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ISSICEU Public Panel in Moscow

Public panel in Moscow

On 25 May 2016, the public panel "Religion as a Source of Stability/Instability in the Caucasus" was organised by the Russian State University of the Humanities. The panel specifically focused on the role of religion in the current sociopolitical processes in the Caucasus. The participants discussed the main trends in the evolution of formal religious institutions, the major external religious influences that impact the structural transformations of societies in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia and whether religion play a stabilising or de-stabilising role in the region. 

In particular, Alexander Agadjanian from the Russian State University for the Humanities started the round table, by providing an overview of the role of religion in the Caucasus. He discussed how different aspects of religion are embedded in the fabric of the region, ranging from political culture, social structure and social mobility, to national or ethnic identification. Furthermore, Alexander Agadjanian elaborated on how religion relates such notions as "stability", "security", "development" and "democracy".

Dr. Silvia Serrano from ISSICEU sister project CASCADE outlined the relationship types between religion, state and societal groups in Georgia and Armenia. Dr. Timur Tenov and Dr. Murat Shogenov from the Kabardino-Balkarian State University touched upon the role of islamic symbols and social networks in the local government in the North Caucasus. Grigorii Shvedov, director of the website "Kavkazskiy uzel", discussed the religiously motivated violence in the Caucasus and suggested that recently increasing pressure of the law enforcement agencies might lead to the new wave of violence in the region. 

In addition, a newly published report "North Caucasus and a modern model of democratic development" by Starodubrovskaia and Kazenina triggered lively discussion among participants. The report's statement that fundamentalist islam could give a potential for the development of modern values in the Caucasus was critised by Prof. Igor Alexeev from Russian State University for the Humanities and Dr. Timur Tenov and Dr. Murat Shogenov from Kabardino-Balkarian State University. 

Building the Institutional Capacity of Local Communities in the Northern Caucasus

Why is life in some villages stable and successful, while others have experienced emigration and increasing tensions and conflicts? Based on the extensive fieldwork in 30 villages of the Northern Caucasus, the policy brief by Prof. Alexey Gunya (KBSU) discusses abilities of local communities to face challenges such as globalization, aggressive market-oriented policies, religious radicalism, etc. and addresses opportunities for improving local governance.

The policy brief can be downloaded here.

ISSICEU Public Panel in Tbilisi

Prof. Dr. Dirk Lehmkuhl, Dr Lincoln Mitchell and Dr. George Welton during the panel

A public panel entitled "How Should Georgia and the EU Approach Each Other in a Changing Geopolitical Environment" was held in Tbilisi on April 15, 2016, concluding the third internal meeting of the ISSICEU research consortium.

Moderated by Prof. Dr. Dirk Lehmkuhl (University of St. Gallen), the panel included ISSICEU consortia members Dr. George Welton (GeoWel Research), Dr. Burcu Gülketin Punsmann (Ankara Policy Center), Dr. Hamed Kazemzadeh, and renowned experts on Georgia Prof. Gia Nodia, Director of the International School for the Caucasus Studies and Dr. Lincoln Mitchell formerly from Columbia University. There were around 80 participants, mostly from senior NGOs, academia and business.

Professor Nodia started with a discussion of the ways in which Georgia has progressed as a European and European aspirant state, through a broad Westernization agenda with wide public support and more recently, the signing of the EU Association Agreement. Professor Nodia, however, offered a note of caution, suggesting that there are political forces in Georgia and some public appetite for reversal and it is important for those with Western leanings, to stay vigilant.

Dr Punsmann discussed the inter-societal interactions and transnational flows between Turkey and the Caucasus, focusing on the borderland dynamics between Turkey and Georgia. She also reflected upon the Caucasus linked diasporas and how they have become a factor in the formulation and conduct of Turkey's policy towards the region and in the shaping of the national identity.

Dr Kazemzadeh provided an overview of the way in which Iran is becoming important for Georgia and the region, particularly in the light of the reduction in sanctions. He reflected upon the way that Iran may effect both Armenia and Azerbaijan, as a close partner of both, and an interested party in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement. He also considered the way in which Iran's economic power may impact on the region, as a customer and investor.

Dr Welton considered the different ways that Georgia has become more dependent on the EU and less dependent on Russia, and the way that the changing geopolitical environment has helped to highlight the opportunities presented by EU access. In particular, he suggested that Iran and China might be interested to produce in Georgia as a means of gaining access to the EU. On the other side, Dr Welton also suggested that the instability of the region highlights the importance of continuing to provide support to places like Georgia, that have committed to a Western trajectory of development.

