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A SYMPOSIUM AS A PLOT WITH POLITICAL SUBTEXT
(An Envious and Ethnocentric Account from Sofia)
1

Yordan Lyutskanov

web

The Balkans and the Caucasus. Parallel Processes on Opposite Sides of the Black Sea. Past, Present, and Prospects. - New Europe College, Bucharest, 12-13 April 20102.

This paper reflects my impressions which, I believe, are largely personal; the mode in which these impressions are given shape and intention is, I am sure, highly disputable. Insofar my attitudes and stance could raise claims for political and also pure interhuman incorrectness, I declare my responsibility for whatever moral injuries this text may cause and I do apologise to everyone who might feel himself or herself injured. Besides, I am aware that the texts argumentative vulnerability puts me, the observer, into the position of an observed. However I regard the issues attended and the way I did it too pointing not to be shared.

In this paper I will share my eye-witness observations. I have noticed that my thoughts keep returning again and again to several issues which I will immediately enumerate for the readers convenience as well as to provide structure for the article. I have observed: the activity of a subject which has made enviable achievements in its self-construction as a center of symbolic power, with a strategy and with a subjectivity that seems to be delegated from the outside; the construction of an academic field; the construction of a hierarchy of disciplines within what is in principle a multidisciplinary approach to that field; and the construction of a geographically motivated hierarchy within the research community itself. I am also aware that I have analyzed that event in a way that [con]textualizes it - i.e. I have interpreted it. I would presume that without my ingrained habits of literary-criticism suspicion (every configuration is a trace of dramaturgy, or at least can have the effect of dramaturgy), I would not have dared to voice in an academic-like form my "purely human" mistrust towards what has happened - towards, we could say, its spiritual authenticity or truthfulness. I have found myself in a methodological situation connected to the new historicism - the text as an event, the event as text3. I have found myself in a hybrid genre form - the "chronicle" of an academic forum and an article - and I have consciously encouraged and preserved this duality of thought. Moreover - I have dared to carry out one more experiment: I have not refrained myself from propositions which might seem politically incorrect, being confident that the true respect for human dignity and cultural variety does transcend the formulae of political correctness, and that it is this respect which enlivens them, the convention of using them playing a crucial pedagogical yet a secondary role. Avoiding the grammar and syntax of impersonal discourse together with demonstrating the process rather than merely the results of reflection comes to confirm my personal commitment with the speculations proposed, as well as my being aware of their disputability. Structuring my discourse, I have left some of its by-products undesignated by the sub-division titles, hoping that the cumulative effect of their presence will support the understanding of the oncoming "chapter" and, in some cases, affect the recipient as a counterpoint theme message. And, to lead this preliminary self-defensive plead to an end, I must say that I have left a number of implications inexplicit, being convinced that the degree and distribution of explicitness (as well as of retrospection, excursion etc.) throughout a text remains to a certain extent a matter of its poetics - and that fluctuation and variety in poetics do matter not in artistic literature solely. I hope this paper will provoke self-reflection in a scientific field that is just coming into being, and also reflection on how do, sometimes, scientific fields come into being. That is why to pose questions has been much more important to me than to answer them. Elaborating on answers and furnishing them with satisfactory argument and references would have changed the genre; and would have taken time to make the impression from a recent event evaporate or lose importance.

 

1. The Symposium on the Balkans and Caucasus within the Framework of New Europe College Policy

In Bucharest on 12-13 April 2010 an international symposium on the topic "The Balkans and the Caucasus: Parallel processes on opposite sides of the Black Sea. (Past, present, and prospects)" was held. This remarkable and thought-provoking event was organized by New Europe College, a Romanian non-governmental, educational-research institution founded in 1992 and active in the human and social sciences. The organizations own presentation of itself is worth reading (New without year).

According to the organizers (in the opening address by the Colleges rector), more than 150 applications for participation were submitted. From these, 33 were selected to make up the program. Not a single one of the selected participants failed to attend. (Here it should be noted that the organizers covered all the participants costs, including travel and lodging).

The college is part of at least two academic networks, together with research institutions from Western and Central Europe.

This year, the college began its "Black Sea Link" program, which offers stipends and fellowships to young scholars from Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

This program is a result of the academic rationalization of the fact that Romania is a member of the European Union: as such, the country must not be merely a recipient, but also an exporter of values and knowledge. This was indicated, directly or indirectly, in the opening address by Professor Pleşu, the rector o>f the college, to the symposium participants and guests.

The symposium fits within the logic of the Black Sea Link program.

The college is in the process of creating an academic network in which specialists on the Black Sea basin (the Balkans and the Caucasus; but why not the Northern Black Sea coast and Asia Minor as well?) personally participate. These scholars were both of local descent, as well as not first-generation Germans, Frenchmen, Americans and Canadians. They frequently had affiliations with two institutions (one within the region and one western).

The nature of the participation by scholars from neighboring Bulgaria might be elucidating on the ways how the College interoperates with the neighboring national communities and the already established scholarly networks distributing symbolical capital within the region. This participation can be discerned on three levels. Two papers were given - one on the Middle Ages by Ivan Biliarsky4 (the Institute of History, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences), and another in the field of the history of religions (by Yuri Stoyanov, who works in a non-Bulgarian academic institution). In his opening address, the rector of the college thanked two of his colleagues, one being Ivan Biliarsky, for their help in preparing the symposium. Another Bulgarian, Ivan Krŭstev from the Center for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, is a member of the colleges Academic Advisory Board.

As I see it, one of the colleges major successes is its ability to attract - as participants in the symposium - a group (albeit small) of German-Georgian researchers (Germans specializing in or working in Georgia/Georgians working in Germany). Here the college is certainly building on its previous program (2005-2008), which focused on creating a network of scholars from Germany and Southeastern Europe.

 

2. New Europe College Policy and the Geo-political Reality in Southeastern Europe after 1989 and after 2007

This succession of appeals to various academic, national and regional communities, with the goal of incorporating their representatives, indicates that every subsequent step has been thought out and planned, i.e. it speaks to a geo-cultural strategy. The institutes activity is remarkably well thought through, as well as multilayered. Here is one such succession: stipends for Romanian researchers (since 1994); stipends for researchers from Southeastern Europe (2001-2006); for researchers from the Western Balkans (2007-2009); from the Black Sea basin (since 2010). Yet another succession: a study of the pre-history of Southeastern Europes integration into Europe (2006-2010), and the examination of Romanian art between 1945 and 2000 in a new light (since 2009).

The Romanian institution has successfully taken advantage of several ethno-political facts about the Black Sea region. For example, the college has managed to become a center that attracts young scholars from Moldova. Such researchers, besides having a thorough mastery of Russian language, are also able to offer knowledge about the culture of the Soviet and post-Soviet space "from within" (as culture-bearers). (Just to remind that Russian language still is lingua franca in the post-Soviet space, hence within the larger part of the Black Sea region; and a specific post-Soviet culture exists - the corresponding "cultura franca" or at least remnants of such.) Since 2006, the college has offered scholarships financed by the Romanian Foreign Ministry through its Department for Relations with Romanians Living Abroad: the beneficiaries have been Romanian researchers and scholars of Romanian descent living or working abroad, who have an interest in working on topics concerning the cultural heritage of the Romanian diaspora.

