The Centre for East European and International Studies (ZOiS) is an independent, international and interdisciplinary research institute. It started its work in October 2016 and concentrates on medium-term, socially relevant research on Eastern Europe.
ZOiS understands itself as a forum linking universities, research institutes, think tanks, foundations, and other organisations concerned with Eastern Europe in a network. On this basis, ZOiS works to convey to the broader public the importance and diversity of Eastern Europe.
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is one of the developments of recent years which have shown that political actors and society need well-founded knowledge about the region. At ZOiS, we conduct in-depth research on topical political, social, and economic developments as a basis for an informed debate and forward-looking policy-making.
The main tasks of ZOiS are socially relevant academic research on Eastern Europe, communicating our research findings to political actors, the media, and the wider public, and supporting the next generation of expertise on Eastern Europe. We conduct research on the region that meets international scholarly standards, helps to shape public discourse, and contributes to a more profound understanding of Eastern Europe. We set ourselves the task that our research findings should not only connect with the major contemporary academic and public debates but also actively raise new issues.
The post-Soviet space is a major regional focus of our research. However, our work is comparative and flexible in terms of the issues it addresses, which means that it is not confined to the area of the former Soviet Union. Our scientific approach is equally open. We combine qualitative and quantitative methods, use interviews, surveys, ethnographic approaches and textual analysis, and in our fieldwork we adopt innovative methods, for example by engaging with artistic research.
Eastern Europe is more than just an object of research for ZOiS. Our declared goal is to not only research Eastern Europe from afar, but to do so from within. We are committed to actively engaging with research generated in the region and with East European scholars.
Why do we need a new research institute on Eastern Europe in Germany?
In December 2015, the German Bundestag decided to establish an independent institute for East European research in order to ensure the availability of the necessary expertise in the long term.
Germany and the EU face particularly difficult challenges with regard to their policies towards Russia and their eastern neighbours. Research activity in Germany on the current dynamics in Eastern Europe has been decreasing since 1989. Specialist circles have been pointing out the need for application-oriented knowledge about Eastern Europe for many years. Large gaps have emerged in research on contemporary issues, in sociology, economics and political science (see report by the Wissenschaftsrat, the German Council of Science and Humanities, dated 2006 and its 2013 recommendations). There are almost no young researchers with expertise in the region among the upcoming generation in these disciplines.
"We intend to put our knowledge of Russia and Eastern Europe in Germany on a solid foundation. To achieve this, we intend to strengthen academic and analytical expertise on this region." Shaping Germany’s future. Coalition agreement between the CDU, CSU and SPD. 18th legislative period, 13.12.2013, p. 169.
Developments in Eastern Europe often follow their own internal logic. The behaviour of the states in the region is shaped by perceptions of the outside world, as well as by the distinctive way in which each society is structured and the characteristics of its political system and of economic and security interests. Only clearly-focussed regional research can provide the knowledge needed to explain political, economic and social developments.
The founding of a new institute, the Centre for East European and International Studies (ZOIS), which, in cooperation with institutions in Germany and abroad, will fill in the expertise gap, is intended to send a clear signal both within Germany and internationally that the Federal Republic regards the shaping of relations with Russia and Eastern Europe as a task that will continue to warrant serious attention in the long term.