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Meet the Eurasia Lab fellows


Three research teams for the fellowship have been chosen and are introduced.

The “Eurasia Lab & Fellowship Program” of the Institut für Europäische Politik (IEP) called for applications of junior researchers working on Central Asia, the Southern Caucasus and Eastern Europe to present their research ideas for funding within the fellowship program. Until May 2021, the program has sought to support the top three most outstanding research projects with a one-time scholarship of up to 9,000 euro, program and network events to integrate the researchers into IEP’s network and the involvement in the EurasiaLab’s podcast series.

We received an outstanding number of 97 applications from individual researchers and research teams. The majority of applications came from Central Asia, followed by the Southern Caucasus and Eastern Europe. Country-wise, the most applications came from Georgia, followed by Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The transformative political and socio-economic developments in Eurasia were well-reflected in the proposed research topics. The broad field of proposals focused on various contemporary developments in the Eurasia region in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, political conflict, corruption as well as civil society actors and initiatives that are shaping the region’s political landscape.

We would like to use this opportunity to thank all researchers and research teams for their applications and interest in our program. Seeing the overwhelming interest in the region’s developments and challenges in a time like this serves as an inspiration to us and strengthens our commitment to connecting researches working on Eurasia.

Among all applicants, three research teams convinced us the most of their excellence and suitability to our fellowship program through their overall academic quality, outstanding research designs and topic proposals. You can find a short presentation of the teams, updates on their research projects and the link to their podcast episodes in the following.

The EurasiaLab-Fellows

Vasil Navumau and Olga Matveieva: “Prospects of Post-Authoritarian Transformation in Belarus: Tracing Civic and Political Initiatives for Democracy Promotion”

The project aims to trace civic initiatives, emerged during the upsurge of the mass mobilization after the falsification of the presidential elections in Belarus in 2020. It will analyze civic initiatives to connect them to the existing Eastern Partnership instruments and the EU mechanisms to expand the dialogue on a peaceful conflict regulation in Belarus.

Vasil Navumau, PhD in Sociology, is a visiting fellow at the Center for Advanced Internet Studies (Bochum) and civic activist. He is an author of a monography and several publications on protest movements in Belarus, Russian disinformation in Belarus. Olga Matveieva, PhD in Public Administration, is an associate professor at the Institute for Public Administration. Her research interests include e‑governance, contentious politics, gender issues, global challenges to public administration system. The researchers published several co-authored comparative articles on protest in Belarus (Revolution of Consistency) and Ukraine (EuroMaidan), and gender-related consequences of COVID-19 pandemic for both countries.

Interim Report (April 2021)

As of April 2021, the research team has identified nearly 50 key civic initiatives. The majority of them is devoted to providing direct assistance to Belarusians who suffered from the protests. While most of the initiatives did not address particular target groups, some of them offered specific support based on age, gender as well as social, political and economic background. For example, from a social point of view, assistance was directed to groups specifically vulnerable to the repressions and the pandemic. In terms of age, the initiatives were aimed at focused solutions to the emerging problems of young- and middle-aged people as well as retirees who were unable to adapt to the new reality quickly enough. The tense situation with protests, mass arrests, riots in the streets provoked by brutal police actions has intensified with the growing number of citizens infected with COVID-19. This explosive increase of the quantity of civic initiatives is a sign of a reemerging vibrant civil society, which, in turn, could serve as an indicator of the deep changes occurring in Belarus.

You can learn more about Olga’s and Vasil’s project on the first episode of the “Eurasia on the Move”-Podcasts.

Azizjon Berdiqulov, Muslimbek Buriev and Sergey Marinin: “Civil Society and the COVID-19 Governance Crisis in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan”

Azizjon Berdiqulov, Muslimbek Buriev and Sergey Marinin: “Civil Society and the COVID-19 Governance Crisis in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan”
The research project is aimed to identify and categorize the dynamics of civil society organizations’ (CSOs) activities during the COVID-19 pandemic in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Particularly, they will look at which roles CSOs assumed to assist local populations throughout the crisis. The key purpose is to analyze and provide recommendations on how local governments and international organizations can integrate the strategies of non-state crisis-driven activism into their respective policies.

The team consists of three aspiring researchers who work in different spheres, but share a common academic background. Having run multiple research projects, they advanced both their research and project management skills. Closely cooperating with expert communities, state and non-state actors, they gained solid expertise in analyzing the policies of Central Asia concerning civil society and democratization processes, human rights and political mobilization of minorities.

Interim Report (April 2021)

One of the key findings concerning developments in Kyrgyzstan so far was the fact that many of our interviewees are continuing the work to support key populations (the economically disadvantaged, disabled groups etc.). Some even noted their willingness to engage in local politics by running for a seat on municipal councils, which indicates their sustainable commitment for change. In general, however, no drastic change took place with regards to the public’s attitude toward NGOs. Local authorities are more prone to cooperate, central government and capital-city officials are less favorable to the third sector. In Tajikistan, some respondents shared that they had good and effective co-operation with responsible public bodies during the pandemic because these good relations have already been formed mainly due to their joint initiatives and past co-operation. Except for one respondent’s case, no one faced challenges or barriers to their assisting projects and activities created by public officials during the pandemic. Different contexts for NGO work in both countries and the levels of political freedom influenced slightly divergent paths of how civil societies reacted to the crisis caused by the pandemic. However, there are clear tendencies in both states that NGOs and multiple volunteer groups have either replaced the state entirely or bridged multiple gaps left from the state negligence. Nonetheless, civil societies in both countries have selected a cooperative rather than vicarious model of interaction and state-NGO interplay was moderately successful on the lower levels.”

You can learn more about Azizjon, Muslimbek and Sergey’s research project on the second episode of the “Eurasia on the Move”-Podcasts.

Mihai-Razvan Corman and Eliana Coraci: “EU external anti-corruption promotion. A case study on the Republic of Moldova”

The research project “EU external anti-corruption promotion. A case study on the Republic of Moldova” aims to identify the underlying factors that favor EU anti-corruption policy, focusing on the EU’s legal competences and instruments aimed at tackling corruption in Moldova. The project rests on the observation that Moldova is one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Mihai-Razvan Corman is a PhD Researcher at Ghent University and an Independent Consultant for the European Commission and the Institute of European Democrats, a think tank funded by the European Parliament. Eliana Coraci is a researcher and analyst with expertise on disinformation in the Eastern Partnership, currently working for NATO HQ in Brussels. Mihai and Eliana are members and research fellows of the Moldovan-German Forum, a Chisinau-based non-governmental organization whose aim is to enhance the European integration process in Moldova.

Interim Report (April 2021)

“For the Council of Europe, of which Moldova is a long-time member, tackling corruption is an indispensable element for a democratic state and the rule of law. Our project has examined the nature and extent of corruption in Moldova, analysed two key external actors that aim to tackle corruption in the country – the European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe – and mapped out the main legal instruments, through which the EU pursues its anti-corruption policy vis-à-vis Moldova. We have conducted four interviews with Moldovan government officials, NGO representatives and officials from the EU Delegation to Moldova and the Council of Europe. While the EU has high ambitions in Moldova, its anti-corruption efforts are constrained by the limitations of its internal legal competences. Between April and May 2021, the project has built on the research conducted. Analysing policies in place that aim at combatting fraud and illegal party funding, the project will examine whether the EU’s self-proclaimed objective to tackle corruption in Moldova is actually backed up by the EU-Moldova Association Agreement.”

You can learn more about Mihai’s and Eliana’s research project on the third episode of the “Eurasia on the Move”-Podcasts.

About the Eurasia Lab and Fellowship Programme project: Young researchers from Eastern Europe and Eurasia receive support through fellowships to realise their research projects. The Eurasia Lab & Fellowship Programme also helps them network with other researchers and activists working on the region.

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