Some Historical Notes

The beginning of Alps-Adria Psychology Conferences

Looking back on the history of science one recognizes that during the 19th century scientific associations for diverse disciplines emerged - mostly within national borders. In the 20th century, the international ones added to them, without replacing the national ones. In fact, two parallel structures have developed in the meantime. In the case of the Alps-Adria Psychology conferences - the question emerges why the Alps-Adria region serves as a context, as a framework for psychological conferences, although this region neither forms a consistent political system nor can be seen as a major scientific entity.

It has been questioned more than once if it makes sense to choose a region for a scientific psychological conference which is inaccurately defined regarding politics and more determinable through historical connections and conflicts. A possible answer may be our will to handle our motives to participate in such a conference in an honest and open way - to agree that international conviviality is the most important part about it!

Scientific conferences are attended to get new insights, to exchange scientific experiences, to establish a feeling of coherence within the professional boundaries. But scientific conferences also visited for the sake of conviviality - for meeting or getting to know colleagues or reuniting with those you have met before.

Adding to these points is the fact that these Alps Adria Psychology Conferences have no precise professional focus but allows for contributions from the whole breadth of psychological science to participate.


A shared history

It is important to consider our shared history in this context. What forms the characteristics of the Alps-Adria region? Although located geographically in the centre of the European continent, this region has always been on the periphery - regarding the European centres of power. The Alps-Adria region is geographically and geo-morphologically of mostly inconsistent structure, consisting of the Alpine highlands of the Southern Alps, the Sub-Mediterranean and Mediterranean areas, the Southern Dinarian territory and the Pennon areas in the East.

But also, from a historical and political point of view, this region is very patchy - the ethnic diversity, the variety of landscapes, and the fringe position it holds in relation to Europe have always led to a certain lechery from external powers. The region has been hosting to multiple martial conflicts of interests - such as those of Rome, Byzantium, Istanbul, Vienna, Venice and Belgrade. Aside from those European political goals and power plays, the inhabitants of those zones situated in the Alps-Adriatic Sea region have always maintained a lively cultural exchange and have traded extensively e.g., exchanging raw materials and dealing in goods. 

The response to the question of whether this region can be defined from a geographical or historical point of view is NO - trusting statements by historians. The differences regarding the way of life, the conditions of life, and the national political interests seem far too contrary - adding to this, the partly shared regional history has alienated, as well as consolidated, the people here. Nevertheless, the Alps-Adria region is the paradigm of European variety within the smallest space, featuring strong interregional communication and a strong integrative force. Apart from the disastrous history of military actions and conflicts in our region, there is a "rather suppressed history of cooperation and unity" as the historian Rumpler says.

Considering the possibility that one cannot attribute a historical uniformity this region - what could it be, that evokes the intensive ties between people here? Apparently, the flair exuded by this region that unites so much diversity, brings forward countless positive virtues. Possibly you could refer to this as the enigma of the Alps-Adria region.

‘Alps-Adriatic’ has become a term for a good neighbour policy and is a sort of counterbalance to the national borderline strategies, standing for the preservation of linguistic and cultural varieties.


Beginning of cooperation

In 1985, I was confronted with the idea of Alps-Adria Working Community. This organization appeared to me to be suitable for confronting the traditional academic approaches with an orientation that is obvious for reasons of the geographical, historical and cultural connections.  I held preparatory talks with the heads and representatives of the departments in Padua, Trieste, Udine, Venice, Ljubljana, Maribor, Rijeka, Zadar, Zagreb, Graz and Linz. After an initial attitude of doubt and scepticism as to the success of such cooperation, all parties became willing and interested in contributing to the success of the first Alps-Adria Psychology Symposium and submitting themselves to the efforts of intercultural cooperation.

At that time, the political situation in Europe was clearly different from the present. Only Italy was member of the European Economic Community. Slovenia and Croatia were part of the former Yugoslavia, Hungary was behind the “Iron Curtain”. Today, it is almost impossible to imagine that there was no world wide web, no smartphones, sms, and emails were still in their infancy.

At the beginning of the preparations one of the dominating considerations was based on the fact that international academic contacts between psychologists were largely determined by geopolitical factors. The geographical and historical proximity of the various institutes by no means corresponds with the desired or actual cooperation activities. Apart from a few exceptions, there have hardly been any contacts within the Alps-Adria area. During the preparatory work, it was necessary to coordinate to some extent and to find a compromise on the different regional aspects, specialist academic demands, cultural differences in the psychological view of the individual. Consequently, we agreed on English as the language of the conference and that the conferences would permit a wide range of subjects.

At the end of September 1986, a preparatory meeting at the University of Klagenfurt was attended by representatives of the psychological departments from the afore mentioned universities. During this preparation, it was also agreed to establish an informal working group consisting of representatives of the departments, the Scientific Committee.

The first (then called) symposium took place at the University of Klagenfurt from 16th to 18th September 1987. There were 65 speakers from 13 departments who presented lectures, discussed the results of their research and got to know each other. The participants came from Graz, Klagenfurt, Linz, Ljubljana, Maribor, Padua, Rijeka, Trieste, Udine, Venice, Verona, Zadar and Zagreb. The symposium was under the patronage of the Conference of Rectors of the Alps-Adria Working Community.

If one summarises the experience of 14 conferences so far, it can be seen that:

  • Our Alps-Adria cooperation is based on a mutual idea - difficult to specify - an enigma?
  • Our conferences are devoted to international sociability whilst resting on a solid scientific foundation
  • The success of this collaboration is due to the efforts of many colleagues within the partner institutes
  • The Alps-Adria Psychology Conference offers young scientists the chance to raise their profile and build up international experience
  • In the face of the social restrictions set by the pandemic, the Alps-Adria Psychology Conferences are setting a counterpoint.


Prof. Dr. Herbert Janig
Founder of the Alps-Adria Psychology Cooperation