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Category: Issue 3-4 2018

Issue 3-4 2018: Para-states. Life beyond geopolitics

The Summer 2018 issue of New Eastern Europe tackles the complexity of para-states in the post-Soviet space. Our authors analyse their status and position, but also take you beyond the geopolitics. They focus on elements that elude the everyday policymaker or analyst. They look at culture, identity and entrepreneurship.

April 26, 2018 - New Eastern Europe

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

Culture in a conflicted region

The Republic of Abkhazia is a partially-recognised small de facto state located in the South Caucasus between the Russian and Georgia. In 2014 the first contemporary art initiative of its kind emerged here – the cultural project SKLAD.

The history of Abkhazia is complex, multifaceted and quite dramatic. A small landmass on the Black Sea, Abkhazia has been historically located between the vast Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Russian Empires. This explains not only its multi-ethnic population, numerous historical and cultural monuments, and international trade, but also the number of conflicts it has experienced. The most recent conflict was the Georgian-Abkhaz War of 1992-93, the result of which was the declaration of independence by Abkhazia as an autonomous republic. This conflict, directly linked to the collapse of the Soviet Union, is known in the newly created republic as the Patriotic War of the People of Abkhazia.

April 26, 2018 - Anton Ochirov

A recognised pub in an unrecognised state

Two bottles of whiskey and a small location was all Azat Adamyan had to start with. Today, the pub Bardak (Russian for “mess”) is one of a kind in the city of Stepanakert – the capital of the unrecognised Nagorno-Karabakh. His success has led him to branch out into other business ventures.

At eight o'clock every evening Azat Adamyan kick starts his motorcycle – which he named Charlotte – and drives to work. The 27-year-old from Stepanakert (the capital city of the de facto state of Nagorno-Karabakh) is the founder and only employee of Bardak, the one and only pub in Karabakh. Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, is the de facto unrecognised republic located in the South Caucasus. For more than 20 years Artsakh Armenians have lived in a state of “neither war, nor peace”.

April 26, 2018 - Knar Babayan

Peace is still far from reach

A conversation with Leyla and Arif Yunus, Azerbaijani human rights activists. Interviewer: Valentin Luntumbue.

VALENTIN LUNTUMBUE: I would like to begin by talking about the beginning of your engagement in the last hours of the Soviet Union, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the rise to power of Heydar Aliyev?

LEYLA YUNUS (LY): We are both historians and we began our work during the Soviet times. I was a member of the underground movement of national minorities against the Soviet regime and we were working with an underground newspaper, published in Moscow, called Express Khronika. The chief editor was Aleksandr Podrabinek. They had correspondents in different countries including Georgia, Armenia, Belarus and Ukraine; and we were responsible for Azerbaijan, together with Arif.

April 26, 2018 - Valentin Luntumbue

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

The red shoes of Transnistrian women

Domestic violence and human trafficking are some of the key issues facing Transnistrian women but while local NGOs focus on victim support, the patriarchal attitudes towards women in society remain mostly untouched. Young female activists hope to fight them through art.

There is no high quality statistical data on the state of women in Transnistria. A report on the situation of human rights in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova by UN senior expert Thomas Hammarberg in 2013 remains the most in-depth analysis available. According to Hammarberg’s report, the main issues women in Transnistria face are domestic violence and sex trafficking. Two Transnistrian NGOs (Resonance and the Apriori Information Centre) highlight the same issues in their 2013 report to the UN committee on the elimination of discrimination against women.

April 26, 2018 - Marina Shupac

The model student, the latecomer and the bully. NATO relations in Eastern Europe

The next NATO summit will be held on July 11-12th 2018 in Brussels. It provides the alliance with an opportunity to uphold or – if needed – potentially update the decisions regarding its relationship with Russia, Ukraine and Georgia. Certainly NATO must assess what it can realistically achieve in today’s relations with Moscow, Kyiv and Tbilisi.

The NATO summit in Warsaw in July 2016 constituted a turning point for the alliance. For NATO’s deterrence and defence policy it was not just a summit. It was the summit. A number of crucial decisions were made including a set of instruments that enhance NATO’s eastern flank. Most importantly, the allies agreed to establish an enhanced forward presence which consists of four multinational battalions in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. NATO also endorsed a tailored forward presence for the south-eastern flank which has been built around a Romanian framework brigade. Moreover, NATO decided to recognise cyberspace as an operational domain – joining land, air and sea – which enables the alliance to better protect its networks, missions, and operations.

April 26, 2018 - Dominik P. Jankowski

A house divided. Orthodoxy in post-Maidan Ukraine

Religious institutions in Ukraine are presently embroiled in an internecine battle between Orthodox factions that stand alongside a gaping ideological divide. The central fault line in this conflict is based on geopolitical and civilisational identities, with Moscow’s promotion of pan-Slavism comprising one side, and Kyiv’s pro-EU orientation the other.

The symbolic dimensions of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine are impossible to miss. And, as often as not, that symbolism is connected to religion. It could hardly be otherwise when separatists and Russian officials routinely cast the episodic fighting that continues in the east as a civilisational struggle between an enervated, hedonistic West that backs a “fascist junta” in Kyiv and the traditional Christian values of the so-called “Russian world” – the latter occasionally more palatably presented to Ukrainian audiences as “Holy Rus’.”

April 26, 2018 - George Soroka

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