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Category: Magazine

Becoming the promised land once again

The city of Łódź was once touted as the Promised Land of Poland. But in 2004, it was the fastest depopulating city in the country. After the modernisation of Poland and a revitalisation of the city which saw old factories turned into hip shopping malls and cultural centres, Łódź is back on track to living up to its old epithet.

Our Uber driver takes us through the city of Łódź (pronounced woodge) as he happily tells us about life in Poland. “Not bad,” he says. “Things have gotten much better over the last couple of years.” At one point, he turns around and asks if we know an old movie called The Promised Land (Ziemia obiecana in Polish). “It’s about Łódź, you know,” he tells us. The movie depicts the story of Karol Borowiecki, Max Baum and Moritz Welt’s struggles with building a factory during the industrial revolution in the 19th century. The film, which takes place in Łódź, was adapted from the 1899 novel written by the well-known Polish writer Władysław Reymont. The 1975 film was directed by Andrzej Wajda and depicts greed, lust and dreams during the industrial high.

February 26, 2018 - Emil Staulund Larsen and Emily Jarvie

Coming out in Minsk

The start of this year was an important moment in the socio-political history of Belarus. In late December 2017 a local feminist and anti-discriminatory group of activists called MAKEOUT published a unique LGBT magazine in Belarus. The journal bears the same name as the organisation and was already presented to the public in Minsk. Its content is a summary of the last 20 years of the Belarusian LGBT movement.

Why I am writing about this magazine here and why should we regard it as something significant? First and foremost, MAKEOUT is a professionally-printed publication which deals with a very sensitive topic, especially in a socially conservative post-Soviet country. When considering the regional context it is also quite remarkable that the publication does not come from Russia or Ukraine, but from Belarus, a country that was the least likely to allow such a publication, mainly because of the amount of negatives stereotypes and attitudes towards non-heterosexuals that still exist there. Against these odds, MAKEOUT has succeeded in creating something without precedence.

February 26, 2018 - Maxim Rust

A “Eurasian” Ukraine

In Ukraine it has become popular to view the country as a bulwark of democratic Europe, one that protects the continent from Moscow’s expansion or Eurasian despotism. This vision, however, neglects the fact that for centuries Ukraine was connected to the Great Steppe, stretching from the Carpathians to Korea.

The Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine has given new life to the archetype of Ukraine as a bulwark which defends Europe. As Mykhailo Hrushevskiy, the father of Ukrainian historiography, once wrote, Ukraine has played “an honourable role in protecting European civilisation from Asiatic hordes”. Ukrainian nationalists tend to orientalise Russia which is portrayed as an Asiatic or Eurasian tyranny formed by the allegedly authoritarian Mongols.

February 26, 2018 - Adam Balcer

The forgotten border

Following the First World War, the new border established between Poland and Germany, finally implemented in 1921, stretched from the Upper Silesian Coal Basin all the way to the Baltic Sea. The border, however, remained a primary source of conflict; especially as the political decisions of the Weimar Republic allowed for a revision of the Versailles Treaty. Today it is the focus of a joint Polish-German project.

Only during concerts would he receive applause like this. Ignacy Jan Paderewski, a pianist and composer, arrived in Poznań on December 26th 1918 (18 days after the end of the First World War) and was greeted with much excitement by the Poles. Earlier, he had played a concert at the White House in Washington, DC and met with the US President Woodrow Wilson, whom he tried to convince that an independent Polish state had to be created. It was still yet unclear as to where exactly the borders of this state would lie.

February 26, 2018 - Uwe Rada

Justice delayed not denied. Stalin and history on trial in Kyiv

There is no question that transitional justice plays a significant role for a society in overcoming a past trauma. This was the case for Ukrainians seeking justice for the Holodomor events. It may also be the case as Ukraine seeks to end the conflict in Donbas.

On January 13th 2010 the court of appeals in Kyiv adopted a ruling stating that the Great Famine, known as Holodomor, which took place in 1932-33 was an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people. It further ruled that the crime of genocide was organised and committed by the Bolsheviks, specifically naming Joseph Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, Pavel Postyshev, Stanisław Kosior, Vlas Chubar and Mendel Khataievich. However, the accused and principle architects of one of the most heinous crimes of the 20th century, in which several million people died, were unable to hear the final statement of the court – all had passed away decades before the proceedings were even launched.

February 26, 2018 - Tomasz Lachowski

Detangling Putin’s web in the West

A review of Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir. By: Anton Shekhovtsov. Publisher: Routledge, London and New York, 2018.

