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Work Package 2 - Civic Participation

Research Approach and Geographical Focus

Varying concepts guide the study of civic participation. With reference to Bourdieu's concept of civic participation WP2 explores attitudes towards civic participation and the role of civil society organisations and actors. In continuation of the work in WP1 the researchers trace the roots of people's decision to react to state intervention or limited access to public goods by ignorance, resistance or conciliation. The study employs hybridity as analytical lens. Also regional and extra-regional influences on civic participation are researched. Their study is guided by concepts developed in the political geography literature calling for considering transboundary flows when studying statehood.

The study on attitudes towards civic participation and roots of reactions to dissatisfaction at communal level covers Karbadino-Balkaria, Karachayevo-Cherkessia, Dagestan, Chechnya and North Ossetia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The researchers explored regional and extra-regional influences primarily with focus on Turkey's influence on Abkhazia, Georgia and the North Caucasus. WP2 also explores the influence of Iranian religious groups in Azerbaijan.

WP2 conducted quantitative surveys in the North and South Caucasus to examine attitudes towards civic participation and their relation to religious values. The research also builds on a database tracing changes in the NGO-legislation in Azerbaijan in recent years, and qualitative interviews conducted in the North and South Caucasus.

Preliminary Results

To-date preliminary results can be presented with regard to the landscape of civil society organisations (CSOs) and to (extra-) regional influences. The landscape of CSOs substantially varies especially in the North and South Caucasus.

The South Caucasus republics have experienced rapidly emerging CSOs registered as legal entities. For the North Caucasus, in contrast, informal civic performance is characteristic. The independence of CSO faces constraints by state authorities if they consider CSO either as partners or as actors contesting their authority. Recent changes in the CSO legislation of some Caucasus states reveal a tendency to perceive CSO as contesting authority. In particular, in the case of Azerbaijan the government policy reflect a low level of trust in independent civil society work.

In both Georgia and Armenia, the religious actors play a significant, but ambivalent role in civic participation. The Georgian Orthodox Church contributes to a strong polarization between representatives of the church and most of the intellectuals in the country. The Armenian Apostolic Church does not act as a defender of public interests or a challenger of questionable state policies. However, it provides opportunities for people to engage in civic activities such as volunteering and charity.

The research on societal links from Turkey to the Caucasus reveal that the Turkey's influence in Abkhazia is mainly channelled through Circassian and Abkhaz diaspora groups. In absence of governmental relations, Turkish NGOs also play a strong role with regard to Abkhazia. However, they are hardly active in Adjara/Georgia where governmental ties between Turkey and Georgia exist. Religious issues remain largely outside public discussion in Abkhazia. Religion is a topic in Adjara/Georgia, though. Here anti-Turkish or anti-Muslim sentiments have overshadowed the public debate in the run-up to elections. As regards ties from Armenia to Turkey, the interaction between the two countries has been largely limited to business and NGO contacts, given the lack of progress on opening the border on governmental level.

Research on influences from Iran on Azerbaijan reveals that some Shia groups in Azerbaijan are popular as quasi-civil society actors. The Azerbaijani government tries to integrate these groups into the state controlled system of registered groups by repressive means against illegal non-registered groups. As a legitimation, the state authorities refer among others to the unpredictable Iranian influence on these groups.

WP2 Researchers:
German Institute for International Studies and Security Affairs
Franziska Smolnik
Yana Zabanova
Andrea Weiss

Kabardino-Balkaria State University
Murat Shogenov
Oksana Kundetova

Khazar University
Farda Asadov
Elvin Yusifli
Ariz Huseynov
Murad Nasibov

Russian State University for the Humanities
Alexander Agadjanian
Tigran Matosyan
Ketevan Rcheulishvili

University of Fribourg
Ansgar Jödicke