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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will the long-awaited justice prevail in Ukraine?

Many of Ukraine’s judiciary reforms are starting to take effect. A new Supreme Court has been in place since last December and new commissions are vetting and retraining judges to ensure fair trials and minimise corruption. Activists who advocate reform, however, have expressed disappointment with the judiciary reform process thus far.

The judiciary reform in Ukraine, which unofficially started in 2014, has finally brought its first results. The new Supreme Court of Ukraine began functioning in December last year and the newly established higher bodies of the judiciary are now assessing the judges who will continue working in the general and appeals courts of Ukraine. However, the reforms, which began mostly out of the need to restore trust in the judiciary, have not yet managed to achieve its main goal. The judiciary continues to be one of the least trusted institutions in the country – a view that is shared by the general public and external experts.

April 26, 2018 - Kateryna Pryshchepa

The far right’s disproportionate influence

In Ukraine the majority of the population remains pro-European. Yet, there is a visibly growing influence of marginal far right groups who aim to reshape politics and mainstream discourse. Society either does not notice the effects or it considers these groups as overly emotional patriots. After all, for a country immersed in war, nationalism should serve as a force to unite against the enemy.

After the Revolution of Dignity, many new nationalist parties have appeared on the Ukrainian political arena. While none of them have managed to become a serious political force, some are finding support by successfully blending into the patriotic trend, deftly playing on Ukrainians’ wartime pains. Despite its pro-European origins, the EuroMaidan has spawned a number of conflicting trends. The power of the democratic, liberal protest and the civil struggle for justice was intercepted and replaced by conservatism and the status quo. Right-wing radicals have made use of the tense revolutionary situation in which people appreciate the strong, dedicated nationalist movement that has since emerged, one which first protected the protesters from government forces and then joined the fight against the Russian-supported separatists in Donbas.

April 26, 2018 - Nina Boichenko

Sport, geopolitics and Russia. A short history

Throughout the last 70 plus years, the Soviet Union and Russia have used large sporting events for both geopolitical and domestic purposes. While the latter often brought about desired results, achieving success in the former continues to elude Russia. This year the Kremlin will most likely try to use the FIFA World Cup to show the world that Russia matters, and showcase Putin as a powerful world leader.

April 26, 2018 - Anna Maria Dyner

From Putin’s Russia to a non-Putin’s Russia

An interview with Gleb Pavlovsky, a Russian political scientist. Interviewer: Maxim Rust

MAXIM RUST: In your social media posts and comments you often use the hashtag #sistemaRF (system of the Russian Federation). What is this system like today and what is its essence?

GLEB PAVLOVSKY: I use this concept because I wrote several articles where I describe the regime in Russia which does not fit classical categories as a political system or a state. These are disputable issues indeed. What is the Russian regime like, what kind of state is Russia, etc.? The regime is bad but that does not mean anything, because if we make comparisons between today’s Russia and other systems, it means we put Russia in a certain order which may mean that we will lose the key to understanding its essence. This essence is what I am searching for. That is why I use this hashtag to describe the Russian system as a unique aggregation of behaviour and power norms. This system is exceptionally flexible, which is important.

April 26, 2018 - Maxim Rust

The Odesan myth and the Ukrainian façade

An interview with Professor Borys Khersonskyy, a Ukrainian poet, translator, clinical psychologist and Odesa’s leading intellectual. Interviewers: Tomasz Lachowski and Vitalii Mazurenko

TOMASZ LACHOWSKI AND VITALII MAZURENKO: Every now and then, the world reminds itself of the Donbas conflict, following the exchange of prisoners between Ukraine and the separatists or Kyiv’s efforts to reintegrate the region. The war thus continues. The question is: Is separatism still a real threat to Ukraine? Or, perhaps, it ended with the rebellion in Donetsk and Luhansk? You live in the Odesa region, which is ethnically diverse and borders the unrecognised Transnistria, where this question seems to be more pertinent.

BORYS KHERSONSKYY: First of all, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, independent Ukraine formed on the basis of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which began to sovereignly govern over its territory. This place has been very diverse when it comes to historical and economic development as well as cultural and national identity. On the one hand, some of the regions in the eastern part of the country immediately fell under the influence of our northern neighbour, the Russian Federation.

April 26, 2018 - Tomasz Lachowski and Vitalii Mazurenko

Veterans of the Bosnian War struggle for their rights

For nearly a year, veteran combatants from the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been protesting in front of the government building in Sarajevo, demanding financial aid and access to free medical services. Despite a mass nationwide protest on February 28th, the government has yet to adequately respond. Meanwhile, public support for the protesters continues to increase.

