Faculty News

Dr. Nancy Scanell (wearing a white visor in the front row) with European Teaching University staff and students.

Dr. Nancy Scanell (wearing a white visor in the front row) with European Teaching University staff and students.

REEEC Faculty Associate and University of Illinois-Springfield (UIS) Associate Professor of Business Administration, Dr. Nancy Scannell, delivered in June 2016 a Financial Management seminar at the European Teaching University (ETU) in Tbilisi, Georgia, in collaboration with ETU’s Associate Professor of English, Dr. Lasha Chakhvadze, and under the direction of ETU’s Vice Rector and Dean of the Faculty of Business and Technology, Dr. Gocha Tutberidze.  With guidance from Ms. Andrea Pellegrini, Assistant Director of the University of Illinois USFSCO Student Money Management Center, Nancy incorporated student activities into her curriculum in adherence to UI’s Open Badges in Financial Literacy initiative. Nancy also led a cultural competency excursion for students to the U.S. Embassy in Georgia, hosted by Cultural Attaché Damian Wampler. The photo features from right-to-left in the front row: Gocha, Nancy (donning a white visor), ETU Chair of Administration Tamar Zarginava, Damian (holding UI jigsaw puzzle box) and (skipping to far left) Lasha. The ETU student delegation was comprised of 12 Georgian students and 1 Azerbaijani student. Nancy said that ETU, the US Embassy in Tbilisi, and the Georgian community-at-large generously welcomed her at every juncture throughout her visit, which helped to make for a successful cross-cultural collaboration. The UI community might be pleased to know that the Prime Minister of Georgia is a UIUC alum in Finance.

Peter Maggs (Emeritus Professor of Law) and Alexei Zhiltsov (co-translator and co-editor) have published new editions of their translation of the First Part of the Russian Civil Code. In particular, they have published versions of this Part: (1) as amended through January 31, 2016; (2) as amended through May 23, 2016; and (3) as amended through July 3, 2016. Here’s the background from the Introduction to the latest version by the editors and Oksana Kozyr:

“This translation of the First Part of the Code is being published in
several different forms. The authors have made arrangements for conventional
publication in book form by a leading publisher in Russia. In addition,
because conventional book publication cannot keep up with the frequent
amendments to the Code, the authors have self-published a United States
edition in e-book and print-on-demand form thorough Amazon. Their hope is
that each time that there is an amendment to the text of the First Part of
the Code, they can update the translation and publish an updated e-book and
print-on-demand book, while leaving older self-published editions available
on Amazon in e-book and print-on-demand form. Lawyers dealing with cases
involving the Russian Civil Code must have available versions of the Code in
effect at the time of the making of particular contracts or at the time of
violation of particular rights. Often even a single court proceeding will
involve events that occurred at various times. Multiple versions of the
Russian text of the Civil Code have long been available on the leading
private Russian legal databases. The authors hope to provide equal
convenience to the users of these English translations. In addition, the
authors are currently preparing revised translations of the Second, Third,
and Fourth Parts of the Civil Code for publication.”

 

What is Political Reconciliation? Reflections on Reconciliation after the Karadzic Trial

Colleen Murphy is Professor of Law, Philosophy and Political Science as well as Director of the Women and Gender in Global Perspectives Program. Re-posted from RECOM, found here in English and here in Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian.


By Colleen Murphy

In March 2016, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) found Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic guilty on 10 of 11 charges, including genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war. He was acquitted on one count of genocide. This verdict spawned significant controversy and commentary. In particular, journalist and scholar Nidzara Ahmetasevic concluded, “In Bosnia now, we are as far away from reconciliation as we were before the Karadzic trial.”[2] Below, I unpack Ahmetasevic’s claim. I focus specifically on the divergent reactions to the Karadzic trial and conviction. Such reactions, I argue, signal an absence of the conditions that would make trust reasonable, and trust is a core component of political reconciliation.

