International Development and Vulnerability in the Frontline communities of the Donbas
When war broke out in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine in 2014, numerous charitable organizations, local and international NGOs and development aid programs began to offer immediate humanitarian relief in frontline communities. Today, eight years since the start of the war, their active engagement remains a valuable contribution to peacebuilding efforts and social assistance to the most vulnerable social categories. At the same time, pressure from donors and priorities of long-term engagement beyond short-term immediate relief, pushes the humanitarian sector to redefine their understanding of “vulnerability”. Development aid projects are gradually moving away from material assistance in the form of basic necessities, towards more long-term projects of community development, capacity-building, resilience and empowerment. My research project is situated in this context of international development actors redefining vulnerability in frontline communities of the Donbas. I want to explore, firstly, which social groups are identified as vulnerable and in greatest need of humanitarian assistance; secondly – how these understandings of vulnerability evolve over time when the war is no longer seen as an emergency but rather as an ongoing day-to-day reality in frontline communities, and finally – how changing understandings of vulnerability reflect ideological and bureaucratic shifts in the development aid sector.
Romania and the Concordat with the Holy See: Churches, Nation-Building and Legal Controversies (1921-1948)
The Concordat that the post-1918 Romanian state signed and ratified with the Holy See was a highly controversial document that had enormous consequences. There is apparently no other international document in the history of modern Romania to demand almost one decade to be enacted. Nevertheless, the research on this affair is almost non-existent after 1989. The project proposal focuses on the Concordat during its first draft (1921) until the unilateral denunciation (1948). Working on a diversity of unexplored primary sources, the project aims at documenting the legal, political, religious debates that the Concordat generated and analyzing the effects it produced upon the nation-building and the society. The project will employ an interdisciplinary approach and it will make some comparative references to the other states from the Eastern Europe.
Pop Music in the USSR: Show Business and the Advent of Capitalism
The end of the Cold War evoked hope and despair in the USSR. As the lived experience of systemic transformation in the (former) Soviet Union remains understudied, post-Soviet opinion leaders sustain a myth of the ‘wild 1990s’. In order to justify repressive measures at home and aggressive policies abroad, for example, Vladimir Putin claims that the dismantling of authoritarian controls produced economic hardship, social discord, and cultural stagnation. My history of show business challenges these politicised narratives by exploring how producers and consumers of popular culture engaged with market reform. Reflecting distinct commercial and political pressures, and reaching diverse audiences, pop provides a prism for understanding the interplay between economic, social, and cultural change. Leading to the publication of a monograph, my project investigates how the privatisation of show business transformed cultures of entrepreneurship, the limits of permissible expression, and Cold War mental geographies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Interpretation of the “Rus” Concept in the Ukrainian and Russian Historiography in the Russian Empire (1805–1917)
The proposed project “Interpretation of the ‘Rus’ Concept in the Ukrainian and Russian Historiography in the Russian Empire (1805–1917)” focuses on the analysis of different ways in interpretation of the concept “Rus” in Ukrainian and Russian historiography of the Russian Empire in the 1805–1917. The aim of the project is to examine the ways of interpretation of the concept “Rus” in the historiography of the Russian Empire during 1805–1917 in the context of “national” and “imperial” discourses. The confrontation of these two main narratives is supported with the fact, that from the early 19th century Ukrainian culture was undergoing the process of “national revival”, which ended up into the proclamation of the Ukrainian People’s Republic in 1917. The main objectives of the project can be summarized as follows: 1) to investigate the interaction between the “official” ideology of the Russian Empire and the academic environment; 2) to establish the main trends in the development of scientific thought in the interpretation of the concept of “Rus” (with derivatives). My project is relevant especially today, when because of Russia’s military invasion into Ukraine the discussion around the common historical past is gaining more and more significance. One of such stumbling-block is the problem of the definition of the concept “Rus” in Russian and Ukrainian historical sciences.
The theatre-caravanserai of Tbilisi. Reassembling a civilizing heterotopia from the Russian Caucasus, 1845-1876
In the mid-19th century, the Russian imperial government built a theatre in Tbilisi, the administrative center of its Caucasian colony, with the aim of advancing the civilizing mission in the Empire’s “Oriental” periphery. Funded by a local Armenian merchant, the building was simultaneously the first-ever European proscenium theatre in the region and a multistoried caravanserai. It thus formed the site of uneasy entanglement of fundamental concerns about art, economy, and public life as negotiated between Russian and local agents of empire, merchants, artists or the nascent Georgian nationalist intelligentsia. Retracing the evolution of the theatre-caravanserai from its conception in 1846 to its destruction by a fire in 1874, this research project explores the civilizational ambitions with which imperial agents invested it as well as the contingencies and contradictions of its usages throughout its existence. The theatre-caravanserai provides a privileged vantage point for exploring how modernity came to be projected and experienced at a moment of great modernizational hopes for the Empire’s Caucasian periphery. To do justice to the complexity of the object itself, the research project will combine insights from opera studies, art history, new imperial history, literary studies, social and cultural history and historical ethnography.
