Elitestudiengang Osteuropastudien




CfA: Summer School "Illiberal Tendencies and Populism in East-Central Europe. Political Present - Cultural Forms - Historical Causes"

The East European Studies Bern-Fribourg (University of Fribourg and University of Bern) will organize the summer school "Illiberal Tendencies and Populism in East-Central Europe. Political Present - Cultural Forms - Historical Causes" in September 2022, in Switzerland. Deadline for applications is March 31, 2022.


The Summer School of the Eastern European Studies program based at the Universities of Bern and Fribourg aims to examine the historical, political, cultural and social causes and emerging conditions of these trends from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Dates: September 5‐9, 2022
Location: Münchenwiler Castle, Canton Bern, Switzerland
Eastern European Studies Bern‐Fribourg, Centre for Global Studies, University of Bern / Swiss Library
of Eastern Europe, University of Bern / Department of European and Slavic Studies, University of Fribourg

Topic and Aims

The Summer School aims to analyse the dynamics that have developed around populist‐national conservative parties in East‐Central Europe in detail. The thematic field of populism and illiberal tendencies in the East‐Central European
countries will be approached in a multi‐perspective and interdisciplinary manner. To this end, approaches from political science, historiography, and cultural studies will be brought into the discussions.

Debates will focus on the following questions:

1. Conceptual level and historical background:

  • How are populism, illiberal tendencies, conservatism and nationalism defined and understood? How do political actors or groups describe their own programs?
  • Where do we find the historical, cultural, socio‐economic and political causes for populism, conservatism and for illiberal tendencies?
  • Which historical reference points are used? Which historical actors / thinkers / writings / model conditions are referred to?
  • Which analytical categories and theories offer an appropriate conceptual approach (e.g., nation/nationalism, community/society, authoritarianism, identity, anti‐modernism)?
  • How can the developments in East‐Central Europe be described in a larger historical and international context (see conservatism, traditionalism, (right) populism in Russia, in Europe, in the U.S., etc.)?

2. Specific contemporary developments:

  • Processes, actors, interdependencies and receptions; which developments are specific to East‐Central Europe?
  • Analysis of the effects of the "power grab" by populist parties; the attempt to reshape politics, law, economics, and other areas of society such as the media, etc., in line with a conservative agenda.
  • Populist movements strive for discoursive hegemony in order to be able to implement their policies effectively. Which counter‐reactions and opposition at the local, national and international level can we identify? Do counter‐discourses exist, and what are their prospects of success?
  • What consequences and effects do illiberal tendencies have on a transnational level?
  • How does the EU deal with these developments?

The following specific topics will be taken into account during the Summer School:

  • Education & Science
  • Press freedom & media landscape
  • The rule of the law based state
  • Historical and intellectual basics
  • Antimodern tendencies & religion
  • The role of the opposition

The Summer School is organized by the Eastern European Studies program based at the Universities of Bern and Fribourg, which specializes in interdisciplinary historical and contemporary issues of Eastern and East‐Central Europe. The Summer School will be held in English. Active participation is expected of all attendees.

Keynote speeches by renowned experts will delimit the guiding principles of the discussion. Joint debates on the subject matter take place in rotation between working groups and plenary discussions. For preparation purposes, a reading list will be sent in advance as a basis for discussion to all participants. As an outcome of the Summer School, participants will create an independent podcast, video, blog, or interview contribution on a predefined topic in working groups. These will be made available to a broader interested public on the website of the Summer School.

Participants can expect the opportunity to intensively exchange with experts from the field of research and young researchers from different countries, and they will also be able to expand their own international network.

When successfully completing the Summer School, participants will receive a confirmation for their studies of 3 ECTS. How these ECTS points will be credited to the individual participants study records will be decided by the respective ‘home’ university of each participant.

Advanced students of Eastern European studies, specifically the historical or social sciences, as well as
doctoral students who focus on Eastern (and East‐Central) Europe and at least on one of the following
topics, are invited to apply:

  • Populism
  • Illiberal tendencies
  • Authoritarian developments
  • Nation and nationalism
  • Identity politics
  • Social movements
  • Political Extremism
  • Minorities
  • Concepts of freedom
  • Forms of protest
  • Civil society
  • Personalism

The organizers would especially encourage interested early stage researchers from East‐Central Europe and Switzerland to apply. The Summer School will take place in Münchenwiler Castle, if the pandemic situation allows. The costs of travel (2nd class), accommodation and meals will be covered by the Summer School.

To apply for the Summer School, please send a short CV, a letter of motivation (about 300 words) and a certificate of study / MA diploma in a single PDF file by March 31, 2022, to the following email:
osteuropa‐studien.hist@unibe.ch. Applicants will be informed about the status of their application by May 14, 2022.

More information can be found in the attached document.