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Category: Issue 1 2019

A reflection of the modern populist

A review of Orbán. Europe’s New Strongman. By: Paul Lendvai. Publisher: Hurst & Company. London, United Kingdom, 2018.

At the end of November last year, a video of a meeting between Chuck Norris, the legendary Hollywood action film star, and Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister, went viral. The video depicts the meeting of the two figures and includes a scene where Orbán is driving Norris (and his wife Gena O'Kelley) to visit a counter-terrorism training centre. During the drive, Orbán admits to Norris, "I am a street fighter, basically. I’m not coming from the elite. I’m coming from a small village 40 kilometres from here."

January 2, 2019 - Adam Reichardt

The liberating holiday of Sânziene

A review of Bottled Goods. By Sophie van Llewyn. Publisher: Fairlight books, Oxford, United Kingdom, 2018.

Sânziene is a Romanian word for fairy. It comes from the Latin word Sancta Diana, the name of the ancient Roman goddess of the hunt and the moon. She watches over women during Sânziene, and her holiday has been celebrated in the western Carpathians since the time of Roman Dacia (ancient Romania). The yearly festivities on June 24th have claimed its place in Romanian folklore, associated with girls and women in white dresses looking for flowers that they can use to make crowns. Then they dance around a fire, jumping over the embers, to cleanse themselves and gain magical powers. Finally, they throw the crowns they made from the flowers over the houses. When a crown lands on the roof there will be a good harvest and wealth, if it falls on the ground there will be death. The protagonist of Sophie van Llewyn’s novel Bottled Goods takes part in this long forgotten ritual, which was illegal to practice in communist Romania.

January 2, 2019 - Kinga Gajda

A tribute to Nemtsov

A review of Boris Nemtsov and Russian Politics: Power and Resistance. Edited by: Andrey Makarychev, and Alexandra Yatsyk. Publisher: Ibidem-Verlag (part of the series SPPS edited by: Andreas Umland), Vol. 181, Stuttgart, 2018.

When I hear the name Boris Nemtsov, Russia’s alternative history often comes to my mind. I ask myself: what would today’s Russian Federation look like if there were more people like him? I then imagine the 1990s, when privatisation was performed in a more legal way so it could not become – as the Russians called it – prichvatisation (in English the word prichat means "capture") and the free market was seen as something more than an opportunity to make the rich even richer, and that democracy was not associated only with chaos.

January 2, 2019 - Agnieszka Legucka

We had a dream

A review of From Cold War to Hot Peace. By: Michael McFaul. Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018.

It goes without saying that the United States and Russia are facing a new reality in bilateral relations. The cause behind this is not only the lack of common values but the fact that both sides seem to hold different visions of the world. In the case of the current Trump administration, this vision is not clear to read or understand. Yet not that long ago when relations between the old enemies were different, co-operation was closer. All this was taking place within the framework of the reset which was pursued by the Obama administration. Reflecting on this new opening today, a few questions arise. Namely: what was behind the change in US policy towards Russia, and why was it implemented?

January 2, 2019 - Jan Brodowski

The essence of Central Asia

A review of Buran. Kirgiz wraca na koń. (Buran. Kyrgyz gets back on the horse). By: Wojciech Górecki. Publisher: Wydawnictwo Czarne, Sękowa, Poland, 2018.

Wojciech Górecki, who is one of the most talented Polish reporters covering Eastern Europe and Central Asia, has just released a new book. Interestingly it comes out half a century after another Polish reporter, Ryszard Kapuściński (often nicknamed the “Cesar of reporting”) travelled to the most exotic republics of the then Soviet Union: Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. In his ventures, Górecki visited the same places as Kapuściński.

January 2, 2019 - Zbigniew Rokita

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