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Stories and ideas

An independent Georgia or a Tiflis governorate?

Today’s Georgia is a country of contradictions. While most of the population has come out in support of Ukraine, the country has experienced a great amount of migration from Russia since the war. This, combined with a government uncertain of its foreign policy, has made Georgia’s future all the more unclear.

Russian migrants have arrived in Georgia in two waves. The first wave took place in March 2022 right after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The second wave took place in late September 2022, after Vladimir Putin announced “partial” mobilisation. They waited in long lines, often for hours, at the Larsi checkpoint. According to various data, there are between 70,000 to 200,000 Russians living in Georgia right now, some estimate that this figure is even higher.

February 15, 2023 - Wojciech Wojtasiewicz

Back home to the warzone. Emotions of displacement among returning Ukrainian migrants

One third of the Ukrainian population is displaced – over eight million abroad and at least five and a half million internally, constituting the biggest forced displacement in Europe since the Second World War. Curiously, around one third of those who had fled after February 24th 2022 have already returned, with the International Organisation for Migration putting the number as high as six million. Yet, they returned, against all odds.

The full-scale war in Ukraine and the refugee influx that followed sent shockwaves throughout Europe. However, a large number of refugees coming back also caught many by surprise. They returned despite the war still raging throughout the country, and despite receiving an unprecedentedly warm welcome. Myself also being puzzled, I looked for answers and found a couple of think tank papers. The analysts meticulously present statistics and draw maps and graphs. There are survey data responses and discussions on the size of welfare payments, the distribution of housing and other resources for the refugees. Still, I am not convinced. When examining the statistics of millions, a person inevitably gets lost. Hence, I set out to look at the individual behind the digits.  

February 15, 2023 - Olena Yermakova

On Thursday Pete died

Remembering Pete Reed, a paramedic from the United States, who died while attempting to reach civilians in need of help under heavy Russian artillery fire in Bakhmut.

February 9, 2023 - Imke Hansen

Modern East Germany’s dependence on Russian oil evokes old divisions

Germany’s decision to pursue the European Union’s plans to stop importing crude oil from Russia has stirred up social tension in the East German town of Schwedt. Despite reassurances from the government in Berlin, the town, which hosts Germany’s largest oil refinery dependent on Russian oil, is fearful of the aftereffects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

From her office on the outskirts of the quiet town of Schwedt in Brandenburg, a German town bordering Poland that stretches for miles, Gabriele Manteufel points to a huge, sprawling maze of pipes, furnaces and tankers. It all comes together to make a gigantic refinery. Every day the CEO’s sons come by to fill up the family-owned tankers with propane, a by-product of refined oil. They then dispatch the gas to their customers in this north-eastern region.

December 7, 2022 - Isabelle de Pommereau

Ukraine’s defiance goes beyond the battlefield

Poetry may not have the power to stop Russian missile strikes but Ukraine’s literary festival season, which carried on in spite of the horrors of war, became a testament to the importance of defending culture during the invasion. After all, the Russians have been very clear that they do not recognise the Ukrainian identity.

In Chernivtsi, a small Western Ukrainian city located on the border with Romania, September begins with poetry. Artists from throughout Ukraine and all over the world have been gathering there for the past 13 years during the annual Meridian Czernowitz Festival. Due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this year’s festival was different, and, in the words of Meridian’s chief editor Evgenia Lopata, “a small miracle”.

December 7, 2022 - Kate Tsurkan

Belarusian language and culture: is the patient more alive than dead?

One of the ways to save the Belarusian language is to maintain courage in preserving and displaying the Belarusian identity. This includes pride in Belarusian history and language, which should be used especially in everyday life. Since it is nearly impossible to do this inside the country, perhaps the best place to start is within the Belarusian diaspora.

The consistent and managed destruction of the Belarusian language and culture has become one of the hallmarks of Alyaksandr Lukashenka's rule and a distinctive feature of his regime’s activities since 1996 (together with the increase in Russian influence). As a result, in today’s Belarus, people who use the Belarusian language in their everyday life are discriminated against, while representatives of the Belarusian culture are persecuted. Belarusian citizens can be arrested for displaying their Belarusian identity in the streets of Minsk even when they speak Belarusian while offering guided tours, or wear socks with white-red-white stripes.

December 7, 2022 - Katarzyna Bieliakowa

A tale from under the shelling. Living through war in a Ukrainian community at the Russian border

The inhabitants of Krasnopillia have been living under continuous Russian artillery fire from across the border, just 15 km away, since April 2022.

November 15, 2022 - Kateryna Pryshchepa

How Russia’s war estranged us, probably forever

Differences of views on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have not only split two nations, but also many families as well. The stories of Sasha and Daniil offer just two examples of how families have been split by toxic propaganda and war, with little chance for reconciliation.

When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, it brought much more than political and ideological discord. For thousands of Ukrainians, who had family connections in Russia, it was a turning point. The ground of common understanding that had been eroding since the occupation of Crimea and parts of Donbas in 2014, completely cracked in one night, when Russian forces crossed the Ukrainian border in an attempt to take Kyiv. What had been thought of as western exaggeration prior to February 24th, became real, and the wall of misunderstanding split many friendships and family connections; some of them forever broken.

October 3, 2022 - Iryna Matviyishyn

The bees of war

Ukraine’s honey business is one of the largest in the world. Sadly, as a result of the war, dozens of apiaries and beehives are being destroyed every week. In some cases, beekeepers are able to get some financial support from the government, but it is not enough. Yet, the beekeepers remain optimistic. They share everything they have: their honey, knowledge and optimistic spirit.

The honey that you enjoy so much might be one that is produced in the Donbas region. Ukraine’s eastern and southern territories contain rich melliferous plants. Most people who produce this honey had to flee their homes and move to safer regions following the outbreak of the war. Their families might now even be living in your neighbourhood. Some have attempted to save their bees and take them to a new place. This is very difficult, as it is not as easy as transporting a cat. But those beekeepers who were able to stay found themselves at risk, trying to visit beehives despite the constant Russian shelling.

October 3, 2022 - Alisa Koverda

City of bold hopes. How Kyiv lives during the war

The war has certainly changed the capital, but despite everything, the streets of this city have regained their rhythm and retained their soulfulness.

October 2, 2022 - Olena Petryshyn

Contemporary left in Georgia

A conversation with Bakar Berekashvili, Georgian political scientist and sociologist. Interviewer: Veronika Pfeilschifter

VERONIKA PFEILSCHIFTER: Thinking about today’s left in Georgia, how can we characterise it and who promotes left ideas in Georgia, in your view?

BAKAR BEREKASHVILI: First of all, I believe that we must analyse the left in Georgia in two dimensions: the left in the field of political parties and the left outside of it. In the political field, when speaking about the left, the so-called mainstream political parties have power and resources that they use to dominate the political field. There is no leftist political party that considers positions that we can describe as left in today’s Georgia.

September 29, 2022 - Bakar Berekashvili Veronika Pfeilschifter

Forced into exile, young Russian activists continue the fight against the regime

The story of Liuba and Anzhela, two young Russian activists, shows that causes mobilising young people in Germany, Italy or Finland are just as much a concern to some young Russians. Yet as Russians, they are also fighting on several other fronts. The most important is the imperialism that their country is forcing on the world.

On a sunny May 8th in Berlin, the day before a highly contested Victory Day march, pro-Ukrainian activists set up stands and a small stage opposite the city’s Soviet war memorial. There is Ukrainian music playing and people walk around dressed in yellow and blue. A political activist speaks in Russian before the assembled crowd and a woman next to her translates into German.

September 29, 2022 - Cristina Coellen

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