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Category: Issue 1 2019

The dramatic turn of political discourse in Romania

Never in recent memory has Romanian society been so divided. Over the course of the last decade, political rhetoric has become more violent and polarising. The recent referendum to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the constitution, which did not legally pass, can be considered the height of these developments.

Anyone watching the speeches of Romanian MPs and discussions between members of the different Romanian political parties from the late 1990s and early 2000s would be amazed to see how different they were from the debates of the last decade. It is a matter of fact that the political discourse has taken a radical turn in the past number of years, and it would not be difficult to pinpoint the moment when the discourse began to deteriorate – when ad hominem attacks, name calling, and the demonisation of one’s political adversaries and their supporters became the norm.

January 2, 2019 - Paul Gabriel Sandu

The state of decentralisation in Ukraine

Decentralization seems to be the least controversial of all the post-Maidan reforms in Ukraine. Yet it is one that has directly affected a large number of citizens.

The Lyubar unified territorial community in Zhytomyr oblast was established in October 2017 during the decentralisation reforms in Ukraine. The community is made up of the majority of the Lyubar administrative district within the Zhytomyr oblast. It includes 37 villages and the town of Lyubar itself.

January 2, 2019 - Kateryna Pryshchepa

Georgia in the move to a multi-polar world

Georgia finds itself in an increasingly multipolar environment. Internal tensions within the West mean Georgia can no longer count on the same policy stability from its traditional partners.

The flag of the European Union remains ubiquitous on the government buildings of a country on Europe’s outermost fringes: Georgia. Tbilisi International Airport welcomes visitors with signage highlighting Georgia’s status as an “EU-associated state”. The platforms of all its leading political parties include an aspiration to join not just the European Union but NATO as well. Ten years after Georgia’s war with Russia, Tbilisi’s geopolitical orientation appears unwavering, as frozen as the conflicts with the Russia-backed breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

January 2, 2019 - Maximillian Hess

Human rights as a weapon

An interview with Ivan Lishchyna, the Ukrainian deputy minister of justice, and government commissioner of the European Court of Human Rights. Interviewer: Tomasz Lachowski

TOMASZ LACHOWSKI: Since 2014 part of the Ukrainian territory has been constantly occupied by the Russian Federation and Kremlin-backed troops, widely referred to as pro-Russian separatists. Among the many different diplomatic, political and military instruments undertaken by the Ukrainian authorities, Kyiv also uses strict legal tools to succeed in its effort to dispose of the occupants on Ukrainian soil. How can human rights help in achieving this goal?

IVAN LISHCHYNA: First of all we need to come to some general terms with what we are discussing. We have to distinguish two territories that are currently occupied by the Russian Federation: Crimea and a part of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (referred to as ORDLO in Ukrainian law). From the point of view of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and from the Ukrainian standpoint, there is no difference in the legal regimes between them: they are both occupied by Russian forces and unlawfully held by the Kremlin.

January 2, 2019 - Tomasz Lachowski

Like in the good, old American movies…

A conversation with Nijolė Oželytė-Vaitiekūnienė, a prominent Lithuanian actress. Interviewer: Linas Jegelevicius

LINAS JEGELEVICIUS: In recent interviews, you have labelled yourself Homo Sovieticus, a sardonic and critical reference to the average conformist person living in the Soviet Union. How is this compatible with you being a woman who has spoken out many times on woman rights and who has travelled the world after the restoration of independence in 1990?

NIJOLĖ OŽELYTĖ-VAITIEKŪNIENĖ: All of us who were born during the years of Soviet occupation are Homo Sovieticus, more or less. In fact, we – that generation – shouldn’t be ashamed of it, deny or repudiate it. When I think of the past, I like to use the example of the victims of Stockholm syndrome.

January 2, 2019 - Linas Jegelevicius

The business case for climate action

Interview with Adam Koniuszewski, co-founder of the Bridge Foundation. Interviewer: Adam Reichardt

ADAM REICHARDT: The organisation which you co-founded with your wife Margo Koniuszewski, the Bridge Foundation, advocates for a greater awareness and implementation of a circular economy. How would you envision this in the future? And what steps can and should be taken to move in this direction?

ADAM KONIUSZEWSKI: As revolutionary and innovative as the circular economy may appear, the concept is as old as the world. In a figurative and literal sense. Nature has always worked in cycles where nothing is lost or wasted. This is very different from how our linear take-make-waste economy works with programmed obsolescence at its core.

