European Rust Belts. West-East Comparisons – and Beyond
International Conference, Regensburg, 7-8 May 2020
Call for Papers
Deadline for submissions: 15 August 2019
The Hans Koch Era
|Rear view of the East European Institute |
in Munich in Schreinerstraße 11
(Institute building from 1959 to 2007)
The East European Institute, a non-university institution jointly funded by the Free State of Bavaria and the Federal Government, resumed its activities in Munich on 1 February 1952. With a remarkable lack of critical awareness, it regarded itself as the successor to the Wroclaw (formerly Breslau) institution of the same name. Its first director, Hans Koch (1884–1959), had led the Wroclaw institution from 1937 to 1940. The Protestant Koch, a theologian and historian of the Eastern Catholic Churches born in Lviv, was by no means an uncontroversial character. As an outstanding expert on Ukraine, he had fulfilled important, and sometimes problematic, commissions during World War II. The focus area he set up at the East European Institute complied with the requirements of the time: responding to the widespread thirst for information and ideological orientation regarding the new situation in a politically and ideologically divided Europe, he dedicated a large amount of his time to lectures on current issues. The Institute's research activities served the purpose of building a secure foundation of informed knowledge, while promoting the intellectual debate about Soviet Marxism. Reference works such as the ‟Sowjetbuch" (Soviet Book, published in 1957) and the encyclopedia ‟5000 Sowjetköpfe" (5000 Soviet Minds, published in 1959) deserve a special mention in this context. Hans Koch's career reached its culmination in 1955, when he accompanied Konrad Adenauer as an advisor on his journey to Moscow. But also the ‟Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas" (Yearbooks for the History of East Europe), which had been established in Breslau as leading specialist publications (especially on the history of Russia), were re-launched at the East European Institute in 1952 based on their predecessor publications.
Prüfening Abbey near Regensburg had initially been discussed as location for the East European Institute. As Regensburg in those days had neither a university nor any other academic infrastructure, the decision was soon made in favor of Munich which, in the early post-war years, had become a meeting place for highly qualified experts specializing in East Europe. In the following years, a number of institutions emerged here whose purpose was, on the one hand, research into the communist world and, on the other, the ideological and propagandistic fight against it.
Increasing Focus on Social and Economic Research
Around 1960, the ‟political" orientation of parts of the German research effort into East Europe, including that of the East European Institute, was coming under increasing criticism. The social sciences in general pushed themselves to the fore and there were calls for closer cooperation both among the East European institutions in Munich and with the university; as early as 1965, the German Council of Science and Humanities had demanded their consolidation. In 1963, Hans Raupach, the holder of the newly established Chair of Economics and Society in East Europe, took over the management of the Institute after a brief interlude with the Munich-based historian Georg Stadtmüller. Without delay, he began to set up a division for socio-economic research, the establishment of which had already been decided upon in 1961. For this purpose, the Institute was granted an economics post in 1964 and a sociology post in 1966. Both positions were filled by young scholars who had not yet completed their doctoral degrees and who then found themselves flooded with lots of editorial work. Thus, in the beginning, this new research division only made slow progress. In 1969, the economist Heinrich Vogel earned his doctoral degree and was appointed permanent Deputy Director. Success was quick to follow. Together with the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Munich, the Institute initiated a two-year postgraduate course, East Europe Economy, which from 1964 to 1970 received start-up funds from the foundation Stiftung Volkswagenwerk. However, this funding never became permanent. The project ‟Einflussfaktoren im Wachstumsprozess der UdSSR unter den ökonomischen und gesellschaftlichen Bedingungen der sowjetischen Industriegesellschaft" (Factors of Influence in the USSR's Growth Process Under the Economic and Societal Circumstances of Soviet Industrial Society), which ran from 1970 to 1976 with the support of the German Research Foundation, clearly contrasted with the prevailing ‟Ostforschung" (Research of the East) in its feeling of obligation towards the generally acknowledged, empirical-statistical methods of social science. The work culminated in a statistically estimated, macro-economic model of the Soviet economy that was the first of its kind. These studies brought the Institute further temporary research positions and worldwide recognition. The establishment of the academic journal ‟Jahrbuch der Wirtschaft Osteuropas" (Yearbook of the Economy in East Europe) in 1970 can be seen as the visible expression of the aspirations and success of this fledgling Economics Division.
In 1976, Hans Raupach retired and, one year later, Heinrich Vogel became the Director of the German Federal Institute for East and International Studies in Cologne. Under the joint leadership of Günter Hedtkamp and his deputy Hermann Clement the Institute experienced a long period of consolidation and expansion. They were successful in regularly gaining a good number of commissions for research and expert opinions from the Federal Ministry of Finance. Another great success in 1984 was the approval of the project ‟Deutsche in der Sowjetunion" (Germans in the Soviet Union), jointly applied for with American partners at the Volkswagen Foundation, which paved the way for the soon thriving research on ethnic Germans in Russia. This project was followed by a number of subsequent projects, some of which were not only funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, but also by the Federal Ministry of the Interior.
In 1976, Georg Stadtmüller, head of the small History Division, was replaced by Edgar Hösch, who also succeeded him to the Chair of East and Southeast European History. Hösch, despite being an extraordinarily modest scholar, was very efficient in attracting third-party funds and motivating his staff. In addition to the research project ‟Das Russlandbild in der deutschen Parteipresse 1859–1870" (The Image of Russia in the German Party Press 1859–1870), funded by the German Research Foundation at Stadtmüller's instigation, Hösch initiated the research focus ‟Zwischen Demokratie und Volksdemokratie" (Between Democracy and People's Democracy) which was dedicated to the goals and policies of the losers in the struggles for power during the mid to late 1840s. In this context, several projects on Poland and Finland were successfully completed in the 1980s.
As early as 1990, Hösch had realized the immense opportunities that the electronic media, and later the Internet, offered for the further development of the Institute's central, specialized information and service activities. Hösch pushed ahead the digitization of Erik Amburger's extensive register of foreigners in pre-revolutionary Russia that was successfully completed at the East European Institute in 2000 with the support of third-party funds. In the same year, Hösch took the chance offered by one of the German Research Foundation's new support focuses and attracted funds for setting up the ‟Virtuelle Fachbibliothek Osteuropa" (Virtual Library Eastern Europe – ViFaOst). As part of this project, the Institute's various bibliographic and information services for German and international research into East Europe was transferred to the Internet by means of state-of-the-art database technology. ViFaOst's successor project, OstDok, which aims at the promotion of electronic publishing, is still running.
Aftermath of the Fall of Communism in 1989/1991
The upheaval of 1989 initially led to a new demand for the services of the Economics Department in particular. Practical policy advice above all had to be provided during the years of the transformation. During these important transitional years, the influence of members of the Eastern European Institute is not to be underestimated during these events. Due to their language skills, their profound knowledge of the region and their research on the weaknesses of the socialist system, they were in a good position to put their expertise into practical use. Researchers of the Eastern European Institute were advisers to Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia and especially the Ukraine, but also in various countries of the Balkans. Very often they had access to high-ranking decision makers. During this period, many new contacts were made while existing connections could be re-established. Therefore the IOS is even today able to rely on its broad network, an important basis for its future work. The renewed international interest in economic systems and transitional economies caused by the fall of the Iron Curtain was already in 1991 taken as the opportunity to replace the Jahrbuch der Wirtschaft Osteuropas (Yearbook of Eastern European Economies) with an English-language periodical; printed by Elsevier, Economic Systems is a highly-regarded international journal which the IOS still publishes.
The early years of the new millennium marked another turning point in two respects. Firstly, eastward expansion of the European Union in May 2004 influenced the range of the research topics, so that work now focused on the convergences and divergences of the paths of growth. As a consequence, new research areas were defined such as the transfer of technical know-how, the increase and change in trade flows between East and the West, migration, fiscal reorganisation combined with macro-economic stability, the reforms of the social system in the transitional countries, and issues concerning expansion of the Eurozone, to name but a few. In addition, the focus was extended to the successor states of the former Soviet Union, so that the OEI now increasingly investigated Central Asia, a very exciting region in many respects, which had so far hardly been studied by German researchers.
Secondly, at that time the OEI was affected by the cancellation of its more or less institutional funding in that periodical commissions for expert reports for Federal Ministries discontinued. As a response to this, attempts were made to replace the descriptive style which had hitherto been dominating research work, due to nature of the tasks, with methodically more sophisticated approaches in order to enhance the quality of research. These changes took place - once again - at a time when the management of the institute was taken on by a new, younger generation. From 2001 to 2005, the institute was led by Lutz Hoffmann who was succeeded by Joachim Möller, and by Jürgen Jerger in October 2007; each had or still has a professorship at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Regensburg. The closer proximity to the academic and research environment of the university was sought and found not least thanks to the appointment of Richard Frensch, Vice Director of the Eastern European Institute, as professor in cooperation with the University of Regensburg.
The smaller History Department, however, also successfully met the challenges that had come with the political changes since 1989, the transformation and the globalisation by intensifying its on-site archive and literature researches in a manner that had hitherto not been feasible for many years. The Eastern European Institute thus became one of the few places within the German-speaking areas where the focus of research was on the history of the Ukraine.