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The decline of the West and the joy in the East

Interview with Andrzej Chwalba, Polish historian and professor of history at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. Interviewer: Andrzej Zaręba

ANDRZEJ ZARĘBA: The title of your book about the First World War is (Samobójstwo Europy) (The Suicide of Europe). Suicide suggests a certain will and a lack of determinism. Hence my first question: What would have happened on June 28th 1914 had Archduke Franz Ferdinand not been assassinated? Would war not have broken out?

ANDRZEJ CHWALBA: There were many assassination attempts on many important people at that time. There was no month without at least one assassination attempt. In the months before 1914 there were at least a dozen successful attempts, including the killing of the king of Serbia, the king of Italy, the Russian tsar, two US presidents as well as many prime ministers. Based on data from Austrian intelligence, there were eleven attempts to assassinate Franz Joseph – the goodhearted and beloved leader. There were attempts on Franz Ferdinand’s life as well – the June 1914 assassination, as we know, was the successful one.

November 5, 2018 - Andrzej Chwalba Andrzej Zaręba

Is the blockchain revolution starting in Russia?

Russia, with its cheap electricity and talented tech professionals, has become an important hub for cryptocurrency. And it seems the Russian authorities are starting to see the benefits of blockchain technology, especially in terms of overcoming US sanctions.

“Can you see this bag?” Sanjarbek Nasirbekov, an Uzbek technology expert and bitcoin trader, asks me pointing to a black sporty backpack resting on a hanger. We are sitting in his Tashkent office on the third floor of a hip co-working space with a gym and a game room, sipping afternoon tea. “This is where I carry the cash when I go to Moscow,” he explains. Sanjarbek’s trips to Russia with the black backpack began when his business started growing and his clients’ demand for bitcoin increased. At the time, buying two bitcoins per day from his Moscow-based partner was no longer a sustainable option. Sanjarbek needed more. And his Russian partner could help him.

November 5, 2018 - Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska

Russia’s economic policy in Putin’s fourth term

Despite some initial disruption, the Kremlin’s efforts to counteract and mitigate the impact of sanctions have been quite successful. The state-led redistributive model has ensured that the authorities are well placed to respond to any disruption caused by the sanctions. In essence, the effect of the sanctions has reinforced a highly interventionist economic policy and a dominant role of the state in driving economic growth.

Is Russia’s economic policy a success or failure? The answer may strike many as self-evident. By most conventional measures, the economy has performed poorly in recent years. Between 2000 and 2008, Russia’s economy grew by an impressive seven per cent per year, driven by both rising oil prices and substantial productivity gains. Over the past ten years, however, Russia’s real GDP has risen, on average, by just one per cent per year.

November 5, 2018 - Alex Nice

Russia’s denial syndrome

The HIV epidemic continues to spread in Russia while the authorities appear to be doing very little to effectively counter it. It does not help that the dedicated NGOs that try to prevent its spread are faced with legal obstacles and conspiracy theories claiming that the HIV epidemic is a hoax fabricated by the pharmaceutical industry.

In 2015 as many as 120,000 Russians were diagnosed with HIV. This figure is 70 per cent of the total number of new diagnoses in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. That year the number of officially registered HIV carriers in Russia exceeded one million, and the Russian authorities had to finally recognise the existence of a full-scale HIV epidemic.

November 5, 2018 - Olga Irisova

Georgian presidential elections 2018

A few days before the elections, a walk along Tbilisi’s valleys or a trip between the main roads connecting Georgian towns reminds the traveller of what a state ruled by one man looks like. Catching sight of Salome Zurabishvili’s campaign, uninformed passers-by could get the impression that there is only one candidate for the presidential post. Yet despite the campaign pictures, her victory in the approaching elections is not a given.

October 25, 2018 - Bartłomiej Krzysztan

Poroshenko has achieved a second independence from Russia

As Moscow warns of repercussions, Kyiv finally rejoices with the good tidings from a tense synod.

October 15, 2018 - Taras Kuzio

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

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