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Author: Adam Reichardt

Gagauzia: Geopolitics and identity

Gagauzia is an autonomous territorial unit located in the southeast of Moldova. Yet, the complex geopolitical situation in which the tiny region finds itself accentuates the challenges that still exist in the post-Soviet space.

Gagauzia (or Gagauz Yeri in the local language) is a small autonomous region in southern Moldova. Established in its current form in 1995, and officially known as the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia, the entity covers 1,832 square kilometres and is divided into three dolays (districts) situated in four enclaves. Out of the population of 155,600 (which makes up 4.6 per cent of Moldova’s population), the Gagauz people represent the majority of the region’s inhabitants (82.1 per cent), followed by Bulgarians (5.1 per cent), Moldovans (4.8 per cent), Russians (3.8 per cent) and Ukrainians (3.2 per cent).

May 2, 2019 - Rusif Huseynov

Rail Baltica strives to stay on track

The ambitious Rail Baltica project that aims to build a rail link from Helsinki to Poland has hit many hurdles and continues to face many setbacks. Despite some progress in overcoming these barriers, many questions remain unanswered – including whether the rail system will be operational in 2026, as planned.

The staggering 5.8 billion euro Rail Baltica project, to be built from the Estonian capital of Tallinn to the Lithuanian-Polish border, has become so complicated and sophisticated that the Latvian Transport Minister, Talis Linkaits, recently admitted that “Something will be built by the end of 2025, for sure.”

May 2, 2019 - Linas Linkevičius

Eastern Europe’s last tango. A journey through the interwar musical scene

The early Polish interwar music, which merged traditional folk motifs with intoxicating modern rhythms, spoke of a more technologically minded, progressive Polish musical scene where arrangements altered day-by-day as musicians skipped between bands, and new compositions could be finalised overnight. But it was the tango which often took centre stage. And this was true for many other countries in the region at that time.

C’est sous le ciel de l’Argentine, où la femme est toujours divine (It is under the sky of Argentina, where the woman is always divine), croons the absorbing refrain of the French “Le Dernier Tango” (“The Last Tango”) – a seemingly commonplace helping of the early 20th century tango-fever which had taken Western Europe by storm. Though written in 1913 by French musicians, it was still unquestionably Argentine. The melody had been pilfered from the 1903 “El Choclo” (“The Corn Cob”) by Argentine composer Angel Villoldo and the French lyrics bore those familiar flashes of delirious desire prevalent in any tango of the period.

May 2, 2019 - Juliette Bretan

The poverty of utopia revisited

In 1989 massive protests erupted from an increasingly restive population. The language of the intellectuals finally reached the people. The regimes found themselves unable to use tanks and bullets to maintain their utopian blueprints. Disenchantment with Marxism was a cathartic experience for Eastern Europe.

The story of Marxism in Eastern Europe begins with Stalinist fanaticism and ends with liberal revolutions in 1989. As the ideological determination of the elite faded through the second half of the 20th century, intellectuals advocated for human rights and dignity. Eventually, the wider populations revolted against communist totalitarianism, and the regimes found their pillars of terror and propaganda insufficient for ensuring continued domination. But with nationalist and fascist ideologies rising today, the journey of humanism in Eastern Europe goes on.

May 2, 2019 - Jordan Luber Vladimir Tismaneanu

The circle of hope: Samizdat, tamizdat and radio

I left Poland in 1970 with no hope that things would ever change for the better. Back then, would you dare to hope that Soviet communism could implode with just a little outside help?

I first got involved in dissident activity with a group of friends in high school during the early 1960s. During my studies at Warsaw University, my engagement with the movement grew. However it was all rather innocent then – mostly discussions about the past, present and the future, and some attempts to unnerve communist activists during public meetings at the university by asking awkward questions on issues such as the Katyń massacre or the exploitation of Poland by the Soviet Union. It was innocent until Jacek Kuroń and Karol Modzelewski were imprisoned for three years in 1965. After that, our group – built around Adam Michnik – started to be harassed by the secret police.

May 2, 2019 - Eugeniusz Smolar

The Polish Round Table. A bird’s-eye view

Today, the 1989 Round Table is still a topic of an important discussion in Poland, one that in the last years has become more intense than before. Many participants of the discussion are still active in Polish political life, including former presidents and prime ministers. A majority of them stress the positive aspects of the negotiations. Yet the Round Table has always had fierce critics.

The Polish Round Table negotiations, which started in February 1989, were one of those events whose meaning was not clear from the very beginning. In a way, we can compare this moment of Polish history to Julius Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon in 49 BC, after he ignored the order of the senators who were well aware of his high ambitions and wanted to keep him away from Rome. It marked the beginning of the end of the Roman republic, while from that moment on, the phrase “crossing the Rubicon” refers to a decision, or a historical event, which brings about irreversible consequences.

