Issue 3(VIII)/2013: Why Culture Matters
The summer 2013 issue of New Eastern Europe opens up by illustrating why culture is important in order to better understand the political and social realities that exist in the region of Central and Eastern Europe.
Lithuanian philosopher and member of the European Parliament, Leonidas Donskis, points out in his text about the art of difficult dialogue that despite its apparent divisions, Europe is united by a universal culture and values. Géza Kovács, the director of the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra also notes the importance of culture in this region: “Central and Eastern Europe is brimming with examples of links between the performing arts and political change.” While Janusz Makuch passionately explains why he, a Pole, has been organising the Festival of Jewish Culture in Kraków for the last 25 years: “Jews have always been an integral and organic part of Poland’s history and culture and we are obliged to take care of this Jewish heritage and to commemorate it.”
Commemorating history, however, is not always easy, especially the most painful cases; as illustrated in Ireneusz Kamiński’s article on the 1940 Katyń case and the lack of a Russian investigation into the massacre, which is now being heard in front of the European Court of Human Rights. Paweł Śpiewak’s portrait of Janusz Korczak describes the final days of a figure that continues to shape Polish society decades after his death, while Ana Dabrundashvili explores the heritage and meaning of Joseph Stalin in Georgia and the controversy surrounding the desire of local Georgian villages to commemorate this controversial figure.
In addition to the discussion on culture, this issue also looks at matters that relate to international relations including an interview with Jerzy Pomianowski on the newly established European Endowment for Democracy; Poland’s leadership role in the Visegrad Group; Russia’s use of religion in foreign policy; and the lack of a comprehensive approach to this region by the Obama administration.
Finallly, the issue commemorates the 25th Anniversary of the Singing Revolution in the Baltic states with an interview with Estonian expert Andres Kasekamp and a historical piece about the songs of the Singing Revolution by Jonathan Bausfield.