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Category: Issue 5 2021

Is the Georgian Dream committed to democracy and European integration?

Georgia is currently undergoing a political crisis which has led to an unprecedented amount of European Union involvement in resolving it. The mediation of the crisis, led by the president of the European Council, has demonstrated how important Georgia had become for the EU. Yet, the government’s decision to completely annul the deal has sent signals that it may be deviating from its pro-EU path.

After coming to power in 2012, the Georgian Dream party officially set out to uphold democratic values and support Georgia’s European integration. However, after the signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union and obtaining visa-free travel for Georgian citizens to Schengen Area states, the Georgian Dream party soon started to display authoritarian tendencies as it harassed independent media and politicised the judiciary system in order to weaken the opposition. The party was utilised as a tool by its tycoon founder, Bidzina Ivanishvili, for adapting legislation to fit his personal business interests.

September 12, 2021 - Soso Dzamukashvili

Pashinyan, the defeated winner

There is no doubt that Nikol Pashinyan was able to connect emotionally with a section of Armenian society. The repetitive use of the slogans “you are all prime ministers”, “you decide your own future”, “it is all the previous regime's fault” has enabled Pashinyan to quickly win the hearts and minds of the Armenian public. While all these tactics certainly helped Pashinyan to win this snap election, his real achievement was to make Armenians forget about the recent war.

In 1945, Winston Churchill showed the world that winning the Second World War was not enough to get re-elected. More than 70 years later, Armenia has taught another lesson. In June 2021 Nikol Pashinyan, who came to power after the 2018 Velvet Revolution, despite a heavy defeat in Nagorno-Karabakh, managed to win in the snap elections and was confirmed as prime minister. With this victory, Pashinyan was able to falsify the long-standing assumption that losing Karabakh means losing power. How was this possible?

September 12, 2021 - Tatevik Hovhannisyan Tiziano Marino

Ukraine deserves better analysis than it has

An interview with Cédric Gras, French writer and former director of Alliance Française in Donetsk. Interviewer: Clémence Lavialle

CLÉMENCE LAVIALLE: Could you tell me how it happened that you started your career in Russia?

CÉDRIC GRAS: Well, I never had a clear career plan. Therefore, I started my professional life by doing what I had always wanted to do – travelling and climbing mountains. I was able to make a decent life out of it. But to make a living out of it, I knew that I had to tell a story through reports, writings, and photographs. In this way, I try to show the world in different forms: academic and more artistic. I try to tell the story of today's world.

September 12, 2021 - Cédric Gras Clémence Lavialle

1968 in Prague and Bratislava

The Prague Spring was originally the name of a musical festival that took part in the town every spring. In 1968, it became the description of a political hope. Yet, there was strong resistance against attempted reforms to give socialism a human face.

“1968” happened not only on the streets of the cities in the United States, in Paris and Berlin (West), but also in Prague and Bratislava. Soviet tanks and people on the street protesting against it determine the collective memory of this year. However, the eastern “1968” was more than that. There was a reform movement and a lot of hope. The changes started with the party congress of the Czechoslovak communists at the end of 1962. The Czechoslovak reforms did not begin in the streets as a protest movement against the rulers, but started at a meeting of the ruling party at which the communists criticised their own policies. The central keyword is political rehabilitation.

September 12, 2021 - Dieter Segert

Contemporary witnesses of change

Despite individual points of light from the 1968 Prague Spring, when Michal Reiman was a companion of Alexander Dubček, the path to democracy and freedom was not a straight one, but paved with control and arrests by the Soviet regime. Nevertheless, the contemporary witnesses were important carriers of the cycles of change.

With the coup of the Bolsheviks in October 1917, the communist party seized power in the Russian Empire for the first time. The revolutionary spark of the party in power in the Soviet Union did not, as Lenin and later Stalin intended, spread across Europe to shape societies. Instead, contacts to Moscow via Berlin to Vladivostok were continued as an instrument ranging from equality to state terror. The so-called great terror in 1937/38 was marked by excesses of socialist violence.

September 12, 2021 - Iris Kempe

Three weeks before the occupation. An interpreter’s memories

As a result of reforms taking place in 1968 Czechoslovakia, the Soviet leadership initiated a special conference to meet with Czechoslovak officials which took place from the end of July until the beginning of August in Čierna nad Tisou, a small remote town on the Soviet-Czechoslovak border (with the former Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic). I participated as an interpreter and share, for the first time in print, my memories of this important time.