In short, this Romanian non-governmental institution has managed to master and combine two discourses: the discourse of European integration and the nationalistic discourse. It has also maintained its neutrality vis-à-vis another discourse that has dominated the region in recent times: the pro-minorities discourse.

The nationalism in question here is not a preservationist or a self-encapsulating, nor is it a revisionist one, but rather an expansionist nationalism. If we consider the situation from an external point of view with respect to academia and to Romanian foreign policy, we are led to the following conjecture: perhaps this is a case of the exercise of symbolic rights, which have been granted as much as won; and hence, it is a case of suzerain-vassal relations. A certain Romanian academic institution, identified as integrated into the European academic space (and, in fact, truly integrated within it) has been delegated the right to manage the symbolic capital of the Balkan and especially the Black Sea cultural and academic field. The subject who has delegated this right is not necessarily identifiable within the world of physical persons or groups of individuals. However, this does not mean such a subject does not exist. We can also denote it as "subjectivity." The important thing is that it functions - or in other words: can the effect of its presence and actions be registered, which is sufficient to allow us to make this assumption and to continue our speculations?5 The metaphor of client/clientelism seems to me the most appropriate, insofar as the external subject grants rights to a local (regional) subject, yet I am concerned about the (political) incorrectness of my statement. A similar case of granting authority can be seen in the European Academic Foundations recent report on the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences: the work of certain institutes on Balkan issues and their intentions to further develop such projects was noted with moderate approval, while more reserved sanction was given to certain institutes desire to focus on small, linguistically isolated cultural communities. The report expressed strong reservations about certain institutes research work on a third group of societies6.

The institutes activities embody a geo-political reality that has unfolded after 1989: within it, Romania has been delegated as an extroverted cultural subjectivity.

 

3. A Political Engineering of a Scholarly Field (Notes on the Symposiums Goals, on Its Architectonics and on Its Opening Plenary Session)

In the closing remarks, it was noted that the symposium could - or already had managed to - erase any doubts that the Black Sea Region truly exists as an independent issue and as an object worthy of academic study in and of itself. Abstracting away from my personal views of how this field should be constituted/derived and based on my impressions from the symposium, I can wholeheartedly agree with this conclusion.

Of course, there were a certain number of not particularly edifying or relevant papers with respect to the symposium topic, yet such problems are inescapable, especially with respect to a forum such as this, which was meant to have a constitutive role within an emerging field of studies.

(Here must be noted that the symposium twice proceeded into two parallel sections, one addressing contemporary issues and the other historical issues. I was unable to hear the six papers from the two "contemporary" sessions ("Challenges of the 21st Century" and "Conflict Zones"), since I preferred to attend the historical sessions: "Shadows of the Past" and "Spiritual Cross-currents").

One of its unstated goals was to define a circle that would eventually make up a community of scholars who work on the Black Sea basin; or it could at least gather together a significant cross-section of this community, which is scattered and still in rudimentary form. (The fellowship candidates who had come to the college a few days earlier were asked to stay to attend the symposium.) This goal does not necessarily derive from the primary one - to demonstrate the validity of the field of study itself. However, it was inevitable that a "worldly" representativeness demonstrating symbolic power would be sought - indeed, it was achieved (as can be seen from the program especially, but not only, in the variety of the participants institutional affiliations).

That the establishment of the scholarly field of Black Sea studies was not the symposiums only goal can be seen from the papers selected for the keynote first, or opening plenary session (12 April, 10:00-11:30). They were as follows: "Shared Challenges: The Principality of Wallachia and the Kingdom of Georgia at the Threshold of the Modern Age (1774-1812)" (Keith Hitchins, Professor of History, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA)7; "Allied Projects for an Eastern Front and the Illusion of an Oriental Commonwealth. The Eve of World War II (1938-1940) as a Case Study for the Geopolitics of the Balkan and the Caucasus" (Constantinos Prevelakis, Researcher, Centre National de lEnseignement à Distance, Paris)8; "Turkish Foreign Policys Historical Perspectives Towards the Northern Balkans and Transcaucasus9 Areas: A Comparison of the Late Ottoman and Republican Approaches in the Wider Black Sea Region" (Ozan Arslan, Lecturer, Department of International Relations and the European Union, Izmir University of Economics, Turkey)10. In my humble opinion the only paper of those read at the symposium that was indisputably keynote material was not among them: "The Balkans and Caucasus: Two Peripheries of Two Empires. An Overview of Different Comparative Historical Approaches" by Taline Ter Minassian, Professeur des Universités, Institut National des Langues et des Civilisations Orientales, Paris, France11. (It examined extensive historical material from the 19th and 20th centuries, which hence offered the opportunity for a "comparative," "interactive" and "geopolitical" approach (that is disciplinarily historiographical and culturological); key phenomena were identified that form the basis of the heuristic applicability of these approaches within the Balkan-Caucasian field, as well as the key concepts that give them significance). Of course, the academic and thematic criteria applied in the selection of papers for this purpose could be different. On the bases of such criteria, papers could be selected which focus on various aspects/topics within the issue under discussion. However, the three plenary papers here did not do this. Or papers could be selected that would sketch out a program for the field, being "iconic" images of the whole and that which would follow. The paper by Ter Minassian was just such a work; however, it was moved to the leading slot in the session "Imperial Politics. The Historical Background" (!). (Looked at from the point of view of content, such a move looks like a pure misunderstanding: it could be due to the lack of familiarity with the papers abstract which the organizers would have had access to as early as mid-January, according to their own requirement, combined with what seems to have been a rather careless reading of the paper topic submitted).

At first glance, the three papers selected for the opening plenary session reflect three types of state-political subjects points of view on the region: that of small local "players," that of the external great power and that of the regional superpower. The first paper did not play its role convincingly - if, indeed, it really was that which we have ascribed to it above. (Here we are not commenting on its scholarly qualities, but rather on its role within the architectonic whole that was one result of the papers read under a single title and heading.) It analyzed the geopolitical conditions which allowed Wallachia to free itself from the Russian orbit (without increasing its dependence on the Sublime Porte) and which prevented Georgia (more precisely the Eastern Georgian Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti) from escaping annexation by Russia.

(Since according to the author the paper was too long for the 30-minute slot allotted to it, the author simply summarized it. However, in the oral presentation, the papers emphases, which I personally found to be the most important element, were lost12. They would have neutralized the thematic dominance of geopolitics, of political history under the sign of geopolitics... But the basic point of what was heard was the following: the leaders of Wallachia and Georgia were not responsible for what happened, insofar as they were entirely dependent on the international order of the day; Wallachia could rely on international concern and an international guarantee for its autonomy, while Georgia, in its attempt to protect itself from Turkish and Iranian ambitions for sovereignty over it, could depend on only one European power, Russia; while it was too early to speak of national sentiment in the two countries, some kind of internal coherence (already) existed at the time; in Georgia (Georgian society, the state), some internal force seemed to be lacking (but this is a preliminary hypothesis).

