EAST Research Seminars – Spring 2018

All events take place in Bushuis E102, Kloveniersburgwal 48.

Advent of Russian Jihadism: On Soviet Legacy and Historical Memory in the North Caucasus

Danis Garaev (UvA)

Wednesday, February 7, 16:00

The presentation is devoted to the origin and development of the propagandist ideology of Russian-language Jihadism. It develops the idea that the jihadism in Russia should be considered not so much in the context of the Islamic issue or as a result of the influence of foreign countries, but rather as an example of post-Soviet radicalism, formed on a native ideological and intellectual base. The presentation states that this meaningfully diverse ideology originated under the influence of Soviet and post-Soviet intellectual traditions, which madethis ideology so effective in the Russian context.


Danis Garaev is a PhD candidate in the Department of East European StuDanisdies at the University of Amsterdam and part of the research group “The Russian language of Islam.” He holds degrees from the European University in St. Petersburg and the Kazan Federal University, where he has also worked as a researcher and lecturer.


The Appearance of Saints: Photography as incrimination and religious justification in Secret Police Archives in Romania and the Republic of Moldova

In conjunction with the ‘Rethinking Modern Europe’ seminar, Institute of Historical Research 

March 7, 17:00

The persecution of churches and religious groups under totalitarianism in Central and Eastern Europe is well documented with the various secret police archives from the period having been utilized by researchers in order to trace the history of repression and collaboration and to understand the methods employed by totalitarian regimes to control their populations. The significance of these archives for the study of material religion, however, has been largely overlooked by scholars. The Secret Police archives in Romania and Moldova constitute a hidden repository of confiscated religious art, photographs and publications that in many cases survive nowhere else, presenting an exceptionally rich resource for the study of religions in the 20th century.

The archival holdings of the secret police have proved highly controversial being the source of numerous scandals and vigilante actions in the search for truth and historical redress. In this paper, I will outline a new approach to the holdings of the archives that takes into account not only the value of these materials for the historian and anthropologist of religions but also addresses issues of cultural patrimony and the right of communities to access their cultural and sacred materials. I do this through an exploration of the photographic record in KGB and Securitate files from the Republic of Moldova and Romania relating to an Orthodox Christian movement that was condemned by the authorities as a dangerous sect. The photographic materials, comprising confiscated images of the community and its leaders, photographs taken of convicted members of the community in custody as well as photographic evidence in the form of re-enactments of rituals, demonstrate the power of the photograph to produce knowledge and truths. As Susan Sontag asserts the camera record both “incriminates” and “justifies” (Sontag 1977) and as such the photographic materials within police and secret police files have a dual identity. The images were presented and preserved as evidence of criminality and yet they also stand testimony to the agency and power of religious communities to resist. When viewed in this way they represent both a tool of control as well as a means empowerment for communities seeking to understand their difficult past.

James Kapaló is Senior Lecturer in the Study of Religions at University College Cork, Ireland. His main research interests are minority religions in Eastern and Central Europe in the twentieth century, folk and material religion, and religions in the secret police archives in post-communist states. He is Principal Investigator of the European Research Council funded project Creative Agency and Religious Minorities: Hidden Galleries in the Secret Police Archives in Central and Eastern Europe and co-Director of theMarginalised and Endangered Worldviews Study Centre (MEWSC).


The Danube Commission and its contribution towards the establishment of a European security culture in the 19th century

Wednesday, March 21, 17:00 

Constantin Ardeleanu University of Galaţi / Utrecht University

The 1856 Paris Treaty internationalised the Lower Danube and by a veritable revolution in international conventional law allowed non-riparian countries to regulate and technically improve the navigation of a river where riparian states would not or could not do it. The institution entrusted to enforce the free navigation principle was the European Commission of the Danube, an organization that evolved from a short termed technical commission into a complex regulatory and administrative body. During the nineteenth century it maintained itself by drafting useful shipping regulations and by carrying out impressive technical works, but its resilience is also related to its acquiring its own feasible budget and complete independence in relation to the territorial power (its supranational status was confirmed by the 1878 Berlin Treaty, which allowed it to have its own flag and to act in complete independence of Romania’s territorial authority).

