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Human Geography of Post-Socialist Mountain Regions

Call for Papers. Deadline: May 31, 2015, (abstract); October, 2015 (articles).
Responsible: Matthias Schmidt, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany.

Context

The political situation during the so-called Cold War divided alpine and mountain research into at least two sections. From a Western perspective, knowledge about the mountains located behind the iron curtain was very limited as a consequence of accessibility difficulties and the fact that studies conducted by colleagues from socialist countries were rarely available, written in a non-Western language or just ignored. With the 1989/91 transformation, the numerous Eurasian mountain ranges, such as the Slovenian Alps, High Tatra, Carpathians, Ural, Caucasus, Altai, Tian Shan, Pamir, Changai, Kamchatka, or the Truong Son in South East Asia came into focus and raised the awareness of the international scientific community. This resulted in several studies from various disciplinary backgrounds on physical and socio-economic aspects of the mountain areas in former socialist countries.

Although some of these studies deal with the socialist past and the post-socialist present, rarely are there studies that explicitly point out the particularities of post-socialism in relation to mountain areas. Thus, the question arises, in which way do post-socialist mountain regions differ from mountains in other world regions (in terms of land management, livelihoods, conservation, political governance, or scientific considerations)? Are there any particularities that could be labelled as post-socialist, post-communist or post-Soviet? In which way do the legacies (physical and institutional) of socialist systems influence environments and societies in these mountain areas today?

There is no doubt that the political, economic, and social systems of party-ruled state socialism significantly influenced the way mountains are perceived and valuated, managed and utilized. Forces such as the specific forms of administration, economic exploitation, ideals of preservation and recreation, social restructuring and state control, collectivization, forced sedentarisation or security requirements, frame the conditions and activities that have shaped the specific montane regions. However, this does not mean to neglect the other, maybe more influencing factors such as climate change, transnational co-operations, globalization or neoliberalisation processes, that permeate all mountain areas in the world. The aim of this special issue is to identify specific features in fields such as resource management, nature conservation, livelihood strategies and vulnerabilities, migration or tourism that can be characterized as post-socialist in mountains of former socialist states.

Potential Topics

Resource management: In many cases a lack of institutions as consequence of political transition, decollectivisation, and privatization processes has led to the exploitation of natural resources and unsustainable resource utilization. What are the consequences in ecological, political or socioeconomic terms? Is there a renaissance of traditional forms or is the development of new, more individualized forms of forest, pasture and water utilization more prominent? What are the consequences of the increasing commodification of resources on social cohesion?

Nature conservation: Nature conservation of specific areas was not unknown in the socialist era; e.g. several national parks and nature reserve zones were established in the Soviet Union. How do the dominant international conservation concepts fit with these existing reserves, where are fields of conflict, and in which way has the nature conservation system changed?

Livelihoods, vulnerability and resilience: Economic decline and restructuring, and the cutting of state subsidies and market competence resulted in higher vulnerabilities and the need to change livelihood strategies for most households in peripheral mountain areas. Are there typical forms of sustaining livelihoods in post-socialist mountains? In which way are household strategies for survival shaped by the socialist legacy? Do privatization and liberalization processes mean more vulnerability for the local populations?

Depopulation of mountain areas and migration: Mountain areas are often peripheral regions in political, economic and social terms. The outmigration of mainly young people in several post-socialist mountain areas, to urban centres in the lowlands or abroad, leads to depopulation and an overaged population. What are the implications of this form of outmigration? What are the perspectives for mountain areas marked by an overaged population and a decreasing state interest?

Tourism and mountaineering: Recreational activities for the socialist labourer was organized and strictly regulated by the state through the establishment of specific tourist resorts. The privatization and easier accessibility for the international community has changed the forms, expressions, and consequences of tourism. This has allowed the Carpathians, Caucasus or Tian Shan to become popular trekking and mountaineering regions. What are recent strategies and forms of tourism, recreation, and mountaineering and what are the consequences?

Timetable

Please send abstracts in English (approximately 1000 words) before May 31st, 2015 to Matthias Schmidt (schmidt@kusogeo.uni-hannover.de) and Dominique Baud (Dominique.baud@ujf-grenoble.fr), University of Grenoble, Journal of Alpine Research / Revue de géographie alpine. Please include the following details: Surname, name, status, research group. Authors will get feedback as soon as possible.

Final articles are expected in October 2015 in two versions. If the submitted paper is in French, Italian, German or Spanish, the translation must be in English, and if the submitted paper is in English, the translation must be in French.

The issue will be published around September 2016.

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