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Regular version of the site

Baltic Practice 2012

The HSE’s Baltic Practice Summer School has just finished in Klaipeda and Kaunas. Once again, the school was run in conjunction with Vytautas Magnus University (Lithuania).

This year, the participants of the Baltic Practice included students from the HSE, Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU, Russia), National University of Science and Technology (MISIS, Russia), Southern Federal University (Russia), University of Bologna (Italy) andVytautas Magnus University. The teaching staff of the Summer School was also quite varied, including the Ombudsman of Rotterdam (the Netherlands). Members of the Baltic Practice jury included Mayors of Kaunas and Klaipeda, and the School’s academic supervisors were professors from Germany, Russia, Lithuania and Italy.

The main topic of the Summer School was ‘European Communities: Local and Global Contexts’. The key areas of group work were online communities, analytical communities, the anti-war movement and soft law. A collection of both student and lecturers’ papers from the event will be published.

Day One

The first day of the school was dedicated to the global human rights community, soft law and human rights. Key speakers included Yury Fogelson, Deputy Head of the HSE Department of Public Policy, Anita Soboleva, Associate Professor at the same department, Svetlana Chekhovskaya, Associate Professor at the HSE Department of Entrepreneurial Law, Aldo Berlinguer,Professor at the University of Cagliari, and Linas Venslauskas, Professor at Vytautas Magnus University.

The official opening of the Baltic Practice International Summer School also took place on this day. The speakers at the plenary session were Anita Soboleva (HSE), Simon Matissen (Rotterdam) and Vladimir Slivyak (EkoZashchita), and they presented their papers on various aspects of human rights protection.

Anita Soboleva spoke about the global human rights networks and Simon Mattisen told the students about the details of an ombudsman’s work, based on his 20 years of work in this position. Vladimir Slivyak’s presentation was dedicated to how ecology organizations organize campaigns on such critical contemporary problems as radioactive waste storage, green energy and others.

Given the interest aroused by the presentations and the number of questions the students asked, it’s clear that the participants were prepared for the special school format, which was an academic conference aimed not at passive reception of information, but at an independent discussion of political problems.

After the plenary session the students continued their research in work groups, which allowed them not only to express their own ideas on specific issues, but to have these ideas evaluated by academic supervisors and fellow students.

In addition to postgraduate students, for the first time among the participants of the Summer School were younger specialists who had just graduated.

The workload at the Summer School should also be mentioned. The classes finished at 10 p.m. for students,  but the teachers attended sessions of the ‘Professor Club’ after that, chaired by Yury Fogelson. There, they allotted their marks for the work during the day, discussed academic plans and listened to reports.

Day Two

The second day of the Summer School was dedicated to ‘analytical and online communities and the response to global challenges’. But the key event of the day was the meeting with Andrius Kupčinskas, Mayor of Kaunas, where the students learnt about real global challenges to local communities, specifically the city of Kaunas, which is suffering from a severe migration away from the city by young people, due to border transparency. Other Kaunas officials also participated in the discussion, such as the Assistant to the Mayor with responsibility for working with communities. During the preparation for the visit each work group formed a list of questions based on their research agenda.

Day Three

The third School day was dedicated to ‘global civil communities, civil control and civil protest’. The day started with a plenary session with representatives from Vytautas Magnus University. They spoke about communities in Lithuania, including ethnic minorities and the problems of the Russian-speaking population in Lithuania.

Plenary sessions and group work transferred from university classes to a bus. To save time, the 2.5 hours of the trip from Kaunas to Klaipeda were used as a class. Particularly, the students took the EUBAT experimental test provided by Professor Peter Isakson, to check their knowledge of the history and culture of the European Union.

Professor Isakson spoke at the first session in Klaipeda and gave a detailed review of the test which had ben taken by the students on their way from Kaunas to Klaipeda. Its uniqueness is that it reveals not the students knowledge of facts, but the respondent’s attitude to them. During the lecture the students had the opportunity to learn about the many important details and pitfalls which a community researcher may stumble upon.

The key events of the whole school were a series of academic debates entitled ‘European communities: one or many’. The students were divided into two groups: the first advocated the ‘ONE’ position, and the other- ‘MANY’ – this group’s academic supervisor was Gerhard Ermischer.

The preparation for the debates took almost 24 hours. Both groups held detailed consultations with the lecturers at the Baltic Practice, studied hundreds of sources, searching not only for arguments for their view, but for the counterarguments from their opponents. The debates were moderated by Nina Belyaeva, Head of the HSE Department of Public Policy and Academic Supervisor of the Summer School. The presentations were evaluated both by lecturers and the participants themselves. The jury also awarded marks. After the dust had settled, the group advocating the position of European communities’ multiplicity won by a small margin.

After the debates, the lecturers gave the final marks and summarized week’s activities . At the certificate ceremony, Nina Belyaeva reminded the audience about the three academic credits received by participants for their work at the Baltic Practice. The Summer School head specifically mentioned the leaders of the Practice’s study process: Elza Fogel, Kamil Galeev, Ekaterina Vdovinets and Georgy Tyulyaev. She also mentioned that Angelina Egorova and Dmitry Ayusheev managed to overcome the difficulties of communication in English and have successfully taken part..

The informative part of the Summer School has not finished along with its academic part. The Baltic Practice schedule intentionally included one free day. This was the day when Klaipeda celebrated its  annual ‘Sea Day’. The participants had an opportunity to see places of interest, including, of course, the Curonian Spit, to attend various festival events, and to swim in the sea. So, the twelfth Baltic Practice Summer School, in our (participant students) opinion, was quite successful. Which, obviously, would be impossible without tall the effort put in by the organizers: Svetlana Lipina, Anita Soboleva, Oxana Chernenko, Svetlana Chekhovskaya, Vladimir Slivyak, Vadim Karastelev, Simon  Mattisen, Gerhard Ermischer, Yuri Fogelson, Dmitry Zaitsev, and, of course, the School’s Academic Supervisor, Nina Belyaeva.

Ekaterina Vdovinets, Alexander Tretyakov, specially for the HSE News Service

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