Research Program for the Federal Institute for Culture and History of the Germans in Eastern Europe (BKGE)
The BKGE is a Federal Institute with research and development assignments in the portfolio of the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BM) and a research institute affiliated to the Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg. In the area of § 96 of the German Law on Displaced Ethnic Germans and Refugees (BVFG), it is the sole organisation to have a scientifically-based consultation and service contract with the Federal Government. Within the range of activities undertaken by a departamental institute, primary activities include service provision, the undertaking of tasks for government and the community, as well as academic research. This also applies to the activities of the Federal Institute for Culture and History of the Germans in Eastern Europe.
Therefore, the research program presented here relates to the specific requirements for academic work within a departamental institute for the purpose of scientifically-based policy advice.
B. Research Guidelines
The topics and content withinthe historical and cultural-historical research of Central Eastern Europe have developed dramatically over the past two decades. New forms of collaboration and exchange have been created. Views of history handed down over generations have been revised, ethnocentric points of view ("Eastern research") have to a large extentbeen overcome, and new methodological concepts of transculturalism have been applied. Likewise, the writing of regional history and the consideration of cultural interrelationships have gained in importance, as has the research of totalitarian regimes, together with the scientific consideration of collective memory and national constructions of history.
The BKGE's research projects are set up so that the Institute's networking in the scientific community can be further strengthened. Current academic discussions and methodological approaches are applied to each specific area of research. These discussions and approaches are also developed further within epochal and regional aspects as well as in the area of content in coherence with the broader consultancy contract for the Federal Government. In this way, individual initiatives are proposed by BKGE members of staff, or in response to suggestions from the scientific community and from the Academic Advisory Council [Wissenschaftlicher Beirat], which gives ongoing support to the Institute and its work.
Criteria for the generation of new themes:
The combination of the Institute's various activities and projects results in a balanced distribution across the areas of policy advice, political and social service provision, maintenance of information, as well as research. Each new or proposed topic is examined as to how it would contribute to the principles and overall plan of the BKGE. As a consequence, the research program is continually updated and adjusted.
Criteria for the generation of research themes include: scientific relevance; relevance for consultation advice; cultural-political and social topicality; and mutual cohesion and complementarity.
Furthermore, these criteria include long, mediumand short-term research plans that are particularly oriented towardsan investigative framework of a modern interpretation of regional history (area studies), contemporary investigation of experiences under dictatorships and (forced) migration, as well as collective memory and memorial culture. Research priorities are then accordingly determined in line with the overall plan for the BKGE.
The prospective provision of information pools (preliminary research) and documentation sources, as well as the development of sources and archives, are also amongst the BKGE's integral tasks.
C. Research Program 2012-2014
- 1. Provision of up-to-date information
Recording and processing information about the culture and history of Eastern Europe is one of the core activities for the BKGE, and it is essential for the provision of policy advice as well as scientific networking for the BKGE. The BKGE has to be in a position to provide competent and neutral advice at short notice, so that political powers can react promptly to questions on current issues. The BKGE is able to meet this challenge by a constant provision of information to academic institutions, publications, to ongoing projects in the field of § 96 BVFG, and to methodological discussions etc. This area of work, which includes all members of staff, can appropriately be classified within the area of preliminary research, as it is organised with a view to future developments in politics, society and academic investigation.
The results of these investigations of general academic interest are made accessible to the scientific community.
The BKGE publishes annotations within its Yearbook and on its internet site www.recensio.net. These annotations supply a range of bibliographical information. The purpose of these annotations is to record and provide a commentary on new academic publications dealing with Central Eastern Europe from an international network of researchers.
- 2. Documentation
Academic documentation forms an important component in the advisory and support services provided by the BKGE. The documentation includes specific topics that are of particular social significance and current political relevance. It is also intended to be an aid in the identification of priorities with regard to certain political commitments and funding.
- 3. Development of archival collections
The development of archives and indexing of sources is one area of core research where the BKGE has particularly distinguished itself. This long-term project, which is carried out through national and international collaboration, was initiated at the suggestion of and with the support of collaboration partners within and outside of Germany. (Collaboration has been established with the management of the Polish State Archive, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the General Directorate of the Romanian National Archive, and others). The BKGE coordinates and publishes its findings in the form of summaries of its archives and archive holdings.
- 4. Online-Lexicon "Culture and History of Germans in Eastern Europe"
After a period of conceptual planning and preparation, the BKGE began work in 2011, in collaboration with the Carl von Ossietzky University, Oldenburg, on an online lexicon. The lexicon provides reliable information about countries, regions, places, topics and concepts associated with the culture and history of Germans in Eastern Europe, and it is openly accessible via the Internet. The authors were selected through close cooperation and networking with national and international partners.
- 5. Regional History (Area Studies)
The central focusof the BKGE's activities is on regions in Eastern Europe where Germans have lived alongside citizens of other nationalities and cultures. These are regions where historically the Germans and other nationalities developed together, and as each cultural group grew, they influenced the others' development. The regions include areas of the former German Reich to the East of the Oder and LausitzerNeißerivers, as well as settlement areas in Eastern-Central, South-Eastern Europe and Eastern Europe. The BKGE's research, which is based oncurrent questions of scientific discourse, has as its aim not only to build knowledge and improve general understanding but also to promote professional exchange with research institutions and groups in those local areas who are concerned with the history and culture of these regions.
Knowledge about the current scientific research status and about the structure of the research landscape in Eastern Europe (institutes, museums, archives and libraries etc), as well as intercultural competencies, are each indispensible prerequisites for any qualified policy advice that the BKGE might produce.