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Author: Adam Reichardt

Issue 6 2018: 1918 – The year of independence

Commemorating anniversaries is one of the key elements in collective memory and shaping national identities. This year’s events surrounding the centennial anniversaries of 1918 are no exception.

November 5, 2018 - New Eastern Europe

The decline of the West and the joy in the East

Interview with Andrzej Chwalba, Polish historian and professor of history at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. Interviewer: Andrzej Zaręba

ANDRZEJ ZARĘBA: The title of your book about the First World War is (Samobójstwo Europy) (The Suicide of Europe). Suicide suggests a certain will and a lack of determinism. Hence my first question: What would have happened on June 28th 1914 had Archduke Franz Ferdinand not been assassinated? Would war not have broken out?

ANDRZEJ CHWALBA: There were many assassination attempts on many important people at that time. There was no month without at least one assassination attempt. In the months before 1914 there were at least a dozen successful attempts, including the killing of the king of Serbia, the king of Italy, the Russian tsar, two US presidents as well as many prime ministers. Based on data from Austrian intelligence, there were eleven attempts to assassinate Franz Joseph – the goodhearted and beloved leader. There were attempts on Franz Ferdinand’s life as well – the June 1914 assassination, as we know, was the successful one.

November 5, 2018 - Andrzej Chwalba Andrzej Zaręba

More than independence. Poland and 1918

After the First World War Poland regained its independence. At the same time, it failed to recreate its former state, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and reconstruct a map of western Eurasia.

In 1918 a newly independent Poland appeared on Europe’s stage with a complex and ambitious vision to rebuild the western parts of the former Russian Empire. The new opportunities that Poland saw were a result of Germany and Russia’s defeat in the First World War. Poland, seeing a geopolitical vacuum in the East, came up with three visions.

November 5, 2018 - Adam Balcer

1918 – A geopolitical catastrophe for Ukraine

There is merit in perusing counterfactual history – which is not about what happened, but what could have happened. It allows us to reconsider simple questions and search for more precise answers. Why the Ukrainian revolution lost in 1918 is one such question.

When we recall 1918, within the context of Polish-Ukrainian relations, the first thing that springs to mind is the Polish-Ukrainian war for Lviv and Galicia. And this is only natural. This war has deeply influenced relations between the two societies for the decades that followed. As Christoph Mick described it in Lemberg, Lwów, L'viv, 1914-1947: Violence and Ethnicity in a Contested City, interactions between Poles, Ukrainians and Jews – until the horrors of the Second World War – developed under the influence of the memory of November 1918. Poles celebrated the victory and Ukrainians prepared for revenge, while Jews contemplated memories of the pogrom staged by the Polish army when it marched into Lviv and hence feared Polish antisemitism more than Ukrainian antisemitism.

November 5, 2018 - Yaroslav Hrytsak

Identity building after the rupture. Post-war memorials in Central and Eastern Europe

Following the First World War, a significant number of conspicuous monuments and memorials were put up in Central and Eastern Europe. More than just an attempt to come to terms with the trauma of the war, they were also a method of nation- and state-building. Consequently, it was associated with the revival or invention of traditions in order to stabilise the societies in the newly founded, re-founded or reshaped states.

The First World War was followed by the construction of mass number of monuments and memorials. In Central and Eastern Europe, however, the erection of new monuments was first preceded by the destruction of existing ones. In countries which had gained or regained their independence, symbols of the former regimes were removed from public view as they were associated with foreign rule and oppression.

November 5, 2018 - Arnold Bartetzky

The failure of mapmaking and territorialisation of statehood in Polesia and Belarus in 1918

For various reasons, the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty, signed on March 3rd 1918 between the Central Powers and Soviet Russia, was published without the agreed upon map. This insufficiency may have had dire consequences on the success of an independent Belarusian People’s Republic, which was later overtaken by the establishment of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Belarus in 1919.

Why was the map of the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty neither published nor handed down? It was an integral part of the binding international treaty that was adopted on March 3rd 1918. Instead of a written definition of the border demarcation, Article III of the treaty contained a fleeting reference to a map in the annex. The border was drawn according to a map kept in the Political Archive of the Foreign Office in Berlin since June 1918 at the latest. The original map is very large, on a scale of 1:800,000, and allowed the territorial assignment of places that are only ten kilometres apart. However, this graphic representation was never used.

