The BEAR network – “Between the EU and Russia: Domains of Diversity and Contestation” – brings together 26 scholars from 11 universities in six countries to explore attempts to mobilize, influence, protect, and claim regional minority groups on the EU’s eastern borders, as well as to investigate how societal actors in the region draw upon, react to, and engage with the overlapping influences of the EU and Russia.

The network’s key objective is to promote a better understanding of how the EU and Russia influence and inspire minority politics, integration efforts, and societal contestation on the EU’s eastern borders by: 1) stimulating knowledge development through academic collaborations and connections; 2) conducting high-quality teaching activities across Europe, North America and Russia; and 3) disseminating our knowledge to policymakers, the public, and other key constituencies.

The network is led by Juliet Johnson (McGill University) and Magdalena Dembinska (University of Montreal). Sashenka Lleshaj (McGill PhD candidate) is the coordinator. The Network Board includes one scholar from each university and sets the general direction and policies for the network.

Thematically, the BEAR network includes three teams of scholars. The transnational team examines the EU and Russia as transnational actors in regards to regional integration and “soft power,” stateless peoples (e.g., the Roma), and transnational diasporas and their relations with their host- and kin-states (Russians abroad and other external minorities). The state team focuses on citizenship, minority rights, and de facto states in the region. Finally, the society team addresses social and ethnopolitical movements, collective action, and contestation.