As it seems, these conditions are archetypal both for the region as an object of study and for the symposium as an effort for the region to be recognized by placing it within some geopolitical reality. This was voluntarily or involuntarily imposed via the order of presentations within the symposium framework. And these conditions are likely to be silent explanation as to why this forum and the institution organizing it are (for now) unthinkable on the other side of the sea; and other silent explanations as well.

I believe that not what was said but who was saying it turns out to be symbolically more important in this case.

The symbolic power to speak first and from the unique tribunal of the "plenary session" was granted to three scholars institutionally and to a certain extent biologically unconnected to the region. Professor Hitchins absolute authority is absolutely exterritorial. He also enjoys the authority of age. Mr. Prevelakis comes from a territorially closer institution (both quantitatively in terms of kilometers and qualitatively, being from the same side of the ocean), and belongs to/stems from an ethno-cultural community that is territorially peripheral, yet culturally central to the region (Greeks). Mr. Arslan belongs to a community that is both culturally and territorially situated within the region and is part of the presumed Black Sea ethno-cultural supra-community. Prevelakis institutional-ethnic status signifies the medial state of readiness for emigration (diaspora), which can be thought of as the center between the two poles of a-territorial cosmopolitanism and that which one of the papers referred to with the phrase "autochthone order." The territorial anchoring or territorialness of the third participant in the plenary session (Arslan) is, in fact, relative and ambiguous: Izmir is in Turkey, but does not lie on the Black Sea basin; Turkey itself simultaneously belongs to several cultural and geo-political regions: the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, the Near East, the Balkan (sub-region), and the Caucasus (sub-region). (Our distrustful memory goes back over that which was heard and finds a literal confirmation of this suggestion: Mr. Arslan himself emphasized Turkeys multiple affiliations in his paper). In short: the subject of the authoritative session which kicked off the discussion of the region is the polis-based person, not the ethnos-based person - he who combines the external and the internal13 viewpoint, rather than the local one.

Of course, the hierarchy of political superpowers is clearly visible: the United States, the EU (France, Greece), Turkey. The subject of the session that initiated this academic discussion about the region is the subject of the political engineering of this region.

(Not taking into account the presence of an opposing subject, a likely rival (Russia), who is an effective policy-engineer in the region and who would have promoted a research agenda of his own, does not change this conclusion).

 

4. On the Culturological Background of the Geo-political Correctness Imposed (A Speculation on whether an Alternative Symposiums Architectonics Was Possible)

If they had learned of the musings within the previous chapter, those honorable scholars would have probably laughed; however, they would have found the following comparison unpleasant - but I am convinced of its analytical usefulness. Why Constantinos Prevelakis, and not Taline Ter Minassian? She is a professor, he a researcher; and both of them work for Paris-based academic research institutions. He has the advantage of youth (the benevolence towards the newly forming - whether simply nominal or actual - caste of "young scholars" is an operative form of political correctness not only in Bulgaria, it seems; this benevolence, as we can surmise, is a result of the realization of the EUs demographic situation and how it is distressingly lagging behind in terms of academic growth when compared to its rivals [the US, China, India]). He might also enjoy the advantage of a supposedly more prestigious ethnic origin (he is Greek, she Armenian). This last assertion is not entirely indisputable, yet just try switching their places. However, this is not the most important thing; what is truly crucial is that the hierarchical difference is small (the sign "belonging to the EU" vs. the sign "ethno-cultural community with a powerful diaspora and a highly developed diaspora culture").

(A brief methodological excursion - I hope, unnecessary. One might argue that these considerations refer to a casual co-incidence and therefore ascribe semantics to a constellation which lacks it. But such a hypothesis (even if we assume that it is the closest possible one to a true explanation of how the constellation occurred) does not free us from the responsibility to offer an explanation which does not render what has happened as a casual co-incidence. It is an epistemological choice that has been made and backs up our trial. And just to remind: I have announced an attempt of textualizing the object, i.e. the forum. But let me return to my analytical notes).

What is most important is not this difference, but rather the symbolic relationship between "Greekness," "Armenianness" and "Turkishness." It is a question of balancing various compromises. The Greek representative, placed before the Turkish scholar, is more acceptable to the latter than the Armenian. Let us imagine for a moment a plenary session with four papers. The fourth would still not be by Ter Minassian; but what if she were affiliated with a British or German institution? No: the indirect, symbolic empowerment of one of the most important external players in the regions not-too-distant past would raise the question of the absence of the other, not-so-external player - the big neighbor to the north. (The few Russians who participated in the symposium work at non-Russian institutions. From private conversations with two of them (of quite different biological ages) I came to understand that the basic attitude characterizing Russian cultural mentality - messianism - was quite familiar to them. As a Russian scholar in Russia, not participating in such a forum is a question of political correctness. And being open to the Russian diaspora (which I do not equate with the anti-Bolshevik and anti-Soviet emigration) when organizing such a forum is also a question of political correctness). The symbolic weightiness of the German presence (I am speaking of presence and not of influence) - the symposium took place thanks to sponsorship by the Volkswagen Foundation - is already too excessive to add to it. What about Italy? Izmir, Prevelakis - metonymically the center of gravity would be shifted to the Mediterranean (which would not imply exterritorialness, but rather another territory, another region). Iran (its influence in the region is comparable to that of the Habsburg Empire)? No, it belongs to the Axis of Evil; while its political emigration could hardly be - or is hardly worth being - attracted to such an academic field. (Indeed, it is worth wondering why there were not representatives at least from the Iranian oppositional diaspora? Hypotheses such as "there was no interest on the part of researchers from such fields," "the proposed paper topics were not on a sufficiently high academic level," "there were quality proposals submitted, but the organizers did not want to confront the regime in Tehran or the political emigration" merely evade the question, yet do not answer it). Three plenary papers are entirely sufficient. Certain dimensions of the fourth are projected within the first: the objects under discussion are Wallachia (Romania) and Georgia. The Romanian, and then the Georgians, are potential subjects of the fourth paper. The beginning contains the entirety of the program in a condensed form.

There are deep differences between the Greeks and the Armenians: the former are the pioneers of polis-based order in the region14, while the others are a living historical monument to the ethnos-based order15.

This text was written before the countries in the EU decided how to react to the virtual bankruptcy of the Greek state - I now realize that an engineered reality exists in which besides an ethnos- and polis-based order, an imperial order is also present. Rights are delegated according to the commitment (or "commitability") of the collective subjects to one of these "machines" for creating structures; in such a case the hierarchy has three positions (the polis and the empire can trade places at the top). Greeces symbolic capital is clear. Turkeys lies within the fact that before a certain date or period, it was subject to an imperial, rather than ethnos-based, order. (I would assume that in time it will be precisely this capital, and not that stemming from the mythologeme "secular Turkey - the barrier against Islam" that will carry weight within the imagination of subjects who are perceiving and engineering the Balkan-Asian Minor region.) In this sense, the structures of ethnos-based order reinforced by both societies (Greek and Turkish) and embodied by them, have been shifted to the background in the actual order of the day, i.e. the (super) subjectivity that delegates power has more likely abstracted away from them.

Ter Minassians paper had no way of being placed in the opening plenary session - it is not an iconic image of the geo-political status quo within its accepted dimensions. Rather, it offers a program for academic research.

The plenary session was entitled"Parallels and Intersections. "Outsiders" and "Insiders": the Great Powers and the Black Sea Area".

