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DFG Moscow: Inauguration of the First German-Russian International Research Training Group in the Humanities

(18.03.15) At the beginning of March, the first German-Russian International Research Training Group (IRTG 1956) in the humanities funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) was launched in Moscow. The formal inauguration was attended by a prominent delegation from Germany led by the Secretary General of the DFG, Dorothee Dzwonnek, and her counterpart at the DAAD, Dorothea Rüland. In addition to the group's German spokesperson, Elisabeth Cheauré, and 20 participating researchers from the University of Freiburg, Rector Hans Jochen Schiewer was also present at the ceremony at the Russian State University for the Humanities (RGGU).

Formal inauguration of the IRTG with the rectors of the participating universities, the secretaries general of the DFG and DAAD, the chair of RGNF and representatives of the German embassy in Moscow

The IRTG was inaugurated at the University of Freiburg at the end of last year, with a special address by retired minister Gernot Erler, the federal government's Coordinator for Intersocietal Cooperation with Russia, and this was now followed by a launch event at the Russian partner university on 7 March. Approximately 150 guests, representing politics and academia, accepted the invitation of Rector Efim Pivovar to attend the formal opening of the DFG Research Training Group at RGGU. On the Russian side there were words of welcome from Mikhail Shvydkoy, former culture minister and the Russian president's Special Envoy for International Cultural Cooperation, and Vladimir Fridlyanov, the former deputy science minister and chair of the DFG's partner organisation, the Russian Foundation for the Humanities (RGNF). The head of the Department of Economic Affairs and Research at the German embassy in Moscow, Wolfgang Dik, conveyed the congratulations of German ambassador Rüdiger Freiherr von Fritsch on the establishment of the long-term bilateral project.

In addition to many representatives of the DAAD and DFG, including DFG programme director Thomas Wiemer from the Humanities and Social Sciences division, responsible for literature and cultural studies, other members of the German House for Research and Innovation (DWIH) in Moscow were also present, including the director of the German Historical Institute (DHI) in Moscow, Nikolaus Katzer, who is an associate researcher in the IRTG. The organisers were also delighted to welcome Rüdiger Bolz, the head of the Goethe-Institut in Moscow, who was extremely interested in the IRTG's area of research. The topic of "Cultural Transfer and 'Cultural Identity' – German-Russian Contacts in the European Context" is sure to give the IRTG the opportunity for joint activities with the Republic of Germany's cultural institute, which serves as an ambassador for German culture in Moscow.

The Research Training Group IRTG 1956 will explore the long tradition of national, bilateral and international research on German-Russian cultural contacts, as well as the European dimension of these contacts, and on this basis intends to develop an innovative concept for interdisciplinary and international cultural transfer research. The group will also study the extent to which processes of cultural transfer impact on constructions of cultural or national identities. The period under investigation stretches from the late 17th century to the present day. Researchers from Freiburg, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Berlin are participating in the project.

DFG Secretary General Dorothee Dzwonnek in conversation with RGGU Rector Efim Pivovar

DFG Secretary General Dorothee Dzwonnek in conversation with RGGU Rector Efim Pivovar

The new Research Training Group is closely associated with the Institute for Russian-German Literary and Cultural Relations (IRDLK) at RGGU. The director of the IRDLK and of the Thomas Mann chair based there is Dirk Kemper, who will serve as co-spokesperson for the IRTG in Russia. The IRDLK, a DAAD-funded joint project of RGGU and the University of Freiburg, is a centre of education and research for German literature and cultural studies in Russia. Other key areas of research at RGGU include philology (linguistics) and historical sciences.

The Russian State University for the Humanities (RGGU) was formed in 1991 from the merger of two Moscow universities, Moscow Public University (founded in 1908) and the Moscow State Institute for History and Archives (founded in 1930). The latter, in particular, quickly grew to become a leading research centre for the study of primary sources in archaeology and palaeography. Today, RGGU has 14 000 students.

In the university's antiquities collection (left to right): Rector Schiewer (Freiburg), IRTG spokesperson Cheaure (Freiburg), DFG Secretary General Dzwonnek (Bonn), head of DFG Office Achterberg (Moscow)

In the university's antiquities collection (left to right): Rector Schiewer (Freiburg), IRTG spokesperson Cheaure (Freiburg), DFG Secretary General Dzwonnek (Bonn), head of DFG Office Achterberg (Moscow)

Research Training Groups such as IRTG 1956 are university-based institutions designed to support early career researchers, which can receive DFG funding for up to nine years. Their main aim is to train doctoral researchers within a thematically focused research programme and a structured qualification programme. They are designed to provide intensive preparation for the complex world of professional research while encouraging early independence. International Research Training Groups also provide the opportunity to obtain a joint doctoral training with a group at a German institution and a partner group abroad. The research and study programmes are developed jointly and dual supervision is offered. Doctoral researchers in participating groups are generally expected to spend six months at the partner institution.

The DFG is currently funding around 200 Research Training Groups, a good 20% of which are international RTGs. IRTG 1956, based in Freiburg and Moscow, is the first German-Russian Research Training Group in the humanities. However, the DFG has been funding bilateral RTGs with Russia since 2006, for example a life sciences RTG between Moscow's Lomonosov University and the universities of Giessen / Marburg (IRTG 1384). The Russian co-funding of the programme is ensured by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFFI), which was also represented at the launch of the Research Training Group at RGGU.