Regensburg and its University – building bridges between East and West
Vortrag Prof. Dr. Walter Koschmal 37.Jahrestagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Medizinische Physik 20.-23. September 2006-10-13 Klinikum der Universität Regensburg
Ladies and Gentlemen, Regensburg was once the Roman Empire’s spearhead into the territory of the Barbarians. Regensburg stood at the northernmost point of the Empire’s border wall against the Teutons, the Limes Romanus. Today, Regensburg continues in its role as an outpost, but now it endeavors to overcome the remaining remnants of a border, the Iron Curtain, and to serve as an international forum and meeting place of East and West. We do not view our university’s emblem, the mediaeval bridge or the bridge maker’s seal of the Stone Bridge primarily as an indication of the work our university has already accomplished, but rather as a responsibility to continue building a bridge between the countries of Eastern and Western Europe. Your conference is also playing a part in building this bridge. The University of Regensburg is a new university in a very old town. The university was established in1964, just 42 years ago. The contrast and combination of old and new makes life in Regensburg very interesting. Originally, the university was supposed to be housed in one of the town’s oldest buildings, the so-called Scots Monastery, named after the Gaelic-Scottish monks that founded it. The pope however opposed the plan. In those times the pope was not so amiable as the current pope Benedict XVI, who served as deputy vice-chancellor of the university and still has his official residence in suburb of Regensburg. The pope of that time refused to vacate the monastery even after the Bavarian Duke Albrecht IV asked him to found a university in 1487. Nothing came of early plans to establish a university in Regensburg. Mathias Flacius Illyricus, a Croat and student of Martin Luther, made a second attempt in 1562. He argued that a university in Regensburg would help to spread the ideas of the reformation to Slavic lands. A protestant university was finally supposed to be built in 1633, however the Emperor’s troops prevented it. Despite this, one sees that Regensburg and the surrounding Region have since very early on both geographically and historically shown an interest in and been tied to Eastern Europe. Today’s university still remembers these original goals and strives to fulfill its historical mission. The relationships to the pope have also improved in the meantime. He recently visited the town and university of Regensburg. For more than ten years, the university has considered its mission and duty to make Regensburg a bridge to the East. A single concentration on East and West hardly describes the University of Regensburg’s emphasis on Eastern Europe adequately. There is rather a myriad of disciplines dealing with Eastern Europe in Regensburg, which greatly exceed those that are typically concerned with Eastern Europe in instruction and research directly. The clearest representatives of these disciplines are Slavic Studies with an emphasis on the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and in the South Slavic Region; the Law
and Economics departments’ concentration on Eastern Europe; professorships for Eastern Europe in Comparative Literature, History, Political Science and others. A special characteristic is the interdisciplinary nature of research and instruction. The Bohemicum, for example, provides non-philology students with basic knowledge of the Czech language, literature, history and culture in a one-year intensive program. Even Chemistry and Mathematics students frequently enroll in the program. Similar programs are offered for Hungarian and Slovak. This particular approach to teaching and research at the University of Regensburg serves to integrate diverse disciplines, even those that traditionally do not or only minimally deal with Eastern Europe. Unlike studies of the US, Spain, Latin America or China it is necessary, however, to actively recruit students and promote studies of the languages and countries of Eastern Europe in Germany and in Bavaria. The University’s orientation toward Eastern Europe can be recognized in the way the university is organized. A general Eastern European orientation that includes a broad range of disciplines is the goal, not concentrations in one or two departments. Individual disciplines areas of competency are woven together to create general, university wide competency. There is probably no other university in Germany that has been working for so many years so diligently and consistently to become a Forum for East and West in research and instruction as the University of Regensburg. One may speak of four different circles in the university’s East European orientation. The first circle includes the humanities that study and teach about Eastern Europe directly. Core disciplines such as Slavic Studies or History are responsible for awakening interest and motivating other disciplines to get involved in Eastern European studies. Students and instructors can only be motivated when they recognize new chances and possibilities for themselves and their disciplines. In recent years we have witnessed a loss of interest in Eastern European languages and cultures in the department of Slavic Studies. At the same time, however, the interest in Eastern Europe has greatly increased in such disciplines as Law, Economics and IT. One result of this is that almost all Slavic language