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Category: Issue 3 2021

Tales from the Baltics

30 Years since gaining independence. Check out Issue 3/2021 - now available!

April 11, 2021 - New Eastern Europe

We are still searching for our strategy with Russia

An interview with Linas Linkevičius, a Lithuanian politician and diplomat and former foreign minister (2012–2020). Interviewers: Adam Reichardt and Maciej Makulski

April 11, 2021 - Adam Reichardt Linas Linkevičius Maciej Makulski

The Baltic states. Three peas in a pod?

The three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are often together associated as a bloc, with a similar history, culture and politics. While there are some commonalities among the three countries, there are also some key characteristics that make them quite different from each other.

From the outside, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are usually viewed as one – “the Baltics”. However, their fates have only been intertwined during the last century. Prior to the end of the First World War, Lithuania had been closely connected with Poland, while Estonians and Latvians had been under Baltic German domination for seven centuries, no matter whether the ruling power was Sweden, Poland or Russia. Lithuanian and Latvian are the two surviving Baltic languages, whereas Estonian belongs to a completely different language family, together with Finnish and Hungarian.

April 11, 2021 - Andres Kasekamp

The Baltic phoenix

The dissolution of the Soviet Union resulted in defragmenting of the world map into fifteen pieces – most of which were new entities. However, three of them somehow seemed particularly familiar – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, jointly known as the Baltic states. Their re-emergence in Europe created many legal questions as they all began to claim renewal of their previous statehoods existing in 1918-1940.

Anti-Soviet tendencies on the Baltic coast exploded at the time of Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika. The desire for independence and the struggle for historical truth in the Baltic republics spawned social movements which emphasised the statehoods of the Baltic states, deprived as the result of the USSR’s invasion in 1940.

April 11, 2021 - Grzegorz Szymborski

Russians in Estonia. We are not “them”, we are “us”

Access to good education, healthcare, social welfare and general public services has all contributed to the often difficult process of better integrating mostly older generations of Russian-speakers into Estonian society. The relative ease of conducting everyday life, the security of state support and the prospect of a European future for their children have bound Russians with Estonia over the last three decades.

Estonia’s Russian-speaking community became irritated by a recent speech of the Estonian president, Kersti Kaljulaid, on Estonia’s Independence Day on February 24th, where she emphatically called on fellow citizens “with a different cultural and linguistic background” to understand “(us), Estonians”. The way she chose to address Russian-speakers and other non-ethnic Estonians living in the country – paraphrased as “you, who are different, need to understand us, Estonians” – signifies the lack of understanding in the president’s office of the sensitivities of “the Russian question” from the perspective of Russian-speakers.

April 11, 2021 - Kristina Kallas

Latvia prepares for big step in LGBTQ+ rights

The issue of granting parental rights to same-sex partners has become the most important fight for equality in modern day Latvia. As parliament prepares to decide on key amendments to the country’s constitution, Latvians are struggling to understand that their freedom should not infringe on the freedom of others.

No one embodies the individual and collective fight for one's liberties and freedom in modern-day Latvia as much as Evita Goša. When her fiancée found out she was not entitled to a ten-day paid leave usually granted to fathers of new-borns, she petitioned the Constitutional Court of Latvia which agreed to hear the case.

April 11, 2021 - Ričards Umbraško

How far right politics derailed Estonian higher education success

Estonia’s success story in education recently made a U-turn. In less than two years, a grand coalition of populist parties have affected Estonia’s international reputation and diplomatic relations, exerted pressure on civil society and the media, contributed to social polarisation, and undermined human rights. The coalition collapsed in January, but not before some serious damage was caused.

In recent years Estonia, an innovative e-state with a population of only 1.3 million, attracted much attention of world leaders, academics and venture capitalists thanks to its high-tech digital society and high performance in education. Fundamental reforms of the Soviet educational system took off in the early years of Estonian independence.

April 11, 2021 - Anastasiia Starchenko

Russia’s police state showed its real face in latest protest crackdown

Facing the largest street protests in a decade, Russian authorities responded with an unprecedented wave of repression. The harsh crackdown seems to have had the desired effect: Navalny’s allies were forced to put their protests on hold.

Russian police detained Dmitry Gliuz, aged 30, on Sennaya Square, in the centre of St Petersburg, shortly after he came out from the metro. “I wasn’t doing anything wrong, just standing and looking at my phone, when suddenly policemen grabbed me and punched me in the stomach”. Gliuz was among the thousands of people detained on January 31st during the nationwide protests in support of Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny.

April 11, 2021 - Giovanni Pigni

Everyone understands what is happening

The space for freedom is shrinking in Russia. Many see a repetition of 1937 – a period of the most severe Stalinist terror, when government agents, at any moment, could come to any house and throw you in jail. The reason does not matter and it can happen to anyone. Yet still, everyone continues to stand by and stay silent.

On January 17th this year, the return of Alexei Navalny to Russia was being watched by the entire politically-minded society, or at least a large part of it. People across the political spectrum were equally fixated. I know many leftists (or liberals) who were sincerely worried, and many rightists (or conservatives) who rubbed their hands maliciously. All were watching via the internet livestream or traditional media, and some with one eye closed. The arrest of Navalny at Sheremetyevo airport became the starting point not only for street protests and clashes, but for intra-family disputes.

April 11, 2021 - Victoria Odissonova

Zelenskyy takes on Russia’s information warfare campaign against Ukraine

On February 2nd Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a presidential decree sanctioning Lviv oligarch Taras Kozak’s companies which owns three pro-Russian television channels. Unofficially, these channels are controlled by Viktor Medvedchuk, Putin’s right-hand man in Ukraine. The US election victory of Joe Biden has stiffened western and Ukrainian resolve to take on Russian President Vladimir Putin at a time when he is facing growing opposition at home.

The question of information warfare and disinformation have become hot topics since the 2014 crisis in Ukraine. Nevertheless, one should not assume that this threat was invented by Russian President Vladimir Putin as the Soviet Union had practised dezinformatsiya and mokryie dela (wet affairs – assassinations) for decades.

April 11, 2021 - Taras Kuzio

Joe Biden needs Eastern Europe as a success story

The European Union currently faces several domestic issues. It is still a union of member states, whose leaders have different approaches towards many challenges, and still has no common army or military strategy. That is why US engagement in the region is still necessary, just as it was in the 1990s after the fall of communism.

“America is back” – that is how Joe Biden began his speech regarding his foreign policy priorities. What does that mean for the world and Europe in particular? Since the Second World War, no US president has brought so much foreign policy expertise to the White House. Biden probably has the most significant international experience among current world leaders, and especially amongst American politicians.

April 11, 2021 - Vladyslav Faraponov

Georgia’s household debt crisis deepens in the wake of COVID-19

Georgia’s household debt crisis existed long before COVID-19 hit, but it has been exacerbated by the current pandemic. To make matters worse, the credit environment is plagued with predatory conditions and a lack of regulation which has put many of Georgia’s most vulnerable citizens in a perpetual debt cycle.

Approximately 150 kilometres north of Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, and nestled into a valley below Mount Kazbek lies the town of Stepantsminda. Home to a population of fewer than 2,000 permanent residents, Stepantsminda has become a popular destination over the last decade and has economically benefited from Georgia’s growing tourism sector. Keti, a local woman from the Kazbegi region, joined the area’s emergent hospitality sector in 2015. She opened a hotel with the help of a loan from one of the country’s largest private banks, Bank of Georgia.

April 11, 2021 - Mackenzie Baldinger

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