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Author: Adam Reichardt

No one will hear us if we scream

The Donbas conflict has been taking place for over five years now. Some significant steps have been achieved since the implementation of the 2015 Minsk Agreements, and with it the official war might have reached an end. Yet, peace remains elusive.
Nataliya wears a Tryzub around her neck. It is a trident, a monogram of the Ukrainian word воля (volia) meaning liberty and known as the official Ukrainian coat of arms. The 66-year-old pink-haired Ukrainian volunteer and activist clutches it firmly as she narrates her ongoing life chapter of being a citizen of Stanytsia Luhanska. This urban settlement on the banks of the Seversky Donets River operates as a border town between Ukraine and the pro-Russian, self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic.

January 28, 2020 - Omar Marques

Herzog continues puzzling love affair with Gorbachev

Werner Herzog’s documentary Meeting Gorbachev seems to be a cinematic expression of the West’s love of Mikhail Gorbachev. And if there is one central theme to the film, it is Gorbachev shunning responsibility for his failures one after another.
In 2001 George Bush infamously proclaimed he had read Vladimir Putin’s soul – and liked what he saw. Last year, the acclaimed German filmmaker, Werner Herzog, engaged in a similarly occult exercise with Mikhail Gorbachev, reaching an equally favourable conclusion. To call Herzog’s ambitiously titled documentary Meeting Gorbachev occult is hardly an exaggeration, since any factual account of Gorbachev’s legacy would produce a more mixed verdict. Sympathetic to Gorbachev’s old age, and even more to the gradual erosion of many of Gorbachev’s achievements over the last 30 years, Herzog brackets out Gorbachev’s shortcomings and takes his seductively peace-loving rhetoric at face value.

January 28, 2020 - Kristijan Fidanovski

Azerbaijan: A new chapter?

Azerbaijan may not be on the cusp of a major reform, but developments of recent months have formed the most interesting socio-political dynamics this rather boringly-stable Caspian Republic has seen since 2003.

It is not the first time “reform” has become a buzz word in Azerbaijan. The authorities made several pledges in the past to overhaul and diversify the economy and uproot corruption – especially ahead of elections or in moments of social unrest. Yet apart from a few cosmetic changes, the system and its people remained largely intact. So when the 57-year old president recently announced a package of sweeping reforms and started replacing older officials with young technocrats, many shook their heads in disbelief, taking it as yet another empty promise aimed to pacify the public and create a façade of change.

January 28, 2020 - Anna Zamejc

The Herculean task of saving Europe’s oldest spa town

Băile Herculane, a small town of about 5,000 in western Romania, claims to be the oldest spa town in Europe. According to legend, the Roman god Hercules once stopped in the valley to bathe, lending the town its name. Today, a statue of the hero stands proudly in the centre, but his crumbling surroundings appear to be just a few years shy of becoming a ghost town.

It is after sunset, and the sound of trumpets blare through Băile Herculane station, signalling the arrival of old trains from the communist era. The platform is lined with shell-embossed lanterns, while unkempt vines drape over the seating area. An alpine scent permeates the air, and even at night, in the green glow of the lamps, the mist that hovers around the surrounding mountains is visible. No one who departs the train is under 50 and, as is common with most places where young people are few and far between, the station has retained the feeling of being from another era.

January 27, 2020 - Elizabeth Short

The poisonous apple

Access to information is a fundamental human right and it has helped build the sovereignty of nations. In the years to come, the concept of “information sovereignty”, advocated by Moscow or Beijing, may turn the tide and damage democratic empowerment. Central and Eastern Europeans should care for their own information sovereignty, but in the first place we should get it right.

In autumn 2018 Poland was celebrating its 100 years of independence. On that occasion the European Solidarity Centre and private television station, TVN24, organised a televised discussion with historians who reflected on the significance of reinstating sovereignty. Timothy Snyder, the American historian and author of Bloodlands, spoke at large about the many dimensions of the concept, and invoked the notion “information sovereignty” – a collective effort to establish free media as well as developing countermeasures to push back against aggressive disinformation campaigns from Bolshevik Russia. Information warfare was as present and real a danger back then as it is today; except that wireless meant mostly long wave radio broadcast.

January 27, 2020 - Wojciech Przybylski

The role of a journalist in the age of disinformation

Information aggressors, especially the Russian Federation, are not “reinventing the wheel”. They use existing mechanisms. Journalists and the media, regardless of the provenance, are the first on the “information front” in the war over people’s hearts and minds. They have a choice: ignore or refute this fact or accept their role as a key element in state security and the information space.

The Russian aggression against Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014 introduced a new type of warfare which has proved very effective in the digital era. This new type of war is no longer aimed at taking over territories or resources, but rather influencing human behaviour. It involves non-kinetic activities, which are undertaken in cyber space and are cheaper than traditional methods, but – most importantly – more effective when applied towards western societies which are largely unprepared for this kind of hostile actions.

January 27, 2020 - Adam Lelonek

Freedom and censorship in the post-truth era

A debate during the 34th Days of Contemporary Art in Białystok with Edwin Bendyk, Alex Freiheit, Father Wojciech Lemański, Tomasz Sikora, Joanna Wichowska and Serhiy Zhadan. Moderated by: Anna Łazar

January 27, 2020 - New Eastern Europe

Mostly annihilated…

Recently declassified sources of Soviet Military Archives give a better insight into the attempted escape of the German-Hungarian defenders of Budapest on February 11th 1945. Estimates have put the number of Germans who attempted to escape the siege at around 20,000-22,000. Most of them ended up being captured, wounded or killed.

The siege of Budapest of 1944-1945 and its tragic finale – the so-called “breaking-out” [of Buda] – is a very popular and well-researched topic of modern Hungarian history. Several books and articles have been published not only in Hungarian, but in many other languages as well. However, the research of this period was difficult until the very recent years – as the Russian Military Archives (more precisely the CAMO) did not allow anybody to research the classified materials. Because of that, research findings were quite asymmetrical, mostly based on German and Hungarian archive sources and reminiscences, but lacked the other half: the Soviet point of view.

January 27, 2020 - Krisztián Ungváry Márton Ványai

You can run, but can you hide?

A review of The Compatriots. The Brutal and Chaotic History of Russia's Exiles, Émigrés, and Agents Abroad. By: Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan. Publisher: Public Affairs, New York, 2019.

January 27, 2020 - Luke Harding

Devoted to the truth

a review of Mr Jones. A film directed by Agnieszka Holland, British-Polish-Ukrainian production, 2019.

January 27, 2020 - Paulina Siegień

Forbidden love in a patriarchal society

A review of And Then We Danced. A film written and directed by Levan Akin. Sweden, Georgia, 2019.

January 27, 2020 - Eva Modebadze

New dark times. A warning against the spread of Putinism

A review of Putin’s Totalitarian Democracy: Ideology, Myth, and Violence in the Twenty-First Century. By: Kate Langdon and Vladimir Tismaneanu. Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan, Switzerland, 2019.

January 27, 2020 - Ostap Kushnir

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