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					        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 “East-
West 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 Neusath-
Perschen, 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.

				
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