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Stories and ideas

In Transnistria, you can still dream

Like youth everywhere, young people in Transnistria are depressed about little things but not as anxious as their peers in the West. The lack of information and the feeling of living in a bubble make it easier for them to survive. Despite what you might often read in western media, life in Transnistria is not all that bad.

January 4, 2018 - Michael Eric Lambert

A generation in transition

Last year, the European Union finally decided to allow Georgians to travel to the EU visa free. Many Georgians like to joke that the current generation, unlike their parents, take weekend getaways in Berlin, not Moscow. Yet in reality, many young Georgians cannot afford to leave the country as they are faced with economic and social hardships.

Georgia's geographical position between Asia and Europe is both an advantage and a challenge for the country. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the restoration of independence, the country had gone through war and devastation; it lost 20 per cent of its territory and currently struggles to find a development path with the threat of Russian intervention. Yet, as local political leaders like to repeat, Georgia has made its civilisational choice.

Tbilisi is confident the European model of democracy, and the Euro-Atlantic security system, will help preserve the country's stability and sovereignty. Despite the open aggression of Russia, which does not want to lose its sphere of influence in the South Caucasus, Georgian officials actively co-operate with the EU and dream of one day becoming a NATO member. Like their peers in the West, young people in Georgia struggle to make a start in life, but they also hope for a brighter future.

January 2, 2018 - Marta Ardashelia

Ukrainians seek a Polish dream in Wrocław

It is difficult to determine the exact number of Ukrainian migrants arriving to Poland, but their presence is visible. In Wrocław, a city with slightly less than 630,000 residents, between 51,000 and 64,000 are Ukrainian – that is around one in every ten residents.

I arrange a meeting with Alina in a Wrocław pub called Idyll.. Wrocław is a city in the western part of Poland. Before the Second World War it was a German city known as Breslau. After the war and the border changes, the Germans were expelled and Poles moved in, many of whom were from the eastern part of the former Polish lands. Today, it is a lively city with a growing population – many of whom are immigrants from Ukraine.

January 2, 2018 - Olga Chrebor

Civil society steps in to preserve Romania’s past

In Romania, despite a lack of political will, civil society is racing to save dilapidated old structures and help ensure the survival of the region's unique identity. Yet, will their efforts be enough to save the thousands of heritage sites across the country?

A dozen-strong group of volunteers gather at the stone base of a fortified Lutheran church in the small Saxon village of Filetelnic, Transylvania, as Eugen Vaida, head of the Ambulanta Pentru Monumente (Ambulance for Monuments), gives directions on how to save one of the church’s three-metre-high fortified walls. The wall, part of which dates back to the 15th century, is crumbling from the top down as a result of water infiltration. This would eventually destroy the wall, as well as the ancient inscriptions on it, which date back to the 16th and 17th centuries.

Sadly, Filetelnic is not a unique case. Many heritage buildings throughout this region have fallen into various states of disrepair, from crumbling medieval fortified churches to abandoned Hungarian castles, from old war monuments to centuries-old Saxon homes.

January 2, 2018 - Stephen McGrath

Start-ups take off in Ukraine

Start-ups are rapidly developing in Ukraine with many companies attaining million dollar investments. Thus, some of the very popular tech products on the market are ones you may not realise originate in Ukraine. For the moment they are just the tip of the iceberg, as the public and private sector are seeking ways to cultivate Ukraine’s emerging entrepreneurial spirit even more.

In the IT world, Ukraine is usually perceived as a country for outsourcing, where programmers work for somebody else’s business instead of starting their own. This theory no longer holds true as more and more Ukrainians have showed that they can become entrepreneurs too. Many have established new start-up companies and some even go through the seven circles of hell to get investments. They fail, they succeed, but they do not give up trying. You may even recognise some of the Ukrainian products which have managed to succeed on the global market, even though you probably did not know that they came from Ukraine.

January 2, 2018 - Yulia Lipentseva

Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation and its contribution to Ukraine’s independence. A Memoir

The Polish discussion on Ukraine and the “Eastern Question” filled the pages of many of the underground publications that existed in the 1980s in communist Poland. Similar to Kultura since the late 1940s, they called for reconciliation between former enemies and mutual forgiveness for past crimes committed by all sides.

Growing up in northern England I was surrounded by nationalisms of different kinds. Irish nationalists seeking a united Ireland were at war in Ulster and had brought their terrorist campaign to the British mainland. Eastern European refugees from the communist bloc had brought their nationalisms with them to Great Britain and these continued to open old wounds in the émigré ghettos. The two biggest of these nationalisms were Ukrainian and Polish. Most members of the Ukrainian community in Britain were members of the three wings of the OUN (Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists) with the Stepan Bandera wing by far the largest. Their primary enemy though was the Russians and the Soviet empire – not Poles or Poland.

January 2, 2018 - Taras Kuzio

A school like no other

For a quarter of a century the Moscow School of Civic Education, until 2013 known as the Moscow School of Political Studies, has trained over ten thousand graduates. Some of them have become influential figures in Russian political and civic life. Many use the skills and competences gained at the school’s workshops in their everyday life.

In 1992, Lena Nemirovskaya and Yury Senokosov, two Russian civic activists, saw their dream come true, one that was impossible to fulfil in Soviet times. They founded the Moscow School of Political Studies which started academic research in political, civic and social development in Russia. From the very beginning, Lena and Yury knew they could not limit the school’s activity to large urban areas (e.g. Moscow and Leningrad, which soon was renamed St Petersburg) and their goal was to reach out to the youth living in all areas.

January 2, 2018 - Kacper Dziekan

When being a prisoner becomes hip

A review of Inside Pussy Riot – an immersive theatre performance at Saatchi gallery, London.

On February 21st 2012, a group of five women wearing colourful balaclavas entered the Moscow Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and pulled off a 40-second show which changed their lives forever. Calling on the Virgin Mary to chase Putin away, the feminist punk band Pussy Riot protested against the growing authoritarianism, corruption and human rights abuses in Russia. Three of the band members – Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich – were immediately detained and then sentenced to two years at a labour colony for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. After an appeal, Samutsevich’s sentence was suspended.

January 2, 2018 - Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska

To understand Russian nationalism

A review of Lost Kingdom. A History of Russian Nationalism from Ivan the Great to Vladimir Putin. By: Serhii Plokhy. Publisher: Basic Books, New York, 2017.

In the 19th century Russian poet and diplomat Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev wrote:
“Russia cannot be understood with the mind alone,
No ordinary yardstick can span her greatness:
She stands alone, unique –
In Russia, one can only believe”.


Tyutchev was strongly involved in the pan-Slavist movement, often criticising the West. After defeating Napoleon and before the Crimea war in the middle of the 19th century, Russia was considered a superpower. Parallels between Russian imperial times and the Kremlin's policy today are clear. Particularly so, if we look at the way Russia is confronting the West and forging its own vision of politics – not only when it comes to its international position but also the role of the Russian nation. The question which constantly returns is thus: how to understand Russia?

January 2, 2018 - Jan Brodowski

Illustrated chronicles of the forgotten and furious in Putin’s Russia

A review of Other Russias . By: Victoria Lomasko. Publisher: Penguin, London, 2017.

What happens when graphic journalism meets human rights activism in contemporary Russia? Other Russias, a newly published book by Victoria Lomasko, is one result of this prolific encounter: a powerful reportage casting light on some of Russia’s most serious social injustices. In Other Russias, Lomasko condensates eight years of research and travel, giving birth to more than 300 pages of drawings produced from life, rather than reproduced from photographs, and writings collected between 2008 and 2016.

January 2, 2018 - Laura Luciani

A historical optimist

A review of Magnetic North: Conversations with Tomas Venclova. By: Tomas Venclova and Ellen Hinsey. Publisher: University of Rochester Press, Rochester New York, 2017.

Today our world is plagued with massive flows of information, chaos, propaganda, post-truth and fake news. If we play on John Austin’s conception of doing things with words, one might have a feeling that our world is simply cramped. There is a tendency to equate being prolific with being great, as literary criticism and economics prefer easily quantifiable works. Aware that culture has origins in the Latin cultivare, we should expect it to bear fruit once a year. The Lithuanian poet and Yale professor Tomas Venclova, however, approaches it with much more patience.

January 2, 2018 - Laurynas Vaičiūnas

Islam and Russian power politics

A review of Russia and Its Islamic World – From the Mongol Conquest to the Syrian Military Intervention. By: Robert Service. Publisher: Hoover Institution Press, 2017.

At the opening of the Moscow Cathedral Mosque in September 2015, President Vladimir Putin called Islam an integral part of Russia’s spiritual life. In the 21st century Islam in Russia is one of the most challenging research topics, since the Russian Federation hosts the largest Muslim minority in Europe and shares an ambivalent history with various Muslim groups. In addition, in 2015 Russia intervened militarily in the Syrian civil war. These facts lead us to question if it is possible to link Russia’s role in domestic politics with its foreign policy in the Muslim world?

January 2, 2018 - Tibor Wilhelm Benedek

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