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Tag: Book review

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

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

The disintegration train has left Brussels

A review of After Europe. By: Ivan Krastev. Publisher: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 2017.

Let me start this review with a disclaimer: the positive assessment of Ivan Krastev’s recent book is in no way related to the fact that the author is also a member of New Eastern Europe’s editorial board. It solely reflects the value of the publication and its relevance as it has been interpreted by the undersigned reviewer. That said, readers who are familiar with Krastev’s writings will not be surprised that his recent book, tellingly titled After Europe, focuses on disintegration rather than integration. They may even remember that on the pages of this magazine Krastev had written: “I know how things collapse; this is what I have been studying all my life. I was working on the Balkans and I know how they collapsed, and before that I studied how the Soviet Union had collapsed”.

October 31, 2017 - Iwona Reichardt

Putin’s long awaited opportunity, retaliation and revenge

A review of Putin's War against Ukraine: Revolution, nationalism and crime. By: Taras Kuzio. Publisher: CreateSpace Independent, in association with the Chair of Ukrainian Studies, University of Toronto, 2017.

When I first met Taras Kuzio during the Three Revolutions Symposium at the College of Europe’s Natolin Campus in Warsaw, I was impressed by his academic engagement. It was clear that he had given much thought to issues about Ukraine over the last 25 years, and while listening to the other speakers during the symposium, Kuzio illustrated his ability to assess key messages and I observed how he caught the most important arguments. His most recent book, Putin's War against Ukraine: Revolution, nationalism and crime, reflects Kuzio’s approach to research. It is suggestive of a mosaic of condensed facts, arguments and judgments – each of which contributes to a multi-dimensional picture.

October 31, 2017 - Ostap Kushnir

Cultural diplomacy at its best. Giedroyc in St Petersburg

A review of Ежи Гедройц: К Польше своей мечты (Jerzy Giedroyc. To a Poland of dreams). By: Magdalena Grochowska. Publisher: Ivan Limbach Publishing House, St Petersburg, 2017.

June 1st 2017 marked the 70th anniversary since the first issue of Kultura – a Polish-émigré magazine – was published by Instytut Literacki (the Literary Institute) in Paris. Without a doubt, Kultura was one of the most important Polish magazines of the post-war period. Focusing on politics, it deeply analysed the situation in Eastern Europe, paying great attention to literature and the role it played in the formation of citizenry. The first issue of the magazine was actually published in Rome. However in 1948 the editorial team relocated to Pairs where it stayed until Jerzy Giedroyc’s death in 2000. That date is tantamount to the closing down of Kultura as it was declared by Giedroyc in his will.

October 31, 2017 - Dorota Sieroń-Galusek

When hard words break democracy’s bones

A review of How Propaganda Works . By: Jason Stanley, Princeton University Press: Princeton, New Jersey, USA, 2015.

October 4, 2017 - Matteusz Mazzini

The neoliberal world was made for autocrats

A review of Dictators without Borders: Power and money in Central Asia. By: Alexander Cooley and John Heathershaw. Published by: Yale University Press, New Haven, USA, 2017.

October 4, 2017 - Millie Radović