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Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s presidency and the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war

This special series of IEŚ Policy Papers is the result of a collaboration between the Institute of Central Europe in Lublin, New Eastern Europe magazine and international researchers from Ukraine and Poland. Available for download.

December 28, 2022 - Adam Reichardt Tomasz Stępniewski

End of an era. Three scenarios for the future of Russia-West relations

Understanding the future of relations between Russia and the West depends largely on how the war in Ukraine plays out. In this way, three possible scenarios need to be examined: a Ukrainian victory, a Russian victory, and a long, drawn-out stalemate.

Putin’s genocidal war against Ukraine has fundamentally changed Russia’s relationship with the collective West, making a return to any form of partnership impossible for the foreseeable future. It would be hard to envisage western governments dealing with the current Putin regime in Moscow as long as it remains in power and refuses to accept responsibility for its war crimes and crimes against humanity (and the damages it has inflicted on Ukrainian infrastructure).

December 8, 2022 - Tony van der Togt

What would be the consequences of a Russian collapse?

No one knows how the war in Ukraine will end. However, Russia’s weakening position in Ukraine may be an indication of something much greater internally. Three scenarios outlined below can help us understand what might be next for Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation.

One of the reasons for Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine was to accelerate the process of dividing and weakening the West while strengthening his internal position by repeating the “Crimea effect” of 2014. Meanwhile, there are many indications that through the war in Ukraine, Putin may instead be contributing to the disintegration of the Russian Federation. This would be a paradox of history, as he has accused his predecessors of contributing to the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century, which is how he defined the collapse of the Soviet Union.

December 8, 2022 - Agnieszka Legucka

Russia-Ukraine: Only one will remain

The Russo-Ukrainian War, which on February 24th 2022 transitioned from a hybrid phase to full-scale conventional war, is not only attracting the attention of the whole world. It also gives us reason to think about what the configuration of relations between the two states will be after the end of the war – a war in which only one of the states may have a chance to survive intact.

The ideological underpinnings of the Russo-Ukrainian War are contradictory. On the one hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin published his article “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians” last summer, which was filled with amateur arguments about the Ukrainians’ lack of right to their own statehood. On the other hand, on February 24th 2022, Putin, among other things, declared the need for the "denazification of Ukraine", though he failed to find an adequate explanation for this thesis. Official Russian ideology allows for combining the rhetoric of a “fraternal people” with the “Nazi regime that prevails in Ukraine”.

December 8, 2022 - Yevhen Magda

After Ostpolitik. Perspectives for future relations between Moscow and Berlin

Any normalisation of relations with Russia will only take place once Moscow gives up its imperial ambitions and pays for its crimes. There should be no notion of a new policy towards the Kremlin without change at the top and the complete removal of its threat to European security. We cannot repeat the mistakes of 1991.

Germany’s post-reunification Ostpolitik has ended in a national and European disaster. A policy that was supposed to foster peace, stability and reconciliation has resulted in war and an energy crisis. This is not to say that Germany is to blame for the aggression against Ukraine. The responsibility clearly lies with the criminal policies of Vladimir Putin and his regime. Nevertheless, Berlin needs to accept that post-reunification Ostpolitik, especially in the last 15 years, helped to enable the Kremlin to pursue its attacks on neighbours.

December 8, 2022 - Jan Claas Behrends

Russian and Rashism: are Russian language and literature really so great?

In the western media and capitals, voices can be heard that what journalists report from Ukraine under the relentless Russian onslaught should not be identified with Russian language and culture. Why not? This callous attitude rightly offends Ukrainians, because it is none other than Russian soldiers and officers, educated and bred on “great Russian literature”, who keep committing heinous crimes in Ukraine.

Following Russia’s onslaught on Ukraine in early 2022, the novel term rashism (рашизм) rapidly coalesced for referring to and negatively assessing the mixed-bag fascist-inflected ideology of neo-imperialism that the Kremlin deploys for justifying and promoting its actions. Yet, in the West too little attention is paid to the Russian language’s role in this ideology.

December 8, 2022 - Tomasz Kamusella

Why Russia needs decolonisation for its future democratisation

Ukraine’s recent success on the battlefield has encouraged discussion on potential changes to Russia’s political setup. While a new leader would be needed, more fundamental change would be required if the country is to embark on a path towards democracy. The key issue lies in Moscow’s relations with its periphery, an exploitative relationship that has persisted for centuries.

The war in Ukraine has been made possible by Russian and Soviet authorities continually focusing their ideological and political attention on European Russia over the centuries. In doing so, they have been ignoring the interests of other regions of the country, as well as their non-Slavic populations. In this sense, 75 per cent of Russia’s territory acts as Moscow’s internal colonial empire. Not only is it financing the war with its oil and gas, but it is also providing cannon fodder for Russian military commanders, who do not value the lives of Buryats, Tatars or Chechens as much as those of the Slavic citizens. As a result, decolonisation is essential to ensuring the democratisation of Russia.

December 8, 2022 - Miłosz J. Cordes

What happens after Russia falls

Most western experts predict Ukraine will win the war with Russia. When it does, we should allow the Russian Federation to dissolve.

Western politicians want borders to stay the same. Stability is good for capitalism. That is why Olaf Scholz has stalled arms shipments, sending in the first six months of the war enough weapons to keep Ukraine from losing, but not enough to turn the tide. This is why, even after Russia’s atrocities in Mariupol, Bucha and Borodyanka came to light, and even with proof of the daily shelling of homes, preschools, and hospitals in Kharkiv, Mykolaiv and Odesa, French President Emmanuel Macron sought to help Vladimir Putin save face. Western leaders also cling to the status quo because they fear Putin will nuke Ukraine. This is an intimidation tactic also employed by the Soviet Union. But Putin is not suicidal.

December 7, 2022 - Helen Faller Nick Gluzdov

What was so little about “Little Russia”?

Despite earlier mentions, it was not until Peter the Great’s reign when “Little Russia” was officially co-opted and could be located on a map. The linguistic distinction of Great and Little Russia was also a key part of establishing a separate “Ukrainian” identity. By 1721, the distinctions between Rus’, Russia and all the “Russias” were confused.

Before the 1917 revolutions, “Russian” applied indiscriminately to Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians. They were defined respectively as Velikorosy, Malorosy and Belorusy (Great, Little and White Russians). The Soviet regime did away with this but retained and enhanced the traditional notion of “brotherly” relations, with Russians playing the elder brother role. However, in 2021, Vladimir Putin wrote a now famous article on the “shared history” of Russia and Ukraine. In it, he seemingly revived this pre-revolutionary thinking.

December 7, 2022 - James C. Pearce

Russia’s closure of the Jewish Sochnut agency reveals its true identity policy

On July 27th 2022, the Russian ministry of justice sued the Russian branch of the Sochnut Jewish Agency – an important non-profit which assists Jewish communities around the world. The recent repression of this Jewish organisation seriously contradicts Russia’s own claims that Ukrainians are Nazis who do not tolerate any other nations and cultures.

By the time Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, entered office in the spring of 2019, Ukraine’s prime minister was Volodymyr Groysman. This meant that the country’s two most powerful positions were occupied by Ukrainians with Jewish roots for the first time in the history of modern Ukraine. At the same time, Russia’s state propaganda continued to come up with more nonsense allegations that Ukraine was controlled by far-right Nazis.

December 7, 2022 - Vladyslav Faraponov

The whirlpool of Belgrade’s EuroPride: Russophilia and Russian influence in Serbia

The EuroPride events in Belgrade and all the marches against it became a mirror for all the divisions in Serbian society: between democratic and authoritarian currents, between the European Union and Russia, and between the archetypal West and East. This renewed clash was driven not just by the ruling regime, but a level of Russian influence and Russophilia seen rarely in any other European country.

Among all the capitals of South-Eastern Europe, Belgrade received the honour of organising the first EuroPride outside the borders of the European Union. What should have been a peaceful week of equality, liberal values and tolerance in modern societies, turned into a nightmare of violence, incidents and clashes on the streets of Serbia’s capital. The anti-pride protest marches overwhelmed the streets, casting a shadow of imaginary tradition, clericalism and nationalism.

December 7, 2022 - Filip Mirilović

Towards a dissolution? Lex Inzko and the fight over history

The denial of the Srebrenica genocide is one of the biggest issues facing Bosnia and Herzegovina today. In this sense, the complete annihilation of a nation or an ethnic group requires the destruction of testimonies and memory as well. It is clear that without justice and paying tribute to the victims, peace cannot be achieved. And without peace, Bosnia and Herzegovina will eventually collapse.

In July 1995 in and around the town of Srebrenica the population of Bosnian Muslims was massacred by the military forces of the Bosnian Serbs under the command of General Ratko Mladić. Opinions on how to describe these mass killings differ between those who believe it was “only” a war crime and those who, in line with the verdict of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, recognise it as a genocide. Evidently, Srebrenica’s history did not end with the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement. In the post-war period it has been faced with a new challenge: the denial.

December 7, 2022 - Aleksandra Zdeb

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