Caucasus, Conflict, Culture 3
Conflictual Relations in a Multiethnic Region
Research Project for Students
This project focused on the conflictual relations of Germans in the Caucasus. The Germans did resettle in the beginning of the 19th century from south-west Germany to Georgia and present-day Azerbaijan. Their deportation by Stalin in 1941 concluded their short and turbulent history. The social memory of the Germans, especially in their former villages, is still rich, controversial and an outstanding example of the difficult relations of ethnicities in a highly contested region.
The aim of the student research project was – first – the research in multinational teams in former German villages in Georgia and Azerbaijan on the social memory of Germans. The groups of students went directly into the villages and conduct interviews with the local population about their perception of the Germans who lived there. Twenty students from the three South Caucasian states and Germany discovered a complex image of Caucasus Germans that were, on the one hand, admired because of their economic and agricultural talent. But on the other hand, they were also envied and distrusted because of their supposedly snobbish behaviour, their support from Russia and their economic success.
The topic of ‘Caucasus Germans’ shows how ethnicities are constructed, conflictual relations explained with different ethnicities (by the local population) and how stereotypes are shaping interethnic contacts. Our approach was therefore entering the contemporary similar problems in the Caucasus by the backdoor: it gave to the local students the possibility to research conflictual interethnic relations in the Caucasus without being directly involved to it.
Secondly, the reflection of the research process itself was be a central element of our project. Already during CCC2 this aspect proved to be very important: there were joint preparations, joint research and joint analyses of their projects by the multinational student groups. Through the experience of in-group discussions among participants with different citizenships, perspectives and possibly different interpretations of the research data on the conflictual history and memory of the Caucasus Germans, the students reflected on these differences, on the limitations of their own interpretative frames and the possible explanatory power of alternative interpretations.
The project was generously founded by the Deutsche Akademische Auslandsdienst (DAAD) and the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.