Professor Ter Minassian had been delivered the responsibility of a moderator of this session.

 

5. Notes on the Disciplinary Structure of the Field under Construction. Towards Outlining of Isomorphism between Fields Structure and the Hierarchy within the Emerging Scholarly Network

In terms of academic discipline, the symposium was focused on history, including the absolutely traditional "political history," usually with a tinge of geo-political flavor; and, to a lesser extent, it was focused on the thematic universalia of our time, selectively addressed, of course - the construction of nationalisms. The ethnological and art historical papers, which focused almost exclusively on ethnomusicology, were more like additions, spices (albeit masterfully added) to the main core of the program. In selecting from the submitted abstracts, the symposium organizers perhaps fell back on their experience from the "ethnoArch" program (2006-2008; it focused the efforts of several European research organizations in preserving ethnomusicological archives, securing access to them and connecting them into a network). Between the Kartoffel-Eintopf of geopolitics and the Levantine hint of anise, another thread was somewhat lost (though present at the forum)16 - that of religious studies (I personally do expect them to be one of the main points of interest for a humanities forum on the Black Sea region). Perhaps it is time the Papal Curate and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople invested some funds into religious research on the region. I am kidding - the College already has two projects on the subject included in its impressive CV.

Two papers were presented that touched on literature17, in the sense that they analyzed fiction (novels)18. (Literary analysis was used for the purpose of culturological conclusions).

Such a disciplinary structure was to be expected. In large part, the Colleges mission is: 1) external with respect to Romania and the region; and 2) geopolitically substantiated and substantiating. I will lay out my conclusions that support the first claim. They are two, and both are, I admit, disputable. First: the temporal succession of the Colleges research priorities (which can be seen in the succession of its completed projects). Second: it is moving towards contacts with individuals (scholars), rather than with (academic and educational) institutions from the "whole" region; this produces a structure of vertical, not horizontal, relations with the region. A conclusion in defense of my second claim: the obvious disciplinary and thematic accents and, as we shall see, certain content filters.

Motives and starting points inevitably leave an impression on what is made, i.e. geopolitical motives leave an impression on the constructed academic field. No matter how obvious the "signals" may be that this academic field is significant and has the potential for "self-creation" and significance, which goes far beyond the limits of geo-politics. The ethnomusicological studies left me with the impression that they were works of personal research enthusiasm (despite the fact that they were institutionally supported and did not pale in comparison to the other papers in terms of their scholarly quality, as far as I could judge). They thus "stood there," or rather "hung there" within the composition of the whole.

 

6. Notes on the Structure of the Subject-Field

Only a few papers grasped the two (sub)regions, the Balkans and the Caucasus, in the pincers of well-balanced comparison, drawing parallels, intersections.

The rest contributed to a mass made up of symmetrical, non-symmetrical and asymmetrical "gaps," lack of information and/or interpretation although an intention to discuss parallel processes had been declared.

Such gaps are dangerous, insofar as the constructed/deduced object is neither a mono- nor poly-centric, but rather an a- or anti-centric structure. That sea, neither talassa nor pelagos, but pontos (this said with a wink to one of the participants in the symposium and his paper), which does not unite, but instead more likely acts as an anti-magnet

Such "gaps" are logical during the construction of a new disciplinary field. But this field, after all, arises in large part from the cobbling together of two extant and not undeveloped fields (Balkan studies and Caucasian studies). (That is how it was conceptualized here, despite the fact that another mainstay of the new field could be the parallelization of processes in the Southwestern edge of the Great Steppe and in Anatolia).

The resulting lack of full synchronicity could have been used as a heuristic - but I saw no evidence that it was.

 

7. Notes on How a Structural Deficiency (in the Architectonics of a Forum) May Undermine the Very Constitution of a Scholarly Forum

At certain moments I was struck by the isolation of certain researchers and their fields of study: i.e. the conditions did not exist so as to allow their suggestions to be confirmed or disputed. (In such cases the other participants consulted with the presenters as if consulting the highest authority.) This situation is repeated at numerous and varied conferences. I am not casting blame, but merely stating a fact - and sending up a warning signal.

The researcher who introduced us to the dynamics of the foreign policy of post-Ottoman Turkey vis-à-vis the Balkans and the Caucasus found himself in just such favorable isolation. There was no one and no way to call into question >its unconditional idealization, both functional and ethical. In response to what was perhaps a rhetorical question (from one of those hoping to hear the opposing side more clearly and unambiguously) during the discussion period, this idealization was poured into the rhythmic figure: very active (between the two World Wars) - extremely prudent (during the Second World War) - prudent (Cold War) - very active (post-Cold War) (Arslan 2010).

Another example. I will not try to hide that I have selected this one as well because it relates to the absent Bulgarian discourse about Bulgarians at this forum. (Do I have to remind that Bulgaria belongs to the region and that I have the right to expect - not to require, but to expect - that each at least national Black-Sea region community would act not only as an object but as an agent of scholarly observation as well?) The only linguistic (and a self-declared linguist at that) at the symposium (Professor Zaal Kikvidze from Kutaisi) dedicated his presentation to the Soviet states policy of linguistic construction. It was focused on the fate of the Buryats, who were de-Mongolianized in the Stalinist Soviet Union. He gave an edifying example from the 19th century - an attempt by the tsars administration to de-Georgify one of the central Georgian dialectical-ethnographic groups, the Mingrelians, through the introduction of a non-Georgian alphabet; he also recalled the Romanian-Moldovan case19. The author of these lines had a comment on this paper as well the neighboring one, reminding the audience of the Finno-Karelian case and of the Macedonian one. The honorable presenter ignored the first example, while commenting on the second: its different, since dialectically speaking the Macedonian dialects are transitional, between Bulgarian and Serbian - if you look at the diphthongs, they are close to Serbian. Thus there is basis for dispute, he went on. However, as you might guess, no dispute arose. As a guest at the forum I did not argue and had no way to argue. There was no way for me to comment on the honorable linguists shifting of emphasis within his answer.

The following passage has to witness that I do not want to mislead the reader. I do not regret Bulgarias absence from the forum (it was not absent). But I am not trying to conceal my personal condition - some predispositions deriving from it are inevitable, so I think it is better to discern them and pay them the due tribute frankly. Outlining of factors which might affect the impartialness of ones judgment seems to me much more adequate (both morally and gnoseologically) than concealing them (and deceiving one own self or the reader that such do not exist and cannot play). Bulgaria was present in the symposium papers in passing, most frequently as a positive or neutral player. I recall glimpsing its silhouette in two of the papers: that by Ter Minassian (the Bulgarians - an example for the Armenians in terrorist activities; the Bulgarians military success in the Balkan War encouraged the Armenians, in 1913 they published an illustrated history of the Balkan War) and in Prevelakis paper ("a revisionist state" resisting against Frances constructionist undertakings in the region between the two World Wars).

I can imagine my forward-thinking colleagues ironic smiles as they recall the written reports about events abroad from before 9 September 1944: there were without fail words about the image of Bulgaria, the Bulgarian, and Bulgarians were always present.

I can also imagine "knowing" smiles: the present commentators nationalistic memory has selected Ter Minassians paper and shifted it to the center of the picture.

