Security, equality and mindsets in South Caucasus (SEMS)

Project leader

Professor Li Bennich-Björkman

Project period


Project participants

Dr. Sofie Bedford (UCRS)
Dr. Barbara Lehmbruch (UCRS)
Dr. Alexandra Yatsuk  (UCRS & Tartu University, Estonia)
Caucasus Research and Resource Center (CRRC) in Georgia and in Armenia

Project description

South Caucasus has experienced prolonged conflicts that have proven to be hard to mitigate. The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh is far from frozen but just recently once again led to violent confrontations. The conflict between Georgia and Russia over the break-away territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are far from frozen, and in 2008 open war broke out. Whereas Abkhazia may be lost to Georgia, in South Ossetia – geographically closer to the capital of Tbilisi, the “borders” are constantly moved. International efforts by the Minsk group, OSCE, and others have so far not led to any break-through in terms peaceful solutions. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are a result of the territorial conflicts, as are high military expenses, high-strung relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Georgia and Russia respectively. The project aims at better understand this severe and locked-in security situation in the South Caucasus, primarily by investigating the mindsets of key actors and groups in these societies (Russia excluded), with a focus on social dominance orientation, perceptions on gender equality and LGBT-rights, and perceptions on the specific security issues facing the countries.

By key actors is meant the political, economic, media, cultural, and religious elites, the diplomatic corps, the NGO- sector, and in Armenia the diaspora. The mindsets are investigated by a combination of a two-wave panel survey (2017 and 2019) carried out by the Caucasus Research and Resource Center (CRRC) in Georgia and Armenia, and separate qualitative studies of the diplomatic corps in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan (Alexandra Yatsuk, Sofie Bedford), the NGO-sector in Georgia and Armenia (Barbara Lehmbruch), the religious elites in Azerbaijan (Sofie Bedford) and in Georgia (Alexandra Yatsuk), and the Armenian diaspora (Li Bennich-Björkman & CRRC-Armenia).

Related publications

Alexei Pikulik and Sofie Bedford. Aid Paradox: Strengthening Belarusian Non-democracy through Democracy Promotion, East European Politics and Societies and Cultures, OnlineFirst August 30, 2018 

Sofie Bedford and Laurent Vinatier. Resisting the Irresistible: ‘Failed Opposition’ in Azerbaijan and Belarus Revisited, Government and Opposition, OnlineFirst February 13 2018

Sofie Bedford. “The Election Game:” Authoritarian Consolidation Processes in Belarus, Democratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization 25 (4) 2017: 381-406

Ryhor Nizhnikau and Sofie Bedford. The Same but Different: “Re-understanding” Elections in Contemporary Post-Soviet SpaceDemocratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization  25 (4) 2017: 337-359

Events in the connection to the project

IRES Roundtable: "Azerbaijan’s Mysterious Snap Elections" with Dr. Sofie Bedford, Dr. Rail Safiyev (University of Bergen) and Dr. Ceyhun Mahmudlu (Hochschule Koblenz, Germany), 18 April 2018. 

Conference Panel: "Status Quo Forever: Belarus and the ‘Disappearance of Politics,’” CBEES Annual Conference, Södertörn University, Sweden, 30 November – 1 December 2017. Chair: Dr. Matthew Kott, IRES; Speakers: Dr. Sofie Bedford, Maryia Rohava, University of Oslo, Alesia Rudnik, Ostrogorski Centre; Discussant: Ales Michalevich, Belarusian Institute of Law, Minsk.

Conference Panel: "Trapped Between Stability and Change. Elections in post-Soviet Belarus", Annual World Convention of the Association for the Study of Nationalities (ASN) Columbia University, New York, 4-6 May 2017. Chair: Natalia Moen-Larson,  University of Oslo; Speakers: Dr. Sofie Bedford, IRES, Ryhor Nizhnikau, Finnish Institute for International Studies (FIIA), Dr. Tatsiana Chulitskaya, European Humanities University (EHU),Vilnius; Discussant: Dr. Laurent Vinatier, IRES.   

IRES Seminar: “‘Toolbox’ for Sustainable Opposition: Political Strategies in Authoritarian Regimes” with Dr. Sofie Bedford and Dr. Laurent Vinatier, 10 October 2017. 

IRES Seminar: "Building Sustainable Opposition in Electoral Authoritarian Regimes” with Dr. Leila Alieva, Dr. Alexei Pikulik, Dr. Sofie Bedford and Dr. Laurent Vinatier, 1 December 2016.  

Findings of the study will be reported as planned

Conflicting Mindsets? Elite Perceptions and Security Dilemmas in South Caucasus (a monograph) ; contributions from all participants in the project (2019-2020). 

Pushing for Gender Equality: NGO:s, Quotas and Domestic Violence in Georgia and in Armenia (research article) Barbara Lehmbruch (2017-2018).

Diplomatic Thinking: World Views and Security Challenges in the South Caucasus (research article) Sofie Bedford & Alexandra Yatsuk,( Dec.2017)..

Religion and Human Security in Azerbaijan (research article), Sofie Bedford, (June 2018). 

The Diaspora Factor: Understanding the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict (research article) Li Bennich-Björkman & researchers from CRRC Armenia (2018-2019).     


The Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet)