Predictable Futures? On the Impact of Fear and Insecurity in the Baltic Sea Region

Predictable Futures? On the Impact of Fear and Insecurity in the Baltic Sea Region

Interdisciplinary Centre for Baltic Sea Region Research (IFZO); University of Greifswald
Pommersches Landesmuseum, Rakower Straße 9
Fand statt
In Präsenz
Vom - Bis
07.06.2023 - 08.06.2023
Alexander Drost / Ronny Grundig, University of Greifswald

In their welcoming address ANDRIS BANKA (Greifswald) and MARKO PANTERMÖLLER (Greifswald) stressed the importance of predictions of the future as an important part of political processes especially policy setting. Participants presented their research on how our imaginations of the future and the decision-making processes that shape them are closely linked to prediction making, risk assessment and fear in politics, business and society.

The first Panel focused on the role of imagination in the process of making predictions and projecting futures. OLIVER AAS (Cornell) spoke about alternative futures based on environmental ideas. He emphasised the importance of different terms in public discourse about the future. While “nature” could also be used to refer to Estonian traditions and myths the term “environment(alism)” is used as a term for political change. The political discourse in Estonia is dominated by the ideas of “green growth“ and “living a good life“. As a result, “imaginary futures” are closely tied to consumer demands, leading to the reproduction of established patterns rather than focusing on the tasks at hand.

ADITYA RANJAN (New Delhi) focused on the changing nature of environmental security cooperation following Russia’s war in Ukraine. He emphasized the conflicts caused by the imbalance between energy producers (Russia) and energy consumers (Germany) in the region. The challenges of energy security in times of crisis also affect the environmental protection policies of HELCOM and other organisations in the region. Multilateral cooperation to solve the environmental problems of the future will be more difficult, says Ranjan, because Russia is not a member of the Council of the Baltic Sea States any longer.

In the third presentation, MARTA SKOREK (Gdansk) gave a programmatic presentation on shifting the mindsets of people to fully understand Balticness. Most theories and methods come from a land-based mindset, said Skorek, and live in a different frame of reference to understand maritime spaces such as the Baltic Sea Region. Instead, researchers should use concepts that are open to different setting. To explore a shared identity in the Baltic Sea region, she suggests the concept of an ecocultural identity, because it is not only open to analysis along established categories (class, race, gender, region, …), but also allows for new dichotomies (ecological/cultural, human/non-human, etc.) to explore Balticness.

The second panel focused on rural spaces in the Baltic Sea Region. STEFFEN FLESSA (Greifswald) reminded everyone that safety comes at a cost by analysing risk management in health care. Most people, said Fleßa, are risk-averse. They avoid uncertainty in the future by paying a small fee in the present to satisfy their need for security. In the second presentation, FRAUKE RICHTER-WILDE (Greifswald) AND DANILE SCHILLER (Greifswald) talked about the challenges of public finances in times of crisis. Municipal finances are based on long-term projections that affect public services and suffer in the long term from events such as the COVID19 pandemic. Their research shows a combination of higher expenditure and lower revenues in rural municipalities, while they also receive less money from regional governments. In very peripheral areas, costs per inhabitant are higher than in metropolitan areas, so long term predictions could lead to a reduction in services.

In the third talk CHRISTINE TAMASY (Greifswald) and CLEMENS LISDAT (Greifswald) gave a programmatic view on rurality as a key factor of research in the Baltic Sea Region. Lisdat presented his analysis of reference systems that refer to or represent aspects of rurality, from museums to politics and research. In the context of “rural policy”, he summarizes that “rural” is perceived more like a geographical entity, as a layer of policy and less a specific field of policy.

PIA-JOHANNA SCHWEIZER (Potsdam) comprehensively framed the scope of her insightful keynote speech on the topic of systemic risks between global challenges and their local impact, for instance in the Baltic Sea region. She focused in particular on the concept of systemic risks and how addressing them in areas such as health and security increases the resilience of societies. After introducing the genesis of the systemic risk debate, in which Schweizer explained systemic risks as complex of interdependencies with cross-boundary effects, a non-linear progression and tipping points, the presentation continued with an example of social amplification of risk and its impact on risk management. For the latter, research, communication and participation were identified as elemental and instrumental to engage stakeholder and citizens to cope with risks and create a successful risk management. In an impressive model of a “Risk Tandem”, Schweizer convincingly explained the co-creative process of knowledge and communication in risk management. Accordingly, it is an iterative process of knowledge generation and diffusion which fulfils the needs for frameworks that support a holistic risk assessment that integrates knowledge as much as uncertainties and ambiguities.

Dialogue Ilkka Ahtiainen, moderator of the roundtable, opened the dialogue with the unavoidable question of responses of decision makers in the Baltic Sea region to the Russian aggression. PASI PÖYSÄRI (Berlin), Deputy Head of Mission at the Finnish Embassy, asked if Finland had a “Zeitenwende” and hereby set the frame for the discussion. With a clear yes to his own question, he elaborated vividly on a picture of the Finnish flag at the NATO building in Brussels at the end of the democratic process of becoming a NATO member and the importance of Sweden becoming a member too. WOLF BORN, Head of Baltic Sea Region Policy and Cooperation at the Ministry of Science, Culture, Federal and European Affairs in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, took up on the notion of “Zeitenwende” from Pöysäri, stating that the Baltic Sea region has not seen as much military engagement, planning and risk assessment since the cold war and that the region has become a military hotspot. Continuing on the security aspect and regional thread perception, DAMIAN SZACAWA (Lublin), political analyst and researcher at the Institute of Central Europe, pointed out that the timing of “Zeitenwende” has been quite a different one within the region. While the decision to join NATO was immediately made after the full fledge war has started, the Baltic States and Poland felt the risk of neighbourhood to Russia much earlier. Translated into the assessment of systemic risks, Pia-Johanna Schweizer described the process leading up to the war in February 2022 as a tipping point process. Neighbouring states following developments and warning of this process engaged in an increase of national resilience as guiding principle to cope with the risks. Even if we experienced a rapid re-securitisation of the Baltic Sea region and that our regional cooperation will be redefined in the context of war as Szacawa states, long term policies will not change. However, all participants share the view that it is not the time to rebuild cooperation with Russia but to reflect previous strategies and to foster cooperation between the democratic countries.

The third panel focused on predictions about the future of language use in the Baltic States. ANDREJS VAISBERGS (Riga) presented his research on the transformation of the Latvian language. Public discourse is dominated by the fear that Latvian might disappear completely as a language in the future, as young Latvians tend to speak English with each other. Although this fear is an old trope of public debate in Latvia, which has always been linguistically influenced by other languages, there seems to be little or no evidence to support this claim. However, developments show that the grammar of Latvian is becoming less complex and that there is an influx of new words into the language. In the second presentation, KERTTU ROZENVALDE (Tartu) looked at the claim that Latvian is under attack from a political perspective. She conceptualised language policy as a core priority of statehood, and therefore a policy area in which Latvian governments want to demonstrate their power. Fear of appearing powerless, or at least not up to the task of managing societal change, has led them to intervene in the Latvian higher education system. In the third presentation, KADRI KOREINIK (Tartu) took a slightly different perspective on language policy, using Estonia as an example. She analysed language policy as a phenomenon that is at the same time a cultural practice and a social policy. This is helpful to understand that language policy is not just a top-down implementation of an agenda but rather a process shaped by everyday interactions.

The energy transition poses many challenges, ranging from fears of losing energy security to predictions of independence from fossil fuels to tackle the climate crisis and modelling the social impact of the transition. This panel was looking at the energy trilemma of the transition due to different methodological, geographical and social lenses. BARTOSZ SOBIK (Warsaw) analysed the challenges facing Poland. The country is highly dependent on coal in its energy mix, which is a climate risk for the future, but also has some implications for the current situation. Many of the plants used to have been in operation for more than 40 years and Poland faces a baseload problem due to a lack of flexibility in the energy system. JUDITH KÄRN (Greifswald) and VINETA KLEINBERGA (Riga) then presented their ideas for developing a tool to analyse the discourse around the energy trilemma. Their „energy trilemma discourse index“ aims to provide further insights into the discourses around the issue by weighing the importance of certain claims in different countries in the Baltic Sea region. In the third paper, PAUL KIRCHSTEIN (Greifswald) presented a paper co-authored by MARY KEOGH (Greifswald) and SOLVEIG WANG (Greifswald) on the controversial issue of preserving indigenous heritage and using land for renewable energy sources in Norway. The visions of a green energy future clashed with the culture of the indigenous Sami people, as wind farms would be built in regions important to their collective heritage and reindeer culture. VASANTHA KALAL (New Delhi) looked at the link between national identity and energy policy from a different angle, using the example of the Baltic states. Recalling their experience under Soviet rule, the main goal for the future was and is independence. Therefore, they set political goals by valuing security and innovation as the main values to achieve this future.

In a historical perspective on risk, prediction and fear, the fifth panel considers the legacies of predictability in the arts. The focus is on what will endure in the future as a cultural heritage? How do perceptions of objects and concepts change in shifting frames of reference, such as “otherness”, “gender”, “indigenous”? How does ignoring the changing meanings of objects and contexts in the construction of a future cultural heritage pose a risk? MICHAEL CUSTODIS (Münster) dealt with with the relationship and imaginations of Norwegian music by the two German states, FDR and GDR, since the late 1940s. The political ideas of Norway as a society were closely linked to its representation in popular culture. Nordic tunes became a label for the search for ‘authentic’ music by building ‘authentic’ instruments from earlier periods. Artists used this idea of authenticity to convey political messages about a good way of life in the future.

In the second presentation, TOMASZ KITLINSKI (Dresden) examined contemporary Polish art through the lens of trauma. He emphasised that there are several traumas that are used productively: the memory of the Holocaust, the experience of living as an LGBTQ+ person in a hostile society, and the violent circumstances. In the third paper MARIE THERESE FEDERHOFER (Tromsø) looked at the depiction of indigenous peoples, their cultures and objects in the diaries of Ludwig Choris, a German botanist, who took part in the Russian circumnavigation of the world. The portraits of non-Europeans, says Federhofer, are drawn in a non-individualistic approach. They were not seen as individuals, but as a typical phenotype of a particular people. Although this is problematic and objectifying, the drawings are a rare insight into non-Europeans of the Arctic region.

The future of all the countries and societies in the Baltic Sea Region has changed considerably and is determined by fear of war, uncertainty about the future and predictions between science and propaganda. This also applies to the Russian civil society. In their presentation, BOGDAN ROMANOV (Tartu) and POLINA MALAKOVA (Tartu) elaborated on the processes of identity formation of transnational activists. Focusing on the field of human rights activism, they show that there are multiple interwoven levels of identity (personal, institutional, collective). Which identity is used or predominates in decision-making processes therefore depends on the circumstances of activism. In the second paper, MARTINA ZAGNI (Greifswald) examined the use of the fear of a future war in Russian poetry. This fear of future conflict is closely linked to ideas of a peaceful future and coexistence of peoples. Observing Russian media in 2023, such poets are no longer present. There seems to be a virtual monopoly of pro-war poetry in Russia today. ELENA PAVLOVA Elena Pavlova (Tartu) spoke about political attitudes to the Russian war in Ukraine among Russian academics. She observes very little pro-war support in Russian academia, although such political stances would be beneficial to one’s career at the moment. On the other hand, there seems to be a divide between the opposition within Russia and outside the country, as the first group is making much harder sacrifices. In the last presentation of the conference, NATALIA KOVYLIAEVA (Tartu) spoke about feminist resistance and mobilisation strategies. In addition to publishing political manifestos, women need to find creative and artistic ways to protest against the war, as Russian society, with its highly patriarchal structures, does not leave much room for their concerns.

Between conceptual considerations and concrete events/examples, the conference explored an approach to dealing with risks and reservations that reflect projections and predictions of the future in various decision-making processes. These decision-making processes are currently focused in particular on the intertwined problems arising from the current geopolitical crisis and the continuing environmental and social challenges in the region. The Baltic Sea region is emerging as a global area where current and future risks and challenges have activated problem-solving mechanisms and can serve as a model for other regions and comparable problem situations.