This self-reflective excursion has had the function to assert that I regard both the researchers human (physical: geographical, historical, social) condition and self-reflection (up to the point of self-irony) inseparable from the scholarly reflection (though recognizable within it).

 

8. Notes on Selective Application of Some Research Procedures. Concerns about the Political Motivation of This Selectiveness

I have already mentioned my feeling that the construction of national identities was examined selectively.

There are serious grounds for thinking (or rather: I have serious grounds to think) that the deconstruction of Turkish nationalism could be put off for an indefinitely long time. In certain circles, however, it could take place. But from the point of view of Sofia, as well as most probably from the point of view of New Europe Colleges donors and its international academic council (its Bulgarian member, Ivan Krŭstev, is a flexible, yet indisputable - to me - promoter of the neoliberal world order, of the neoliberal will and idea20), such an undertaking is politically incorrect. I assume that it is the secular establishment in Turkey that would be spared - insofar as a factor in such sparing could be the moderating of academic and media discussions. A benevolent tolerance towards it (that is, essentially towards Turkish nationalism) is most likely direct proportional to the fomenting of fear of Islam. The underground version of what is occurring more or less says that Islamism is a cover and means for Pan-Turkism. This claim will not sound retro if we take into consideration the notable economic growth and expansion of Turkey throughout the past two decades. If we take into account the startling, apocryphal fact (or only an interpolation of a single occasion supported by rumor? - anyway, symptomatic) that the Turkish state covers the water and electricity expenses of private Turkish companies who have their offices and so forth in Bulgaria (i.e. the neo-liberal order is completely tolerant to the economic protectionism of certain subjects, but thats not all. Precisely that this state instrumentalizes its image of a reliable secular one and its economic growth for a renewed imperial vision: economic re-integration of ex-Ottoman territories21. Yet this is also an apocryphal interpretation that can most likely be attributed to negligence: a Bulgarian pathology, timor Turcorum.) If we realize that Western non-flexible and revealing double standard policy towards Iran does in fact strengthen Turkish position - both in the negotiations for EU-membership and in the Near East (regarding the management of Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other issues)22. As and if we realize that the chronic recycling of the Kurdish, Armenian and Cypriot question might not be anti-systemic, but rather has transformed into a contributing, system-creating factor in the present situation. Against this backdrop, the assurances - made ex cathedra, as we saw - of prudence in Turkish foreign policy take on a different significance. But, as they say, this is just one opinion against another. - As we can see, the Scylla and Charybdis of Eastern Europe (nostalgia for socialism and neoliberalism) are insufficient reference points to describe the complexity of South Eastern Europe, even in the most provisional way. In the Black Sea region there is still a very important border - on one side of it (the western, northern and eastern sea coasts) the deconstruction of nationalism is allowed, while on the other, it is not; - and this is also one reason why this region and the study of it are especially interesting from a scholarly viewpoint. (The sprouting of Kosovar and Abkhazian nationalisms is unambiguous support for the validity of the claim that the Balkans and the Caucasus are on the same side of this border.)

Such undertakings, especially when they are directed at ones own identity, resemble a kind of psycho-analysis or therapy, while in rare cases they approach a methodologically sound self-flagellation. I ask rhetorically: which of the ethno-political wholes in the region shall remain undissected?

Local subjects were represented more as objects, if we exclude the level of the individual person. This corresponds to the differences in geo-political weightiness, but We can hardly assume that all the small players without exception are marionettes. It is precisely this exception that is interesting. Scrutinizing such an exception would be methodologically isomorphic to the object itself, the Black Sea region - insofar as we consider it a sum of exceptions or leftovers from other, neighboring regions.

Are there contacts across the sea? The place of the sea was almost entirely usurped by the narrative about the Great Powers - who washed their feet in it or remained distant (Genoa, the Ottoman, Russian and British Empires). Against this backdrop, the reflection of the fear of the sea sounded like a piercing cry, like a call for another agenda ("The Autochthone Other," Zaal Andronikashvili, Tbilisi/Berlin). Its author was one of the most active discussants - one of the few who had at least one question or comment on almost every paper.

 

9. The Best Possible World As It Is Seen from Bucharest

The absence of discourse about the friendship between small peoples is also telling. I have purposely used a phrase steeped in irony. I want to check our reflexes (my own, as well as that of the reader) in reacting to jokes from yesterday or the day before. Such narratives were absent except for peripherally in one or two papers. You can conform to the map of the world which surfaces when you take into account Realpolitik - or not. When you are a scholar, there are many models for description that run parallel to and intersect this map of the world, models which you can choose, reject, combine. This symposium claimed that the narrative of friendship between small peoples is not geo-politically topical, and decided to harmonize its order of the day with this reality. Or perhaps among the topics that were submitted but not selected, such a discourse also was not present

A characteristic correspondence to this absence is the absence of co-authored papers as well. With two exceptions. One - in the middle of the symposium, lost between the other papers: a professor and student from Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University attempted to rethink the Georgian ethnic consciousness during the "long term" (longue durée) - it sounded a bit strange, insofar as it was not> burdened with self-therapeutic, deconstructivist pathos23. The other - an anise-flavored dessert: "Musics of the New Times - Romanian manele and Armenian rabiz as Icons of Post-communist Changes"24. It was the last of the 33 papers. This contribution personified the actual - and perhaps also the ideal - actant structure that outlines the world "The Balkans and the Caucasus: a study of parallel". She was a Frenchwoman who studies contemporary Armenian mass music culture; he, her intellectual partner, was a Romanian who studies contemporary Romanian mass music culture25. (Romanian manele and Armenian rabiz, as it occurred to the Bulgarians at the symposium, are analogs of Bulgarian chalga. The difference: in Romania and Armenia this music is performed by men. In the presentation and discussion there was no mention of the trivial - to my mind - thought that "chalga" is an appearance of, to say it metaphorically, the Oriental anima of the Balkan spirit. Judging by the presentation, this effective and pretentious formulation would not have contrasted with the Romanian and Armenian "material" presented). A peculiarity in these two scholars approach: they examined this music and this culture in terms of the "technology of enchantment" (Alfred Gell), through the prism of this conception. And they succeeded in sublimation, domestication of the local man - by showing the sublimating element in his very own musical-performative and social works. Not contrasted from a position of high, written culture. Not a devaluating analytical dissection. In one of his incarnations, he has risen up to self-reflection, self-sublimation. (And the time is to come, when he would be authorized to reflect on other locals, other individuals from the region.) It is the best possible world for the Black Sea, as seen from Bucharest.

