Research Areas

Stability and Change of Political Regimes

Concepts such as ‘democracy’ and ‘authoritarianism’ suggest clear defining criteria and boundaries, but they ultimately fall short of capturing the nature of political regimes. Both concepts and the societies they are trying to describe are currently in flux—in Eastern Europe and beyond. This research area focuses on the grey zone between the two regime classifications. The two concepts of stability and change highlight, on the one hand, dynamic societal, political, social, economic, and cultural changes and, on the other hand, the processes that prevent or limit change. The ZOiS research projects in this area are varied and multidisciplinary in their outlook. They provide a basis both for an exploration of a wide range of themes that are underrepresented in current academic and public debates and for an analysis of the conceptual and empirical linkages between them.

The Dynamics of Conflict

The transition processes in parts of Eastern Europe have been shaped by ethnoterritorial conflicts. The widely used term ‘frozen conflicts’, meant to describe the post-Soviet conflicts, is misleading in this respect, as it deflects from the political, social, and economic dynamics in conflict regions whose status is contested. This is the starting point for this ZOiS research area, which focuses on local state and non-state actors and structures that are affected by a conflict and shape its further development but are neglected in social science research. For example, the internally and externally displaced, local populations and everyday life in contested regions, and local decision-makers are included in the analysis. The diverse and changing interactions between local and external actors in the conflict regions in Eastern Europe also form part of this analysis. Conflict studies typically analyse retrospectively what factors caused the outbreak of violence and concentrate on conflict regulation. A more comprehensive understanding of conflicts needs to include the as yet unsystematically researched dynamics of conflict potential and conflict prevention, in particular in cases that have not (yet) experienced violent clashes.

Migration and Diversity

Migration and diversity issues are closely interconnected, but the extent to which life is transnational and the different forms this takes in the case of individual migrants and societies shaped by migration are not yet fully understood. This ZOiS research area considers the simultaneity and multidimensionalism of personal identities, networks, practices, and political engagements. It focuses, on the one hand, on migrants in Germany with an East European background and, on the other hand, migratory processes and their effects on migrants within Eastern Europe. The internal diversity of so-called migrant groups, the varying conditions and dynamics of spaces shaped by migration, and non-linear integration and identification processes over longer periods of time are critical issues in this regard.