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The Balkans and the Caucasus between Conflict and Reconciliation (2015)

5th International Summer School

Societies in Transition - The Balkans and the Caucasus between Conflict and Reconciliation, September 27th - October 4th, 2015

From September 27th to October 4th 2015, the International Summer School (ISS) organized by the Jena Center for Reconciliation Studies (JCSR) at Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena (Prof. Martin Leiner), the Chair  of  International  Relations at  the  Institute  of  Political  Science  (Raphael Biermann), the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) at Johns Hopkins University (Dr. Lily Gardner Feldman), and the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University (Dr. Karina Korostelina) gave 15 participants  (academics as well as practitioners from the grass-roots level working on conflict resolution and reconciliation studies on the areas in our focus) a platform to present their own research and to work together. The ISS dealt with conflicts and reconciliation in the geographical region of the Balkan and Caucasus Region from an interdisciplinary perspective.The central question was the possibility of reconciliation processes for and in transitional societies that had recently experienced collapse or any destruction of the internal communication. Similarities as well as significant differences between the two mentioned regions received attention at the International Summer School (ISS) 2015 "Societies in Transition. The Balkans and the Caucasus between Conflict and Reconciliation". The International Summer School combined different discussion forms like keynote lectures from theologians, historians, political scientists and sociologists, participants' presentations of ongoing PhD research projects, and also two workshops to deepen some of the topics of reconciliation. The Key lectures, held by well-known experts on Peace, Conflict Resolution, and Reconciliation Studies, addressed the regions of Kosovo, Bosnia, Montenegro, and Serbia (South East Europe); Nagorno-Karabakh; Russia/Chechnya; Georgia/South Ossetia, and Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey (Caucasus/Middle East). They referred to both the relevant past and the possibilities for a peaceful future in post-socialist Europe.

The aspect of the MARTIN LEINER'S lecture conserned presented an overview over  the  JCRS ́s  sphere of activities, commitments and visions for the future within the center ́s "Hölderlin Approach". MARIA  PALME had a look on the need for reconciliation according to the GDR-past using  the  example  of  the  federal  state  of  Thuringia.  LILY GARDNER FELDMAN (Washington) gave as a profound analysis of motivations,  mechanisms  and  measurements  in  the promotion of a path from conflict to reconciliation in the EU, Germany  and  the  Balkans. CHRISTO THESNAAR shed  light  on the concept of "frozen conflict" as an unstable and insecure  situation and critically  discussed reconciliation efforts and balances in South Africa referring to the present status as a state in limbo. PHILIPP TOLLIDAY integrated in his key-note speech "Reconciliation:  A  Negotiation  Between  Anamnesis and  Amnesia"  a profound definition of reconciliation  into  the  wider  question  of  the  "right remembrance". KARINA  V.  KOROSTELINA  underlined the importance of a critical  reflection  of  one ́s  own  past  for  intra-and intercommunal  rapprochement  citing  important  challenges. KORNELY  KAKACHIA illuminated the concept of borders and borderlands as a dense area and applied his concept  to  the  case  in Caucasus region  on  the  basis  of  a  comparative  analysis. PAATA ZAKARESHVILI focused on the security needs of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan and underlined Georgia ́s    aims    and opportunities  in  strengthening  cooperation  in  the  region as  a  balancing  force by enhancing   its multilateral   ties,   mediating   in   the   various   conflicts,   while also underpinning Georgia ́s efforts to normalize its relations with Russia. RAFAEL BIERMANN critically assessed reconciliation efforts  in the Balkan region today while  attributing  failures  and interethnic tensions to a majority ́s attitude of exclusive  thinking  along  ethnic  lines.

 The workshops provided ample opportunities for in-depth debate among the participants:

  1. "Dealing with the Past: Is Remembrance, Trauma and Memory an Obstacle or Catalyst for Reconciliation?" (Thesnaar)
  2. "Feeling Foreign in a Familiar Land" (Tolliday)

The Summer School also included a field trip to the Weimar Concentration Camp Buchenwald and a two-day trip to Berlin on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of German reunification on October 3, 1990. With these field trips the ISS wanted to contextualize questions of conflict and reconciliation in relation to Germany's memory policies reflecting its efforts of dealing critically with its own authoritarian past.

We are grateful for the financial support of by the Thuringian Ministry for Education and Culture and the Ernst-Abbe-Foundation.

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