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Conference facts

When: 2016-01-28 09:00,2016-01-29 13:30

Where: CBEES, room MA 796, on the seventh floor in the main building, Södertörn University, Campus Flemingsberg

Organiser: The Centre for Baltic and East European Studies and the Institute of Contemporary History, Södertörn University.

Event language: English

Research linked to the Baltic region and Eastern Europe:Yes

Racism in the land of “people’s friendship”?

Racisms under state socialism’s “internationalism” and in its aftermath

2016-01-28 09:00,2016-01-29 13:30
Workshop organised by the Centre for Baltic and East European Studies and the Institute of Contemporary History, Södertörn University.



The aim of the workshop is to discuss the problems of racism in the context of the Communist rhetoric of the “people’s friendship” and the ideology of internationalism. The historical part of the conference is connected to the discussion on different aspects of contemporary racism in the countries around the Baltic Sea.

The workshop will explore how racism was approached and dealt with by different ex-Communist countries and how much of the post-Cold War growth of racism in the former “East” is connected to the politics of anti-racism under the Communist rule.

Communist countries presented themselves as fostering in their youth equality, friendship and solidarity among all the “working people”. The research on Soviet educational politics shows that a structure such as the “Club of International Friendship” was a part of everyday school education in the Soviet Union. Furthermore anti-racism was an important part of the foreign policy of the Soviet Union and other countries of the Soviet bloc: the anti-colonial movements and creation of the new independent states in Africa and Asia as well as revolutionary movements in Latin America contributed to the possibility of “making new friends” and creating new coalitions outside Europe. At the same time, scholarship on foreign students and workers in the countries with state socialism showed that everyday racism was a rather widespread phenomenon both in the Soviet universities and at the East German enterprises. Also publications show that different kinds of racism, including one towards an “Internal Other” were well accommodated in the countries with state-socialism while the cultural encounters with visitors to the “land of friendship” also had connections to prejudice.

Communist countries had different historical developments with respect to their imperial/colonial pasts. These differences influenced how their antiracist ideology was commonly practiced and which forms of state and everyday racism could take place.

The discrepancy between declared “friendship of people” and facts of repression of and discrimination against people of particular ethnic groups or intolerance to foreigners is at the center of growing research interest. At the same time the Communist countries’ relationships with the “Global South” and more practical and everyday contacts between “the socialist citizens” and “the others” (including internal migrants) has only started to attract scholarly attention. The same can also be said about comparative perspective on the regimes of “friendship of people” and theories of multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism popular in the “West”.

Furthermore, while racism is rather well studied in the context of Western societies and migration to Western countries from the former colonies and from the so called “Third World” countries, the research on racism and encounters between “Second” and “Third” world is only at its beginning.

The workshop is aimed at bringing together the scholars exploring different aspects of racism and antiracism under the Communist rule and those dealing with racism in contemporary Poland, Germany, Russia, the Baltic States and Ukraine. The historical part of the conference will explore the Communist ideology and pedagogy of “people’s friendship” and its cultural representations. A special panel will be dedicated to the exploration of what was “people’s friendship”. The workshop will also examine everyday encounters of Communist citizens with the “Internal Other” and “friends from developing countries” – students, workers and visitors. The post-Cold War racisms would also be approached from the diachronic and synchronic perspective, in particular, exploring the social change with respect to “migrants”, as well as practices connected to islamophobia and racism in media.

The 2-days workshop is expected to attract the interest of researchers working in the fields of internationalism, Communist “aid” to the “developing countries”, migrant workers and contemporary racism in the countries around the Baltic Sea. The conference will be open for researchers from the fields of history, sociology, ethnology and political science. During the conference pre-distributed papers will be discussed. Each paper would be assigned a commentator.

The conference organisers will partly cover the cost of participation.

Please, send your abstract (not more than 500 words) and a short bio to yulia.gradskova@sh.se

The deadline for application is June 10.

Keynote speakers:

James Mark, Professor at the University of Exeter (UK). His research addresses the social and cultural history of state socialism in central-eastern Europe, the politics of memory in the area during both socialism and post-socialism; it also aims to connect the region to broader global histories and processes through transnational and comparative methods

Vera Tolz, Sir William Mather Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Manchester (UK). Her research areas include modern Russian cultural and intellectual history, nationalism and identity politics in post-communist Russia and Eastern Europe and the politics of culture in the Soviet Union.

Workshop organisers:

Yulia Gradskova, Assoc. prof. in History, Institute of Contemporary History
Email: yulia.gradskova@sh.se

Florence Fröhlig, Post-doctor, School of Historical and Contemporary Studies
Email: florence.frohlig@sh.se

Yuliya Yurchuk, PhD in History, CBEES
Email: yuliya.yurchuk@sh.se


Yulia Gradskova
Email: yulia.gradskova@sh.se

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