Cross-Country Differences in the Wealth-Income Ratio
The goal of my project is to understand the cross-country differences in the wealth-income ratio, a ratio of national wealth to GDP. Understanding the wealth-income ratio is important for three reasons: First, it is an indicator of the unequal distribution of wealth within a country and is highly relevant to the ongoing academic and policy discussion of inequality. Second, it is an indicator of the existence of a financial market bubble, an intensely debated topic in recent years given the rapidly rising asset prices in many advanced and developing economies. Third, it is closely related to the share of labor income, an important dimension of how national income is distributed across different actors. I aim to improve the existing analysis of the wealth-income ratio and to present a more satisfactory explanation of, among other things, the cross-country differences in the wealth-income ratio, the role of policies and institution, and the share of housing and other real-estate wealth. My analysis will be both theoretical and empirical. My empirical analysis will utilize data from international organizations and also from other individual researchers who have compiled and published related data online.
Political Outcomes of Housing Financialisation and Social Contention in Spain
In this project I aim at investigating the political impacts of two interrelated phenomena: housing financialization and grassroots contestation, by focusing on the special case of Spain. On the one hand, two different historical periods of housing financialisation are identified in this country (1997-2013 and 2013-2022). The participation of national and foreign financial capital has varied significantly in the production, transactions and assetisation of housing in each period. My first goal is to analyse the different characteristics, developments and impacts of housing financialisation at different scales (local, national and transnational) and dimensions (political economy and society). On the other hand, grassroots social movements in Spain have been remarkable reactions to the above processes and other inherited shortcomings of the Spanish housing system. The movement initially led by the anti-evictions organisation PAH (Platform for People Affected by Mortgages), targeted the effects of housing speculation in impoverished homeowners and achieved substantial policy changes at local, regional and national levels. The second period of housing financialisation engendered the response of newly established tenants’ unions and local housing groups since 2017. Hence, my second goal is to investigate the claims, strategies, protest repertoires and policy impacts of these different expressions of the housing movement.
Translating the Polis: Intellectuals in Republican China and the Reception of Ancient Greek Political Concepts, 1911-1929
he present project intends to investigate the reception and perception of the “Western Classical” in the “Chinese Modern”, by looking at how Chinese intellectuals of the early Republican period understood and translated (both linguistically and conceptually) the political thought of Ancient Greece. I will use sources from the 1910s and 1920s - ranging from the essays of translator and poet Zhou Zuoren to history textbooks and popular magazines - in order to survey the different ways in which Greek conceptual “experiments” (especially the polis and the league or symmachia) became part of the Chinese debate on how to build a “modern” post-imperial order and interacted with other historical references/models (either retrieved from the Chinese past or from Western experiences) in the vibrant confrontation between federalism and centralism, nationalism and cosmopolitanism, progressivism and conservatism. A look at how Mediterranean classical theories justifying socio-political models different from the statist/centralized paradigm circulated in the Republican era, will hopefully contribute to shedding more light on how concepts of “self-government”, “autonomy”, “confederation”, “shared governance” – seen in their historical development – became part of the debate on how to build a “modern nation” – and on the nature of “political modernity” itself.
Rethinking Meritocracy: Freedom, Wellbeing and the Common Good
The ideal of meritocracy and equality of opportunity remains the dominant strain of political thought in liberal democracies. However, this ideal needs rethinking in response to the global rise of populism, which has revealed serious social and political alienation among those who are not part of the ‘meritorious’ liberal elite. Political theorists like Michael Sandel have criticised meritocracy on the basis that it stigmatises and discriminates against those who are seen as lacking ‘merit’, such as people without university degrees. I propose to conduct fundamental research that responds to this critique by developing a more inclusive meritocratic ideal based on two interacting concepts of ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ merit. The conventional concept of ‘objective’ merit is based on achievements recognised and rewarded by existing institutions. My new dual concept of merit will also include ‘subjective’ merit based on personal development and wellbeing. My project will work through this idea, including its practical ramifications. The Bulgarian Centre of Advanced Studies is an ideal location for undertaking this work, due to its depth and breadth of expertise in humanities and social sciences and because Bulgaria’s geo-political location makes it a crucible for the clash of ideals between meritocracy and populism.
The Fight against the kulaks in Bulgaria – the Fate of the Large Landowners in Dobrudja after 1944
Although small in percentage, until September 9, 1944 in Bulgaria there was an influential layer of large landowners. The so-called chiflikchii owned large farms mainly in Dobrudja, which was returned to the borders of the country with the Craiova Agreement of 1940. In addition to adapting to the change of state borders, this stratum would soon experience a change of regime. If initially the new communist government was relatively tolerant of the big landowners, then at the end of 1947 the regime began a serious attack on them as "kulaks". In my research I will follow the liquidation of large land holdings in the region of Dobrudja, which in terms of historiography has so far remained in the shadow of the general processes of collectivization in Bulgaria.