On July 28th, 1968, when I was working at the department of international relations of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, I was called and told that we should report to work with a bag packed and enough supplies for a few days. I was not permitted to discuss this with anyone, as it concerned a simultaneous interpretation at an international conference. When we arrived, nothing was explained, except that we would be travelling to Čierna. The participants were brought to the airfield where everything was ready for the government plane to take off. The entire Czechoslovakian delegation flew to the city of Košiše.

September 12, 2021 - Tamara Reiman

Shifting empires. The Treaty of Nystad turns 300

Three hundred years on, the Treaty of Nystad, which ended the Great Northern War between Sweden and Russia, still has a strong legacy today. The new reality, which formed after the signing of the treaty on September 10th 1721, saw Moscow emerge as a significant actor in Europe.

Russia’s road to power and significance in the world was long and ambiguous. Moscow’s imperial aspirations were sparked by the start of the Great Northern War in 1700 and were confirmed exactly 300 years ago. The famous battle of Poltava on June 28th 1709 paved that way. Yet, in spite of its military significance, it was the diplomatic and legal solutions that announced the rise of a new player, taking Sweden’s place, at the table of European powers. But it took 12 more years before Moscow broke the will of Stockholm entirely.

September 12, 2021 - Grzegorz Szymborski

A female voice from Sarajevo

In post-war Sarajevo a war is waged to win the future which had been taken away by the living ghosts of the past. The frontlines are nonetheless changing and now different people are pushed underground, stigmatised and treated as if they do not belong to the community. The ethnic and religious war has been replaced by a new culture war.

Some time ago, when the bloody Balkan war was still raging in Sarajevo, poet Izet Sarajlić, editor Čedo Kisić and professor Zdravko Grebo were explaining their world to me. None of them is alive anymore. Neither is Isak Samokovlija, a prominent Bosnian Jewish writer, whose stories took me to the most hidden corners of Sarajevo’s historical centre, Baščaršija, as well as the Grbavica and Bentbaša districts. I was listening to the stories of the writers and artists who had left Sarajevo, but who were still under its influence. They included Dževad Karahazan in Graz, Josip Osti in Ljubljana, Miljenko Jergović in Zagreb, and Nino Žalica in Amsterdam…

September 12, 2021 - Krzysztof Czyżewski

The living and the dead

A conversation with Grzegorz Kwiatkowski, a Polish poet, and Trupa Trupa, songwriter, vocalist and guitarist. Interviewer: Jacek Hajduk

JACEK HAJDUK: During the 2019 SXSW Music Festival you dedicated the performance of your group, Trupa Trupa, to the memory of the late Gdańsk mayor, Paweł Adamowicz. Let us then start with Gdańsk. How much of this city is with you today? And how was it before? Which faces of this multi-layered urban centre are close to your heart?

GRZEGORZ KWIATKOWSKI: Today, Gdańsk is a big part of me, unlike in the past. Back then I was more interested in self-isolating myself and creating a kind of enclave in one of its districts – Gdańsk Wrzeszcz. This actually is still my ideal, but now I also understand the impact that this city has on me and my poetry. This is mainly because of my family stories.

September 12, 2021 - Grzegorz Kwiatkowski Jacek Hajduk

Radiophobia. Why the fallout of unscientific myths from Chernobyl still prevail

Despite the fact that the scientific evidence that emerged early after the Chernobyl disaster points out that the direct health effects from radiation is greatly exaggerated, the media continues to promote an unscientific and harmful narrative. The fallout of these myths from the Chernobyl accident fell on the fertile soil of radiophobia, and (post) Soviet secrecy has led to a capitalisation on this inherent fear by the entertainment industry and news media.

One recent scientific study shows once again what had been known to most insiders for years: in the prestigious journal Science, a team of western researchers examined the genetic health of children close to the Chernobyl liquidators (the people who were sent to remove substantial parts of radioactive fallout from the explosion and whose heroism is undisputed). What the researchers found might come as a surprise to the broader public: the genetic health of these children was in no way worse than in the general population. In other words, no statistically significant increase in mutations was found in the offspring of those most heavily affected by the accident.

September 12, 2021 - Michael Richter

Life as a Moscow correspondent

A review of Assignment Russia. By: Marvin Kalb. Publisher: Brookings Institution Press, Washington DC, 2021.

September 12, 2021 - Luke Harding

A gripping tale of business and politics

A reivew of The Ark. By: John Lynch. Publisher: Ringier Axel Springer Polska (Polish edition), 2021.

September 12, 2021 - Adam Reichardt

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