By political reconciliation, I mean the process of rebuilding damaged political relationships.[3] Such repair has a complex set of requirements and entails both institutional and interpersonal changes.[4] Establishing the conditions that make trust reasonable is a key part of the process of political reconciliation, because of what trusting expresses. To trust an individual is to view that person in a particular way, a way that shapes how we interpret their actions and words, and on what words and actions of theirs we concentrate our attention[5] This particular way implies taking a hopeful view of the competence and will of the other. What competence we attribute to someone we trust will vary depending on the relationship in question; competence as a mother is not the same as competence as a citizen or government official. For citizens, basic competence includes the ability to follow the rules and norms that structure interaction among citizens and between citizens and officials. For officials, competence entails knowledge of their role-related responsibilities and rights, as well as recognition of the fact that they act in a public capacity, with the corresponding responsibility to take into account the good of a community when making official decisions. Competence also includes an ability to act on this knowledge. As with competence, the will we attribute to those we trust varies. The robust positive good will towards their children we attribute to trusted parents is different from the more neutral lack of ill will we attribute to trusted citizens and officials. Lack of ill will signals the absence of the desire or intention to harm fellow citizens or officials and a commitment to fair play – a willingness to obey the rules.

Trust also entails a basic expectation of ‘trust responsiveness.’ That is, to trust is to expect the trusted person to be moved to prove reliable, to act in accordance with our expectations, and not to exploit our trust. This expectation is also a moral demand, which is why violations of trust are experienced not simply as disappointments but as betrayals.

Why do we think relationships are damaged when trust is absent? Taking a trusting view and acting on a trustful expectation can express respect and a commitment to reciprocity. It expresses respect, because it implies the presumption of fellow citizens and officials as being competent, basically decent and committed to fair play. And it reflects a commitment to reciprocity, insofar as we take the presumptive view of others we would like to have them take of ourselves. To be trust-responsive is respectful because it implies the right of others to make moral demands of us. In being trust-responsive we are also acting in a manner in which we hope others will act reciprocally.

Political trust is absent following war and repression. Deep distrust is the most typical and, indeed, reasonable attitude to adopt. In the midst of war, a presumptive lack of ill will can make one vulnerable to being killed. This is especially so when conflict is characterized by ethnic cleansing and genocide, as was the case in the Bosnian War. One of the central aims of processes of political reconciliation is to establish conditions where it becomes reasonable to presume the at least basic decency and competence of officials and citizens, and to expect that officials and citizens will prove trust-responsive.

Reactions to the Karadzic trial demonstrate that reconciliation among Bosnians is distant, in part because they point to the absence of conditions that would make such trust as a default response reasonable. One necessary condition for the presumption of the absence of ill will to be reasonable is acknowledgement of past wrongdoing. Acknowledgement entails recognizing past actions and recognizing them as morally wrong. Acknowledgement communicates where the lines for permissible and impermissible conduct should be drawn, and the recognition of such lines on the part of those who are doing the acknowledging. It can provide some evidence of the absence of a desire or intention to harm those previously harmed, and a basic knowledge of how members of a political community should interact.

A commonly shared view of the reactions to the Karadzic trial and verdict is that they reflect “the same ideas pervading local politics.”[6] Among prominent Bosnian Serbs, reactions to the conviction cast doubt on the justice of the verdict, by calling into question the impartiality and competence of the ICTY, characterizing Karadzic as a hero unjustly targeted and victimized by such proceedings, and focusing on crimes against the Serbs that have so far gone unpunished.[7] In the words of President of the War Veterans Association of Republika Srpska, Milomir Savicic, “’I am disappointed with the justification of the verdict. That draconian punishment is based on very weak evidence.’”[8] Mladen Bosić, head of the Serb Democratic Party (SDS), stated “The Hague tribunal has once again shown that it is a political court, the politically based verdicts were handed down to all Serb leaders from Serbia, [Bosnia’s autonomous] Republika Srpska and Croatia.”[9]

What is telling is what such reactions omit. Setting aside the question of Karadzic’s particular role, missing from such statements is any recognition that Serbian forces committed any wrongdoing whatsoever during the Bosnian War. Instead, there is scepticism expressed about the evidence of killing, torture, mass rapes and genocide – scepticism which can be interpreted as denial that such wrongs took place. By providing no evidence of acknowledgement of wrongdoing, such reactions also provide no evidence that it is reasonable to believe similar wrongdoing will not happen again in the future.

Such reactions also compound the already deep scepticism among victims and members of their families about the possibility of ever witnessing proper acknowledgement of the wrongs committed. For many Bosnian Muslims, reactions have reflected consternation about the genocide count on which Karadzic was acquitted and the message which that acquittal sent, objection to the limited duration of the sentence, and worries about the trial ultimately being interpreted as vindicating or justifying the actions of Serbs. A mother and widow from Srebrenica, Hatidza Mehmedovic, complained, “This judgment is a reward for Karadžić.”[10] Saja Coric from Mostar reacted, “The whole of Republika Srpska is like a mass grave… we are still searching for our kids… and they claim this is not genocide.”[11] Prior to the verdict, Mirsad Duratovic, who survived the Omarska concentration camp, stated, “’If the judges fail to convict Karadžić for genocide in 1992 in Prijedor, it will be a slap in the face of the victims. Everything else will be a reward for Karadzic and Republika Srpska.’”[12] Underlying such reactions is the anticipation of disappointment and the expectation of continuing denial with respect to the wrongs done and the causes of such wrongdoing.

