The First Day of Classes at the Haniel Spring School

by: Theresa Herrmann

Monday, May 20, 2013

As you could read before, over the weekend we already had the opportunity to get an impression of Novosibirsk and to meet our Russian colleagues. Now on Monday morning it was time for the official opening of the Haniel Spring School and our first day of classes.

We gathered at 10 a.m. in the small conference room of the Faculty of Economics and were welcomed with warm words by the Rector of Novosibirsk State University, the Dean and the Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Economics, and the representatives of the International Relations Office. Repeatedly, we heard apologies and jokes about the rainy Siberian weather, but we were reminded that this weather would be ideal for studying purposes. We were also greeted by representatives from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Russia, and finally our Managing Director, Silke Adamitza, and our Director, Professor Dr. Florian Hoffmann, spoke.

Professor Hoffmann held the keynote speech of the opening session, on “The Effects of Center-Local Relationships on Public Policy.” He gave us a concise overview about center-periphery and federalism, and in particular, he introduced some questions one can ask when analyzing them. His speech served as a useful introduction to the topic for our Russian colleagues, who had not attended the two previous lectures in Erfurt, and gave all of us food for thought for our group work.

After the lecture, Professor Hoffmann and Ms. Adamitza had lunch with the faculty members, while the Russian students accompanied us. One group of students went to the university restaurant, while another one went to a local restaurant with a lunch menu where we had an excellent Russian lunch and learned our first few words in Russian.

Right after lunch we returned to the university to attend the afternoon lecture by Dr. Natalia Zubarevich from Moscow State University. Dr. Zubarevich is an expert in socio-economic development of regions as well as social and political geography. Her lecture on “Four Russias and Regional Development” was co-organized by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Russia as an open lecture. Besides our group, it was also attended by other students and lecturers. Dr. Zubarevich lectured in Russian and we heard the English translation through headphones. In a previous session, we had already read an article by Dr. Zubarevich, which introduced us to her concept of the four Russias.

Dr. Zubarevich argues that some peculiarities of Russian urbanization – few large cities, large distances, and artificially created industrial cities – have resulted in a particular social differentiation in space, the ‘four Russias.’ We can recognize a center-periphery model in this concept. Russia-1 is made up of the big (post-industrial) cities, most prominently but not exclusively Moscow and St. Petersburg. It contains the most progressive part of the Russian population and enjoys considerable agglomeration effects. Russia-2 consists of the medium-sized industrial cities and their blue-collar worker populations. Russia-3 refers to the rural and semi-urban populations. Finally, Russia-4 refers to the underdeveloped republics of northern Caucasus and southern Siberia.

After the open lecture, Dr. Zubarevich was available for a question-and-answer session/ discussion session with the participants of the Haniel Spring School. When I asked about a future outlook – convergence or divergence between the four Russias – she answered that there has been further differentiation after the economic crisis. Currently, Russia-1 is slowing down while Russia-2 is catching up; although it is not clear whether this is a short-term fluctuation or a long-term trend. While Russia-1 stands for change (political change as well), Russia-2 continues to stand for stability. Dr. Zubarevich reminded us that similar sub-divisions exist not just in Russia, but particularly in developing countries in general. She also asked Professor Hoffmann for a comparison with Eastern Germany and he elaborated on intra-state center-periphery gaps that have widened since reunification.

All in all, this first day of classes has given us a solid introduction to center-periphery models, especially in the Russian context. It spurred our thinking about possible questions and topics for our group work.

Finally, there was an information session for the students from Novosibirsk State University about the Willy Brandt School and the University of Erfurt, co-organized with Uni Erfurt’s International Office. Some of our group joined the session to inspire the Russian students to study in Erfurt and to answer their questions. Hopefully, the cooperation between Novosibirsk State University and Erfurt University will develop and endure. After the warm welcome we have enjoyed in Akademgorodok, we would especially like to welcome and host our Russian counterparts of the Spring School in Erfurt in the future.

Meanwhile, our Russian colleagues recommended a café/bar to us and after all the input of the day, Professor Hoffmann invited us for drinks and we ended the evening on a cozy note. The café was located in a basement, had the atmosphere of a living-room, and we sat together enjoying our cocktails and conversations.