Dr. Tatiana Golova and Prof. Dr. Gwendolyn Sasse

Eastern Europe is Here: Transnational Linkages among East European Migrants in Berlin

Dr. Tatiana Golova and Prof. Dr. Gwendolyn Sasse

Eastern Europe is Here: Transnational Linkages among East European Migrants in Berlin

This project was followed by the project Post-Soviet Migrants and Transnational Public Spheres on Social Media


Project description

The starting point for this project, which began in October 2016, are three current developments in German and European politics:

1. The foreign and domestic policy resonance of the alleged rape of a female ethnic German immigrant from Russia has drawn attention to this group of migrants. The group is socially heterogeneous and frequently overlooked in debates about migrants, yet it is of significance, numerically and politically, for both Germany and Russia. It has a lived experience of transnationalism between these two countries and has relevance for the Russian regime.

2. The Brexit referendum in Britain has demonstrated that certain political conditions can promote a political, media and social mobilisation against a group of immigrants. In the case of the UK it was against Poles, as the largest group of immigrants over the past 10 years. Lessons can be learned from the Brexit episode, as it reveals how quickly – in the absence of balanced and nuanced analysis and reporting – these conditions can be instrumentalised for political purposes, challenging the political values and social foundations of a country long accustomed to immigration.

3. Recent developments in Turkey have mobilised migrants and citizens of Turkish background in Berlin and elsewhere, revealing political and other “cleavages”.

The project is informed by the transnationalism debate being conducted in the field of migration research in the social sciences. The simultaneous nature of the interrelationships in the direction of the original homeland and between it and the country of emigration has been emphasised in more recent research. Migrants are frequently analysed from an overly homogenising perspective. The realities of socially diverse individuals and sub-groups is inadequately empirically researched.

More detailed analysis is required, for example, on the question of how migrants process political events and crises in their country of origin and their “imagined homeland”, and how these processes are filtered by personal networks and hybridised media use in the national and transnational context. The self- and external classification of a “group” of migrants under an ethnic banner and their relationships with migrants of other “groups” and mainstream society are also analysed.

The empirical pilot study uses a combination of methods to investigate these issues. First, focus groups and interviews were conducted with Russian-speaking, Ukrainian and Polish migrants in Berlin. Both qualitative methods concentrated on issues relating to personal networks and media use in a national and transnational context. In particular, the narrative interviews contextualised these issues in relation to the individual’s migration backstory. As a second step, interviews were conducted with experts who themselves have a relevant migration background and are active in various associations and parties. These interviews are an important source for the analysis of the potential for self-organisation and politicisation. The third part of the project, conducted by Tatiana Golova, looks at Russian-speaking migrants’ use of social media in daily life. Here, the project focuses mainly on the analysis of interaction via VK.com, a Russian social networking site (SNS). It also looks at how groups and public pages connected to Russian-speaking migrants in Germany interact with other collective resources in Germany, Russia and the rest of the post-Soviet space. The lead question in this part of the project – how and to what extent transnational and, where relevant, politicised Russian-German public spheres are constructed – has gained relevance, particularly since the 2017 Bundestag elections, when attempts were made by right-wing populists to mobilise ethnic German immigrants from Russia.

Heads of project

[Translate to Englisch:]
Einstein Professor for the Comparative Study of Democracy and Authoritarianism at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin