Winter School "The Future of Eastern Europe" by the Cologne/Bonn Academy in ExileA number of visiting researchers from the Cologne/Bonn Academy in Exile, which was founded in 2022, were chosen to participate. They came together with their academic mentors at the Universities of Cologne and Bonn to consider what the future holds for Eastern Europe. As well as providing an opportunity to introduce the research projects being pursued by the academy’s Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian fellows, this interdisciplinary winter school also served as a platform for dialogue with other leading academics.
As Johanna Hey, Vice-Rector for International Affairs at the University of Cologne, and Birgit Ulrike Münch, Vice Rector for International Affairs at the University of Bonn, made clear in their opening remarks, the future of Eastern Europe holds the key to questions of democracy, peacebuilding and human rights across the entire continent. "We want to encourage our visiting researchers to continue their research at the Universities of Cologne and Bonn in order to help make the vision of a sustainable, peaceful future for Eastern Europe a reality through their expertise," Johanna Hey said in her address opening the winter school. Birgit Ulrike Münch emphasized: "Academic and scientific research, discussion and collaboration can all help combat xenophobia and war. Scholarship fosters dialogue and plays a key role in efforts to build peace."
Angelika Nußberger, Director of the Academy for European Human Rights Protection, and Claus Kreß, Professor for German and International Criminal Law and Director of the Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure Law at the University of Cologne, explored the political situation in Ukraine and Russia from a legal perspective. Academy members Dr. Sergii Masol and Dr. Gleb Bogush provided additional legal food for thought with their papers on issues connected with international criminal jurisdiction and international criminal law.
The historical dimension of trends in German and international policy toward Eastern Europe since 1989 was analyzed by two plenary speakers: Martin Aust, Professor for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe in the Department of History at the University of Bonn, and Fabian Klose, Professor for International History and International Peace and Conflict Research in the Department of History at the University of Cologne.
Historian Dr. Tatiana Khripachenko gave an insight into the links between Russian emigrants and international law in the history of the Soviet Union from 1918 to 1939. Two more (art) historians presented papers in the shape of Dr. Anna Medvedovska and Dr. Kateryna Mikheienko. With their lectures on, respectively, the future of Holocaust studies in Ukraine since independence and development concepts in the architecture of Kievan Rus, they drew a line spanning the period from the Middle Ages all the way through to current debates on research in Ukraine.
Besides focusing on legal and historical aspects, the winter school also offered up some sociological, cultural and linguistic perspectives that prompted lively debates between its participants: Dr. Darya Vystavkina talked about the polarization of the Ukrainian civilian population under the influence of Russian aggression, while cultural scientist Dr. Iryna Petrova’s lecture on cultural practices during the war was also extremely well received by Academy and audience members alike. In his paper, political scientist Dr. Sergei Akopov described what he calls the "policy of isolation" being pursued by the Russian state and how it ties in with the topics of masculinity and isolation. A visiting researcher from Belarus presented a paper on sociolinguistic analyses of the Belarusian language as a weapon in the fight against Russian imperialism. Socio-economic aspects were also covered during the winter school, not least in Dr. Halyna Matviienko’s lecture on the green economy as a key factor for sustainable development in Ukraine.
How wars end, what the time after the end of the Russian war of aggression might look like, and aspects of liberation and dependency in Russian history were discussed by Dr. Andreas Heinemann-Grüder, Honorary Professor in the Department for Political Sciences and Sociology and Senior Fellow at CASSIS and BICC at the University of Bonn, and Christoph Witzenrath, Cluster Professor at the Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies.
The program was complemented by two guest speakers, Adam Bodnar, Professor at the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw and visiting researcher at the University of Cologne, and Dr. Grazyna Baranowska, Marie Sklodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the Hertie School in Berlin and Assistant Professor at the Polish Academy of Sciences. The pair shared their expertise on issues including the future of the European Council and the international legal obligations regarding missing persons.
The academic papers and discussions were rounded out by an accompanying program of cultural events that included visits by the Academy members to Cologne Cathedral and the Haus der Geschichte in Bonn.
As well as personal statements from the individuals involved, the concluding debate on the future of Europe as a whole also included visions for and thoughts about a European future that was as peaceful as possible and how German policymaking can help this come about.
After the Rector of the University of Bonn, Michael Hoch, and the Vice Rector for International Affairs, Birgit Ulrike Münch, had said farewell to the attendees at the winter school, the researchers from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus had the chance to discuss the past four days as well as future research projects and partnerships in greater depth with their mentors and colleagues from the Universities of Cologne and Bonn at a convivial stand-up reception. The winter school was funded by the Marga and Kurt Möllgaard Foundation.
The four-day winter school gave Academy members and their mentors the opportunity to discuss their research projects, get to know one another as people and network in a calm and friendly atmosphere and at a high academic level. The harmonious sense of collegiality that this fostered will underpin the upcoming work of the Cologne/Bonn Academy in Exile and may well give grounds for cautious optimism as we look ahead into a shared future for the whole of Europe.
Text by: Elena Brandenburg & Fabius Wittmer