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Category: Books and Reviews

Forgetting Chechnya

Review of Irena Brežná's "She-Wolves from Sernovodsk: Notes from the Russo-Chechen War" and Polina Zherebtsova's "Ant in a Glass Jar: Chechen Diaries, 1994–2004".

July 10, 2018 - Tomasz Kamusella

Orders to Kill: The Putin Regime and Political Murder

A review of Amy Knight's book on the circumstantial evidence linking the Kremlin to a number of high profile murders.

June 6, 2018 - Artem Patalakh

Feeling history, 70 years on

A review of Kriegsgedenken als Event. Der 9. Mai 2015 im postsozialistischen Europa (War memory as an event. May 9th 2015 in post-socialist Europe). Edited by: Mischa Gabowitsch, Cordula Gdaniec, and Ekaterina Makhotina. Publisher: Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn, Germany, 2017.

May 9, 2018 - Paul Toetzke

Between an axis of convenience and a return to the past

A review of A Wary Embrace: What the China-Russia relationship means for the world. By: Bobo Lo. Published jointly by: Penguin Books / Lowy Institute, London/Sydney, 2017. and Russia and China: A Political Marriage of Convenience – Stable and Successful. By: Michal Lubina. Publisher: Barbara Budrich Publishers, Leverkusen Germany, 2017.

The Chinese-Russian relationship has become a contemporary issue these days. For the last two years analysts and scholars have produced volumes of publications that scrutinised recent developments taking place between Beijing and Moscow. Prior to the conflict over Ukraine, relations between Russia and China were of interest only to a handful of specialists. The multi-billion dollar gas deal, a revived arms trade and high-level summits have brought the Sino-Russian relationship into the spotlight while observers of international politics began to discuss prospects for emergence of an anti-western bloc. Two books stand out against this background. At first glance, they could not be more different.

April 25, 2018 - Marcin Kaczmarski

Eurasia and geopolitical thought

A review of The Dawn of Eurasia: On the Trail of the New World Order. By: Bruno Macaes. Publisher: Allen Lane, London, 2018.

The notion of civilisational entities and grand, sweeping analytical concepts such as “Europe”, “the East”, “Africa”, etc., has been under sustained attack by social scientists for over two and a half decades. Indeed, within the humanities it is seemingly a sine qua non for any commentator on the “non-European” to provide a pre-emptive preface outlining why what they have written is not Orientalism (broadly, the study of the non-West, as essentialist and as a means to domination).

April 25, 2018 - Emre Kazim

Ballad of a common soldier

A review of Кіборги: Герої не вмирають (Cyborgs: Heroes Never Die), a film directed by Akhtem Seitablaev, Ukraine 2017.

Released in December 2017, the film Cyborgs: Heroes Never Die is a breakthrough for Ukrainian cinema. The film, as the title indicates, depicts the heroic defence of the Donetsk airport by Ukrainian fighters, popularly known as the cyborgs. It is directed by Akhtem Seitablaev, a Crimean Tatar who was born in Uzbekistan. Seitablaev came to Crimea in 1989 when his family returned to the peninsula. He studied in Crimea and Kyiv and then worked for the Crimean Tatar Academic Music and Drama Theatre in Simferopol.

April 25, 2018 - Piotr Pogorzelski

Russia’s wars on Ukraine

A Review of Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine. By: Anne Applebaum. Publisher: Penguin Random House, 2017.

When looking through Anne Applebaum’s most recent book Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine, readers interested in Soviet crimes will probably refer back to Robert Conquest’s The Harvest of Sorrow. This 1986 landmark book by Conquest, a British historian, was the first to analyse the collectivisation of agriculture in 1929-31 in Ukraine and the subsequent 1932-33 famine, known as Holodomor. The Harvest of Sorrow was based on the limited historical data that was becoming available to western researchers at the time.

April 25, 2018 - Wojciech Siegień

Confronting the Romanian church’s cumbersome past

A review of The Romanian Orthodox Church and the Holocaust. By: Ion Popa. Publisher: Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana USA, 2017.

In the summer of 2017, the Romanian media was rocked by a series of scandals relating to the Orthodox Church. These scandals, which were a stroke of luck for journalists who would normally be reporting on how Romanians spend their holidays, centred on acts of sexual impropriety perpetrated by figures in the upper echelons of the Orthodox Church, including one celebrity priest-cum-musical superstar. The Bishop of Huşi and Father Celestin of the Prislop Monastery of Maramureş were discovered to have engaged in same-sex sexual activities; the bishop was even caught on video being intimate with a theology student. These revelations were compounded by the fact that the musical superstar and priest Cristian Pomohaci was accused of having abused young boys who worked on his farm. Several young men came forward testifying that they were abused at the hands of Pomohaci. The journalist who broke the story first contacted officials within the church in reference to Pomohaci but received no response. Confronted with the church’s inaction, he finally went public.

April 25, 2018 - Alin Constantin

Russia and the Balkans: Navigating a minefield of opportunities

A review of Rival Power: Russia’s Influence in Southeast Europe. By: Dimitar Bechev. Publisher: Yale University Press, New Haven, USA, 2017.

“Russia re-enacts the Great Game in the Balkans,” wrote columnist Leonid Bershidsky for Bloomberg in 2017. Comparing the Balkans to a geopolitical playground for great powers, like infamously Central Asia in the 19th century, Bershindsky insinuated that Russia has developed renewed interests and influence in the region. It is in this context that one should consider Dimitar Bechev’s recent Rival Power: Russia’s Influence in Southeast Europe, as he undertakes the task of explaining Russia’s role in this “Great Game”.

April 25, 2018 - Millie Radović

Detangling Putin’s web in the West

A review of Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir. By: Anton Shekhovtsov. Publisher: Routledge, London and New York, 2018.

Anton Shekhovtsov, a fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, is already a familiar name to those working on the far right in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. He has previously written on Aleksandr Dugin and Russian neo-Eurasianism as well as on white power racist music subcultures. With his recent book, Russia and the Western Far Right, he is reaching out to a much broader audience than the relatively intimate academic world of comparative fascist studies.

February 26, 2018 - Matthew Kott

The Soviet revolutionary

A review of Gorbachev: His Life and Times. By: William Taubman. Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company, New York, USA, 2017.

The mere utterance of the name “Gorbachev” is one that can incite adulation and scorn – sometimes even simultaneously. In his long awaited masterpiece (11 years in the making), William Taubman, using previously inaccessible memoirs and diaries, alongside the hundreds of hours of personal interviews conducted with a large number of major and minor players in this narrative, has managed to capture the complexities of a man both idealised by his admirers but even more vehemently demonised by his adversaries.

February 26, 2018 - Matt Andersen

A right to remember, a right to forget

A review of Law and Memory: Towards Legal Governance of History. Edited by Uladzislau Belavusau and Aleksandra Gliszczyńska-Grabias. Publisher: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK 2017.

With the most recent wave of illiberal governments rising to power in Central and Eastern Europe, memory politics was reintroduced at the top of the policymaking agenda. Following years of relative abnegation, in which various liberal, social-democratic and post-communist partisan formations deemed this area a politically unrewarding dimension, the present-day authorities of the region have prioritised it as one of the paramount pillars of their identity politics. Oftentimes seeing themselves as monopolistic memory agents, proprietaries of the only true vision of the past and collective memory, these groupings deliberately blur the distinction between the politics of the past and the present.

February 26, 2018 - Mateusz Mazzini

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