Such divided reactions also point to important limits to the contributions criminal trials on their own can make to political reconciliation. Trials of individual perpetrators cannot by themselves establish the conditions under which trust of fellow citizens and officials become reasonable. Establishing such post-war conditions requires examining the ideologies, institutions and norms that made possible normalized collective and political wrongdoing, as well as the consequences of past wrongdoing, such as ethnic cleansing, that impede political interaction predicated on respect and reciprocity.[13]

The author is a Professor of Law, Philosophy and Political Science as well as Director of the Women and Gender in Global Perspectives Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is author of the books ‘The Conceptual Foundations of Transitional Justice’ (Cambridge University Press, 2016, forthcoming), and ‘A Moral Theory of Political Reconciliation’ (Cambridge University Press, 2010).

[1] I thank John Tasioulas and Riada Ašimović Akyol for their comments on an earlier draft.

[2] Nidzara Ahmetasevic, “The Radovan Karadzic verdict will change nothing,” Al Jazeera March 26, 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/03/radovan-karadzic-verdict-change-bosnia-serbia-160327093504907.html

[3] For an overview of different senses of reconciliation see Linda Radzik and Murphy, Colleen, “Reconciliation”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2015/entries/reconciliation/

[4] See Colleen Murphy, A Moral Theory of Political Reconciliation (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

[5] Karen Jones, “Trust as an Affective Attitude,” Ethics 107 (1996), 4-25.

[6] Ahmetasevic, “The Radovan Karadzic verdict.”

[7] Julian Borger, “Radovan Karadžić’s sentence for Bosnia genocide exposes continuing divisions,” March 24, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/24/radovan-karadzics-sentence-for-bosnia-genocide-exposes-continuing-divisions

[8] Denis Dzidic, “Karadzic Verdict: Mixed Reactions Reflect Divided Bosnia,” Balkan Insight, March 24, 2016, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/karadzic-verdict-mixed-reactions-reflect-divided-society-03-24-2016

[9] Julian Borger and Owen Bowcott, “’Is the tribunal not ashamed?’ Karadžić sentence angers victims,” The Guardian, March 24, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/24/radovan-karadzic-hague-tribunal-sentence-survivors-victims-reaction

[10] Borger, “Radovan Karadžić’s sentence.”

[11] Dzidic, “Karadzic Verdict.”

[12] Borger and Bowcott, “’Is the tribunal not ashamed?’ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/24/radovan-karadzic-hague-tribunal-sentence-survivors-victims-reaction

[13] On this see Colleen Murphy, The Conceptual Foundations of Transitional Justice (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).

REEEC Faculty Achievements, Fall 2015

REEEC would like to congratulate its distinguished, affiliated faculty members. The fall semester brought a few fine achievements. January’s featured faculty are Professor of History Eugene Avrutin and Professor of Agriculture Mohammad Babadoost.

Eugene Avrutin, professor of history.

Eugene Avrutin, professor of history.

Professor Avrutin was awarded the prestigious NEH fellowship for his project “The Velizh Affair: Jews and Christians in a 19th-century Russian Border Town.” The original article announcing Avrutin’s award described his project:

“Now largely forgotten, the Velizh affair (1823-35) was the longest ritual murder case in the modern world. While scholars usually attribute the charge to anti-Semitism, this study argues that tales of blood sacrifice proved remarkably contagious in the towns and villages of Eastern Europe because they resonated with contemporary popular beliefs. The proceedings of the trial thus reveal the fears and preoccupations of a population that has left no other written records.”

Prof. Babadoost receiving his Honorary Ph.D. at ASAU.

Prof. Babadoost receiving his Honorary Ph.D. at ASAU.

On 23 October, 2015, Professor Babadoost was awarded an Honorary Ph.D. diploma by the Azerbaijan State Agricultural University at Ganja, Azerbaijan. The ceremony which awarded Babadoost his diploma at ASAU was held during a large international meeting with scientists from 17 countries around the world.

Congratulations to all REEEC affiliates on their academic achievements!

A “Minute With” Richard Tempest on Vladimir Putin and his Leadership Style in the Wake of Syria

The following is a re-posting of an article written by the Illinois News Bureau about REEEC affiliated faculty Richard Tempest, professor of Slavic languages and literatures. The original posting of this article can be found by following this link.

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Richard Tempest - professor, dept. of Slavic Languages and Literatures

Richard Tempest – Professor, Dept. of Slavic Languages and Literatures

Vladimir Putin is making headlines again, this time by intervening in Syria’s civil war. At the end of September, the Russian president began a bombing campaign against rebel forces, including ISIS but also U.S.-supported groups, and has announced he is sending ground forces into the country. Some commentators have suggested his bold moves make President Obama look weak by comparison and risk a Cold War-style confrontation. Richard Tempest, a U. of I. professor of Slavic languages and literatures, sees Putin’s actions in keeping with his “cold” charisma, a style of leadership he shares with Napoleon. Tempest has written and taught extensively on both Putin and political leadership styles and is this fall teaching a course on Putin and Napoleon for the university’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. He spoke with News Bureau social sciences editor Craig Chamberlain.

So what is cold charisma and how do you see it demonstrated in Putin’s actions? Why has it made Putin so popular in Russia?

Cold charisma posits an emotional distance between the public figure and his or her audience. Also, there is an element of menace in the cold charismatic’s self-presentation. Hollywood actors provide a useful point of reference for the different types of political charisma. In the case of Putin, think Daniel Craig as James Bond. Athletic, brutal and patriotic, in other words.

Putin’s policies and public image resonated with the Russian public after the politically tumultuous and economically trying 1990s, which were presided over by an ailing and erratic Boris Yeltsin. After he became prime minister in 1999 and president in 2000, Putin displayed an unexpected – probably even to himself – ability to appeal to broad swaths of the public by projecting self-confidence, vigor and decisiveness. That is to say, he turned out to be a skillful politician.

He was able to articulate a widespread feeling of resentment among his countrymen that Russia had been taken advantage of by the West after the fall of communism. Putin’s core message, that the country has risen from its knees, continues to resonate with most Russians, despite falling living standards.

Will a leader like Obama, who you say exhibits “cool” charisma, always suffer by comparison?

Not necessarily. Think of charisma as a filter through which a given politician, in this case Obama, projects his identity and image to the U.S. public. President Kennedy was a cool charismatic, yet in his interactions with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev – who was flamboyantly brutal in his public pronouncements and actions – Kennedy was realistic and practical, an example of realpolitik in the context of the Cold War. Their relationship was in no way contingent on the poetics of Kennedy’s political appeal inside the United States.

By the same token, the stylistics of Obama’s self-presentation are primarily functional within his domestic political space. In any case, the cool quality that helped Obama win the presidency in 2008 has arguably dissipated. Putin and Obama are working to advance their respective foreign policy agendas rather than engaging in a charisma contest.

Putin’s moves in Syria, similar to his moves last year in Ukraine, have raised fears about broader Russian aggression. Your course compares Putin to Napoleon, who conquered much of Europe two centuries ago. How do you read Putin’s motives? And how dangerous can he be?

Putin is a rational actor within his own set of assumptions, which may not be adequate to the facts on the ground. I’m reminded of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s alleged comment that he lives in his own world. Also, he is an able tactician but not a strategic thinker. For instance, the annexation of the Crimea last year boosted Putin’s domestic popularity to unprecedented heights but weakened Russia’s position internationally and compounded its economic problems.

Like any politician, the Russian president is motivated by a range of considerations. He has framed his Syrian gambit or gamble as being in Russia’s national interest, while using it to put pressure on the United States and its allies and to maintain his political support at home, particularly following the inconclusive results of the intervention in eastern Ukraine.

The personality-based character of the Putin administration was summed up by Vyacheslav Volodin, his deputy chief of staff, who last October declared that “there is no Russia today if there is no Putin.” These are worrying words. In my OLLI course, I compare the Russian president to Napoleon mostly in terms of their charismatic self-presentation. Putin is not a would-be world conqueror. He does see himself, however, as the leader of a great power that is laying claim to its own sphere of influence while challenging the perceived imposition of power by the U.S. In Putin’s book, geopolitics is a zero-sum game.

The danger lies in the volatility of the Syrian situation, with multiple local and external, nonstate and state actors generating a plethora of military variables. These may produce an unexpected clash of arms between, say, Russia and Turkey, a NATO member – note the recent incursion into that country’s air space by a Russian military aircraft, which was intercepted by Turkish F-16s. It would take just a twitch of a pilot’s thumb on the fire button to escalate tensions to the level of a shooting war.

REEEC Affiliated faculty Prof. Mohammad Babadoost on the Likely Canned Pumpkin Shortage

Professor Mohammad Babadoost

Professor Mohammad Babadoost

On 7 October 2015, REEEC affiliated faculty member and Professor of Crop Sciences Mohammad Babadoost was interviewed by The Associated Press on a possible shortage of pumpkin before this year’s Thanksgiving. Professor Babadoost’s primary disciplines within the field of crop sciences are plant pathology and plant protection. Last year Babadoost, along with Dr. Prasanta Kalita, was awarded the Sheth Distinguished Faculty Award for International Achievement.  He also gave a REEEC Noontime Scholars Lecture on the topic of social transition and agricultural potential in the Caucasus and Central Asian region.

The following is a re-posting of the original article which was posted to Huffington Post and can be found at this link.

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There should be enough pumpkins for Halloween this year, but that might not be the case for the canned pumpkin used in pies come Thanksgiving, according to crop experts in Illinois, the country’s top pumpkin-producing state.

“I would not wait until Nov. 20,” University of Illinois professor Mohammad Babadoost said, referencing the Nov. 26 holiday. “I’d buy it whenever it comes to the store.”

Large canned-pumpkin manufacturer Libby says yields could be off by as much as a third this year in Illinois, where about 90 percent of the pumpkins grown in the U.S. come from within a 90-mile radius of Peoria.

Libby’s corporate and brand affairs director Roz O’Hearn said the company, which has had a central Illinois pumpkin-processing plant since 1929, is confident it will have enough pumpkin for autumn holidays.

But, she said, “once we ship the remainder of the 2015 harvest, we’ll have no more Libby’s pumpkin to sell until harvest 2016.”

Farmers are blaming record rainfall in June for washing out the crop.

Jane Moran, who owns Moran’s Orchard in Neoga, said they replanted washed out pumpkin crops and then it rained more so they’re buying pumpkins at auction twice a week.

“When you deal with Mother Nature, you just have to take it and go on,” Moran said.

Earlier this year, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation making pumpkin pie the official state pie of Illinois.

Faculty Highlight — Roman Ivashkiv

Dr. Roman Ivashkiv

Dr. Roman Ivashkiv

REEEC is glad to welcome Roman Ivashkiv, Lecturer and Language Program Coordinator in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures.  He received a B.A. and M.A. in English Linguistics and Translation Studies from the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, an M.A. in Russian and Comparative Literature from Pennsylvania State University, and a Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures from the University of Alberta.

Dr. Ivashkiv’s doctoral dissertation explored the concept of transmesis (a portmanteau of “translation” and “mimesis”) which, in his words, “stands for the representation in fiction of translation, both as a process and a product, as well as for the portrayal of the figure of the translator in a fictional text.” In his dissertation, Dr. Ivashkiv looked at three contemporary postmodern novels – all of which feature the theme of translation – in their original Ukrainian and Russian and in English translation: Yuri Andrukhovych’s Perverziia (translated by Michael Naydan), Serhiy Zhadan’s Depesh Mod (translated by Myroslav Shkandrij), and Viktor Pelevin’s Generation “П(translated by Andrew Bromfield).

According to Dr. Ivashkiv, looking at these works in translation raises questions of untranslatability: “How do translators render transmetic episodes in novels into English while operating from the position of ‘retranslating,’ or translating what allegedly already is a translation?”  To explain the problem, he uses the example of Pelevin’s GenerationП.  From a translation perspective, even the title is challenging: “Generation” is already in English in the Russian title, and translating “П” as “‘P’” doesn’t quite do it justice, particularly in light of the fact that the novel is about translation.  GenerationПis written primarily in Russian, but it contains many instances of English usage – how can such instances be translated into English?  For the translator, conveying a multilingual mode is a problem.

In addition to translation studies, Dr. Ivashkiv’s research interests include postmodern and comparative literature, literary theory, and second language acquisition.  He has more than 10 years of language teaching experience, in various countries and contexts.  At the University of Alberta, he taught Ukrainian, Ukrainian Culture, and English as a Second Language.  In addition to coordinating the Slavic Language Program, he is currently teaching first- and second-year Ukrainian (UKR 101 and 201), an advanced Russian language course for graduate students (RUSS 501), and a Slavic languages pedagogy seminar (SLAV 591).

