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The Black Sea region. A complex and dynamic space

Countries in the Black Sea region remain hostage to geopolitics and history. The impact of various factors on the shape of relations on this area is still

August 26, 2019 - Tomasz Stępniewski

Security takes centre stage in the Black Sea

The annexation and militarisation of the Crimean Peninsula has given Russia greater access to use enhanced military capabilities to project its forces in the

August 26, 2019 - Zurab Agladze

Georgia’s long and uncertain road to NATO membership

Georgia’s membership of NATO lies at the core of its foreign policy. The ambition is beyond the line of ministries and state bureaucratic apparatus, as it

August 26, 2019 - Giorgi Goguadze

The shift of dominance in the Black Sea

Turkey’s policy in the Black Sea, which mainly aims to deter NATO’s presence in the region, has diminished its overall role, making it more vulnerable to

August 26, 2019 - Sophia Petriashvili

A sea of insecurity

The Black Sea has always been an important geopolitical theatre. The November 2018 Russian attack on Ukraine’s naval convoy illustrates the Kremlin’s

August 26, 2019 - Emil Avdaliani

A playground for influence

The Black Sea region is once again becoming an arena attracting large powers to invest and develop. However, the growing interest among the various powers

August 26, 2019 - Leo Sikharulidze

All is not quiet on the eastern front

A fateful combination of geopolitical facts has made Ukraine and Georgia key to the success of the Kremlin’s strategic goal of imperial resurgence, which

August 26, 2019 - David Batashvili

The dimensions of Georgia’s frozen conflicts

According to the Russian narrative, NATO at its border poses a risk to its national security. This narrative helps to legitimise the Kremlin’s aggressive

August 26, 2019 - Nino Kukhianidze

The cost of five years of war in Donbas

Beyond the catastrophic economic price Ukraine has been forced to pay, the war in Donbas has taken a terrible toll on the lives of millions of ordinary

August 26, 2019 - Janek Lasocki

The time for big ideas

In the last five years since the start of the war in Donbas, a new wave of civic engagement has risen in the post-industrial city of Sievierodonetsk. Now the civil society has to learn how to co-operate with city officials and between themselves.

In the spring of 2014 a large part of the Donbas region fell into the hands of Russian-supported separatists. Since then, the city of Sievierodonetsk became the new capital of the Ukrainian-controlled Luhansk region. It is located just 30 kilometres away from the border which separates Ukrainian-controlled territory with the separatist-held self-declared republics supported by Russian forces.

August 26, 2019 - Svitlana Oslavska

From Piața Universității to #rezist

The true goal of the 2107 protests was the fight against passivity. Many of the protesters would not have bothered to vote in the last general elections, but through their presence on the streets, they cast their vote in their own way. It was a fiesta in the truest sense.

In 2017 the Romanian government changed legal provisions which allowed for the pardoning of corrupt officials and changed the law to be more relaxed towards the abuse of power. Since they were announced, frequent anti-government demonstrations in many cities in Romania broke out as thousands voiced their concern that the country was moving away from the values of the EU. The poet, novelist and academic Ruxandra Cesereanu was involved with these protests from the very beginning, documenting them in a journal which will be published in Romania. Here are some excerpts from her writings.

August 26, 2019 - Ruxandra Cesereanu

The risks and rewards of investigative journalism in Central Eastern Europe

Between October 2017 and April 2019 four reporters doing investigative journalism were killed in Europe: Daphne Caruana Galizia from Malta, Ján Kuciak from Slovakia, Victoria Marinova from Bulgaria, and Lyra McKee from Northern Ireland. Their deaths happened in different circumstances, but they were always related to their profession. Given that investigative reporting is public interest journalism, it should be safeguarded by governments. However this is not always the case in Central and Eastern Europe.

The independent NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) warns that in Europe “hatred of journalists has degenerated into violence, contributing to an increase in fear.” Whereas the EU is no longer a safe haven for journalists, the media environment in Central and Eastern Europe has been deteriorating. The Visegrad Four countries have been plummeting in the Freedom House's Freedom of the Press and the RSF's Press Freedom Index rankings since 2015. Hungary dropped from 67th to 87th place on the Press Freedom Index between 2016 and 2019, while Freedom of the Press changed the status of Hungarian media from “free” to “partly free” in 2012.

August 26, 2019 - Lorenzo Berardi

When the state turns against its own citizens, resistance becomes duty?