 

10. Revisiting the Scholars Role: An Intellectual or a Loyal Expert?

The geopolitical pre-givenness of the knowledge being offered sometimes, for better or for worse, was exposed. I will cite the summary of one of the accepted papers: "The Soviet Union and Yugoslavia are analyzed as examples of constructs that erupted in violence after the fall of communist ideology. These cases are contrasted with the Ottoman Empire. While the Ottoman Empire incorporated numerous ethnic groups within its borders, its collapse, unlike that of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, did not lead to violent ethno-nationalist outbreaks. The difference between these cases, I argue, can be attributed to the communist experience,"26 and so on. ("Ethno-Nationalism in the Post-Communist World: The Communist Inheritance?"). The expert27 overlooked the conflicts and bloodshed in Western and Eastern Anatolia, the Southern Caucasus (including the Turkish-Armenian War), Eastern and Western Thrace, Macedonia, Lebanon, Palestine - all of which accompanied the fall of the Ottoman Empire (1918) and the years immediately thereafter. (I am not claiming that what might be recognized as Ottoman legacy caused the conflicts mentioned, part or all of them, but in this context, if the picture is not to be totally distorted, they may not be left unremembered). If we take into account that the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, unlike that of the USSR and Yugoslavia, was a process that dragged out over decades, we could also add to this list the violence in Macedonia from 1903-190828 and even the Serbo-Bulgarian War and the two Balkan Wars, as well as the partitioning of Cyprus and the Kurdish question. However, the expert in ethnic conflict in the region did not offer reasons for neglecting facts that testify to the profusion of "ethno-nationalistic" violence during and after the disintegration of the Ottoman state; whats more - this was her starting point, taken as a given. The organizers acceptance of such a claim speaks either to their tolerance for politically indoctrinated research or to their excessive respect for transatlantic academic or educational institutions (I cannot evaluate how prestigious Kent State University, USA, is).

In fact, an actual hierarchy of the great powers (and players) in the past and present in the region was sketched out. In this case, I do not mean their labeling on a scale of importance29, but rather on a scale of virtue. The "worst" player, of course, is the Soviet "Empire," followed by Yugoslavia; third place goes to the Ottoman Empire (the general image deduced from all the commentary about it at the symposium is rather more ambivalent). The Russian Empire was taken, postmortem, as a threat and as an unlikeable subject, but not as an evildoer; the Ottoman Empire, lined up next to it, seemed to earn the subconscious sympathies of most participants, insofar as during the period being studied it played the losing role. Kemalist Turkey imposed itself as an inarguably positive personage.

This approach to a formal meeting of scholars would have heuristic value if it were taken separately and broken down methodologically. Presented as such, it would probably entertain some readers, while irritating others. However it must be noted that the picture presented here cannot be attributed entirely to the observers lack of discursive discipline and his tendency towards "figurative speech."

Geopolitics ran through the meeting not so much because it was thematically dominant or a counterpoint in, for example, two-thirds of the papers; but rather because it contributed to one general impression: that the ethnos-based organization of people is worse than the polis-based one. The meeting was a collective act, a political act benefitting an ancient geopolitical thesis within the framework of an ancient geopolitical alternative. Directly or indirectly, the meeting confirmed and reestablished the groups loyalty to the polis-based order. In a time and place in history, when and where the official position is pro-polis. To put it in contemporary Bulgarian journalistic jargon, the event was "conjunctural." Scholars got together; their intellectual energy in principle could be and could have been realized in/via various social (as well as psychological) figures, types, roles. At this event, however, what was realized was the loyal expert-political advisor, and not the intellectual30.

 

11. On the Physical Dimensions of the Symposiums Architectonics and Dramaturgy

11. The symposium organization was excellent. There was only one change with respect to the final program of the symposium (and this was not due to an absence). The discussions were not rushed due to lack of time. There was discussion after each group of three papers - a very appropriate rhythm for mental concentration. And after the discussion - a break: a very appropriate rhythm for ones physical condition. The hints to those who went over their time limits were discrete, yet at the same time not coldly polite, hence frustrating to the presenters (in any case such violations of the time limit were rare). The environment was simultaneously bordering on luxurious, yet cozy. The spaces for listening and discussion, for informal discussions and for conversations around and at the table subtly flowed from one into the other.

 

12. Instead of Conclusion: the New Europe College Enterprise within the Context of Other Black Sea Studies Initiatives

I have certainly sharpened many edges - this is an openly subjective narrative of personal impressions, a story from Sofia. Sofia, who isnt even envious - because she cannot see her neighbors riches.

Alongside the Romanian institutions priorities, certain unoccupied niches still gape open, for now.

(In the position of the humanities, the College covers the same field of study that the Journal of Southeast European and Black Sea Studies (JSEEBSS) seems to cover from the position of the social sciences. With the journal in question, its geopolitical allegiance is completely obvious; see the website of the International Centre for Black Sea Studies (ICBSS without year), or more precisely (JSEEBSS 2011). Certain doubts about the geopolitical allegiance or at least regarding the focus on geopolitics also remain with regard to the Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, see: (Instructions without year), published by the ultra-prestigious press Routledge and which partially covers the same object At the other extreme is the Danish Centre for Black Sea Studies (Pontos 2010), based at the University of Arhus, which, at least at first glance, has oriented its politically non-committed research towards the "safety" of antiquity. Any memory touched by Soviet reality will immediately recall the philosopher Alekseĭ Losev, who transformed into the historian of classical aesthetics Alekseĭ Losev).

They are more difficult to occupy, yet have more future potential (in the sense of the investment of long-term symbolic capital); they also include literary studies (literary history and comparative literature).

 

13. Localizing the Reviewers Position

In writing this text I conducted a small inter-genre and interdisciplinary experiment. I distanced the genre of academic chronicle from the report genre, without losing sight of the formers mainstays. I read the historians symposium as an architectonic textual whole, as a literary critic - I feel this is a reasonable contribution to the interdisciplinary pathos and passion of the times. Yet my goal was quite different: to nudge us towards self-reflection in a scientific field that is just coming into being. Towards a realization of the role academic research plays in constructing culture - even today, despite the post-modern explosion of mistrust in "essentialism," current scholarship, through silent tolerance, is considered unpremeditated, while socially significant statements on the subject or statements that rationalize its practice reinforce the calm confidence in its objectivity. Of course, I am expressing the viewpoint of a provincial - with irony towards the hypothetical, politically correct normative which would reproach me for indirectly reproaching certain others, i.e. "the center," "the centers," for egocentricity and arrogance. But to return to the justification of my text: I have tried to take advantage of the fashionable epistemology of constructivism, applying it directly to itself; directly to its very own applications, i.e. against constructivist undertakings within academic politics. And to return to a summary of the goals of this paper. In a young field of inquiry, attempts at self-reflection are doubly useful - to prevent ourselves from drowning at some point in inertia, which will then present itself as tradition.

In my own positions, I have suspiciously detected nationalistic presumptions. My self-censoring mechanism is not powerful enough to make me hide them. For that reason I have left in the text observations that at first glance would seem to hold significance only to a (the) Bulgarian reader. This precise balancing between constructivism and naturalism, cosmopolitism and nationalism seems the most appropriate to me. It is precisely this position which could see elements of constructedness, imaginariness in both discredited and demonized nationalism, as well as in the neoliberal cosmopolitanism that is promoted via many channels. A painful effort: similar to that required of an analysis demystifying both pro-Russian and pro-Western discourses, as well as both the discourse nostalgic for socialism and the neoliberal one.

