil, gas and trade, the rivalry of interest groups in the Soviet economy, the impact of Western economic sanctions, as well as the ways technological problems in the Soviet oil and gas industry were viewed and discussed in Moscow.

Russia’s Response to China’s Growing Influence in Central Asia (21.03.2018)

Brian Carlson (Center for Security Studies, ETH Zürich) zum Thema "Don’t Wake Up Evil While It’s Quiet: Russia’s Response to China’s Growing Influence in Central Asia." Datum: 21. März 2018; Zeit: 12.15-13.45 Uhr; Raum: KOL-G-220. Flyer und Abstract Carlson (PDF, 78 KB)


As China and Russia grow closer together strategically, they are also seeking to reach an accommodation in Central Asia. After Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the Silk Road Economic Belt during a speechin Kazakhstan in September 2013, Russia initially reacted warily. However, China and Russia sought to achieve an understanding on this issue, culminating in the May 2015 announcement that the two countries would seek to link the Silk Road Economic Belt with the Eurasian Economic Union, Russia’s integration project in the region. Russia’s apparent willingness to accept China’s growing strength and even predominance in Central Asia poses something of a puzzle. Russia traditionally regards the region as its backyard and seeks to maintain its influence there, as in other post-Soviet regions. It might therefore be expected to resist China’s inroads more strongly, especially in light of the long-term threat that a powerful China could pose. Thepaper presented atthis workshop analyzes the calculations behind Russia’s acceptance of China’s growing influence in Central Asia, including the value that Russia places on its overall relations with China, as well as possible ways that Russia could benefit from China’s development of Central Asia.

Populism or Nationalism? Russia after the 2014 Annexation of Crimea (28.02.2018)

Dr. Philipp Casula (Historisches Seminar, Universität Zürich) zum Thema "Populism or Nationalism? Russia after the 2014 Annexation of Crimea". Datum: 28. Februar 2018; Zeit: 12.15-13.45 Uhr; Raum: KOL-G-220. Flyer und Abstract Casula (PDF, 68 KB)


Unlike other research that draws on nationalism, great power politics or East-West confrontation as analytical frameworks to study Russia's policies towards Ukraine, this contribution aims to identify and map elements of populism in the discursive strategies employed by the Putin regime in order to justify and create a specific form of conflict and war in the Donbas. The analysis of key foreign-policy documents and speeches by leading politicians, as well as of selected media, demonstrates that in this casepopulism extends beyond the dichotomy of people against the establishment, since it relies on complex notions of enmity and alliance. Thepaper presented at this workshop argues that elements of an overstretched definition of the Russian nation, a newpolitical division of the political space, and the introduction of new and reaffirmation of old symbols of unity are constitutive for a new Russian «reality»regarding the Ukraine crisis. While populism has traditionally been analyzed as oppositional, democratic and emancipatory movement, this presentation considers how «populism in power»can also be used a strategy of undemocratic, reactionary regimes to introduce a new paradigm of military interventions. Thus, the paperdoes not only shed light to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine but also proposes a revision of the existing body of literature on populism and nationalism.