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Category: Issue 1 2018

To understand Russian nationalism

A review of Lost Kingdom. A History of Russian Nationalism from Ivan the Great to Vladimir Putin. By: Serhii Plokhy. Publisher: Basic Books, New York, 2017.

In the 19th century Russian poet and diplomat Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev wrote:
“Russia cannot be understood with the mind alone,
No ordinary yardstick can span her greatness:
She stands alone, unique –
In Russia, one can only believe”.


Tyutchev was strongly involved in the pan-Slavist movement, often criticising the West. After defeating Napoleon and before the Crimea war in the middle of the 19th century, Russia was considered a superpower. Parallels between Russian imperial times and the Kremlin's policy today are clear. Particularly so, if we look at the way Russia is confronting the West and forging its own vision of politics – not only when it comes to its international position but also the role of the Russian nation. The question which constantly returns is thus: how to understand Russia?

January 2, 2018 - Jan Brodowski

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

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