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A Belarusian house of cards

In the early stages of the system transformation, the division of the Belarusian political elite into the ruling-elite and counter-elite was more symbolic than a reflection of reality. Today, both demonstrate the features of the Homo post-Sovieticus, fitting into the post-Soviet model of political culture. However, while Lukashenka’s transformation and authoritarian modernisation have gained public support, the model promoted by the counter-elite has proved ineffective.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 the political elite played a key role in the process of systematic transformation within post-Soviet territories, including Belarus. The first years of the country’s independence marked a very important stage when the nature of establishing the political elite determined the further course of political, economic and social developments. It was the activities of the elite and counter-elite (i.e. the opposition) that influenced the dynamic of socio-political changes in Belarus.

September 2, 2018 - Maxim Rust

Between declarations and reality

Is Ukraine ready to regain control of the occupied part of Donbas?

Ukrainian officials are often under fire from critics due to their inefficiency in defending Ukrainian citizens in the occupied parts of Donbas. Unfortunately the criticism is deserved. Despite the creation of the ministry for the temporary occupied territories in April 2016, it is very difficult to find any positive results since its inception. Creating a ministry of information policy has not improved access to independent information. Even the rebuilding of damaged television towers and the building of new ones has been implemented very slowly and without any real success.

September 1, 2018 - Paweł Kost

Ukrainian media reforms: One step forward, two steps back

The development of the media landscape in Ukraine has taken an unconventional approach when compared to the countries of Central Europe and other post-Soviet states. While some success in terms of reform has been noted over the past two and a half decades, many barriers for a free and open media still exist.

For the past 27 years, Ukrainian media have gone through a difficult process of transformation. This process, however, is incomplete. Instead of state propaganda, private media have now emerged and developed. In the neighbouring countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the process of creating new media was closely intertwined with the processes of the democratic transformation. The media in Ukraine, in contrast, had to compete with the new Russian media after the fall of communism, which for several years afterwards was freely available in Ukraine. Russian media was well-resourced while Ukrainian media was bereaved by the similarity of the Ukrainian and Russian languages. Therefore, paradoxically, Ukrainian media had to use Russian language in order to compete with the Russian media.

September 1, 2018 - Roman Kabachiy

A clockwork orange

The media landscape in Hungary has all but collapsed, with nearly all major Hungarian online and print media in the hands of the government or pro-government forces. Only a few remaining independent sources exist, and they do so under constant threat.

There is a weekly news magazine in Hungary. It is called Figyelő. When they meet foreign colleagues, its journalists like to refer to it as the Observer (which is the English translation of the word figyelő) – it sounds dignified. On Thursdays, the day that the paper is published, everybody awaits the big story that will land on Figyelő’s front page. It was known as a reliable source of exclusive information, often prompting an official response to its stories. This was the case until the end of 2016.

September 1, 2018 - Szabolcs Vörös

Giedroyc lives on

Every few years in Poland there is a call to depart from the so-called “Giedroyc doctrine”. This is a philosophy about Eastern Europe that was proposed by Jerzy Giedroyc, the editor-in-chief of the 20th century Polish émigré journal Kultura.

June 27, 2018 - Adam Balcer

The Georgian Dream’s two sword agenda

Following this past weekend’s use of special forces in a Tbilisi night club, serious allegations and questions have emerged regarding the game of “victim and bully” between government-backed clubs where drugs are freely available to the youth and the government agencies hunting the young drug users and dealers through excessive force.

May 15, 2018 - Beka Kiria

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

Uncertain territory. The strange life and curious sustainability of de facto states

The international order has never been tidy or complete, always having lands with contested sovereignty. The breakdown of empires is the most common catalyst for producing new aspirant states. The post-Soviet space is especially rich in these territories, which includes Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia and Transnistria, along with two more recently established shadowy entities in eastern Ukraine.

April 26, 2018 - Thomas de Waal

New separatisms. Or what could happen if the West disappeared from Eastern Europe?

In Central and Eastern Europe, the West used to play a revolutionary role while Russia was that of a reactionary usurper. Today, the West has been hoisted by its own petard and the roles of the two powers in the region have reversed.

The West was once the defender and champion of the rights for those who suffered from unfavourable geopolitical arrangements after the Second World War. At least, it played this role in the territories where it competed with the Soviet Union and later the post-Soviet autocracies which emerged after the post-Cold War chaos of the 1990s. The West helped bring down communism in the region and its remains which were trying to survive in Russia and Serbia. It defended the rights of Kosovo’s Albanians, Muslim Bosniaks and Croats attacked by Serbs. Before that it was the main defender of the residents of the Eastern bloc, and all the nations that wanted to free themselves from Soviet rule. Today, the situation is entirely different.

April 26, 2018 - Ziemowit Szczerek

How to set up your own para-state

Reflecting on the recent examples of para-state-building, it raises the question how possible is it to build a new entity that would survive the tumultuous winds of history. As history suggests, in order to emerge and endure para-states need to follow a well-trodden path to independence and several simple rules.

The 1980s saw the gradual erosion of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia which, in consequence, led to the disintegration of both states. As they began to burst at the seams, a wave of armed conflicts swept through these territories with different groups looking to regain control over disputed lands. Within the former Soviet republics, separatist entities began to declare independence. In the 1990s alone, ten para-states emerged in the former Soviet bloc, out of which four have survived to this day.

April 26, 2018 - Paweł Pieniążek

Donbas coal bonanza

The self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics operate in line with mafia rules. The extraction, export and sale of coal – the region’s key resource – have helped the two para-states survive. It has also become a fuel for local power struggles, all under the blind eye of the European Union.

The self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR, LNR) are often compared to Transnistria, another unrecognised quasi-state supported by Moscow and used as a tool to destabilise Moldova. Such a comparison, however, is a mistake. Transnistria – to put things simply – is organised around the Transnistrian business conglomerate Sheriff, which controls the majority of companies, some government agencies and local political parties. In contrast, the DNR and LNR, covering one-third of Ukraine’s Donets Black Coal Basin, operate according to mafia rules. This is an important point to keep in mind while analysing the functioning of the economy of the para-states.

April 26, 2018 - Michał Potocki

Georgia’s separatist regions at a standstill

Moscow continues to be the main beneficiary of its policy towards Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Aspiring to gain recognition as states, Georgia’s breakaway territories agree to institutional, political, military, economic and social dependence on Russia. The moderate interest of the international community in solving the conflicts and the relatively weak position of Georgia further impinge any prospects for future stabilisation of the region.

Years after declaring independence, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia’s separatist republics, are far from becoming autonomous entities. Their functioning continues to depend on the support of Moscow, which sees them as convenient centres of projecting Russian influence in the region. The country’s military and economic ties with the separatist states have successfully prevented Georgia’s bid for NATO or EU membership. At the same time, it gives the republics a semblance of autonomy where they can continue to play the lead part in the spectacle called independence.

April 26, 2018 - Agnieszka Tomczyk

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