Dr. Katja Wezel


Global port cities are a microcosm of the challenges, problems and possibilities of the present, the future and the past: economic progress and ecological threats, local city development and globalization, multi-ethnicity and migration.
The research project „The Cosmopolitan City. Riga as a Global Port and International Capital of Trade (1861-1939)” aims to map Riga as a global port city using historical GIS as a tool to analyze its economic interdependencies and trade networks.
The study examines the contribution of cosmopolitan merchants and polyglot entrepreneurs for the city’s development and its rise as a metropolis. The project also emphasizes networks with trading partners in Great Britain, Germany and Russia, and to state institutions in St. Petersburg, Berlin and Riga.
The relatively long research period 1861 to 1939 allows a longue durée approach and the comparison of two very different time periods: 1) Riga before World War I, a multi-ethnic economic metropolis and major port of the Russian Empire, in which the city’s Baltic Germans dominated both economy and trade; and 2) Riga after World War I as capital of Latvia, an independent nation-state in which Latvians and Germans had to cooperate for the city’s economic revival.
Due to the transnational environment in which they operated and their international networks, entrepreneurs and merchants tended to be cosmopolitan-minded and more “a-national” in their approaches – despite this being a period of strong nationalist sentiments. At least before the 1930s, national differences and inter-ethnic conflicts were less strong in business and trade since everyone had the same goal: The development and preservation of Riga’s port and its economic success.


  • Baltic history
  • Memory politics
  • Nationalism and ethnic conflicts
  • Spatial history
  • Digital history

Since October 1, 2018: Research Associate in the BKM funded project “The Cosmopolitan City. Riga as a Global Port and International Capital of Trade (1861-1939)” at the Department for Medieval and Modern History at the Georg-August University Göttingen

Since April 2018: Research Associate at the World History Center of the University of Pittsburgh, USA

2013-2018: DAAD Visiting Assistant Professor at the Department of History, University of Pittsburgh, USA

2011: PhD at the Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg with a topic on memory politics in post-Communist Latvia (published in German as Geschichte als Politikum. Lettland und die Aufarbeitung nach der Diktatur. Berlin: Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, 2016.)

2011: Second state exam for teaching in History and English

2010-2011: Instructor, Department of History, Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg

2008-2009: Research Associate in East European History, Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg

2005-2008: Research Fellow in the Interdisciplinary Junior Research Group (Graduiertenkolleg) “Overcoming Dictatorships in Europe”, Heidelberg University

2004: MA in History and English at the Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg

1999-2004: Studies in History and English at the University of Heidelberg, the University of Wales in Aberystwyth and the European University in St. Petersburg

REES Faculty Travel Grant, Russian and East European Studies Center, University of Pittsburgh, 2017

Jean Monnet Center of Excellence Faculty Research on the European Union Grant, European Studies Center, University of Pittsburgh, 2016

REES Faculty Travel Grant, Russian and East European Studies Center, University of Pittsburgh, 2015

Bundesstiftung Aufarbeitung [Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship], dissertation publication grant, 2015

DAAD Research Fellowship, Research Grant for Graduate Students, 2008

Young Researchers Award, Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 2007

Graduate Student Fellowship, Heinrich Boell Foundation, 2005–2008

DAAD Undergraduate Study Scholarship, Annual Grant, 2002–2003

Erasmus, European Union Scholarship, 2000–2001