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Katja Wezel is a Research Associate at the University of Göttingen in the project “The Cosmopolitan City. Riga as a Global Port and International Capital of Trade (1861-1939)” funded by the BKM (Bundesbeauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien). She studied History and English at the University of Heidelberg, the University of Wales in Aberystwyth, and the European University in St. Petersburg. She received her PhD in 2011 at the University of Heidelberg for a thesis on memory politics in Latvia, published in German as Geschichte als Politikum. Lettland und die Aufarbeitung nach der Diktatur. From 2013 to 2018 she was the DAAD Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
Research project at the Kolleg
My research project “Riga as a Global Port City. From Imperial Russia’s Most Successful Trading Hub to Latvia’s First Center of Trade”examines Riga’s far-reaching trade relationships and global economic interdependencies. The study focusses in particular on the contributions of polyglot merchants and entrepreneurs to the industrial and urban development of Riga and its expansion into a multi-ethnic metropolis. Using digital methods such as historical GIS, the project also examines Riga’s trading network by putting special emphasis on its major trading partners in Great Britain, Germany and Russia/the Soviet Union. The chosen period 1861-1939 allows me to examine long-term change and path dependencies that run parallel to historical turning points such as World War I, the Russian Revolution or the creation of the first independent Republic of Latvia. At the same time, it also allows me to compare and contrast different phases of Riga’s history: 1) Riga before World War I as one of Imperial Russia’s major trading centers with a still prominent position of Baltic German merchants and entrepreneurs; and 2) Riga as the capital of the newly established democratic Republic of Latvia during the interwar period, in which Latvians and Germans worked together to re-build the Riga port and promote its European and transatlantic trading network. I advocate the thesis that due to their international networks, entrepreneurs and merchants often acted along “a-national” or “cosmopolitan” patterns and did not necessarily stick to their national group. National differences were less strong in areas such as economy and trade since everyone shared the same goal: the expansion and maintenance of the Riga port, on whose economic success merchants and entrepreneurs of various backgrounds depended.
Main areas of research
Positions and memberships
Katja Wezel, Geschichte als Politikum: Lettland und die Aufarbeitung nach der Diktatur (Berlin: Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, 2016).
Katja Wezel, Peter Haslinger, ‘Writing the History of East Central Europe in the Digital Age’, Special Issue, Journal of East Central European Studies/Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropaforschung (Accepted for publication).
Katja Wezel, Stefan Donecker, ‘German Community – German Nationality? Baltic German perceptions of Belonging in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century’, Special Issue, Journal of Baltic Studies 48, no. 1 (2017).
Birgit Hofmann, Katja Wezel, Katrin Hammerstein, Julie Trappe and Regina Fritz, eds., Diktaturüberwindung in Europa. Neue nationale und transnationale Perspektiven (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter 2010).
Katja Wezel, ‘The Most Successful Trading Hub in Late Imperial Russia: Using Historical GIS to Map Riga as a Global Port City’, Journal of East Central European Studies/Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropaforschung (Accepted for publication).
Katja Wezel and Peter Haslinger, ‘Embracing Digital Humanities. Writing the History of East Central Europe in the Digital Age’, Journal of East Central European Studies/Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropaforschung (Accepted for publication).
Katja Wezel, ‘Riga’s Cheka House – From a Soviet Place of Terror to a Latvian Site of Remembrance?’, in Museums of Communism: New Memory Sites in Central and Eastern Europe, edited by Steve Norris (Bloomington: Indiana University Press 2020), 137-155.
Karsten Brüggemann and Katja Wezel, ‘Nationally Indifferent or Ardent Nationalists? On the Options of Being German in Russia’s Baltic Provinces, 1905-1917’, Kritika. Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 20, no. 1 (2019): 39-62.
Katja Wezel, ‘Transcending Borders: Riga’s Baltic German Entrepreneurs in an Era of Nationalism, Revolution and War’, Journal of Baltic Studies 48, no. 1 (2017):39–54. DOI: 10.1080/01629778.2016.1269434
Katja Wezel, ‘Introduction: German Community – German Nationality? Baltic German perceptions of Belonging in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century’, Journal of Baltic Studies 48, no. 1(2017): 1-11. DOI: 10.1080/01629778.2016.1269427
Katja Wezel, ‘The Unfinished Business of Perestroika. Latvia’s Memory Politics and its Quest for Acknowledgement of Victimhood in Europe’, Nationalities Papers 44, no. 4(2016): 560–577. DOI: 10.1080/00905992.2016.1142520
Review of Kevin O’ Connor, The House of Hemp and Butter: A History of Old Riga, in Central European History 53, no. 4 (2020): 862-863.
Review of Franziska Jahn, Das KZ Riga-Kaiserwald und seine Außenlager 1943-1944. Strukturen und Entwicklungen (Berlin: Metropol, 2018), in Journal of East Central European Studies/Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropaforschung 69, no. 3 (2020): 431-432.
Review of A. K. Sandoval-Strausz and Nancy H. Kwak (eds.), Making Cities Global: The Transnational Turn in Urban History (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), in Social History 43 no. 3 (2018): 431-433.
Review of Meike Wulf, Shadowlands: Memory and History in Post-Soviet Estonia (New York: Berghahn, 2016), in History: Reviews of New Books 45, no. 2 (2017): 45-46.
Review of Eva-Clarita Pettai and Vello Pettai, Transitional and Retrospective Justice in the Baltic States (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), in Nordost Archiv 24 (2015): 175-178.
Please find more information on Katja Wezel on the website of the University of Göttingen.