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Stories and ideas

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

Lublin and beyond: A new place to call home for Ukrainian Donbas migrants

For eastern Ukrainians, Lublin is the new place to be. Its low cost of living, high level of education and proximity to the Ukrainian border allow migrants fleeing the conflict back home and economic hardships that come with it find peace. All it takes is one arduous bus ride and the willingness to start over again.

December 17, 2018 - Tatiana Kozak

Welcome to Casa Jurnalistului – where Romanian reporters are rebuilding the media industry from the ground up

In an era of fake news, clickbait content, and cut-throat downsizing, it is no secret that journalism is undergoing a crisis. Although it is a global phenomenon, in Romania, the impact has been intensified by economic instability - 40 per cent of Romanians living under the breadline - and a corruption so rampant that the government is now decriminalising it. Frustrated at working in a climate where quality reporting was becoming increasingly difficult, Bucharest-based journalist Vlad Ursulean decided to take on what seemed like an impossible task - finding a sustainable alternative.

December 5, 2018 - Elizabeth Short

In Georgia, a fight to the end

They camp around the clock in the company of friends and supporters in front of the old parliament on the main arterial road of Tbilisi, Rustaveli Avenue. They have one tent, several camp beds, flags – Georgian, European, American – as well as photos of their sons and others who were murdered by a regime they consider criminal, that of Bidzina Ivanishvili.

November 21, 2018 - Wojciech Wojtasiewicz

Identity building after the rupture. Post-war memorials in Central and Eastern Europe

Following the First World War, a significant number of conspicuous monuments and memorials were put up in Central and Eastern Europe. More than just an attempt to come to terms with the trauma of the war, they were also a method of nation- and state-building. Consequently, it was associated with the revival or invention of traditions in order to stabilise the societies in the newly founded, re-founded or reshaped states.

The First World War was followed by the construction of mass number of monuments and memorials. In Central and Eastern Europe, however, the erection of new monuments was first preceded by the destruction of existing ones. In countries which had gained or regained their independence, symbols of the former regimes were removed from public view as they were associated with foreign rule and oppression.

November 5, 2018 - Arnold Bartetzky

What does independence mean in the Baltics?

The three Baltic countries are celebrating 100 years of independence this year. What kind of societies have they become in the last century marked by both freedom and occupation? Three creative leaders from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania reflect on their struggles.

Not a lot of countries are so often mentioned in the same breath as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. When Pope Francis visited the three Baltic republics in September, he did not even need a whole week to set foot in all the countries. In recent history, of course, the trio have a lot in common. All suffered under Soviet occupation for nearly half of the 20th century, a period included in the 100 years of independence because they (plus the western world) never agreed with Moscow that the Baltics entered the USSR voluntarily.

November 5, 2018 - Koen Verhelst

Georgia’s liberal transformation. An ongoing adventure

Over the past two decades, the liberal capitalist transformation and the new cultural purification of post-communist Georgia has gained the form of political-ideological rituals and cultural exorcisms. All are invited to take part in post-communist exorcisms and rituals, but only the ruling class enjoys the fruits of the transformation.

What do we mean when we speak about the liberal and neoliberal transformation, or the purification, of contemporary Georgia? First of all it is the story of the post-communist order and mentality. And this story begins in the new era of the post-communist transition in Georgia, where the new elite resort to a number of western liberal canons that they perceived as the basic intellectual and ideological tools for an effective liberal and democratic transformation. Among those canons are: individual liberty and the idea of a liberal capitalist state.

November 5, 2018 - Bakar Berekashvili

NGOs in Hungary learn to adapt under pressure

Since the passage of a new anti-NGO law in Hungary, civil society organisations have been on the edge. No one knows for certain what will happen. The biggest fear is that there will be a backlash after the European Parliament voted to support triggering Article 7 against Hungary.

It is an average Monday at Menedék, a Budapest-based NGO. The team meets in a big conference room to discuss weekly issues and report back from the weekend, while project managers share recent developments, good and bad. The phones are off, but there is always somebody waiting for a random client to show up and ask for some assistance or to sign up for an activity. The mood is casual, as usual. The team is very diverse and made up of old and young members. They are expats from non-EU countries, former refugees, university students and experienced NGO workers.

November 5, 2018 - Balint Josa and Anna Fedas

Polish Muslims, Polish Fears: A reflection on politics and the fear of the Other

Like other countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Poland’s public debate on migration and Islam has become a discussion about how to “prevent the danger” from entering the country. And amid it all, one group of voices is absent: those of Muslims themselves.

Through smashed windows, a few figures could be seen hurrying inside to afternoon prayers. Candles left by well-wishers flickered beneath the shards, beside a bouquet of flowers. In November 2017 unknown attackers vandalised the Ochota Muslim Cultural Centre, the largest Islamic community in Warsaw. It was just one more sign of rising intolerance against Poland’s few Muslims.

November 5, 2018 - Maxim Edwards

Zbigniew Herbert. A witness to his time

A special selection of essays dedicated to the life and writings of Zbigniew Herbert from New Eastern Europe.

September 1, 2018 - New Eastern Europe

Belarusian culture: national, European, post-Soviet

I dare say the Soviet cultural project is unlikely to survive in Belarus for another 20 years. The fact that there are artists working in Belarus today who represent the European or national layer of Belarusian culture is a result of the disintegration of the earlier mechanisms.

In June 1987 a group of enthusiasts wanted to prepare an exhibition at the Vitebsk regional library in Belarus. It was dedicated to Marc Chagall – a native of Vitebsk who was widely recognised in the West. However, in that summer attitudes towards Chagall in his hometown was somewhat ambiguous. First of all, a large exhibition of his art had been earlier held in Moscow. Secondly, a well-known magazine Ogoniok (Огонёк) had already published his work which aimed at rehabilitating the artist.

September 1, 2018 - Victor Martinovich

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