The project investigates the effects of geopolitical shifts on the interplay of cross-border cooperation, political narratives, and economic relations along and across four different border regions in Central and Eastern Europe. We focus on the events after the break-up of the Soviet Union. In particular, we consider the consequences of the EU Eastern enlargement in 2004 and the crisis in Ukraine and the subsequent conflict between the ‘West’ and Russia since 2014 for the dynamics, functions, and stability of various borders and boundaries.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, which now dates back almost 30 years, many politicians and ordinary people celebrated that they had overcome borders and dichotomies of ‘East’ and ‘West’. Admittedly, in Central and Eastern Europe, some borders have been erased since then; however, others re-appeared after some time and still others are highly controversial, accepted only on one side of their newly established demarcation.
The four border regions are chosen in order to reflect the Central and Eastern European variety of borders in terms of their geopolitical location, level of international recognition, and period since their formation. The four border regions are: (1) the German-Polish border, which is now located within the EU; (2) the Kaliningrad Region, which is a Russian exclave surrounded by the external EU border; (3) the border between TMR and Moldova, which was established through a militant conflict after the break-up of the Soviet Union, has not yet been recognized as an official international border by any state, and has formed the border to Romania, a Schengen border, since 2007; and (4) the border between Crimea and Ukraine, which was established in 2014 after Crimea was assigned to the Russian state after a questionable referendum.
Borders are viewed as multidimensional and analyzed in regard to their spatial, social, economic, and temporal constitution. In particular, we will investigate the interplay of economic and political processes and how those are narrated and constructed at different times and by using various temporalities. Next to our emphasis on temporalities, we focus on networks and cross-border interaction. In so doing, we explore the channeling function of borders which are moved and re-configured by those who act upon them. Our project equally takes into consideration the perspective of various actors, who imagine and experience the border in their daily routines, and we investigate those phenomena that constitute the political and economic frameworks along which people act.
The Russian-German cooperation allows for studying both sides of each border within a comparative framework and ensures comprehensive regional competence. Moreover, its interdisciplinary teams will be able to apply a range of research methods comprising qualitative and quantitative approaches.
The project is relevant for other research on Central and Eastern Europe. In addition, the project’s results will advance theoretical debates on borders and boundaries by its focus on temporalities, the systematic investigation of borders’ multidimensionality, and the analysis of different types of borders within a comparative framework. Furthermore, our findings will equally be relevant beyond the scientific community because we seek to determine the factors and complex patterns of reconfiguring conflicting and non-conflicting borders in the face of recent geopolitical shifts and dispute between ‘East’ and ‘West’.