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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

Will the long-awaited justice prevail in Ukraine?

Many of Ukraine’s judiciary reforms are starting to take effect. A new Supreme Court has been in place since last December and new commissions are vetting and retraining judges to ensure fair trials and minimise corruption. Activists who advocate reform, however, have expressed disappointment with the judiciary reform process thus far.

The judiciary reform in Ukraine, which unofficially started in 2014, has finally brought its first results. The new Supreme Court of Ukraine began functioning in December last year and the newly established higher bodies of the judiciary are now assessing the judges who will continue working in the general and appeals courts of Ukraine. However, the reforms, which began mostly out of the need to restore trust in the judiciary, have not yet managed to achieve its main goal. The judiciary continues to be one of the least trusted institutions in the country – a view that is shared by the general public and external experts.

April 26, 2018 - Kateryna Pryshchepa

The far right’s disproportionate influence

In Ukraine the majority of the population remains pro-European. Yet, there is a visibly growing influence of marginal far right groups who aim to reshape politics and mainstream discourse. Society either does not notice the effects or it considers these groups as overly emotional patriots. After all, for a country immersed in war, nationalism should serve as a force to unite against the enemy.

After the Revolution of Dignity, many new nationalist parties have appeared on the Ukrainian political arena. While none of them have managed to become a serious political force, some are finding support by successfully blending into the patriotic trend, deftly playing on Ukrainians’ wartime pains. Despite its pro-European origins, the EuroMaidan has spawned a number of conflicting trends. The power of the democratic, liberal protest and the civil struggle for justice was intercepted and replaced by conservatism and the status quo. Right-wing radicals have made use of the tense revolutionary situation in which people appreciate the strong, dedicated nationalist movement that has since emerged, one which first protected the protesters from government forces and then joined the fight against the Russian-supported separatists in Donbas.

April 26, 2018 - Nina Boichenko

From Putin’s Russia to a non-Putin’s Russia

An interview with Gleb Pavlovsky, a Russian political scientist. Interviewer: Maxim Rust

MAXIM RUST: In your social media posts and comments you often use the hashtag #sistemaRF (system of the Russian Federation). What is this system like today and what is its essence?

GLEB PAVLOVSKY: I use this concept because I wrote several articles where I describe the regime in Russia which does not fit classical categories as a political system or a state. These are disputable issues indeed. What is the Russian regime like, what kind of state is Russia, etc.? The regime is bad but that does not mean anything, because if we make comparisons between today’s Russia and other systems, it means we put Russia in a certain order which may mean that we will lose the key to understanding its essence. This essence is what I am searching for. That is why I use this hashtag to describe the Russian system as a unique aggregation of behaviour and power norms. This system is exceptionally flexible, which is important.

April 26, 2018 - Maxim Rust

Protests force Armenian PM to resign, marking a new era for the country

Serzh Sargsyan's ambitious plan to cling onto power seems to have failed.

April 25, 2018 - Marija Bogdanovic

The Kremlin and the Internet

While the Russian regime is busy with its campaign across the world wide web, it seems to have overreached at home.

April 20, 2018 - Paulina Siegień

A Tale of Two Putins

Having turned the law into an instrument of state policy and private vendetta and having turned the legislature into a caricature without power of independence, can Vladimir Putin afford to become an ex-president? Conventional wisdom would say that he cannot. Without being at the top of the system, he is at best vulnerable and at worst dead, and he knows it.

In March Vladimir Putin will, it is safe to predict, win re-election. The real questions relate to what happens after the election, with some predicting a thaw, while others expect even more authoritarian policies. Will Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev be replaced? Will there be renewed overtures to the West? In many ways, though, this may betray our own biases, as Kremlinologists from democratic nations naturally assume that an election represents a boundary point from one state to another. Yet in a system such as Putin’s, sometimes described as a managed democracy, it is much more clearly managed than democratic. Indeed, of late it has come to feel as if the Kremlin regards the various trappings of democracy – not just elections but also press conferences, legislative sessions and consultations – as an increasingly irritating burden.

February 26, 2018 - Mark Galeotti

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