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Stories and ideas

Women’s face of the opposition

The topic of women in protests has not been on the agenda in Russia until the election campaign in Belarus. And then we suddenly saw them – strong, stylish, beautiful, and, most importantly, exuding love not hate.

February 3, 2021 - Yulia Galiamina

The shame of Dagestan

Women’s rights is probably the most controversial topic in Dagestan, Russian’s North Caucasus republic. Svetlana Anokhina, a women’s rights activist and journalist, who had fled the republic after receiving a death threat, now carries on with her work from far away.

In July 2020 Svetlana Anokhnina a women’s rights activist and journalist based in Dagestan, received a telephone death threat as part of a wider “sorting out the feminists” campaign taking place in the republic. This was not the first threat issued to Svetlana but, unlike before, this time the caller tried to reach her by phone several times, making sure she received his message. And he took no effort to hide his own identification. Svetlana tracked the cell phone number and established the name of its owner. She passed this information to the police. After the investigation had been completed, Svetlana hoped that justice would be fast. Yet, soon after the detective set a meeting with the caller, the local police abruptly stopped providing updates on her case.

February 3, 2021 - Anna Efimova

Why do they stay?

What motivates state security officers to remain in the service of a tyrant, and end up in a situation where the people they beat, torture and kill, are their fellow countrymen? The story of Andrei Ostapovich provides some insight to this key question in understanding the overlapping borders of morality and immorality, democracy and authoritarianism.

February 3, 2021 - Kevin Le Merle

A prayer for peace in Belarus

On December 13th 2020 an ecumenical service was held in Berlin Cathedral to pay tribute to the protesters in Belarus. It was followed by a political debate, which focused on a new European Eastern policy, a new Ostpolitik. Through the organisation of these two events, the churches showed, once again, their eagerness to engage in building bridges for the way to peace and democracy.

February 3, 2021 - Iris Kempe

Critically uncritical. Reforming education in Central and Eastern Europe

The communist legacy has left a crucial critical thinking gap in the educational curricula throughout the region. Yet, skills are of utmost importance in today’s globalised world. A pioneering critical thinking course at Matej Bel University in Slovakia aims to change this trend.

Anyone who has done due diligence research into higher education options is painfully familiar with university ranking tables. Based on several criteria, including teaching, research, citations, international outlook and graduate employability, these tables are a popular education quality measurement amongst prospective students and employers alike. Yet, scrolling through these listings, such as the Times Higher Education Ranking, no institution from Central and Eastern European is found in the top 400. Most CEE universities are positioned somewhere between the 1000 and 2000.

February 3, 2021 - Anna Theodoulides Darya Podgoretskaya

Lack of regulation and COVID-19 leaves Ukrainian surrogate mothers and babies in limbo

The closed borders and restrictions on movement introduced in 2020 due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic added uncertainty to the already unregulated sphere of surrogate mothering in Ukraine, leading to questionable decisions on continuing to provide services.

December 24, 2020 - Kate Baklitskaya Magdalena Chodownik

A country of grumblers? Hungarian values and how to misunderstand them

Are Hungarians ill-fated and determined to be incapable of overcoming their historical baggage? Some seem to think so, including some sociologists. Yet, it is worth remembering that political trajectories do not follow pre-drawn patterns, so we should look at the circumstances which can hold societies back in their democratisation.

Something is rotten in Hungary and the international media coverage seems quite keen on pointing this out. However, it offers very little explanation for why it is happening. International interest in Hungarian politics has increased, especially since the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s election in 2016 – which illustrated how serious the far-right shift of mainstream politics has become. Yet, Hungary had already been under the illiberal supermajority for six years, and by then it was well past all the major battles in which its democratic institutions had faced.

November 17, 2020 - Réka Kinga Papp

Our common heritage

The region of today’s Central and Eastern Europe was mostly part of the eastern half of the Roman Empire. Its religion, writings, customs and traditions came from Byzantium rather than Rome. One exception is Poland, which was baptised in the western style and not by Cyril and Methodius. This fact, however, could be interpreted as the main cause of Poland’s great tragedy.

The world we came to live in today should not have come to us as a big surprise. Neither should the internal problems of the European Union, which, the late Polish science fiction writer, Stanisław Lem, even predicted some time ago. Earlier events such as the Arab Spring, or the weakening position of the United States, and Russia’s imperial aspirations should not have shocked us either.

November 17, 2020 - Jacek Hajduk

Clan war instead of fighting coronavirus and corruption

Chaos is probably the most accurate word to describe what has been happening recently in Kyrgyzstan. Political pluralism in this Central Asian state is so advanced that the Kyrgyz people find it difficult to understand who is currently seeing eye-to-eye with whom, who is against whom, and who calls the shots.

Nearly a month has passed since the October 4th parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan, but it remains unclear who is actually holding power in the country. There were as many as three individuals claiming the prime minister’s seat. President Sooronbay Jeenbekov announced that “as soon as the situation stabilises” he would be ready to step down. After the resignation of subsequent Supreme Council speakers, two of the deputies argued which one had the right to preside over the Supreme Council (the country’s parliament).

November 16, 2020 - Ludwika Włodek

The power of Ukrainian youth

Young Ukrainians tend to put the values that are related to their lives first. These include family, health, well-being and love. They also value clear conscious, service to the homeland and having open debates on social issues. Over half declare that they feel responsible for the future of their state and want to contribute to it.

The first 25 years of independent Ukraine is already behind us. In attempts to help understand the changes that have occurred over this time, there are countless political, economic and social analyses, commentaries, recommendations and prognoses. The vast majority of them have referred to this period as one of wasted opportunities. In our research, which we have been carrying out in this regards, we focus on the role the youth has played in the democratic transformation and its future potential.

November 16, 2020 - Natalia Dolgopolova, Anna Surkova, Kinga Anna Gajda, Alina Meheda

Armenian Syrians. From one war to another

Syrian refugees, who left their homes because of the war, are risking their lives trying to get into countries neighbouring Syria, as well as to Europe. More than 20,000 went to Armenia – the vast majority as descendants of Armenians who fled the massacres at the beginning of the century in today's Turkey. They lived there peacefully until another conflict re-erupted.

Today, Yerevan is full of new flavours and fragrances. While walking along its streets, one cannot help but notice Middle Eastern smells coming from the new restaurants and bars. In the urban landscape more and more Arabic-language signs can be observed: “Aleppo shop”; “Syrian cuisine” (next to the usual ones in Armenian or Russian). This Caucasian capital has been increasingly permeated by Middle Eastern influences caused by the complicated history of the Armenians nation, and wars.

November 16, 2020 - Magdalena Chodownik

Along with Swab Germans in Georgia

The year 2017 marked the 200th anniversary since the first German settlers (mainly Wurttemberg Swabs) showed up in Georgia. A number of factors contributed to this migration. However, Wurttemberg’s internal affairs, such as constant warring conditions, increased taxes and economic hardship, played major roles. Moreover, the increased discontent towards the Lutheran church strengthened religious protests that sent the population searching for new homes. Even though, the Swab presence ended by the hands of those who had originally invited them, and much of its historical remains have been conquered by nature, their legacy continues to capture people’s hearts and minds in Georgia.

September 16, 2020 - Bacho Chubinidze

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