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Category: Articles and Commentary

Striking down Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law

Last month’s European Court of Human Rights case of Bayev and others v. Russia is important in a legal sense and inconsequential in a practical sense. The Court decisively said that Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law violated freedom of expression and was discriminatory. Of the seven judges, six decided that Russia was in the wrong. Only one judge—the judge from Russia—said that the law complied with human rights. This is a decisive legal victory in favor of freedom of expression, but it is doubtful that the court case will influence views of LGBT people in Russia and the region.

August 22, 2017 - Gabriel Armas-Cardona

The perils of hybrid threats in Central Europe

Some 25 years ago, warfare and international security were understood more or less solely through the lens of military features. The changing nature of threats to security has determined a change in the way security is perceived, encompassing today threats from a variety of sectors such as political, economic, societal, militarily or environmental. Although not new, hybrid threats pose one of the biggest risks in the contemporary security and political environment since they comprise a mixture of means (i.e. technological, financial, diplomatic, legal, economic and military) intended to exploit weaknesses and undermine governments, government agencies and the democratic process hinder the decision making process.

August 21, 2017 - Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska

Russia and Putin: A dysfunctional family

In one of the most famous opening lines in literature, Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” What he meant by that was it is possible to fail in many ways, but there is only one way to succeed. The interesting thing about Russia’s ongoing failure, in contrast to its most famous writer’s wisdom, is that it is unrelenting in its uniformity. Nothing happening in Russia today is a surprise. It looks exactly like Russia's entire painstaking history played out year after year, decade after decade. Russian history, which is full of unique and different historical events, always seems to arrive back at the same place. 

August 18, 2017 - Vitali Shkliarov

Mitigating Mayakovsky: Exploring the poet’s legacy in post-Soviet Georgia

Vladimir Mayakovksy may be known as a leading poet during the events of 1917, with his name surfacing frequently as tributes pour in commemorating the revolution’s centenary. However, scholars who direct a museum dedicated to the writer in his birthplace in Georgia, are arguing that his talent transcends the political and that the time has come to “read the unread poet”.

August 16, 2017 - Elizabeth Short

A Russia-based journalist is facing a threat of deportation to Uzbekistan

Ali Feruz (real name: Khudoberdi Nurmatov), a human rights activist and correspondent of Novaya Gazeta, one of few independent Russian newspapers, is now under threat of being deported from Russia to Uzbekistan. The deportation would carry a high risk of Ali being tortured and international pressure is needed to stop the process.

August 7, 2017 - Olga Irisova

A reset was always fake news. New sanctions are not

On August 2nd, US President Donald Trump reluctantly signed tough new sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea. He had little choice since they passed both houses of the US Congress unanimously; 419 to 3 in the House of Representatives and 98 to 2 in the Senate, enabling them to block any presidential veto if Trump had decided not to sign them into law.

August 4, 2017 - Taras Kuzio

Kaliningrad oblast – Russia`s formidable A2/AD bubble

Kaliningrad Oblast – Russia`s westernmost region physically separated from the mainland – has reappeared in the forefront of international security-related discourse. Liberated from virtually complete isolation with the fall of the Soviet Union, this territory was hoped to soon turn into a prosperous “bridge of co-operation” between Russia and the West.

August 2, 2017 - Sergey Sukhankin

Wherever you may sail, you are always sailing towards Poland

A conversation with Professor Zdzisław Najder, a historian of literature and expert on Joseph Conrad. Interviewer: Grzegorz Nurek

August 1, 2017 - Grzegorz Nurek Zdzisław Najder

Lord Jim in the 21st Century

Joseph Conrad’s novel Lord Jim first appeared in book form in 1900, the same year as Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams. Discussions of Conrad’s “free and wandering tale” over the past century can also be seen as an ongoing attempt to interpret the conflict between the romantic daydreams of a young British sailor and their consequences in the real world of colonial imperialism. In his own imagination, Jim is “always an example of devotion to duty, and as unflinching as a hero in a book”; but as his mentor Stein explains, he does not know “how to be”: “He wants to be a saint and he wants to be a devil – and every time he shuts his eyes he sees himself as a very fine fellow – so fine as he can never be. . .  In a dream.” Marlow says in Heart of Darkness that “We live, as we dream – alone”; but once Jim sets himself apart from his kind by a notorious act of apparent cowardice, his quest is to find a community in which he can open his eyes without being reminded of his shame.

August 1, 2017 - Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska

Who remembers the Warsaw Uprising?

The 1944 Warsaw Uprising saw the destruction of one of Europe’s great cities. But it is a story not widely known outside of Poland, something the Polish government wants to put straight. We asked a random selection of Germans in Bonn what they know about the uprising as Poles commemorate its 73rd anniversary. 

August 1, 2017 - Jo Harper and Jan Darasz

Joseph Conrad and the East

Before he ever left home, Joseph Conrad knew what powerful nations and material interests could do to weaker peoples. Born Jósef Teodor Konrad Nałęcz Korzeniowski, in Berdyczów in modern-day Ukraine in 1857, he belonged to a nation, Poland, which was no longer to be found on the map. His father Apollo, a writer and prominent Polish nationalist, was arrested and exiled with his family for anti-Russian conspiracy when his son was four years old. This was Conrad’s first lesson in the power of empires and the cost of idealism. Life was difficult and by the time he was 11, both his parents were dead. Conrad never forgave imperial Russia: “from the very inception of her being”, he was to write in 1905, “the brutal destruction of dignity, of truth, of rectitude, of all that is faithful in human nature has been made the imperative condition of her existence”. At age 17, the young Korzeniowski went to sea, serving first as an ordinary seaman and later as a ship’s officer, mostly in vessels of the British merchant marine. He learnt English in his twenties and developed an ambition to become a writer in this, his third language.

August 1, 2017 - Douglas Kerr

Joseph Conrad. A Polish and European writer

Joseph Conrad was born as Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in Berdychiv (today in Ukraine) in 1857. He was a child of a Polish noble family that was involved in the conspirational fight for Poland’s independence. After the death of his mother the young Conrad moved to Kraków from where he later emigrated to France and later Great Britain. In Marseille he became a sailor and since then the whole world was his home. According to literary critic Rafał Marceli Blüth, the decision to ”fraternise with the element of the sea and the element of the peoples who were not deformed by civilisation”, as non-Europeans were called back then, were Conrad’s attempts to distance himself from his homeland, his nation and European culture overall. The truth, however, is that he never abandoned any of them. Conrad returned to Poland several times later on in life.

August 1, 2017 - Kinga Gajda

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