My position is triply, quadruply marginal. First, I come to the symposium from a different discipline (literary criticism) and a different field (Russian studies). Second, I express a position whose arguability I am aware of; part of its arguability stems from my deliberate refusal to "dress up" this existential and hence epistemological position within a web of references to academic literature31; I do not underscore this choice by labeling it "a draft", but I hope that such markers as "notes" and "towards" are sufficient. Finally, I am trying to strike a balance between two discourses that are mutually repellent, but which seem to exist in some mutually cozy consensus - the neoliberal discourse (with its historiographical extension - the deconstruction of nationalism and nationalisms) and the discourse of nostalgia for socialism (as well as between the geopolitical projections of these discourses: the pro-Russian and the pro-Atlantic). (As far as their silent consent to cohabitate, distributing the hegemony between themselves, I would cite a claim made in a Bulgarian virtual political science forum, an effective formula invented for the period of the late "Cold War" and the Transition period: "from the opposition of systems to the convergence of elites". I think this very precisely describes one of the aspects of the current situation). More precisely, I am trying to overcome this configuration. I realize how debatable the claim is that precisely these two discourses are so dominant and so mutually complementary that it is precisely their configuration that must be overcome32. It is also possible that I am blind to the appearance of a discourse which has already overcome the configuration noted or some other, if indeed that other is actually dominant.

NB. The present text itself, with all of its reservations and reassurances, is symptomatic: not only of how the author perceives his social habitat, but of that very habitat itself in its different concentric spheres (including the maximally general: the Bulgarian, Balkan and Eastern European study of the human sciences); of how the global academic conjuncture (to the extent that such a conjuncture even exists) is and might be perceived and what kind of characteristics of the latter might become visible. I admit that in certain niches of academic production within the region the subjects of academic production are paralyzed by the imperative to appear scientific, which combined with the difficulties that inevitably come with every adaption towards a culturally foreign audience, hampers the freedom of thought Hopefully I have not created grounds for research isomorphic to the currently topical studies of anti-Western attitudes in the post-Soviet space and their roots. This would not be relevant - neither epistemologically, nor ideologically. I hope this monologue, which reveals traumas that have been experienced, has been unnecessary.

 

Instead of an Up-Dating Epilogue

The English version of the present paper, under the clumsy title "Research of geo-political engineering? A historians symposium on the Balkans and the Caucasus: Notes from the literary criticisms underground. Towards a case study", was offered for publication to a number of journals (two German, one Russian and one American; three of them peer-reviewed), between July 2010 and June 2011. I was reached by: speechlessness; an editor-in-chiefs letter after nine months of expectance; a swift and polite refusal, motivated procedurally; a reject after the submission procedure had been initiated, but without accompanying the corresponding letter with any reviewers motives, although the letter pattern suggested such. The editor-in-chiefs e-mail reveals the obvious, as well as probably the main real reason for the unacceptability of my text. (I put aside my words concerning an internationally recognized Bulgarian scholar which the honorable editor interpreted as an assault against that scholar.) My claims are unprovable, and what is more, they are uttered from a standpoint which suggests and hints at conspiracy but is not frank enough to say it openly and unambiguously. Yet my paper remains intriguing (if I believe the editors words), it really could be read like a detective story, and this is one of my motives to persist in my will to have my paper published. I have a second motive and it is embedded in my methodological doubts: Isnt it suspicious (in a psychoanalytic sense, for example) when a depreciating attitude toward a hypothetical conspiracy epistemology is combined with a willing employing in humanities of constructivist one? My third motive is grounded in my conviction that our culture, even in its marginal manifestations, deserves a written archive. A fourth one is grounded in my conviction that one has the right to be responsible for publicly sharing his misthoughts. Whether the latter are non-scholarly, anti-scholarly or pseudo-scholarly, let the readers decide by themselves.

Bucharest - Sofia,
12-20 April-3 June 2010; 17 September 2011

 

 

NOTES

1. The translation of this paper from Bulgarian into English, with the exception of minor improvements and additions, has been financed within a project funded by the European Programme for the Development of Human Resources (BG051PO001-3.3.04/61) whose beneficiary I am. [back]

2. My opportunity to attend the symposium came thanks to the courtesy of the hosts in Bucharest and to my grant-giver, to myself and to my colleagues at the institution for which I am working. [back]

3. However, it applies to both modernist and pre-modern intuitions. [back]

4. Here and below I retain the transliteration of Cyrillic names already given in the symposiums program. [back]

5. Indefinite-personal clauses are grammatically (syntactically) universalia, which correspond to definite mental universalia. It is sufficient to note that we are reasoning within the framework of this hypothesis about the world. Such a hypothesis may assume concrete actors, yet let us not rush to suspect that they are accomplices in a worldwide conspiracy. [back]

6. European Science Foundation, Research at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Panel 4 Report: Social Sciences, Humanities, [2009], pp. 6 (43), 3 (40) (Introduction without year). The text is accessible also at: (Acknowledgements 2009). [back]

7. K. Hitchins, "Shared Challenges: The Principality of Wallachia and the Kingdom of Georgia at the Threshold of the Modern Age (1774-1812)" (paper presented at "The Balkans and Caucasus" Symposium, Bucharest, Romania, April 12-13, 2010). [back]

8. C. Prevelakis, "Allied Projects for an Eastern Front and the Illusion of an Oriental Commonwealth. The Eve of World War II (1938-1940) as a Case Study for the Geopolitics of the Balkan and the Caucasus" (paper presented at "The Balkans and Caucasus" Symposium, Bucharest, Romania, April 12-13, 2010). [back]

9. This raises an interesting detail: the term "Transcaucasia" is a calque from the Russian concept "Zakavkazie" and preserves (conceals) the Russian point of view on the region: the territories or countries "beyond" (to the south of) the ridge of the Greater Caucasus Mountains. The term employed, however, could also be used to represent the Turkish point of view: the territories/countries "beyond" (to the north and east of) the Lesser Caucasus (it is another question altogether that it is more like a spot or a zone, rather than a border, due to physical-geographical reasons). I did not hear any such discussion of this or other terms in Mr. Arslans paper or in any of the other papers. - The juxtaposition made here, which may seem like a mere play on words, hints at an unexpected comparison/parallel: Chechens and Armenians: the forcibly imposed borders mentioned above are reduced merely to their physical-geographical dimensions. [back]

10. O. Arslan, "Turkish Foreign Policys Historical Perspectives towards the Northern Balkans and Transcaucasus Areas: A Comparison of the Late Ottoman and Republican Approaches in the Wider Black Sea Region" (paper presented at "The Balkans and Caucasus" Symposium, Bucharest, Romania, April 12-13, 2010). [back]

11. T. Ter Minassian, "The Balkans and Caucasus: Two Peripheries of Two Empires. An Overview of Different Comparative Historical Approaches" (paper presented at "The Balkans and Caucasus" Symposium, Bucharest, Romania, April 12-13, 2010). [back]

12. Here I will cite the abstract of the paper: "[] My comparison of Wallakhia and Georgia is not solely about their international status. I also examine the domestic policies of the Ipsilantis and Erekle II in order to show how they tried to modernize their states, improve the economy, concentrate authority in their own hands at the expense of the local nobility, and establish useful links with Europe under conditions of almost constant pressure from the outside. It will, of course, be necessary to describe the two countries political systems, economic conditions, and social structures in order to judge the degree of similarity in their responses to international and internal challenges. []." (The Balkans and Caucasus: Parallel processes on the opposite sides of the Black Sea. Past, present, and prospects. Abstracts [Case retained - Y. L.], [Bucharest, 2010] [A handout, 41 pages], 3). [back]