“My name is Amir Sultan, I come from the Sarajevo Canton. At the age of 14, I exchanged a classroom chair for a gun. I joined a special unit, criss-crossed the country and was wounded three times. I survived, but two of my brothers did not.” Seated on an improvised wooden bench outside a tent that he has called home for the past half a year, Sultan recalled the realities of the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina that he fought in: “I gave my all. As a result of the injuries I sustained in combat I am sick and I live with a pacemaker. But, since the war ended, I have not received any assistance from the government, not even one fening.”

April 26, 2018 - Lidia Kurasińska

Witnessing another Putin victory

The results of the March presidential election in Russia have come as no surprise. Yet, the election victory of Vladimir Putin was not his only success. The high voter turnout, together with a low level of voting irregularities in comparison with previous elections, indicate that Putin’s system has not lost the people’s hearts and minds.

I arrived in Moscow a few days ahead of the 2018 presidential election. The weather was cold and the city was plastered with flyers and banners reminding Muscovites of the upcoming election – in which the outcome was all but certain. On every street corner, young Russians were handing out refrigerator magnets and balloons with similar reminders. They are reluctant to talk about their political preferences, but they do not have to. In the end, what the authorities are aiming for is a strong voter turnout.

April 26, 2018 - Wiktoria Bieliaszyn

On mythical identities of mythical countries

A conversation with Miljenko Jergović, a Balkan writer. Interviewer: Aleksandra Wojtaszek

ALEKSANDRA WOJTASZEK: We are meeting thanks to the recent publishing of a collection of your essays by the Kraków-based International Cultural Centre tilted Muscat, lemon and turmeric. It seems that a common denominator for these essays is Central Europe, which binds the descriptions of cities and biographies in your texts together. Do you believe that a Central European identity exists? If yes, what are its features?

MILJENKO JERGOVIĆ: I believe that we could talk about it in an unorthodox fashion. What is common to all of the peoples living in Central Europe is primarily all the traumas of the 20th century, such as the concentration camps. We are also connected by historical experiences such as being a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, or the bloc of socialist countries after the Second World War. In one sense, we lived our lives in a border region.

April 26, 2018 - Aleksandra Wojtaszek Miljenko Jergović

Mickiewicz reactivated

For the first time in 190 years, music has been added to the poetry of Poland’s greatest poet – Adam Mickiewicz. The project is a collaboration between a Ukrainian folk rock band and a contemporary Polish writer.

The album, titled Mickiewicz-Stasiuk-Haydamaky, includes 10 poems put to the music of the Kyiv-based band Haydamaky. Andrzej Stasiuk, a renowned Polish writer, is one of the initiators of the project, and appears in some of the tracks reading Mickiewicz’s poetry. The cross-border collaboration reflects the heritage of the poet himself. “Mickiewicz has it all,” Stasiuk says. “The lyrics, rhythm and energy.”

April 26, 2018 - Grzegorz Nurek

Renaming streets. A key element of identity politics

Like many governments in history, the current Polish government has been no stranger to regulating historical interpretations through law. The ruling party has pushed several memory laws related to decommunisation in Poland. One initiative focuses on the renaming of streets and has caused further tension in an already divided society.

April 26, 2018 - Uladzislau Belavusau and Anna Wójcik

Memory of independence. A gap-filling exercise

2018 is the year Poland celebrates its 100 years since regaining independence. However, not all of today’s Polish territory was a part of Poland a century ago. This creates a dilemma for these regions and highlights, once again, issues of memory, identity and belonging.

In 2018, Poland becomes “infinitely independent”. At least that is the message on the official logo of the 100 years of Polish independence, which is composed of the infinity symbol coloured in white and red. Independence is to remain in Poland once and for all. But this total, somehow all-encompassing message transpiring from the logo may also be seen through different lenses – those of geography. In other words, as infinity has no borders in time, it should have no borders in space either. It is therefore possible to draw an assumption that the century of Poland as an independent state ought to be celebrated equally in all parts of the country, from its western extremes to eastern borders and from the northern seaside to the mountains in the south.

April 26, 2018 - Mateusz Mazzini

Between an axis of convenience and a return to the past

A review of A Wary Embrace: What the China-Russia relationship means for the world. By: Bobo Lo. Published jointly by: Penguin Books / Lowy Institute, London/Sydney, 2017. and Russia and China: A Political Marriage of Convenience – Stable and Successful. By: Michal Lubina. Publisher: Barbara Budrich Publishers, Leverkusen Germany, 2017.