This paper aims to analyse how this commission contributed towards establishing mutually agreed rules and regulations, based on a set of European values and principles, not only for the sake of riparian countries, but to the benefit of the international community as a whole. Settled by statesmen and diplomats at the major peace conferences of the nineteenth century, this institution was soon threatened by the divergent political and economic ambitions of national riparian states, but its existence and organisational success were secured by professional agents (jurists, hydrographers, engineers, etc.) who understood the common advantages of opening and developing new ways of European and international transportation and communication.


Constantin Ardeleanu is professor of modern Romanian history at the Department of History, Philosophy and Sociology of ‘The Lower Danube’ University of Galaţi (Romania), where he teaches courses on 19th century Romanian history and the economic development of the Danubian and Black Sea areas during the 19th and 20th centuries. ConstantinDuring the past years, Constantin has been a long-term fellow of the New Europe College, an Institute for Advanced Study in Bucharest, where he coordinates the ‘Pontica Magna’ Fellowship Program. He is also a research fellow at Utrecht University, within the ERC project ‘Securing Europe, Fighting its Enemies. The Making of a Security Culture in Europe and Beyond, 1815–1914’, where he studies the European Commission of the Danube and focuses on its contribution towards the establishment of a European security culture. His latest book is entitled International Trade and Diplomacy at the Lower Danube: the Sulina Question and the Economic Premises of the Crimean War, 1829–1853 (Brăila, 2014).

Borderline Humanitarianism? Refugees, resettlement and the development of Soviet Armenia

Dr. Jo Laycock, Sheffield Hallam University

Wednesday, May 16, 16:00

The First World War and Armenian Genocide set in motion patterns of violence and displacement stretching beyond the Ottoman Empire into the Transcaucasian provinces of the Russian Empire.

By the end of the war the region was home to around 300,000 refugees, mostly, but by no means exclusively, Armenians displaced from the Eastern regions of the Ottoman Empire. This context of mass displacement shaped the development of early Soviet Armenia and the wider region in profound ways.

This talk charts responses to the refugee crisis within Transcaucasia from emergency relief to the evolution of co-operative League of Nations & Soviet schemes for resettling displaced Armenians from beyond the borders of the Soviet Union within the new Soviet Armenian state. Though they are ultimately unsuccessful, paying attention to these schemes offers important insights into both the inter-war ‘refugee regime’ and the building of Soviet states in the South Caucasus.

The resettlement schemes which emerged in response to Armenian displacement, I suggest, were not simply a ‘humanitarian’ endeavour. Rather, they were shaped by longstanding connections between resettlement and agricultural development forged in imperial contexts, and the refugee population were instrumentalised in utopian schemes for the region’s economic improvement. They were also a product of a territorialised vision of national identity and belonging common to both Soviet and ‘western’ actors. This talk therefore considers how refugee resettlement related to the territorialisation of identity in a region characterised by diversity, shifting boundaries and a long history of population movement.

Jo Laycock is currently Senior Lecturer in History at Sheffield Hallam University. Her research addresses the aftermaths of conflict and crisis, displacement and resettlement and diaspora, focusing on Armenia and its diasporas. She is the author of Imagining Armenia: Orientalism, Ambiguity and Intervention (MUP, 2009) as well as several articles on the repatriation of diaspora Armenians to the Soviet Republic of Armenia during the late 1940s including ‘Belongings: People and Possessions in the Armenian Repatriations,’ Kritika (2017)

Her current project concerns the aftermaths of the First World War and the Armenian Genocide in the South Caucasus. It draws upon archives in Yerevan and Tbilisi as well as the archives of international organisations and relief agencies in order to examine the entwined  international and Soviet responses to population displacement in this region during the 1920s. Jo is also co-editing a book, Aid to Armenia on the place of Armenia in histories of humanitarianism with Francesca Piana (University of Zurich)

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