Thursday, 18 December 2014

Putin Meets the Press – as State takes Tighter Grip of Economy


Vladimir Putin has delivered his annual press conference and at the top of the agenda was the Russian economy, reflecting that the turmoil buffeting the Russian rouble has reached critical levels.

After a steady depreciation over recent months, the rouble reached an all-time low on December 16. The country is on the verge of a recession as a result of falling oil prices and the impact of Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Long Shadows of War: The Aftermath and Legacies of Conflicts in Europe


This year is full of poignant anniversaries; none more so than the outbreak of the First World War. Whilst the century of the outbreak of ‘the war to end all wars’ has focused attention on the causes of the conflict, as the contributions to the forthcoming edited volume, Aftermath: Legacies and Memories of War in Europe, 1918-1945-1989 highlight, the sight of poppies in the first half of November should also give us pause to reflect on the long shadows cast by that war.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Round-table: The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict - The Uses and Misuses of History

This round-table will discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict - one of the most complex and protracted ethno-territorial conflicts in the post-Soviet space. It will focus on the role of historical narrative in the political discourse of all parties involved in the conflict. We will gather together scholars and policy-makers with in-depth empirical, scholarly and political experience of this turbulent region. The round-table is organised by The University of Birmingham Research Group on the Caucasus in collaboration with the Centre for Russian, Eurasian and European Studies and the Department of Political Science and International Studies of the College of Social Sciences at the University of Birmingham.

Date: Wednesday, 26 November 2014
Time: 16:00 - 18:00h.
Location: University of Birmingham (Edgbaston Campus), Muirhead Tower, Room 121 

Friday, 26 September 2014

The (E)U-turn on Ukraine: Pragmatism or Surrender?

by Dr. Rilka Dragneva and Dr. Kataryna Wolczuk

Few bilateral agreements have had such a turbulent history and implications as the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine. The refusal to sign the agreement by then president Yanukovych triggered massive protests in Ukraine resulting in his overthrow in February 2014. This in turn provoked Russia’s response: annexing Crimea and fuelling separatism in Eastern Ukraine, including direct military incursion in August 2014.

Importantly, the Agreement envisages a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), which entails tariff changes but also provides for Ukraine’s integration into the EU single market. Russia has objected to both, alleging potential damage to its economy. Clearly, an important aspect of this ‘damage’ lies in the fact that the DCFTA precludes Ukraine’s membership into the Eurasian integration bloc, something which Russia has actively sought and presented as a viable (and indeed preferable) alternative to integration with the EU.

Friday, 12 September 2014

North Caucasians’ Sad, Paradoxical Fight in Eastern Ukraine


Widespread reports, not to mention video footage, confirm that North Caucasians are indeed fighting in Ukraine. Areas like Chechnya and Ingushetia, where Russia is arguably already at war, now link Moscow to the newer conflict in Donetsk and Luhansk. In other words, one of Russia's most violent areas is now feeding the bloodshed in Europe's newest war zone.

Chechen militants have reportedly joined pro-Russian separatist groups in Ukraine, most notably the Vostok battalion, whose name recycles the moniker of a battalion that fought Islamic extremists in Chechnya from 1999-2009. These are the “Kadyrovtsy,” well-trained irregular armed forces loyal to Chechnya's current leader, Ramzan Kadyrov.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Nationalism Sparks a Summer of Deadly Violence in the Caucasus

By Dr. Kevork Oskanian, University of Birmingham

The world has been brutally reminded of the unresolved conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave in the South Caucasus which Armenia and Azerbaijan have locked horns over for more than 25 years. While the situation is clearly at a low ebb, the facts of what is happening are far from clear.

The two sides' accounts of the violence are, as ever, directly contradictory. In the absence of third-party monitoring, the only certainty seems to be that dozens of Azeri (or Azerbaijani) and Armenian soldiers have lost their lives in tit-for-tat exploratory and retaliatory raids, while civilians around the line of contact have been plagued by an upsurge in shelling and sniper fire.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The Sum and Its Parts: The European Union and its Member States

by Dr. Tim Haughton

August is perhaps the best month to reflect on European integration. True, there are the inevitable crises to deal with which tend to disrupt the holiday plans of foreign ministers and external relations personnel, but many of the Brussels-based bureaucrats have swapped their offices around Rond-point Schuman for warmer and sunnier climes, and many academics can finally get round to reading some of the books on the must-read pile.