In 2018 civic resistance in Bosnia and Herzegovina acquired a new symbol – the raised fist of Davor Dragičević who, in quiet desperation, demanded justice for his dead son, David. The situation triggered a significant public outrage and the politicisation of David’s death. Since March 2018, mass protests were organised demanding justice. By the end of the year, the authorities started to violently block them and, eventually, banned any further gatherings.

As Thomas Jefferson once said: “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty”. Even in “stabilocracies” like Bosnia and Herzegovina or Serbia, whenever any form of government becomes destructive, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it. It was visible in 2014 when first the workers and later regular citizens paralyzed a number of Bosnian cities during events titled the “Bosnian spring”. Yet despite few governmental alterations, nothing has really changed – Bosnia and Herzegovina remains a captured state that protects its elites while citizens’ rights and control over the authorities are limited.

August 26, 2019 - Aleksandra Zdeb

Biological weapons resurface in disinformation campaigns

Since the poisoning of Sergei Skripal by Russian intelligence officers as well as the chemical attack by Assad forces in Douma, Moscow has ratcheted up its rhetoric about American biological weapons laboratories in the South Caucasus and Central Asia. By employing such allegations, Russia is sending dangerous signals to the US as a part of its ongoing confrontation with the West.

During a press briefing in Moscow on October 4th 2018, General Major Igor Kirillov, commander of Russia’s radiological, chemical and biological defence troops, stated that as a result of medical experimentation on people, which were conducted by a company belonging to the former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 73 Georgian citizens have been killed. Kirillov claimed that the US has financed biological laboratories in Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan and is continuing to develop biological weapons “under the guise of peaceful research”.

August 26, 2019 - Nurlan Aliyev

Promises and challenges. Internationalisation of the transition economies

Since 1989 internationalisation has profoundly influenced the former communist countries, primarily economically but also politically. The unfinished transition process has put into perspective the vast differences between the countries that emerged from the deep shadow of the Soviet Union and the enormous difficulties they had in constructing functioning political and economic structures. Three decades on, the future of the entire region is inexorably linked to the West and the ideas of open markets.

Internationalisation has been one of the critical dimensions of the economic transformation undergone by the former command economies in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union since 1989. Openness and global interactions have had profound direct effects on their growth and development, and entry into international institutions has significantly shaped both domestic policies and institutions. During the past three decades of transition, all former socialist economies have moved decisively towards market-oriented ones.

August 26, 2019 - Kiril Kossev

With one foot in the Soviet past and the other in Europe

A conversation with Zhanna Maksymenko-Dovhych, a film director and writer from Ukraine. Interviewer: Lucian Tion

LUCIAN TION: In a somewhat aggressive scene from your film Holiday, a conflict arises between participants of the May 9th Parade wearing the poppy flower symbol on their collar and others wearing a black and orange ribbon. In order to appropriately discuss your film, we need to first explain what the tacit confrontation in Holiday is all about. So first, what does the poppy symbol represent?

ZHANNA MAKSYMENKO-DOVHYCH: The poppy is a European symbol representing the memory of the Second World War. It is made of red and black colours, of course. The other side has an orange and black insignia.

August 26, 2019 - Lucian Tion Zhanna Maksymenko-Dovhych

Striving for the good of all, but not himself

A conversation with Tetiana Mykhailova, an expert on the poetry of Vasyl Stus at the Taras Shevchenko Institute of Literature at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in Kyiv. Interviewer: Tomasz Lachowski

TOMASZ LACHOWSKI: We met a few days before the premiere of a new Ukrainian film called The Forbidden (Zaboronenyi) describing the story of Vasyl Stus – one of Ukraine’s most prominent poets. Undoubtedly, The Forbidden aroused a lot of controversies even a year before its premier, mostly because of its political nature. You have conducted research on Stus’s works and were invited by the film’s director, Roman Brovko, as one of the few specialists to consult with. Did the final version of meet your expectations?

TETIANA MYKHAILOVA: Indeed, I interpret Vasyl Stus not only through this film but also through other artistic activities where the poet appears – music, theatre and painting – and, of course, my academic research. That is why my vision of Stus is probably different than the average Ukrainian. I have no doubt that The Forbidden is great news for Ukrainian viewers and it shall force us to rethink Stus’s role in the development of Ukrainian culture. Nonetheless, I have to admit that during the first screening, while still in the working phase, I had a slight dissonance between how I view the poet and how Stus was portrayed on the screen.

August 26, 2019 - Tetiana Mykhailova Tomasz Lachowski

There will be no singing revolution in Russia

The Russian authorities are wiser after the occurrence of numerous colour revolutions in post-Soviet states. They have been working on a new arsenal of measures capable of halting events that could lead to social protests. The independent music scene is a perfect illustration of this.

Analyses of revolutions in post-communist countries have neglected the role that culture has played. Even the fact that the main social protests in the post-Soviet states were named after colours, or flowers, is quite telling. In Ukraine there was the Orange Revolution in the winter of 2004/2005, while in Belarus, in 2005, there was the denim protest, which was also known as the Cornflower Revolution. In the same year, there was the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, while in Georgia there was the revolution of roses two years prior.

August 26, 2019 - Wojciech Siegień

Covering up cross-border co-operation between Lithuania and Kaliningrad

On the Eastern border of the European Union, a new stage of cross-border co-operation with Russia has begun. Yet, new joint initiatives are unravelling in a tense atmosphere.

On January 23rd this year a particularly cold morning breaks on the border between the European Union and the Russian oblast of Kaliningrad. At 8 am, Lithuanian anti-corruption officers wrapped in thick coats are conducting a search at the Jurbarkas District Municipality building. Their heavy steps wake up the provincial bureaucracy. The gossip that the search is related to Russia spreads rapidly through the building’s dark corridors and soon reaches local and national media.

August 26, 2019 - Gil Skorwid

Inside Kyiv’s co-living community

The Vilnyy co-living space in Kyiv is an example of a creative innovative space for Ukraine’s young people to commune together. It is entirely self-sufficient, not reliant on grants or support from outsider sources. Instead, it is built and designed by the community living there, adapting over time with each change of resident.

As expanding western and Asian cities face a growing housing crisis, there has been an outcry from frustrated young people to remodel the housing sector. An idea has recently emerged to fill this void: “Co-living”. It is currently making a mark in high-cost cities such as London, New York and Singapore, but surprisingly a bourgeoning market has recently sprung up in Kyiv. However, Ukraine’s adoption to the co-living model is far away from the polished-for-profit western trend, but could offer a genuine affordable alternative.

August 26, 2019 - Dominic Culverwell

Prides of the former socialist bloc

Under communism, the Romanian village of Vama Veche was a unique place of freedom, even if it was somewhat limited. It was a destination for students, artists and intellectuals, as well as a place of work for secret agents who were trying to monitor liberated minds. After the transformation the resort remained the “capital of Romania’s youth” and continues to be popular. Thus, as is often the case with such places, the natural desire to keep things as they were competes with the desire to make profit.

The train from Bucharest, which at this time of the year is heated by the sun, slowly makes its way towards the Black Sea. Outside the window, the landscape is quite monotonous – a vast and flawless flat area, which looks like it was run over by a gigantic bulldozer, is dusty and spreads out under the intensive blue sky. Endless sunflower and corn fields are only decorated with occasional poplar copses. From time to time the train passes a forgotten railway station located either beside a small depopulated town or near a post-communist industrial plant.

August 26, 2019 - Katarina Novikova and Wiktor Trybus

Forgotten tales of Germany and Ukraine’s past

Ukraine and Germany are linked together by a long and complicated history, one with Poland in the background. Unfortunately, knowledge of this shared heritage is still not well known, particularly in Germany.

No other nation brought as much damage to Ukraine as Germany in the 20th century. During the First World War, and especially the Second World War, millions of people who then lived in Ukraine were murdered by the Germans or died because of famine, disease and exhaustion caused by the German invasions. Ukrainians and Jews were those who primarily perished. However, it is also true that not many other nations had such a positive impact on Ukraine’s civilisational progress as the Germans.

August 26, 2019 - Adam Balcer

Attempting to escape the unescapable

A review of Under Pressure. By: Faruk Šehić. Publisher: Istros Books, London, 2019.

August 26, 2019 - Kinga Gajda

Corrupt yes, Russian spy unlikely

A review of House of Trump, House of Putin. The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia. By: Craig Unger. Publisher: Transworld Publishers, London, 2018.

August 26, 2019 - Taras Kuzio

Much needed context to the mystery of Kazakhstan

A review of Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan. By: Joanna Lillis. Publisher: I.B. Tauris, London, 2019.

August 26, 2019 - Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska

Forgotten revolutionaries

A review of Roving Revolutionaries. Armenians and the Connected Revolutions in the Russian, Iranian, and Ottoman Worlds. By: Houri Berberian. Publisher: University of California Press, Oakland, CA, USA: 2019.

August 26, 2019 - Kamil Jarończyk

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