HSE St. Petersburg: Cooperation with German Universities in History Studies

Department of History at HSE St. Petersburg is focusing on a global, comparative and transnational approach to historical studies, and cooperates with several European and American research centers. One of its primary partners is German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), which sponsors a position of an Associate Professor for a German scholar, and Dietmar Wulff, the current resident, told The HSE Look about his three years at the department and plans for the future.

— What does the position of DAAD long-term Associate Professor (DAAD Langzeitdozentur) imply? Is this post awarded to a researcher or to the department which then invites a scholar with relevant qualifications?

— These positions are a special programme of DAAD, and such a position is established if a foreign University invites a professor, researcher, or lecturer from Germany as an associate professor. DAAD associate professorships exist all over the world, and there are two in Russia at the moment:  in Kazan and at the Department of History at HSE St.Petersburg. Typically the position is awarded for three-five years, and I am finishing now my third year here in St. Petersburg, and hopefully I will have two more.

— What is your area of research? Is it related to Russia in any way?

— I am interested in civil society institutes in their historical development, and I am working on several projects at the moment. One of them is “The History of Russian Yacht Clubs”, and the other is focused on history of Russian-German relations in 18th and 19thcenturies. My projects are, of course, related to the department’s research areas, in particular to “Global and Transnational History”. I am highly interested in international relations, especially in studying   various exchangesand relationships between Russia and Germany, but not in the traditional approach of interstate agreements and conflicts. 

— As far as I know, the Department of History holds international summer schools at HSE and field trips to Germany. What is your part in this?

— It was initially my idea to hold the summer school “The Topography of Imperial Power: The Political and Cultural Space of Saint Petersburg”. Building stronger academic ties between Russia and Germany is one of the tasks of DAAD Associate Professor, so I am really invested in these initiatives. Students’ mobility is important for getting a deeper understanding of the culture and getting a fresh academic perspective. Students from German universities come to St. Petersburg for three weeks and get to know HSE and the opportunities it has to offer. We try to involve Russian students into the summer school as much as we can, too, so as to make the discussions and cultural explorations more interesting. Similarly, we take HSE students abroad –during the summer colleagues from the Department together with fifteen students went to Bonn University and Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, to participate in workshops and to give the students a better understanding of the German university system.  

— Are there any other activities besides student mobility which strengthen the relationship between Russian and German academic communities?

— Certainly, and there’s been quite many successes. At the Department of History we have focused on including the topics of German history and Russian-German relations into both curriculum and research. There’s been a greater number of students taking German as their second language at HSE St. Petersburg, and we’ve also managed to secure a position for a German language assistant through DAAD. In addition, this fall we will be welcoming a visiting colleague who will help us hold classes on Digital Humanities. 

Read more articles in The HSE Look October 2017 issue