»Mein Aufbruch fand vor 4 Jahren statt, als ich aus dem Schwabenland nach Jena kam. Geprägt von westdeutscher Überheblichkeit kam ich zwar aufgeschlossen, aber doch überrascht über den angenehmen zwischenmenschlichen Umgang hier an. Jetzt gefällt es mir hier so gut, dass ich fast gar nicht mehr wegwill … einzig die Entfernung zur Familie könnte mich zu einem erneuten Aufbruch zurück in den Westen bewegen.«

Anonym from Jena / Winzerla, born 1986 in Waiblingen, BRD

Jena boasts an excellent scientific landscape and is an internationally renowned centre for transformational research. The Friedrich-Schiller University of Jena and a number of other research institutions have long concerned themselves with the effects and experiences of upheaval – in the past, but also in the present and future. In this, the city of Jena has distinguished itself through its outstanding network throughout central and eastern Europe and the close connection between science, business and civil society.

The purpose of the Zukunftszentrum – Centre for German Unity and European Transformation is to “carry out interdisciplinary research of transformation processes in Germany and central and eastern Europe and organise the exchange of ideas with the broader public.” Jena is exceptionally suitable for this, as scientific research in Jena is shaped by its close connection to the urban community. Students, teachers and researchers from all over the world come to Jena, working closely with partners from politics, civil society, culture and business. Scientific-artistic symposia take place regularly, in which the university and JenaKultur work together to bring scientific topics to the broader public. In this way, the wider public is brought into contact with burning societal questions through artistic means. 

With the Friedrich-Schiller University of Jena and its partners, Jena is already an internationally renowned and interdisciplinary-oriented centre for transformation research. The experiences and effects before and, especially, after 1989/90 in East Germany and the countries of eastern Europe are an important area of focus here, as demonstrated by the example below, among others:

A strong connection to the contemporary world is also a feature of transformation research in Jena: To what extent to experiences of upheaval in the past determine our handling of current transformation processes? The research focuses on international comparisons of changes in word, the societal challenges of climate change and social-ecological restructuring, the changes in business, work and society through digitalisation, but also the strengthening of right-wing populism. Social movements in search of alternatives for western production methods and lifestyle are as much objects of research in Jena as the opportunities and challenges of the bio-economy.

Fassade des Zentrums Solidarność in Gdansk
The European Solidarność Center in Gdańsk (@Stadt Jena, photo: Tilo Schieck)

Middle and Eastern Europe: Exceptional Networks

Jena is a centre for research on central and eastern Europe. With the Imre Kertész College, the Friedrich-Schiller University of Jena boasts an “Institute of Advanced Studies” which has built up a network unique in Germany since its founding in 2010. The fellowship programme, which is now networked with more than 100 scientists and their institutions, reaches from eastern central Europe, through south-eastern Europe to the post-Soviet world. Within this network, research institutions, memorial spaces and museums are in constant contact regarding the recent history and contemporary situation in eastern Europe. These include:

  • Vienna
    • Institut für die Wissenschaft vom Menschen/IWM (Dr. Ivan Krastev; Prof. Dr. Timothy Snyder)
  • Budapest
    • CEU Democracy Institute (Prof. Dr. Balázs Trencsényi; Prof. Dr. Renáta Uitz)
    • Ungarische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Historisches Institut (Dr. Sándor Horváth)
  • Bukarest
    • Universität Bukarest, Historische Fakultät (Prof. Dr. Bogdan Murgescu)
  • Belgrad
    • Universität Belgrad, Philosophische Fakultät (Prof. Dr. Radina Vučetić)
  • Sarajevo
    • Universität Sarajevo, Philosophische Fakultät (Prof. Dr. Husnia Kamberović)
    • Historijski Muzej Bosne i Hercegovine (Dr. Elma Hasimbegović)
  • Sofia
    • Center for Advanced Studies (Prof. Dr. Diana Mishkova)
  • Moscow/Jena
    • Menschenrechtsgesellschaft „Memorial“ (Dr. Irina Scherbakowa)

Furthermore, Jena boasts a strong, vibrant Erasmus partnership with all of the countries of eastern Europe. The Friedrich-Schiller University of Jena is also a co-founder of the EC2U, a European university alliance recently joined by the University of Lviv. Contacts with civil society developed by the bid team, for example, in dialogue with trade unions or eastern European football fans, also play an important roll.

More about the Imre-Kertesz College
More about EC2U