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Category: Books and Reviews

Security under Ze threat?

Review of the book titled: Ukraine after Maidan. Revisiting Domestic and Regional Security. Written by Tomasz Stępniewski and George Soroka.

May 15, 2019 - Tomasz Lachowski

Vladimir Putin. What’s left to say?

A review of We need to talk about Putin. How the West gets him wrong. By: Mark Galeotti. Publisher: Penguin Random House, United Kingdom, 2019.

May 2, 2019 - Adam Reichardt

Accidental borders and blurred identities

A review of The Caucasus. An Introduction. Second edition. By Thomas de Waal. Publisher: Oxford University Press, 2019.

May 2, 2019 - Krzysztof Strachota

The taste of evil

A review of Błoto Słodsze Niż Miód. Głosy Komunistycznej Albanii (Mud is sweeter than honey. Voices in communist Albania). By: Małgorzata Rejmer. Publisher: Wydawnictwo Czarne, Wołowiec Poland, 2018.

May 2, 2019 - Małgorzata Nocuń

The unheard voices of war

A review of Інтернат (The Boarding School). By: Serhiy Zhadan. Publisher: Meridian, Chernivtsi, Ukraine.

May 2, 2019 - Zbigniew Rokita

A western in Warsaw

A Covert Action. Reagan, the CIA, and the Cold War Struggle in Poland. By: Seth G. Jones. Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2018.

When on December 13th 1981 the Polish communist leader Wojciech Jaruzelski introduced Martial Law in Poland, Ronald Reagan, the US president at that time, was vacationing at Camp David. The interpretation of this fact still remains ambiguous today: were the Americans surprised by the decision of the Polish communist authorities? Or was the president’s weekend outing a demonstration of his peace of mind? This question remains unanswered, even though it is widely known that the defecting Polish Colonel, Ryszard Kukliński, had informed the CIA about the communists’ plans to introduce Martial Law. Why, in that case, did the Americans not warn the Polish underground?

March 4, 2019 - Andrzej Brzeziecki

Inspirations and lessons for an oppressed world

The Final Act: The Helsinki Accords and the Transformation of the Cold War. By: Michael Cotey Morgan. Publisher: Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2018.

Many lessons and inspirations for our troubled times can be drawn from the Cold War. For example, we learnt that fascism has many outfits. Communism showed that even the humanist, enlightened pursuit of utopia leads to totalitarianism, as long as it is based on a philosophy that counters rather than values political, social and basic human diversity. Similarly, we saw that we should take ideology seriously. This lesson is particularly important for us today, in the world of Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orbán, Bashar al-Assad, Xi Jingping, Donald Trump, and Nicolás Maduro.

March 4, 2019 - Jordan Luber

An iron will

Prebijem sa! Štefánik. Muž železnej vôle (I shall prevail! Štefánik – a Man of Iron Will). By: Jozef Banáš. Publisher: Ikar, Bratislava, 2018.

“Were we not to follow the path of truth and prove worthy of the good and the work you have done on our behalf, we would kill you. Were we to act selfishly in seeking our own prosperity instead of the nations, we would kill you. Were we to search for the meaning of life in material things, in money, food and physical escapades that are all soul-destroying, we would kill you. Were we to love lies more than truth, were we not to purge our private and public lives of evil, we would kill you. Were we to lose our national consciousness and pride, we would kill you.”

These were the touching words of Evangelical Bishop Samuel Zoch at Milan Rastislav Štefánik’s funeral on May 11th 1919 in Bradlo, close to the general’s native village of Košariská in western Slovakia. The Czechoslovak government in Slovakia – which had to fight for its survival until the Treaty of Versailles would grant recognition of the new state and its southern borders – demonstrated its gratitude with a state funeral and a beautiful sepulchre (mohyla) that was worthy of a king.

March 4, 2019 - Josette Baer

A booze smuggler’s metamorphosis into the Righteous Among Nations

A review of The Mover. A film written and directed by Dāvis Sīmanis. Released in Latvia, October 2018.

“Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.” No, I am not quoting from Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning film Schindler’s List (1993), although it has popularised the saying. Actually this quote, taken from the Talmud, is the leitmotif of the recent Latvian film The Mover, directed by Dāvis Sīmanis. Though the quote is never mentioned in the movie, it stays in the back of your mind all the time. The Mover is a film based on the true story of Žanis Lipke and his family, who risked their lives to save more than 50 Jews in Latvia during the Second World War, and were later honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

March 4, 2019 - Solveiga Kaļva

Film as a counternarrative

A review of Donbas. A film written and directed by Sergey Loznitsa. Released in Ukraine, October 2018.
It has been nearly five years since the start of hybrid war in Donbas, which has come to resemble something of a frozen conflict in eastern Ukraine. And it is since the separatists, backed by Russian military forces, captured Debaltseve – rather than the Minsk II Accords – that the conflict has evolved into a low-intensity positional fire exchange.

January 2, 2019 - Jakub Bornio

A reflection of the modern populist

A review of Orbán. Europe’s New Strongman. By: Paul Lendvai. Publisher: Hurst & Company. London, United Kingdom, 2018.

At the end of November last year, a video of a meeting between Chuck Norris, the legendary Hollywood action film star, and Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister, went viral. The video depicts the meeting of the two figures and includes a scene where Orbán is driving Norris (and his wife Gena O'Kelley) to visit a counter-terrorism training centre. During the drive, Orbán admits to Norris, "I am a street fighter, basically. I’m not coming from the elite. I’m coming from a small village 40 kilometres from here."

January 2, 2019 - Adam Reichardt

The liberating holiday of Sânziene

A review of Bottled Goods. By Sophie van Llewyn. Publisher: Fairlight books, Oxford, United Kingdom, 2018.

Sânziene is a Romanian word for fairy. It comes from the Latin word Sancta Diana, the name of the ancient Roman goddess of the hunt and the moon. She watches over women during Sânziene, and her holiday has been celebrated in the western Carpathians since the time of Roman Dacia (ancient Romania). The yearly festivities on June 24th have claimed its place in Romanian folklore, associated with girls and women in white dresses looking for flowers that they can use to make crowns. Then they dance around a fire, jumping over the embers, to cleanse themselves and gain magical powers. Finally, they throw the crowns they made from the flowers over the houses. When a crown lands on the roof there will be a good harvest and wealth, if it falls on the ground there will be death. The protagonist of Sophie van Llewyn’s novel Bottled Goods takes part in this long forgotten ritual, which was illegal to practice in communist Romania.

January 2, 2019 - Kinga Gajda

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