courses for beginners are overcrowded. The second circle includes disciplines, in which the research and study of Eastern Europe are less predominate, however they too profit from an Eastern European orientation by gaining further special competencies. The Faculty of Economics successfully established a new program of study, International Economics, with a regional concentration on Eastern Europe. Law students complete a program in Eastern European Law and study Law in Moscow or Prague. The number and quality of the ties between this second circle and the inner one continue to grow. The third circle is made of disciplines that are unrelated to the inner circle. Thanks to growing and more intense cooperation with Eastern European universities they too will become increasingly integrated in the university’s Eastern European orientation. Natural sciences, such as Biology, comprise most of these disciplines, but Medical school is included as well. The inner circle often acts as advisor, mediator or motivator for these disciplines. The final, outer circle includes the ever growing and intensifying cooperation between Bavarian universities. The University of Regensburg has been playing a significant role in a Bavarian Research program on cultural, political, economic and judicial transformation processes for a number of years. It is only second to the University of Munich in the number of its research projects that address such issues as building trust in Europe, combating
corruption, economic integration, the losers of transformation, technological convergence and many others. Regensburg offers together with several institutes in Munich the only elite studies program of Eastern Europe: “Eastern European Studies”. Frau Sedlmaier will mention the numerous international contacts and exchanges in her speech later on. The Eastern European orientation is taking place in all four circles simultaneously so that each process supports another. The university’s special concentration is also being supported politically. Due to the University of Regensburg’s successful concentration on issues of East and West, the Bavarian State Government has decided that in 2006/2007 at least three renowned research centers will be moved from Munich to Regensburg: The Institute for Eastern European Studies, concentrating on economics and history, the institute for Southeastern European Studies, primarily researching history, and the Institute for Law in Eastern Europe. I have mainly addressed the Eastern European orientation in regards to contents, but it is also necessary to describe corresponding organization. Two institutions must be named, both of which have been established and expanded during the last seven years. The first, the Europaeum, is an institute at the University of Regensburg, while the second, bayhost, operates throughout Bavaria. Both include the entire spectrum of academic disciplines in research and instruction and serves as a specific forum for East and West. The Europeum, the University’s Center for East-West Studies, coordinates the concentration on East-West Studies. The Europaeum began offering a Masters degree program in “EastWest Studies” five years ago. A special admissions committee selects the students for the interdisciplinary program. The students come from over twelve countries; half are from the countries of Eastern Europe. The Europaeum is the Center for East-West Studies at the University of Regensburg. It was established in November 2000 and serves as a center to promote and encourage interdisciplinary dialogue between East and West in research and instruction. Special emphasis is given to exchange programs, dialogue and meetings of researchers and Students from East and West. The second institute is the Bavarian University Center for Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe, bayhost. Bayhost, a collaborative project of all Bavarian universities, has its headquarters in Regensburg. Bayhost promotes research and cooperation between universities in Bavaria and Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. It especially encourages academic exchange programs (scholarships, etc) and also supports cooperation in research and academic instruction. As you can see, the University of Regensburg has been promoting research and instruction on Eastern Europe and East-West Studies for more than a decade, not only in its twelve faculties, but also in all of Bavaria. A variety of institutions, interesting courses and research projects motivate students and instructors, who had not even thought of Eastern Europe, to turn to Eastern Europe in their studies. International co-learning courses have been a part of instruction at the University of Regensburg for over five years. German, Hungarian, Ukrainian and Polish students cooperate with a partner in their respective countries. For example, German participants have been studying about the Croatian minority and the Roma in the South of Hungary at the University of Pécs. Their Hungarian counterparts will come to Regensburg in October to complete similar research. International co-learning makes it possible to experience and learn a foreign
