Completed projects

CASCADE – Exploring the Security-Democracy Nexus in the Caucasus Show content


Project leader: 
Fondation Maison des Sciences de l'Homme (FMSH), Paris
Scientific coordination: Dr. Laure Delcour, FMSH

Project members:
Dr. Florian Mülfrid
Weronika Zmiejewski, PhD student
Tamar Khutsishvili, PhD student

Student assistant:
Annika Jooß

EU FP7 "Security and Democracy in the Neighbourhood: The Case of the Caucasus

Project description:
The project will de-compartmentalize research on the Caucasus by exploring linkages between societal challenges, political developments and conflicts and investigating the interactions between the North and South Caucasus, as well as between the Caucasus and its wider neighborhood. On the basis of a strong comparative and interdisciplinary approach, CASCADE will seek to provide a more accurate understanding of how democracy and security are perceived, understood, experienced and exploited as political and social resources by Caucasus actors and other actors involved in the region. Drawing upon extensive fieldwork in the North and South Caucasus, including in the conflict areas and de facto States, CASCADE will generate a wealth of empirical data as well as new and important insights into security and democracy in the Caucasus. The project’s outcomes will also be largely policy-driven and CASCADE’s impact will be considerable in terms of shaping EU policy toward the Caucasus. The project will act as a knowledge hub to spur debate and bring together academic and policy communities from Europe and the Caucasus.

Transformations of Sacred Spaces, Pilgrimages and Conceptions of Hybridity in the Post-Soviet Caucasus Show content


Project leader: 
Prof. Dr. Kevin Tuite

Project member:
Dr. Tsypylma Darieva

Student assistent:
Michael Stürmer

Volkswagen Stiftung (01.02.2013–31.07.2016)

Project description:
The focus of the research project was the role played by sacred sites in the construction and maintenance of social networks, and their function as social nodes, where connections are negotiated, forged, enacted and reinforced; but also contested, ruptured and erased. The prominence of shrines and sacred places all over the Caucasus, including North and South, transcending the nominal religious boundaries of Christianity and Islam creates a social sphere of interrelated spaces. As a consequence, the investigation of regimes related to shrines such as offerings or pilgrimages may provide a corrective to a stereotypical image of the Caucasus as primarily a region of conflict.

Based on anthropological and ethno-historical methods, the purpose of the project was to undertake a multi-sited long term investigation and comparative analysis of sacred sites - shrines, churches, mosques, graves, trees, springs, and other types of pilgrimage sites - in the contemporary North and South Caucasus. The six research teams cover different regions in the Caucasus and cooperate closely with local colleagues and experts. The geographical spectrum of selected sites covers both lowland and mountain areas in Armenia, Georgia, Russian Federation and Azerbaijan. Given the growing urbanization and migration process, we have included a set of sacred sites located in smaller and larger urban centers.

Sacred spaces under investigation are defined as ziyara (Arabic for place of pilgrimage), pir (Persian synonym), salotsavi, xat'i (Georgian), matur, surb (Armenian) svyatie mesta, svyatilisha (Russian). A preliminary typology of sacred places divides them into the following types: 'Traditional' shrines, many of which are associated with medieval religious figures and missionaries venerated as saints in Islam and Christianity (Daghestan, Georgia, Armenia); shrines and natural places, landscapes and objects related to local heroes and events (health, death and regeneration rituals, national celebrities) in Georgia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Armenia, Daghestan; and newly emerged or re-established pilgrimage centers and holy places (shrines of 19-20th centuries Sufi sheikhs in Daghestan, oligarch churches and monuments in Armenia, sacred sites of diasporic importance).

Not all sacred sites under study are shared by different confessions, in some areas like Daghestan and Armenia religious landscapes are more homogenous. In North-West Caucasus however sacred spaces are more mosaic and hybrid in terms of their confessional belonging. For example, the Choana-Church in Karachay-Cherkessia is shared by Russian-orthodox Ossetians, Pontic Greeks and Karachay Muslims.

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