Anton Shekhovtsov, a fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, is already a familiar name to those working on the far right in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. He has previously written on Aleksandr Dugin and Russian neo-Eurasianism as well as on white power racist music subcultures. With his recent book, Russia and the Western Far Right, he is reaching out to a much broader audience than the relatively intimate academic world of comparative fascist studies.

February 26, 2018 - Matthew Kott

The Soviet revolutionary

A review of Gorbachev: His Life and Times. By: William Taubman. Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company, New York, USA, 2017.

The mere utterance of the name “Gorbachev” is one that can incite adulation and scorn – sometimes even simultaneously. In his long awaited masterpiece (11 years in the making), William Taubman, using previously inaccessible memoirs and diaries, alongside the hundreds of hours of personal interviews conducted with a large number of major and minor players in this narrative, has managed to capture the complexities of a man both idealised by his admirers but even more vehemently demonised by his adversaries.

February 26, 2018 - Matt Andersen

A right to remember, a right to forget

A review of Law and Memory: Towards Legal Governance of History. Edited by Uladzislau Belavusau and Aleksandra Gliszczyńska-Grabias. Publisher: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK 2017.

With the most recent wave of illiberal governments rising to power in Central and Eastern Europe, memory politics was reintroduced at the top of the policymaking agenda. Following years of relative abnegation, in which various liberal, social-democratic and post-communist partisan formations deemed this area a politically unrewarding dimension, the present-day authorities of the region have prioritised it as one of the paramount pillars of their identity politics. Oftentimes seeing themselves as monopolistic memory agents, proprietaries of the only true vision of the past and collective memory, these groupings deliberately blur the distinction between the politics of the past and the present.

February 26, 2018 - Mateusz Mazzini

A history lesson on European integration

A review of Under a common sky. Ethnic groups of the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania. Edited by: Michał Kopczyński and Wojciech Tygielski. Publisher: Polish History Museum in Warsaw and PIASA Books, New York, USA, 2017.

Many historians and academics have seen the multiculturalism of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as Poland’s unique contribution to a unified and integrating Europe. As Saint John Paul II famously stated: “From the Union of Lublin to the Union of Europe,” the Polish-Lithuanian state can be viewed somewhat as a prototype or socio-political laboratory for contemporary solutions to European integration. And while the ethnic and religious diversity of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is a well-documented fact, it is hardly part of Poland’s collective conscience today. The temptation to view the history of the Polish-Lithuanian state through the lens of the contemporary Polish nation is shared by both ordinary citizens and the political elite.

February 26, 2018 - Dominik Wilczewski

Issue 1/2018: The growing generation gap

How today's post-Soviet youth is radically different than previous generations - new issue now available!

January 2, 2018 - New Eastern Europe

The politicisation of Russian youth

In Russia, within the younger generation, a politically sensitive “subgroup” has formed and has been growing since 2010. It is no longer just Vladimir Putin's generation, but also the generation of Alexei Navalny and YouTube.

After the protests on the Maidan in Ukraine, the “electro-Maidan” in Armenia and especially Russia’s anti-corruption rallies in the spring and summer of last year, a debate about a new generation of post-Soviet youth has flared up in the media. Is it true that this new generation is more radical than the previous one? Why didn’t young people participate in politics before? How can we describe the life of the modern post-Soviet youth and are they able to finally build a democratic civil society in the post-Soviet space?

January 2, 2018 - Svetlana Erpyleva

Russia’s young and restless speak up

Today’s young Russian generation was born in the mid to late 1990s. They grew up with the internet and mobile phones. They witnessed the country grow rich and believed they too would receive the benefits of oil revenue and live happily. But alas it has turned out that the internet is censored, the benefits are gone and they are not going to get much in life.

In early 2017 Alexei Navalny announced that he will run against Vladimir Putin in 2018. In less than a year, he managed to raise, through crowdfunding, 200 million Russian roubles (roughly three million euros), which is an unprecedented amount for a Russian politician. He opened 80 headquarters across the country and organised a series of protest rallies that were attended in March and June 2017 by tens of thousands of people. These demonstrations were the first mass gatherings that swept across Russian provinces (some were organised even in small towns) since the 1990s.

Barriers and restrictions, attempts to discredit the demonstrations, media censorship and attacks by thugs did not deter the protestors. What is more, it was clear, starting with the first March rally, that a large number of the protesters were very young. They were primarily high school students and teenagers. This is a fairly new situation for the protest scene in Russia.

January 2, 2018 - Anastasia Sergeeva

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