January 2, 2019 - Adam Koniuszewski Adam Reichardt

The house that Mykola built

Mykola Golovan believes that Ukraine is changing and becoming even more beautiful. It is being built anew, just as he has been rebuilding his house. It only needs to get rid of some wrongful ideologies and open itself more to the world.

“I get my energy from the river. Recently I was bathing in the Vistula river, but it was cold and I could not stay there very long” – these are the first words I hear from Mykola Golovan who continues with his life story to tell me more about his art. Indeed, the story told by this 75-year old Ukrainian artist from Lutsk is not so much expressed by his words as it is to be found in the language of culture. It is depicted in his sculptures, bas-reliefs, rotundas and ornaments. For over 30 years now, Golovan has been the creator of a house which he calls an exhibition.

January 2, 2019 - Kinga Gajda

A day in an Istrian olive grove

Olive oil is a symbol of Mediterranean culture and antiquity, so special that the ancient Romans poured this drink of gods into painted amphorae. It is no coincidence that, for centuries, olive oil has been used as chrism for anointing during worship. It always seemed to me that those who produce olive oil with their own hands belong to some higher, secret culture.

Even in the ancient world, olive oil from Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula had a remarkable reputation and was served to Roman emperors. After the Second World War, when the region became a part of the socialist Yugoslavia, this sector fell into decay. Nonetheless, interest in the cultivation of olives has experienced a true renaissance since the early 2000s, and the area of olive groves in Istria has increased tenfold. It is the revival of tradition that is essential for the local identity, part of its cultural code.

January 2, 2019 - Andriy Lyubka

On food and power

It is an interesting exercise to compare two types of culinary cultures – the utopian Soviet ideal and the capitalist fast food one. While the totalitarian culture relied on food scarcity and hunger as a tool of authoritative disciplining, the present-day culture relies on temptation and abundance.

Culinary culture is a field of culture that regulates the human experience of food. The need for food is not merely a need for calories and nutrients. Food encompasses a wide range of cultural connotations. Through our food choices we choose who we are, and our adherence to our family, society, culture and even the state. Food also has political meaning. Therefore, food and its consumption has always been of interest to those in power, who often ration, control, distribute and identify food in particular ways.

January 2, 2019 - Irina Soklhan

The land of the warm breeze

Behind the cellars we come across a billboard with a mosaic showing a map of today’s Hungary. Overlaid on it is the map of Hungary from before the Treaty of Trianon. Marked in blue on the map are “Hungarian rivers” – the Danube, Tisza, Mureș and Sava. This piece of patriotic art reminds everybody that this 1920 defeat hurts Hungarians until today.

The Polish city of Krosno was drenched in sunlight. For a few days the warm wind wafts from the mountain pass. That southern gale is characteristic of this part of the Subcarpathia, or podkarpackie in Polish. In the autumn the wind brings beautiful, warm weather. Scholars call it a tunnelling wind to distinguish it from the foehn wind, or halny as it is called in the Polish Tatra Mountains. The wind follows the path once used by military troops and trading caravans – the lowest part of the bend of the Carpathian Mountains in the Dukla Pass. Today, the pass is known as expressway S19, the road that once served as the route through which Hungarian wines were brought to Poland.

January 2, 2019 - Katarina Novikova and Wiktor Trybus

Women’s rights in imperial Russia. Outcasts of history

The thaw of the 1980s allowed Russian historians to become re-acquainted with the pre-revolutionary and non-Marxist methods of interpreting historical events. These approaches paved a new way for interpreting history, allowing a departure from merely descriptive methods. Since the 1990s a new understanding of women’s rights in pre-Bolshevik Russia began to emerge.

I grew up listening to Soviet propaganda, praising the regime for giving women so much: education, ability to have a career and money on par with men, benefits for mothers, divorce and so on. To a certain extent, reality was confirming the party message. Women worked as teachers, doctors, and engineers. Valentina Tereshkova even went to space. Would something like this be possible during the tsarist rule? No, of course not. That is why our history textbooks presented life in pre-revolutionary Russia as full of suffering and exploitation, accompanied by rebellions and wars. Then the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution came, which changed Russia and the world, or at least that is what we were taught.

January 2, 2019 - Irina Yukina

Film as a counternarrative

A review of Donbas. A film written and directed by Sergey Loznitsa. Released in Ukraine, October 2018.
It has been nearly five years since the start of hybrid war in Donbas, which has come to resemble something of a frozen conflict in eastern Ukraine. And it is since the separatists, backed by Russian military forces, captured Debaltseve – rather than the Minsk II Accords – that the conflict has evolved into a low-intensity positional fire exchange.

January 2, 2019 - Jakub Bornio

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