May 2, 2019 - Paulina Codogni

The bodies of the Velvet revolution. Remembering 1989 in the Czech Republic

During the 1990s, the commemoration of November 17th 1989 was dominated by the generation of witnesses and former dissidents. Today, it is mostly in the hands of the younger generation that did not directly participate in the events of 1989; they must find other ways to formulate the significance of the commemoration.

Národní Street in Prague has become a place of commemoration of the last Czech (Czechoslovak) great historical turning point – the fall of the communist regime. On November 17th 1989 a student march was violently repressed here. This event triggered nationwide social changes leading to the fall of state socialism. The two authors of this article do not have the events of November 1989 in their living memory, yet in our teenage years, the surge of our parents’ generation was the closest one can get to the so-called “great history”.

May 2, 2019 - Čeněk Pýcha Václav Sixta

We must not forget the values we fought for in 1989

Interview with Markus Meckel, a German theologian and politician. Interviewer: Kristin Aldag

KRISTIN ALDAG: As an active member of the opposition in East Germany, you were very much involved in the events of the peaceful revolution in 1989. What was the most influential moment or event for you that year?

MARKUS MECKEL: It was a very moving year for me. At the beginning of the year, together with a friend who, like me, was a Protestant pastor, I decided to set up a social democratic party in East Germany. That was, of course, a daring idea, because establishing a political party in the communist GDR was completely illegal. On the other hand, the establishment of the Social Democratic Party was an attack on the ruling Socialist Unity Party’s self-understanding since it had defined itself as a union of the working class of social democrats and communists.

May 2, 2019 - Kristin Aldag Markus Meckel

No bloody revolution

The year 1989 unfolded quite differently for Hungary than the rest of the Central European states where there was some sort of revolution. As opposed to all other countries in the Eastern bloc, the new political system that came into place was seemingly designed in advance.

The consensual term for the historical events that took place in Hungary in 1989 is rendszerváltás. In Hungarian it literally means “changing of the system”, as in Changing of the Guards. There are two other versions: rendszerváltozás (“the change of the system”, using an intransitive verb) and rendszerváltoztatás (“making the system change”, with a transitive and causative verb), reflecting some politico-linguistic subtleties that may be hard to grasp for a non-Hungarian speaker. The word “system” has special Hungarian connotations here, meaning the constitutional order or form of state.

May 2, 2019 - János Széky

Beyond nostalgia

The 30th anniversary of the fall of communism is an important milestone for Romania. Yet this anniversary is not present within the public space. Instead, today’s challenges appear to be far more pressing for society.

For many Romanians, the fall of the communist regime in 1989 was an unexpected moment that brought hope for a different way of life and a better future. Nicolae Manolescu, a Romanian literary critic, public intellectual and politician in The Right to Normality (published in 1991) pleaded for the restoration of normalcy after the political, social and cultural “rupture” brought by the communist regime in Romania. But what did this “normality” mean, and who was asking for it?

May 2, 2019 - Eugen Stancu

Bulgaria’s taboo

In recent years, Bulgarians have gained better clarity about what happened during communism because of the efforts of researchers who dared dig up the dirt and make their findings available to a broader audience. And it is only now that the crimes of communism have been included in the mandatory school curriculum. This transparency is essential for understanding the political processes in Bulgaria post-1989.

I was born in Bulgaria in 1985, but I first learned about the particularities of communism in an academic setting in 2003 when I started university in the United States and enrolled in various classes on political science and history. Until then, my understanding of communism was entirely based on conversations with my family and the obscure samizdat books which my grandfather kept in his library.

May 2, 2019 - Radosveta Vassileva

The curse of perestroika

Perestroika spawned entrepreneurship and readiness to undertake independent actions. It broadened access to managing the country and created the ground for creativity and innovation from one side. However from the other side it opened the Pandora’s Box of social, ethnic, national, economic and territorial conflicts.

It became common in Russia to remember Mikhail Gorbachev only in the negative sense and to blame him for the “breakup of the Soviet Union” and further troubles of Russia. Only one person was worse than him – Boris Yeltsin – and nothing was possible to do with this stereotype. However this year has seen a new trend – on March 2nd, Gorbachev’s birthday, positive comments and wishes for long life were posted on Facebook and other blogs. He was thanked for perestroika, for the freedom he gave and the opportunities he provided. At such moments one becomes witness to how eras change: a new generation is emerging.

May 2, 2019 - Anastasia Sergeeva

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