November 5, 2018 - Diana Siebert

What does independence mean in the Baltics?

The three Baltic countries are celebrating 100 years of independence this year. What kind of societies have they become in the last century marked by both freedom and occupation? Three creative leaders from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania reflect on their struggles.

Not a lot of countries are so often mentioned in the same breath as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. When Pope Francis visited the three Baltic republics in September, he did not even need a whole week to set foot in all the countries. In recent history, of course, the trio have a lot in common. All suffered under Soviet occupation for nearly half of the 20th century, a period included in the 100 years of independence because they (plus the western world) never agreed with Moscow that the Baltics entered the USSR voluntarily.

November 5, 2018 - Koen Verhelst

Selective memory in the South Caucasus

This year is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the short independence in the South Caucasus. Politicians in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan have used this opportunity to remind about the history of statehood and present their own vision of those times and the current situation. Sadly, what is presented today is largely distant from the visions for these countries 100 years ago.

It was a sad morning in Batumi. Noe Zhordania – the founding father of an independent Georgia in 1918 – was standing on the deck of a ship waiting for his departure. The beautiful view of the mountains towering over the Black Sea coast was probably the last one he saw before leaving his homeland forever. At that moment he was unaware, but the prospects of his return were not too optimistic.

November 5, 2018 - Jan Brodowski

Is the blockchain revolution starting in Russia?

Russia, with its cheap electricity and talented tech professionals, has become an important hub for cryptocurrency. And it seems the Russian authorities are starting to see the benefits of blockchain technology, especially in terms of overcoming US sanctions.

“Can you see this bag?” Sanjarbek Nasirbekov, an Uzbek technology expert and bitcoin trader, asks me pointing to a black sporty backpack resting on a hanger. We are sitting in his Tashkent office on the third floor of a hip co-working space with a gym and a game room, sipping afternoon tea. “This is where I carry the cash when I go to Moscow,” he explains. Sanjarbek’s trips to Russia with the black backpack began when his business started growing and his clients’ demand for bitcoin increased. At the time, buying two bitcoins per day from his Moscow-based partner was no longer a sustainable option. Sanjarbek needed more. And his Russian partner could help him.

November 5, 2018 - Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska

Russia’s economic policy in Putin’s fourth term

Despite some initial disruption, the Kremlin’s efforts to counteract and mitigate the impact of sanctions have been quite successful. The state-led redistributive model has ensured that the authorities are well placed to respond to any disruption caused by the sanctions. In essence, the effect of the sanctions has reinforced a highly interventionist economic policy and a dominant role of the state in driving economic growth.

Is Russia’s economic policy a success or failure? The answer may strike many as self-evident. By most conventional measures, the economy has performed poorly in recent years. Between 2000 and 2008, Russia’s economy grew by an impressive seven per cent per year, driven by both rising oil prices and substantial productivity gains. Over the past ten years, however, Russia’s real GDP has risen, on average, by just one per cent per year.

November 5, 2018 - Alex Nice

Russia’s denial syndrome

The HIV epidemic continues to spread in Russia while the authorities appear to be doing very little to effectively counter it. It does not help that the dedicated NGOs that try to prevent its spread are faced with legal obstacles and conspiracy theories claiming that the HIV epidemic is a hoax fabricated by the pharmaceutical industry.

In 2015 as many as 120,000 Russians were diagnosed with HIV. This figure is 70 per cent of the total number of new diagnoses in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. That year the number of officially registered HIV carriers in Russia exceeded one million, and the Russian authorities had to finally recognise the existence of a full-scale HIV epidemic.

November 5, 2018 - Olga Irisova

Georgia’s liberal transformation. An ongoing adventure

Over the past two decades, the liberal capitalist transformation and the new cultural purification of post-communist Georgia has gained the form of political-ideological rituals and cultural exorcisms. All are invited to take part in post-communist exorcisms and rituals, but only the ruling class enjoys the fruits of the transformation.

What do we mean when we speak about the liberal and neoliberal transformation, or the purification, of contemporary Georgia? First of all it is the story of the post-communist order and mentality. And this story begins in the new era of the post-communist transition in Georgia, where the new elite resort to a number of western liberal canons that they perceived as the basic intellectual and ideological tools for an effective liberal and democratic transformation. Among those canons are: individual liberty and the idea of a liberal capitalist state.

November 5, 2018 - Bakar Berekashvili

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