Sixth Annual Tartu Conference on Russian and East European Studies: Which Way is the Future? Progress and Tradition in Eastern Europe and Eurasia
12-14 June 2022, Tartu, Estonia
Scholars of area studies, comparative politics, international relations, economics, history, sociology, anthropology, cultural studies and related disciplines, are invited to submit proposals for full panels, roundtables and papers for the Sixth Annual Tartu Conference on Russian and East European Studies. The conference will take place in Tartu (in person or, if necessary, in hybrid mode).
The Tartu Conference is a venue for academic discussion of the fundamental cultural, social, economic and political trends affecting all aspects of life in Russia and Eastern Europe. Organized by the Centre for Eurasian and Russian Studies (CEURUS) at the University of Tartu, this forum brings together scholars from across multiple disciplines, from the region and beyond. The organisers expect that, as in previous years, more than 200 scholars attend the event.
In the conventional idiom, ‘post-socialism’ is still firmly associated with the idea of transition, which, in turn, presupposes a strong sense of directionality of historical development. The idea of progress in this view is still strongly associated with notions such as democratization, diversity, Europeanization, human rights and pro-market reforms. The ‘transition paradigm’ has been harshly, and perhaps deservedly, criticized in the scholarly literature. Moreover, even if most East European societies embarked on a transition to democracy in the 1990s, the trend has been reversed in recent decades, as evident from democratic backsliding and the rise of authoritarianism and illiberalism across much of the region. The desire to go back to the ‘golden age’ appears to drive a resurgence of traditionalist thinking in various forms, from Poland and Hungary to Russia, Central Asia and beyond.
As Eastern Europe has charted its course in the world, historical teleologies came to be questioned, most notably by postcolonial scholarship. Critical scholars draw our attention to the fact that modernity has been experienced differently in different parts of the world. Eastern Europe, which in some respects has become part of the Western core, is also a region with its own unique and diverse history, and this matters for today’s social structures and practices, cultural and discursive patterns.
Against this background, conference participants are invited to share their thoughts about the meaning of ‘progress(es)’ and ‘tradition(s)’ and their varying configurations in our region as well as globally. What constitutes progress? What is the promise of tradition, and how does it translate into politics and policy in the contemporary world? Could it be that we still see history through the prism of directionality (even if only in the sense of national liberation or the struggle for human rights), and is a radically non-teleological view possible? How do the notions of progress and tradition shape actors, their practices, strategies and resources in Eastern Europe and Eurasia?