13. It was also advanced by Professor Hitchins in an impressive way in his paper abstract: "The materials I plan to use are published diplomatic and other official papers, memoirs and other contemporary accounts, and secondary works in Romanian, Georgian, Russian, Turkish, Persian, and Western European languages" (Abstracts, 3; my italics - Y. L.). [back]

14. And as strangers, no less, not locals. This role of theirs is imprinted in the cultural memory of the region via the archetypal story of Jason and the Golden Fleece. [back]

15. But without carrying the spark of Faith - the ne and only spark of the one and only faith of the Tablets given to Moses, the father-faith of other faiths; only one exalted ethnos, one of many exalted peoples. [back]

16. Papers from Yuri Stoyanov (Y. Stoyanov, "The Formation of Sectarian Identities in the Religious Interchange between the Balkans and Caucasus and Their Role in Contemporary Religio-Political Processes" (paper presented at "The Balkans and Caucasus" Symposium, Bucharest, Romania, April 12-13, 2010) and Arsen Hacobyan (A. Hacobyan, "The Orthodox-Chalcedonian Armenians, From Caucasus to the Balkans: Outlines of the History and Identity" (paper presented at "The Balkans and Caucasus" Symposium, Bucharest, Romania, April 12-13, 2010). [back]

17. "The Autochthone Order" by Zaal Andronikashvili (Ilya Chavchavadze University, Tbilisi, Georgia; Centre for Literary and Cultural Research (ZfL), Berlin (Z. Andronikashvili, "The Autochthone Order" (paper presented at "The Balkans and Caucasus" Symposium, Bucharest, Romania, April 12-13, 2010); "Land und Meer: Black Sea and Caucasus in German Culture" by Markus Bauer (Neue Züricher Zeitung, Switzerland) (M. Bauer, "Land und Meer: Black Sea and Caucasus in German Culture" (paper presented at "The Balkans and Caucasus" Symposium, Bucharest, Romania, April 12-13, 2010). [back]

18. By Otar Chiladze, Dorothea Stella, Alexander Kluge, and Christof Ransmayr. [back]

19. Z. Kikvidze, "Script Shift and Splitting of Nations in the Caucasus, in the Balkans, and Elsewhere: the Russian/Soviet Experience" (paper presented at "The Balkans and Caucasus" Symposium, Bucharest, Romania, April 12-13, 2010). - The abstract, unlike the talk itself, focused on the Georgian (Mingrelian) case (Abstracts, 30). [back]

20. In a recent, and once a year held interview for the Bulgaria main gazette in cultural and art issues, "Kultura", Krŭstev tries to persuade the reader that the neo-liberalism in fact has no alternatives (I. Krŭstev, "Deveta razhodka po globalnata ulitsa s Ivan Krŭstev; razgovarja Hristo Butsev," Kultura, February 10, 2010, 5 (2577) ( 2010). [back]

21. Let me witness that a recent book (D. Tanaskovich, Neoosmanizmŭt: Turtsia se vrŭshta na Balkanite (Sofiĭa: Iztok-Zapad, 2010) unpremeditatedly supports, employing a scholarly discourse, observations and concerns already fixed by rumour, at least in Bulgaria (added later - 3 June 2011 - Y. L.). [back]

22. Just to note that Turkish officials position on the humanitarian convoy crisis of June is illuminative as regards developments mentioned above (added later, 8 July 2010 - Y. L.). [back]

23. M. Chkhartishvili, S. Kadagishvili, "Perception of Ethnicity in Medieval Georgia and at the Time of Georgian National Consolidation" (paper presented at "The Balkans and Caucasus" Symposium, Bucharest, Romania, April 12-13, 2010). [back]

24. V. Stoichiţǎ, E. Amy de la Breteque, "Musics of the New Times - Romanian manele and Armenian rabiz as Icons of Post-communist Changes" (paper presented at "The Balkans and Caucasus" Symposium, Bucharest, Romania, April 12-13, 2010). [back]

25. Victor A. Stoichiţǎ, Post-doctoral Fellow, New Europe College, Bucharest; and Estelle Amy de la Breteque, PhD Candidate in Ethnomusicology, Univesite Paris Ouest Nanterre, Laboratory for Comparative Ethnology and Sociology - Research Center for Ethnomusicology. - Let me underscore what this constellation implies with an analogy: the figure of the narrator as an icon of the world desired through/via the narrative. [back]

26. Abstracts, 31. [back]

27. E. Pokalova, "Ethno-Nationalism in the Post-Communist World: The Communist Inheritance?" (paper presented at "The Balkans and Caucasus" Symposium, Bucharest, Romania, April 12-13, 2010). [back]

28. Great Britain, Austro-Hungary and Russias attempts to manage the escalation of violence in Macedonia were the object of another paper at the symposium (J. Brooks, "Understanding Intervention: Imperial Thought and Establishing Order in Ottoman Macedonia" (paper presented at "The Balkans and Caucasus" Symposium, Bucharest, Romania, April 12-13, 2010). [back]

29. Political institutions with a complicated cultural memory, such as the Byzantine court, for example, tailor their ceremonies to the imagined hierarchy (as Dimitri Obolensky showed in "The Byzantine Commonwealth."). [back]

30. I would cite the profile of the scholar loyal to the empire, as he was sketched out by Edward Said in "Orientalism." [back]

31. This should be made up of theoretical and of "Black Sea" studies that would stitch together, of course, the double-ply overcoat of proper academic research - a series of secondary, a series of primary (items of literature). [back]

32. I suppose that outside Eastern Europe the fundamentalist (either secular-nationalistic or religious) plays the role of the one which is nostalgic for socialism. [back]

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Acknowledgements 2009: Acknowledgements. // European Science Foundation, November 2009 <http://www.bas.bg/fce/001/0149/files/Panel_Report_4.pdf> (30.09.2011).

ICBSS without year: International Centre for Black Sea Studies, without year <http://www.icbss.org> (30.09.2011).

Instructions without year: Instructions for authors. // Taylor & Francis Online, without year <http://www.tandfonline.com/action/authorSubmission?page=instructions&journalCode=cjsb20&> (30.09.2011).

Introduction without year: Introduction. // Institute for Literature, without year <http://www.ilit.bas.bg/bg/Institute_of_literature.pdf> (30.09.2011).

JSEEBSS 2011: Journal of Southeast European and Black Sea Studies (JSEEBSS), 01.06.2011 <http://icbss.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=75&Itemid=117> (30.09.2011).

New without year: New Europian College, Institute for Advanced Study, without year <http://www.nec.ro/fundatia/nec/about_us.htm> (30.09.2011).

Pontos 2010: Pontos. // The Danish National Research Foundation's Centre for Black Sea Studies, December 2010 <http://www.pontos.dk/> (30.09.2011).

2010: , . . . // , . 5 (2577), 10.02.2010 <http://www.kultura.bg/bg/article/view/16615> (30.09.2011).

 

 

Yordan Lyutskanov
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E-magazine LiterNet, 01.10.2011, 10 (143)