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.  

Sunday, 17 August 2014

On Reporting the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict


(This is a fragment of a longer piece on the British media's coverage of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict)

In early August 2014 the British media reported an escalation in the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This has brought the conflict, which has been less covered since the cease-fire of May 1994, back to the media’s attention. This blog is intended to shed some light on the role of the British, and the wider Western, media in shaping particular attitudes among the public, as well as policy-makers involved in the negotiation process over this conflict. It is based on analysis of the main premises of over 4,000 reports and analytical commentaries on the conflict by BBC TV, The Guardian, The Observer, The Times, The Financial Times, The Independent and The Economist in the period 1988-2014, including during the ‘hot’ stage of the conflict from 1988 to 1994. It focuses on the media’s interpretations of historical causes of the conflict and juxtaposes these interpretations with relevant historical facts.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Predictably Unpredictable: The 2014 parliamentary elections in Slovenia

By Dr. Alenka Krašovec, University of Ljubljana and Dr. Tim Haughton, University of Birmingham
Parliamentary elections and party politics in Slovenia are becoming predictable in their unpredictability. For the first two decades of the country’s independence party politics was largely stable. True, in the second decade the once mighty force of Slovene politics, Liberal Democracy, saw its support drop, the Social Democrats emerged as a powerful force, but only really for one election in 2008, and there were a stream of new parties. Nonetheless, in a region marked by high levels of electoral volatility, Slovenia appeared to be more stable than most. All that changed in December 2011 when early elections (provoked by the disintegration of a coalition) witnessed two parties formed just weeks before the polls garner 37% of the vote. Three-and-a-half years on, another early election provoked by a battle over the leadership in the biggest governmental party, Positive Slovenia, and the disintegration of the governing coalition, saw one new party formed just over a month before the polls scoop nearly 35% of the vote.