Matthew McWilliams is a REEES M.A. student and a FLAS Fellow for the 2015-16 academic year for the study of Russian.

Visiting Scholar Highlight – Paskal Zhelev

Dr. Paskal Zhelev

Dr. Paskal Zhelev

REEEC welcomes Dr. Paskal Zhelev, a visiting scholar from the University of National and World Economy in Sofia, Bulgaria.  He received a Fulbright research grant to study at the University of Illinois through the fall semester.  His research interests include industrial policy, international competitiveness, foreign trade relations, and European economic integration.  He has published extensively on Bulgarian industrial competitiveness and the effects of Bulgaria’s European Union accession, and has participated in many state- and EU-funded research projects on related topics.

Dr. Zhelev received his Ph.D. in International Economic Relations at the University of National and World Economy in 2009.  His thesis topic was “European Integration and Export Specialization (on the Example of Bulgaria’s Integration with the EU).”  It assesses Bulgaria’s competitiveness in the European division of labor, and provides policy recommendations for the improvement of Bulgaria’s position.  During his doctoral studies, he received an Erasmus grant and an Ernst Mach grant, which enabled him to study at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Warsaw and the European Institute at Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration, respectively.

He is currently a senior assistant professor at the University of National and World Economy, where he has been teaching since 2009.  He has taught courses on “International Economics,” “European Integration,” “Contemporary Issues in the Global Economy,” and “Bulgaria in the Global Economy,” among others.  Dr. Zhelev is a member of the Commission on Industrial Policy at the Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association, the Union of Economists in Bulgaria, and the Association of Lecturers in Economics and Management of Industry.  He initiated the University of National and World Economy’s membership in the Virtual Institute of the United Nations Conference of Trade and Development, and serves as a core coordinator.

Dr. Zhelev’s Fulbright research topic is entitled “The Manufacturing Imperative: New Trends in the Industrial Policies of the USA and EU, and Implications for Bulgaria.”    The project, which builds on the extensive research undertaken for his Ph.D. thesis, has been in development for over a year; it has already resulted in some publications, as well as new contacts with NGOs.

At the beginning of the 1990s, Bulgaria went from one economic extreme to another: from a heavily planned economy to a post-communist laissez-faire approach to economic development.  The transition to a market economy proved to be a difficult process, particularly because it was accompanied by severe deindustrialization.  Despite the extremely negative social and economic effects of deindustrialization, the Bulgarian government – adhering closely to the neoliberal prescriptions of the “Washington consensus” – did not develop any industrial policy to counteract this process in the first decade of transition.  According to Dr. Zhelev, everything connected with state control of the economy was considered a regression to the old days.  In addition to this taboo against government intervention, there are certain economic constraints associated with EU membership – for example, EU member states governments cannot set tariffs, or limit the outflow and inflow of capital and people.  Furthermore, because we are now in the era of globalization, it is difficult or impossible to implement some of the successful industrial policies from the past (e.g. those of East Asian countries).

A major economic problem for Bulgaria is that the transition has led to a huge deterioration of the trade specialization of the country, which is still predominantly specialized in labor-intensive and raw material-intensive goods, rather than research-intensive goods. The discrepancy between Bulgaria and the more prosperous EU nations in terms of production and export structure is reflected in its comparatively low standard of living (measured in terms of GDP per capita).  Despite the fact that Bulgaria began its European integration process in the 1990s and has been a full EU member since 2007 – which many believed would be the silver bullet – it is still by far the poorest country in the EU.  Additionally, Bulgaria is in a demographic crisis: partly due to access to more affluent markets in the EU, the country has experienced a huge “brain drain” in recent years.

For Dr. Zhelev, the question is one of finding ways to strengthen Bulgaria’s economic position in the EU, and therefore – by improving Bulgaria’s international competitiveness – to improve the standard of living of the population.  The ultimate objective of his project is to provide insights on industrial policies that could be implemented in Bulgaria for successful reindustrialization (and accordingly, economic growth).  One of his goals is to undertake a comprehensive appraisal of the current trends in conducting industrial policies in the USA and the EU, and subsequently to find applications for Bulgaria.  He believes that results based on research conducted in the United States (which has the world’s largest economy), particularly on a topic susceptible to ideological opposition, are more likely to be adopted by the Bulgarian government.

Matthew McWilliams is a REEES M.A. student and a FLAS Fellow for the 2015-16 academic year for the study of Russian.