Dr Lincoln Mitchell highlighted that the way democracy promotion is perceived in the West has changed over the last couple of decades, as relatively few of the US supported transformational democracies have been able to last. He suggested that both the West and countries like Georgia need to rethink their relationship on governance issues if it is to be sustainable for the long-term.

ISSICEU Academic Panel in Tbilisi

On April 14, 2016, the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies hosted ISSICEU academic panel entitled "Influences on Stability in the Caucasus: Local Government, Civil Society, Diaspora and Non-state Relationships." The panelists presented the findings of their research conducted within the ISSICEU project and engaged the audience in a discussion.

The main panelists were Dr. George Welton (GeoWel Research), Dr. Farda Asadov (Khazar University), Dr. Hulya Demirdirek (Ankara Policy Center), Prof. Alexey Gunya (Kabardino-Balkarian State University), and Yana Zabanova (SWP). The panel was moderated by Prof. Dr. Dirk Lehmkuhl (University of St. Gallen). Over 40 participants, including academics, researchers, students, journalists and other ISSICEU project researchers, attended the event.

Prof. Dr. Dirk Lehmkuhl, the ISSICEU Project Coordinator, opened the panel with a welcome message. Within the overarching theme of influences on stability/instability in the Caucasus, Dr. Welton discussed the role of resource dependences in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Dr. Asadov and Dr. Demirdirek focused their presentations on the role of civil society: Dr. Asadov explored the role of the civil society in Azerbaijan as a stabilizing factor in the national reformation process, while Dr. Demirdirek talked about civil society relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Prof. Gunya's research looked at the interaction between the state and local community on North Caucasus. Mrs. Zabanova provided a comparative prospective of the Abkhazian and Georgian diasporas in Turkey and their ties with the homeland.

Third Internal Meeting in Tbilisi

The ISSICEU researchers during the 3rd internal meeting

From 14 - 15 April 2016, the ISSICEU research consortium gathered together for the third time in full for the annual internal meeting. The meeting took place in Tbilisi, Georgia. During the 2-day workshop academic and public panels were organised.

Several sub-groups gathered in Tbilisi before the official start of the internal meeting to discuss its research topics in-depth. On 13 April, SWP organised a meeting to bespeak the Iran research, while Khazar University initiated a meeting to plan the forthcoming publication on civil society. The full group meeting convened on 14 - 15 April, at which ISSICEU welcomed the external advisory board member Nino Lejava as well as external guests - Prof. Oliver Reisner from Ilia State University and Mr. Olivier Bürki, Regional Director of the Swiss Cooperation Office for the South Caucasus together with his colleagues Mr. Beka Tagauri and Ms. Ariadna Pop. The internal meeting was opened by a welcoming word from Prof. Dirk Lehmkuhl and proceeded with the obligatory general assembly. The core part of the meeting consisted of working sessions, during which ISSICEU researchers presented their inputs on political, economic and societal factors of stability and instability in the Caucasus region. On 15 April, ISSICEU researchers discussed regional dynamics and elaborated first policy recommendations for the EU policy makers.

Opened to a broader public, academic and public panels were additionally organised. An academic panel entitled "Influences on stability in the Caucasus: local government, civil society, diaspora and non-state relationships" was held at the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies. Moderated by Prof. Dirk Lehmkuhl, the panelists Prof. Alexey Gunya (Kabardino-Balkarian State University), Dr. Farda Asadov (Khazar University), Dr. George Welton (GeoWel Research), Hulya Demirdirek (Ankara Policy Center) and Yana Zabanova (SWP) presented their contributions.

On 15 April a public panel "How Should Georgia and the EU Approach Each Other in a Changing Geopolitical Environment" gathered ISSICEU researchers as well as well-known experts on Georgia - Lincoln Mitchell, formerly Columbia University and independent researcher and Prof. Gia Nodia, Director of the International School for the Caucasus Studies. In a vivid debate moderated by Prof. Dirk Lehmkuhl the panelists, including Dr. George Welton, Dr. Burcu Gülketin Punsmann, Hamed Kazemzadeh, Lincoln Mitchell and Prof. Gia Nodia discussed Georgia's future in a geopolitical context. 

ISSICEU Public Panel in Moscow

The Russian State University of the Humanitites invites to participate in the Public Panel "Religion as a Source of Stability/Instability in the Caucasus" on 25th May 2016, at 6pm.