Conference overview:

Panel 1: Imaginary Futures

Chair: Alexander Drost (Greifswald)

Oliver Aas (Ithaca): Imaginaries of Environmentally/Sustainable Futures

Aditya Ranjan (New Delhi): Russia-Ukraine Military Confrontation, Changing Geopolitical Context and the Environmental Security Cooperation Dilemma in the Baltic Sea Region

Marta Skorek (Gdansk): Ecocultural Identity as an Entry Point to Reimagining Balticness

Discussant: Wibke Müller (Greifswald)

Panel 2: Future Rural Spaces

Chair: Paula Prenzel (Greifswald)

Steffen Fleßa (Greifswald): Security is not Free-of-charge! General Reflections and Application in Healthcare

Frauke Richter-Wilde (Greifswald) / Daniel Schiller (Greifswald): Municipal Finance in Crisis: Consequences for Rural Areas

Christine Tamásy (Greifswald) / Clemens Lisdat (Greifswald): Transformative Crisis: Perspectives on Rurality


Pia-Johanna Schweizer (Potsdam): Global Challenges and Local Solutions? Participatory Risk Governance for Systemic Transformations towards Sustainability and Resilience

Roundtable „Future of the Baltic Sea Region“, Politics and Academia in Dialogue

Moderator: Ilkka Ahtiainen (Helsinki)

Panellists: Pasi Pöysäri (Berlin) / Susanne Bowen (Schwerin) / Damian Szacawa (Lublin) / Pia-Johanna Schweizer (Potsdam)

Panel 3: Language Policy and Socio-Linguistic Approaches with Focus on Baltic States

Chair: Marko Pantermöller (Greifswald)

Andrejs Veisbergs (Riga): The Changing Latvian Language: Sign of Progress and Source of Fear

Kerttu Rozenvalde (Tartu): Is Latvian under Threat? The Role of Fear in Latvian Higher Education Language Policy

Kadri Koreinik (Tartu): Estonian Language Policies in the last 30+ Years: The Reactions to and the Extensions of Soviet Policies and Beyond?

Discussants: Yvonne Bindrim (Greifswald) / Kaspars Zalāns (Greifswald)

Panel 4: The Energy Trilemma in Times of Crisis and (Energy) Transformation

Chair: Mary Keogh (Greifswald)

Bartosz Sobik (Warsaw): Energy Transition in Times of Energy Crisis – Challenges for Poland, Germany and Baltic Sea Region

Vineta Kleinberga (Riga) / Judith Kärn (Greifswald): Discussing Pathways to the Future in Energy: Developing an Approach for Assessing the Discursive Environment of Energy Security, Energy Equity and Environmental Sustainability in the BSR

Paul Kirschstein (Greifswald) [Co-Authors: Mary Keogh (Greiswald) / Solveig Marie Wang (Greifswald)]: Negotiating Indigenous Pasts in the Future of Renewable Energy Sources

Vasantha Kalal (New Delhi): Impact of National Identity on Framing Energy Policy of Baltic States

Panel 5: Long Shadows of the Past: Dealing with History in Arts

Chair: Antje Kempe (Greifswald)

Michael Custodis (Münster): Heroic Narratives and Political Intentions. German Perspectives on Norwegian Music after 1940

Tomasz Kitliński (Dresden): The Haunted and Hostipitable Eastern Europe: Developing a New History in the Arts

Marie-Theres Federhofer (Tromsø): Messy Episodes. Indigenous Countersigns in Ludwig Choris’s Diary and Ethnographic Portraits

Panel 6: Russian Civil Opposition

Chair: Natalia Iost (Greifswald)

Bogdan Romanov (Tartu) / Polina Malakhova (Tartu): Transnational Activists’ Identities in the Field of Human Rights Protection

Martina Zagni (Greifswald): War Citizens and War Opponents. Critical Conscience in the Poetry of the Soviet Thaw and of Contemporary Russia

Elena Pavlova (Tartu): Russian Anti-War Academics: The Hidden Scripts of a Community in between

Natalia Kovyliaeva (Tartu): Between Horror and Hope: Anti-War Feminist Resistance Performances and Strategies of Mobilizations in and outside of Putin's Russia

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