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WORKSHOP: In:Security in Border Regions

June 8, 2023 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm UTC+0

Picture: Abandoned Border (c) pixabay/ Tama66

Organisation: Nadja Douglas and Sabine von Löwis

As a result of the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and ensuing global political events, security perceptions and discourses have changed, notably in those regions that border or are in close proximity to the Russian Federation. Security concepts, orders and visions have become even more contested today. Yet, in times where hard security themes and state centrism are once again on the rise, we want to look beyond and provide room for the discussion of lay understandings of security “from below”. This implies paying particular attention to ordinary people’s perceptions of security and insecurity and the changes in respective security discouses. Thus, this workshop endeavours to bring together experts from academia and think tanks with practioners from civil society on the ground. The theoretical basis, also in view of an envisioned future publication, will consist of a combination of border and critical/vernacular security studies. We will approach the topic, however, in a policy-oriented manner.

The workshop will focus on the following guiding questions:

  • How have perceptions of borders/neighbourhood changed since February 24, 2022?
  • How have border regions changed materially (in terms of border control/management, militarisation etc.)? And how has this affected border crossing practices?
  • Which new insecurities and threats have emerged and exacerbated ever since? What role do parallel dynamics, as international migration, extraordinary measures in the context of the pandemic or trade restrictions/embargos play?
  • What new needs, demands and expectations in relation to security exist among different actor groups (contrasting perspectives of state, experts/think tanks, civil society/ordinary people)? Which role do borders take in changing discourses with regard to in:security?


Read Workshop Report



09:00 – 09:45   Joint breakfast

 09:45 – 10:00  Welcoming address

Gwendolyn Sasse, Director ZOiS Berlin

Introductory remarks

Nadja Douglas and Sabine von Löwis, ZOiS


10.00 – 11.15 Panel I: New Nordic in:security

Inputs by

Weronika Grzebalska, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw

Joni Virkkunen, Karelian Institute, University of Eastern Finland

Neringa Bladaitė, Vilnius University

Chair: Nadja Douglas, ZOiS


11.15 – 11.30  Short break


11.30  – 12.45

Panel II:  At the current European centre of war and conflict

Inputs by

Yulia Kurnyshova, Research Centre for East European Studies, Bremen/Kiev

Andrei Kazakevich, Institute of Political Studies “Political Sphere”, Vilnius/Minsk

Inna Șupac, Academy of International Affairs NRW, Bonn/ Chișinău

Chair: Sabine von Löwis, ZOiS


12.45 – 13.45  Lunch

13.45 – 15:00 Panel III: Security gaps in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

Inputs by

Svetlana Dzardanova, Freedom for Eurasia, Bishkek (online participation)

Asbed Kotchikian, American University of Armenia, Yerevan (online participation)

Kornely Kakachia, Ivane Javakishvili Tbilisi State University, Tbilisi

Chair: Beril Ocaklı, ZOiS


15:00 – 15:30 Concluding remarks and exchange about publication plans

Sabine von Löwis and Nadja Douglas, ZOiS


15:30 – 16:00  Coffee and informal talks



The Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has strongly affected security perceptions and discourses around the world. To look beyond the main themes of current policy debates such as hard security and state centrism, ZOiS conducted a workshop on the changes in security perceptions of ordinary people and civil society in regions that border or are in close to the proximity to the Russian Federation. Focusing on these understandings of security “from below”, the workshop brought together a diverse set of experts on border studies, international relations, and (critical) security studies from various countries around Russia. In three panels, the experts examined changes in security perceptions in Russia’s northern, western, and eastern neighbourhoods. One main takeaway from the discussions was the enormous diversity of discourses and perceptions in different countries shaped by their histories, societies, and locations, which puts into question the notion of Eastern Europe as one homogeneous geopolitical region. Another recurring theme was the question of how societal cohesion is affected by and affects diverse kinds of in:securities, such as democratic, cultural, energy or food security. In this context, the insecurities and fears created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine – which for many neighbouring states started in 2014, not 2022 – have both polarised and united societies. The dramatic images of the Ukrainian society under attack have also brought to the surface a lot of very practical questions on border security and migration as well as what citizens should do in case of an actual attack on their country. Finally, growing insecurities have also led to the rise of asymmetric actors such as paramilitary organizations in the region. While the invasion has thus certainly impacted the security perceptions and discourses in all societies bordering Russia, these effects are complex and diverse. The workshop served as a kick-off for a sequence of workshops and publications, which will address the various dimensions of security and insecurity in the region.

Impressions from Workshop “In:Security in Border Regions” at ZOiS, 2023 (c) Philipp Zimmermann/ ZOiS


Impressions from Workshop “In:Security in Border Regions” at ZOiS, 2023 (c) Philipp Zimmermann/ ZOiS


June 8, 2023
10:00 am - 5:00 pm UTC+0
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ZOiS, Berlin
Mohrenstr. 60
Berlin, 10117 Germany
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