Venue: Moscow, RANEPA, Prechistenskaia nab., 11, room 22

The agenda of the public panel can be found here (English/Russian).

Pre-registration is required. Please send an email by 23rd May 2016 until 15:00 to

ISSICEU Public Panel in Nalchik

Dr. Alsan Chechenov during his presenation

On March 31st 2016, the Kabardino-Balkarian State University and the North Caucasian Graduate School of Conflict Studies held a public panel on "Sources and challenges of stability at the local level in the North Caucasus" in Nalchik (the Russian Federation). The panel outlined the main interim results of the research about processes related to governance, culture and economy of local communities in the North Caucasus. Organised within the ISSICEU project, the panel focused on the possible applications of findings in the regional policies.

Among the main speakers were Prof. Dr. Alexey Gunya, Dr. Timur Tenov, Dr. Aslan Chechenov and Dr. Murat Shogenov. Alexey Gunya and Timur Tenov introduced the ISSICEU project to the audience. Murat Shogenov presented the findings on the impact of governance strategies in the North Caucasian republics on (in)stability. A special attention was paid to the conflict regulation and development at the local level. Aslan Chechenov outlined the outcomes of the impact of development programs and projects on stability and instability in the Caucasus". The particular focus was on the hybridity in governance, understanding of violence and conflict as well as on the role of economics in the conflict regulation.

The event was attended by 50 participants from Kabardino-Balkaria, the North Caucasus region, Moscow as well as from Germany and Georgia, including represenatives from government, academic institutions, civil society organisations and journalists. In particular, the public panel was attended by Zalim Kashirokov, the Minister for Preventing Extremism and Realization of Youth Policy of the Kabardino-Balkaria and Svetlana Agirova, the Head of Professional Education at the Ministry of Education of the Kabardino-Balkaria. The panel also received coverage in the Kabardino-Balkarian media.

ISSICEU Public Panel in Tbilisi

Public Panel "How Should Georgia and the EU Approach Each Other in a Changing Geopolitical Environment" will provide overview results from the ISSICEU project, by looking at a range of different causes of instability/stability in the Caucasus, including the role of local government, civil society, diaspora groups and business ties.

The event will take place on 15 April 2016 at 18:00 at Betsy's Hotel (32/34 Kote Makashvili St, Tbilisi). No registration is required.

The agenda of the public panel can be found here.


ISSICEU Academic Panel in Tbilisi

ISSICEU organises the Academic Panel on "Influences on stability in the Caucasus: local government, civil society, diaspora and non-state relationships".

The event will take place on 14 April 2016 at 18:00 at the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (GFSIS).

Further information on the academic panel can be found here.

ISSICEU Public Panel in Berlin

On March 16, 2016, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) held an ISSICEU public panel in Berlin entitled 'Addressing Conflicts in a Shared Neighbourhood: Prospects and Limitations of EU-Turkish Cooperation in the South Caucasus'. The event was organized in cooperation with the German Association for East European Studies (DGO) and served to present and discuss the research findings of SWP's sub-project within ISSICEU. Specifically, the panel focused on the role of Turkey as an actor, stakeholder and mediator in the Georgian-Abkhaz and Nagorno-Karabakh conflicts.

The main speakers were Franziska Smolnik (SWP), who analyzed the role of Turkey in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict and its aftermath, Burcu Gültekin-Punsmann (Ankara Policy Center), who focused on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a challenge for Turkey's Caucasus policy, and Bjoern Kuehne (Office of the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus, Brussels), who provided an overview of the EU perspective on conflict resolution in the South Caucasus. The event was attended by 35 participants from Germany and abroad representing government institutions, party foundations, think tanks, and academia, including several researchers from ISSICEU partner institutions.

The panel opened with the welcoming word from the Head of Eastern Europe and Eurasia Research Division (SWP) Dr. Sabine Fischer and opening remarks by Dr. Gabriele Freitag, DGO Executive Director, as well as Dr. Volker Weichsel, editor of the Osteuropa academic journal. The discussion revolved around Turkey's ambivalent role both as a conflict mediator and more generally as a regional power in the South Caucasus, with a special focus on the potential implications of the 2015 Russian-Turkish crisis. Disaggregating Turkey into multiple actors and influences, participants paid special attention to the impact of Abkhaz, Azerbaijani, and Georgian diasporas in Turkey on the latter's policies in the Caucasus. One of the main conclusions of the panel was that despite having significant potential for cooperation, the EU and Turkey have not yet translated it into reality, which underscores the need for enhanced dialogue.

Text provided by Yana Zabanova (SWP).