The Chinese-Russian relationship has become a contemporary issue these days. For the last two years analysts and scholars have produced volumes of publications that scrutinised recent developments taking place between Beijing and Moscow. Prior to the conflict over Ukraine, relations between Russia and China were of interest only to a handful of specialists. The multi-billion dollar gas deal, a revived arms trade and high-level summits have brought the Sino-Russian relationship into the spotlight while observers of international politics began to discuss prospects for emergence of an anti-western bloc. Two books stand out against this background. At first glance, they could not be more different.

April 25, 2018 - Marcin Kaczmarski

Eurasia and geopolitical thought

A review of The Dawn of Eurasia: On the Trail of the New World Order. By: Bruno Macaes. Publisher: Allen Lane, London, 2018.

The notion of civilisational entities and grand, sweeping analytical concepts such as “Europe”, “the East”, “Africa”, etc., has been under sustained attack by social scientists for over two and a half decades. Indeed, within the humanities it is seemingly a sine qua non for any commentator on the “non-European” to provide a pre-emptive preface outlining why what they have written is not Orientalism (broadly, the study of the non-West, as essentialist and as a means to domination).

April 25, 2018 - Emre Kazim

Ballad of a common soldier

A review of Кіборги: Герої не вмирають (Cyborgs: Heroes Never Die), a film directed by Akhtem Seitablaev, Ukraine 2017.

Released in December 2017, the film Cyborgs: Heroes Never Die is a breakthrough for Ukrainian cinema. The film, as the title indicates, depicts the heroic defence of the Donetsk airport by Ukrainian fighters, popularly known as the cyborgs. It is directed by Akhtem Seitablaev, a Crimean Tatar who was born in Uzbekistan. Seitablaev came to Crimea in 1989 when his family returned to the peninsula. He studied in Crimea and Kyiv and then worked for the Crimean Tatar Academic Music and Drama Theatre in Simferopol.

April 25, 2018 - Piotr Pogorzelski

Russia’s wars on Ukraine

A Review of Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine. By: Anne Applebaum. Publisher: Penguin Random House, 2017.

When looking through Anne Applebaum’s most recent book Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine, readers interested in Soviet crimes will probably refer back to Robert Conquest’s The Harvest of Sorrow. This 1986 landmark book by Conquest, a British historian, was the first to analyse the collectivisation of agriculture in 1929-31 in Ukraine and the subsequent 1932-33 famine, known as Holodomor. The Harvest of Sorrow was based on the limited historical data that was becoming available to western researchers at the time.

April 25, 2018 - Wojciech Siegień

Confronting the Romanian church’s cumbersome past

A review of The Romanian Orthodox Church and the Holocaust. By: Ion Popa. Publisher: Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana USA, 2017.

In the summer of 2017, the Romanian media was rocked by a series of scandals relating to the Orthodox Church. These scandals, which were a stroke of luck for journalists who would normally be reporting on how Romanians spend their holidays, centred on acts of sexual impropriety perpetrated by figures in the upper echelons of the Orthodox Church, including one celebrity priest-cum-musical superstar. The Bishop of Huşi and Father Celestin of the Prislop Monastery of Maramureş were discovered to have engaged in same-sex sexual activities; the bishop was even caught on video being intimate with a theology student. These revelations were compounded by the fact that the musical superstar and priest Cristian Pomohaci was accused of having abused young boys who worked on his farm. Several young men came forward testifying that they were abused at the hands of Pomohaci. The journalist who broke the story first contacted officials within the church in reference to Pomohaci but received no response. Confronted with the church’s inaction, he finally went public.

April 25, 2018 - Alin Constantin

Russia and the Balkans: Navigating a minefield of opportunities

A review of Rival Power: Russia’s Influence in Southeast Europe. By: Dimitar Bechev. Publisher: Yale University Press, New Haven, USA, 2017.

“Russia re-enacts the Great Game in the Balkans,” wrote columnist Leonid Bershidsky for Bloomberg in 2017. Comparing the Balkans to a geopolitical playground for great powers, like infamously Central Asia in the 19th century, Bershindsky insinuated that Russia has developed renewed interests and influence in the region. It is in this context that one should consider Dimitar Bechev’s recent Rival Power: Russia’s Influence in Southeast Europe, as he undertakes the task of explaining Russia’s role in this “Great Game”.

April 25, 2018 - Millie Radović

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