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Analysis

How Central Asia understands democracy

Since gaining independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the republics of Central Asia have undergone a diverse process of nation and state building. However, some common threads in Central Asia have emerged, including a unique understanding of the concept of democracy.

Independence was thrust upon the Central Asian republics in the wake of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, necessitating a series of fundamental processes, including state- and nation-building. While the process of constructing a national identity has been multi-faceted and contested, much of the nation-building concentrated on political regimes, who dovetailed this process to their efforts of consolidating power and legitimation. Twenty-five years later, new symbols of nationhood have replaced the old Soviet paraphernalia. Teams of national historiographers, ethnographers and political ideologues have developed new national narratives to valorise the nations. The content of the new national identities has been drawn from a variety of old and new identity markers: Muslim and Atheist, Turkic, Persian, and Slav, Eastern and Western, and modern and traditional.

October 31, 2017 - Mariya Y. Omelicheva

Central Asia and water: No time left for squabbles

A combination of rapid population growth and climate change, which some believe may lead to the vanishing of much of the region’s river-feeding glaciers within the next half century, is going to pose the greatest challenge Central Asia has ever confronted in its history.

October 31, 2017 - Peter Leonard

Central Europe is more vulnerable than it appears

Since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, far-right and extremist organisations in Central Europe have redirected their attention to geopolitical issues. They not only agitate against NATO and the European Union, but also share a particular sympathy towards Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Clear evidence points to direct support for groups coming from Russia or pro-Russian sources.

In April 2014, just a few weeks after Russia annexed Crimea, Tamás Gaudi-Nagy, a Hungarian lawmaker from the far-right party Jobbik, gave a speech to the Council of Europe’s General Assembly. The tone of his speech reflected his t-shirt which read “Crimea legally belongs to Russia, Transcarpathia legally belongs to Hungary”. After the “legitimate” annexation of Crimea by Russia, he argued, it was time for Hungary to take back lost territories such as Transcarpathia – a part of Ukraine that belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1920.

One year later, in autumn 2015, Gaudi-Nagy made an even stranger statement during a TV debate: he claimed he was encouraged by his Russian counterparts while he was delegated to the Council of Europe to revise the border with Ukraine, hinting that Russia would back such a move. He said the time has come to change the course of history. But these performances were not the only actions by the far-right and extreme right to put pressure on Hungarian and Ukrainian authorities to aid in the secession of Transcarpathia.

October 31, 2017 - Edit Zgut Lóránt Győri Péter Krekó

Visas for Georgians are not enough

It has been over six months since the European Union lifted visa requirements for Georgian citizens travelling to the EU. In recent years, this issue was the main engine of EU-Georgia co-operation and was hailed as a success of Georgia’s pro-European policies. The euphoria felt among Georgians after achieving visa-free travel, however, may fade over time. Therefore, it is necessary that the EU presents Georgia with concrete goals towards continuous participation in the Eastern Partnership.

Since the 2003 Rose Revolution Georgia has been treated as a model student, first in the European Neighbourhood Policy and then the Eastern Partnership. The United National Movement led by Mikheil Saakashvili unequivocally expressed the intention to integrate with Euro-Atlantic structures and despite the authoritarian tendencies of its leader, the party managed to implement an ambitious internal reform plan.

The pro-western trajectory of the country was not shaken by the five day war in August 2008 or the rise to power of Saakashvili’s opposition, the Georgian Dream. Many observers worried that the party, controlled by the oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili, would take a more pro-Russian course in its foreign policy instead of deepening its co-operation with the West. Despite a slight relaxation of relations between Tbilisi and Moscow after 2013, the activities aimed at Georgia's integration with the EU have continued.

October 31, 2017 - Mateusz Kubiak

The Czech paradox

Czechs are by definition more western and European (although not necessarily pro-European), more democratic, more liberal, wealthier and more emancipated than other Central Europeans. This megalomania, to a great extent, contributed to the success of the Czech transformation.

What did the Czechs give Europe? It would be much easier to answer this question if we knew what Europe is. If we think of it as the European Union, then the Czechs might be seen, for instance in Timothy Snyder’s view, as simply one of “ancient Habsburg peoples who abandoned great national projects of the 19th century in order to embrace the European idea of the 21st century”. Similar to other countries in the region, the Czech Republic, is a country too small to be able to conceive the notion of a sovereign existence; too poor in resources and educated elite to be able to survive in the times of globalisation; they aim for unification [since today] the indication of national success is not an independent state but EU membership, Snyder wrote in 2008.

October 31, 2017 - Aleksander Kaczorowski

Czech-Polish relations. Past and future

The Czech-Polish relationship has been a very important one in building Central Europe’s success. Václav Havel already understood it in 1990. But the question is how much of Havel’s belief in Poland’s contribution is reflected in European politics today?

“We also know, of course, that the Polish Solidarity movement, led by Lech Wałęsa, was the first to find a peaceful and effective way to offer continuous resistance to the totalitarian system. Nor will we forget that it was you, the Polish Senate and the Sejm, who were the first – in the summer of last year – to condemn the shameful invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Allow me therefore to use this occasion to thank you and the entire Polish nation.” Václav Havel speech in the Polish Sejm and Senate, January 25th 1990

October 30, 2017 - Vít Dostál

The battle over Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia

Last April, Russia’s Supreme Court banned Jehovah’s Witnesses, which came as a blow to the freedom of religion. How the European Court of Human Rights rules on the many cases against Russia, will reveal much about the future of the Court’s influence and the rule of law in the country.

October 25, 2017 - James T. Richardson

Sobchak. A presidential anti-candidate.

Ksenia Sobchak, the new Russian presidential candidate, does not pose a threat to Putin. She is too controversial to build a wide front of support, even among the critical, liberally-minded parts of the Russian society. Thus she is an ideal sparring partner for Putin, while Navalny would be too risky for the Kremlin.

October 23, 2017 - Paulina Siegień

Russia saving its energy for January presidential election

Despite the Czech disinformation community being the most advanced and established compared to other Central European states, major challenges remain, especially in light of the upcoming parliamentary elections and the presidential election in January 2018.

October 21, 2017 - Jakub Janda

Will an independent mayoral candidate bring political change to Georgia?

On October 21st, Georgia will vote in local elections. According to a recent survey, if Tbilisi mayoral race enters a second round, Aleko Elisashvili, a prominent grassroots activist, is likely to emerge as a winner.

October 18, 2017 - David Sichinava

Eastern Partnership: 20 deliverables for 2020

"The upcoming Summit is an opportunity to build on our achievements to-date and to inject new dynamism into our partnership. We need to be ambitious, but also realistic and credible", says Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations.

October 17, 2017 - Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska Johannes Hahn

Protestants in Russia: An active minority

Russian Protestants are considered one of the most religious groups in the country. While they are relatively small in number, they are actively involved in the lives of their communities. What do we know about the often overlooked religious denomination?

October 12, 2017 - Oksana Kuropatkina

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