Leaving 2020 behind us, I wish all friends and colleagues a brighter and happier year to come!

When we returned to Sweden in the beginning of January (2020) from our New Year’s visit to Georgia, little did we know that this would be our last trip for many months to come. We left the festive atmosphere in Batumi and in Tbilisi.

Back at Malmö University I was happy to welcome one colleague from Armenia in the beginning of January to give a guest lecture at RUCARR and another colleague from Georgia, who visited us in Febuary.

When the news about Covid-19 began to reach us, but we did not really grasp it’s magnitude in the beginning. We had a flight back to Georgia for Easter in early April, but the trip had to be cancelled, of course.

I have been fortunate to be able to continue with my online teaching, having a ready package for the digital mode of communication and lecturing. Working from home with Canvas, Zoom, Teams, Skype became the normal option.

There has also been other shifts in lifestyle. Like so many others I have felt the need to take long walks every day, so we have been walking, walking, walking – while we have seen the surrounding fields changjng from spring, to summer, to fall and now to winter.

No travelling, just virtual travelling and staying at home all the time the whole year – with one exception. In August we went to Värmland (in Sweden) to visit our dear colleague and friend Märta-Lisa (while keeping the necessary distance, of course) in the beautiful and peaceful countryside with small lakes and deep woods (yes, with wolfs, elks, bears and other wild animals). Such a great time we had, so relaxing. Thank you for having us!

The fall semester 2020 was busy and quite intense at Malmö University, even if everything was performed online, in Zoom. The number of students in our online courses was unusually high. The research platform Russia and the Caucasus Regional Research (RUCARR) organized twice as many seminars and roundtables as we usually do (I’m co-director of this platform). The fall of 2020 was a period of dramatic events in the Post-Soviet space, in particular, the recurring mass protests after the presidential elections in Belarus, the turbulence after the parliamentary elections in Georgia and the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan around the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which has been reflected in our seminar activities. See, for instance, the live video from the panel discussion on the Nagorn-Karabakh conflict.

I managed to complete the conference volume from the RUCARR conference ‘Promoting International Dialogue and Protecting Cultural Heritage in the Caucasus’, December 5-6, 2018, and to publish it shortly before the holidays. Several papers address the protection of cultural and linguistic rights of minorities in the Caucasus, in particular against the background of changes in the legislation on education in the Russian Federation in 2018. It’s a mix of papers in English and Russian, and it has been quite challenging to edit.

The final academic activity this year occurred on December 24 (!), organized by the Circassian Culture Center in Georgia. It was an interesting experience to join the online session with colleagues from Georgia, USA and Jordan and to give a presentation on Circassia and Circassians in the Swedish press in the 18th century.

A general conclusion to make this year is that, on the one hand, we have been isolated from seeing friends and colleagues who we have been used to meet frequently, but on the other hand, our international networks and online contacts have expanded. Just as an example, at one of our RUCARR panel discussions, we had participants from over 30 countries. We have been more motivated to engage in international online activities in a way that was not generally done before, and it will most likely to some extent change the way we will work in the future.