language and culture in a very individual way. The model of asymmetrical instruction, of teacher and learner, gives way to the co-learning of equals, to a dialogue of partners. I have only mentioned the university and its Eastern European orientation. This is certainly one of the university’s areas of specialization, but of course not the only one. However, the town and the region is linked to this area in a special way. Both the town and region see themselves as a crossroads between East and West. Regensburg continues in its old historical role, when it looks East. Merchants from Regensburg traveled in the 10th and 11th centuries to Kiev, where at the time the Regensburg penny served as currency. Regensburg and Eastern Bavaria’s historical connections to the East point above all to Bohemia and Prague. Christianity came to Bohemia via Regensburg. Bohemian princes came to Regensburg to be baptized. The famous Charles Bridge in Prague was also built to resemble the Stone Bridge in Regensburg. The first bridge in Prague, the now destroyed Judith Bridge, was an exact replica. The dark side of Regensburg’s history also ties the town to Bohemia and Prague. Jews that were driven out of Regensburg found refuge in Prague. According to a recent theory, Yiddish, a language of many, above all Eastern Jews, comprised of Middle High German and Slavic elements, was born in the region between Regensburg and Prague. Much that has taken place between Bavaria and Bohemia during the last centuries has been representative for all of Europe. The rigid allocation of roles between Slavs and Teutons was often made first here in Eastern Bavaria, despite the fact that much of what connects Bavaria and Bohemia was also known. The connections were however ignored or denied in the interest of politics. It did not serve Czech interests to know that Ludwig of Schwanthaler, a German sculptor that created Bavaria in Munich also sculpted Bohemia’s Mother Libussa in the National Museum in Prague. A German (J. Wenzig) also wrote the Libretto to the national opera of the same name, Bedřich Smetana’s „Libuše“. Such facts that showed a common, shared heritage were often repressed throughout history. Today when one increasingly searches for common ground in Bavaria and Bohemia, in East and West, one also seriously expects to find it. Bavaria and Bohemia were separated by the Iron Curtain just seventeen years ago, but the number of connections discovered since then even surprise scholars. These shared traditions seem to have arisen at a very early time most often in the arts, religion and economics and trade. Merchants and Glassmakers crossed borders as often as musicians or the waiters and waitresses of today. The manufacture of glass and the glass trade led to a trade network without borders. Many similar economic and cultural networks are created over the centuries. They create a common Bavarian-Bohemian Region without national borders. Division of labor and specialization existed both then and now. Whenever Bavaria and Bohemia managed to cooperate and work together either economically or culturally, they were world class: Pilsner beer only became world famous after the Brewer Josef Groll from Vilshofen Lower Bavaria came to Pilsen to brew beer. Beer became a shared, world famous and financially lucrative synonym for Bavaria and Bohemia very early on. Both sides have only recently begun to be interested in rediscovering this shared heritage. Many sculptures, buildings and other works that were long regarded as symbols of national independence are thus shown to be the result of joint ventures – just like the Pilsner beer. Bavarian-Bohemian history is full of such joint ventures.
A common history can be found even at the very beginning. The Bavarians may not for example have migrated from Bohemia, as was once thought. The stem “baia”, however, connects both Bavarians and Bohemians. The discovery of connections, such as common settlements, progressed slowly on both sides of the border due to lack of interest. Even today, both sides consider independence to be too important. Many people in Eastern Bavaria are just beginning to learn today that they do not live in an ancient Bavarian Region. The historical village museum in the Upper Palatinate in NeusathPerschen, where traditional peasant culture in Eastern Bavaria is presented, is located in a region of very Slavic settlements. The village’s name “Perschen” comes from the Slavic „brežane“, which means „bank dweller“. Today, in a new Europe, one must be made aware of this old cultural mixture of Slavs and Bavarians. These findings must also be made public. This is an important task for research and instruction at the university. Above all, our region’s common Bohemian-Bavarian memory often makes it possible to fill in the memory gaps on the other side of the border. The originally shared tradition of the bagpipe had been completely forgotten in Bavaria, but thanks to its continuous practice in Bohemia it can also now be revived in Bavaria. This is merely one example from many, in which Bohemia and Bavaria can profit from their shared history. All that I have sketched out for Regensburg, Bohemia and Bavaria is really only a model for all the processes that should and must take place in the relationship between Eastern and Western Europe. Universities in both East and West play an important part in (re)discovering our shared heritage and making the findings known. At the time of the Roman Empire, Regensburg was a bulwark in the first wall, the Limes Romanus that divided Europe in South and North, divided the civilized from the barbarians. Later, the Iron Curtain divided Europe in East and West. Regensburg and its university therefore see a historic responsibility to now serve as a center in both the process of rapprochement of East and West and exchange between East and West, as well as to be a forum for both.