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Category: Books and Reviews

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

A history lesson on European integration

A review of Under a common sky. Ethnic groups of the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania. Edited by: Michał Kopczyński and Wojciech Tygielski. Publisher: Polish History Museum in Warsaw and PIASA Books, New York, USA, 2017.

Many historians and academics have seen the multiculturalism of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as Poland’s unique contribution to a unified and integrating Europe. As Saint John Paul II famously stated: “From the Union of Lublin to the Union of Europe,” the Polish-Lithuanian state can be viewed somewhat as a prototype or socio-political laboratory for contemporary solutions to European integration. And while the ethnic and religious diversity of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is a well-documented fact, it is hardly part of Poland’s collective conscience today. The temptation to view the history of the Polish-Lithuanian state through the lens of the contemporary Polish nation is shared by both ordinary citizens and the political elite.

February 26, 2018 - Dominik Wilczewski

Whose hostages?

A review of Hostages. A film written and directed by Rezo Gigineishvili, Georgian-Russian-Polish co-production, 2017.

October 4, 2017 - Yulia Oreshina

When hard words break democracy’s bones

A review of How Propaganda Works . By: Jason Stanley, Princeton University Press: Princeton, New Jersey, USA, 2015.

October 4, 2017 - Matteusz Mazzini

The neoliberal world was made for autocrats

A review of Dictators without Borders: Power and money in Central Asia. By: Alexander Cooley and John Heathershaw. Published by: Yale University Press, New Haven, USA, 2017.

October 4, 2017 - Millie Radović

In Russia’s near abroad, storylines matter

A review of Near Abroad: Putin, the West, and the Contest Over Ukraine and the Caucasus. By: Gerard Toal. Publisher: Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, 2017.

October 4, 2017 - Joseph Larsen

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.

October 4, 2017 - Paul Toetzke

Slavic geopolitics

A review of Słowiańska geopolityka. Twórcy rosyjskiej, ukraińskiej i czechosłowackiej geopolityki oraz ich koncepcje ideologiczno-terytorialne (Slavic geopolitics. Shapers of Russian, Ukrainian and Czechoslovak geopolitics and their ideological-territorial conceptions). By: Piotr Eberhardt. Publisher: ARCANA, Kraków, 2017.

October 4, 2017 - Marek Wojnar

Breaking the comfortable silence on the Holocaust

A book review of Mūsiškiai (Ours). By: Rūta Vanagaitė. Publisher: Alma littera, Vilnius, 2016.

What makes Rūta Vanagaitė’s Ours (Mūsiškiai) very different from all other Lithuanian books on the Holocaust is that it was from the start written as a bestseller. Written by an experienced public relations professional as an appeal to the Lithuanian public, the book raises the painful issue of historical responsibility. The author does not refrain from giving a personal twist to the story (it would be impossible otherwise, as the Holocaust is an issue of individual position and individual responsibility). The author is piercingly direct and uses black comedy. She approaches the topic with composure and a sense of supremacy. These two features may irritate the reader. However, she is entitled to it as she aims to confront the reader, which she so eloquently achieves.

October 3, 2017 - Linas Vildžiūnas

The monumental significance of heritage

The 20th century was an era of wars, nation-building and monuments. If there is anyone who connects all these elements then you can point one name without a second thought – Ivan Meštrović. The Croatian master of sculpting, patriot and visionary. He contributed to popularisation of Croatia and all region, and Central and Eastern Europeans remember him as part of their heritage. From June 25th to November 5th 2017, the International Cultural Centre in Kraków hosts an exibition titled “Adriatic Epopee” devoted to the artist.

August 31, 2017 - Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska