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End of an era. Three scenarios for the future of Russia-West relations

Understanding the future of relations between Russia and the West depends largely on how the war in Ukraine plays out. In this way, three possible scenarios

December 8, 2022 - Tony van der Togt

What would be the consequences of a Russian collapse?

No one knows how the war in Ukraine will end. However, Russia’s weakening position in Ukraine may be an indication of something much greater internally.

December 8, 2022 - Agnieszka Legucka

Russia-Ukraine: Only one will remain

The Russo-Ukrainian War, which on February 24th 2022 transitioned from a hybrid phase to full-scale conventional war, is not only attracting the attention of

December 8, 2022 - Yevhen Magda

After Ostpolitik. Perspectives for future relations between Moscow and Berlin

Any normalisation of relations with Russia will only take place once Moscow gives up its imperial ambitions and pays for its crimes. There should be no

December 8, 2022 - Jan Claas Behrends

Russian and Rashism: are Russian language and literature really so great?

In the western media and capitals, voices can be heard that what journalists report from Ukraine under the relentless Russian onslaught should not be

December 8, 2022 - Tomasz Kamusella

Why Russia needs decolonisation for its future democratisation

Ukraine’s recent success on the battlefield has encouraged discussion on potential changes to Russia’s political setup. While a new leader would be

December 8, 2022 - Miłosz J. Cordes

What happens after Russia falls

Most western experts predict Ukraine will win the war with Russia. When it does, we should allow the Russian Federation to dissolve.

Western

December 7, 2022 - Helen Faller Nick Gluzdov

What was so little about “Little Russia”?

Despite earlier mentions, it was not until Peter the Great’s reign when “Little Russia” was officially co-opted and could be located on a map. The

December 7, 2022 - James C. Pearce

Poland’s Ukrainian refugee assistance as a transformational experience

Russia’s war in Ukraine has changed not only Ukraine but also nearby countries due to the massive influx of war refugees. Poland has become the major

December 7, 2022 - Maciej Makulski

Russia’s closure of the Jewish Sochnut agency reveals its true identity policy

On July 27th 2022, the Russian ministry of justice sued the Russian branch of the Sochnut Jewish Agency – an important non-profit which assists Jewish communities around the world. The recent repression of this Jewish organisation seriously contradicts Russia’s own claims that Ukrainians are Nazis who do not tolerate any other nations and cultures.

By the time Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, entered office in the spring of 2019, Ukraine’s prime minister was Volodymyr Groysman. This meant that the country’s two most powerful positions were occupied by Ukrainians with Jewish roots for the first time in the history of modern Ukraine. At the same time, Russia’s state propaganda continued to come up with more nonsense allegations that Ukraine was controlled by far-right Nazis.

December 7, 2022 - Vladyslav Faraponov

De-Stalinisation as a postulate of freedom

Stalinisation – just like the system of the Third Reich – was a source of the greatest tragedy of Europe in the 20th century. It meant deprivation of freedom, forced labour camps (the Gulag), prosecution and massive suffering of millions of people living in Central and Eastern Europe. In its Soviet form, totalitarianism has Stalin’s face.

While Europe has managed to, more or less successfully, hold those who created and implemented the Nazi regime accountable, Stalinism, in its light versions, which are often not associated with crime and genocide, has survived until today. Stalinism was one of the bloodiest and most inhumane forms of communist dictatorship. However, in the West, and especially in France and Italy, light versions of communism and Bolshevism had their own devout admirers.

December 7, 2022 - Mariusz Maszkiewicz

The whirlpool of Belgrade’s EuroPride: Russophilia and Russian influence in Serbia

The EuroPride events in Belgrade and all the marches against it became a mirror for all the divisions in Serbian society: between democratic and authoritarian currents, between the European Union and Russia, and between the archetypal West and East. This renewed clash was driven not just by the ruling regime, but a level of Russian influence and Russophilia seen rarely in any other European country.

Among all the capitals of South-Eastern Europe, Belgrade received the honour of organising the first EuroPride outside the borders of the European Union. What should have been a peaceful week of equality, liberal values and tolerance in modern societies, turned into a nightmare of violence, incidents and clashes on the streets of Serbia’s capital. The anti-pride protest marches overwhelmed the streets, casting a shadow of imaginary tradition, clericalism and nationalism.

December 7, 2022 - Filip Mirilović

Towards a dissolution? Lex Inzko and the fight over history

The denial of the Srebrenica genocide is one of the biggest issues facing Bosnia and Herzegovina today. In this sense, the complete annihilation of a nation or an ethnic group requires the destruction of testimonies and memory as well. It is clear that without justice and paying tribute to the victims, peace cannot be achieved. And without peace, Bosnia and Herzegovina will eventually collapse.

In July 1995 in and around the town of Srebrenica the population of Bosnian Muslims was massacred by the military forces of the Bosnian Serbs under the command of General Ratko Mladić. Opinions on how to describe these mass killings differ between those who believe it was “only” a war crime and those who, in line with the verdict of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, recognise it as a genocide. Evidently, Srebrenica’s history did not end with the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement. In the post-war period it has been faced with a new challenge: the denial.

December 7, 2022 - Aleksandra Zdeb

Strategies for the German Baltic Sea Council presidency during the Zeitenwende

Berlin's ongoing presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States could not have come at a more crucial time. Faced with increasing regional uncertainty in light of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, Germany must now take decisive action to ensure continued high-level cooperation in the area.

On July 1st, Germany took over the presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS). Cooperation among the states bordering the Baltic Sea has become more important in view of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Currently the CBSS has ten member states plus the European Commission. In March 2022, Russia’s membership, as well as the observer status of Belarus was suspended by the other member states from CBSS activities while in May it decided to withdraw from the council. Ukraine has an observer mandate with increasing strategic importance in the CBSS.

December 7, 2022 - Iris Kempe

A waste of energy

Turkmenistan has the potential to become an important energy source at the crossroads between Europe and Asia due to the drastic energy shift in European, Eurasian and Asian energy landscapes. Recent developments indicate Turkmenistan could change future energy flows due to the war in Ukraine, which could also help its over-reliance on China.

The ups and downs of the global hydrocarbons market strongly affect Turkmenistan, for its economy and exports are heavily dependent on natural gas. The COVID-19 pandemic battered the country, reduced energy demand and worsened domestic woes, such as reported food shortages, emigration and inflation. The economy appears to have struggled to recover from the 2014-15 drop in global energy prices, with IMF data indicating negative growth in 2016, 2019 and 2020. In seeking to recover, Ashgabat appears to be focusing on increasing its dependence on China by enlarging pipeline capacity.

December 7, 2022 - Alexander Malyarenko Dylan van de Ven Samuel Frerichs

Inaction is something we cannot tolerate

An interview with Oksana Bulda and Liza Bezvershenko from “Promote Ukraine”, a Brussels-based media platform for expertise and civil society initiatives in Ukraine and the EU. Interviewer: Agnieszka Widłaszewska

AGNIESZKA WIDŁASZEWSKA: How was Promote Ukraine (PU) established back in 2014 and what kind of activities has it been focusing on since then?

OKSANA BULDA: After the war started in Ukraine in 2014, there was a need to create a Ukrainian hub, so to say, to promote Ukrainian interests and share information about all of the developments related to the situation in Ukraine. At first, it was perceived more as a diaspora organisation but with time, given that Brussels is the heart of Europe, there was a need to launch wider activity. PU went through many transformations.

December 7, 2022 - Agnieszka Widłaszewska Liza Bezvershenko Oksana Bulda

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

The best story: The Ukrainian past in Zelenskyy’s words and the eyes of the public

In the current Russian war in Ukraine, history and the historical narratives underpinning the conflict are featuring front and centre. The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has been very effective in his use of historical references, especially when addressing international audiences.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent fighting in that country have been accompanied by an avalanche of historical rhetoric from both sides, underlining just how important narratives about the past are for this conflict. As Joseph Nye reminds us: “Conventional wisdom has always held that the state with the largest military prevails, but in the information age it may be the state (or non-states) with the best story that wins.”

December 7, 2022 - Félix Krawatzek George Soroka

What the past is for. Polish-Ukrainian memory politics and Putin’s war

Despite contentious differences in memory, Polish-Ukrainian relations have remained close and notably strong in important national moments. This reflects two aspects of Polish society: a generation of youth acclimated to supporting Ukrainian sovereignty with compassion, and a national memory politics which allows humanitarianism, but only when it fits into a politically suitable narrative.

In 2003 the Polish philosopher and historian of ideas Leszek Kołakowski gave a speech at the American Library of Congress titled, “What the Past is For”. Kołakowski believed that history serves not to predict the future nor to gain technical advice on how to deal with the present, but to discover the values constitutive of human identities. He told his listeners that “to say that [the events of the past] do not matter to our lives would be almost as silly as saying that it would not matter to me if I were suddenly to erase from my memory my own past personal life … The history of past generations is our history, and we need to know it in order to be aware of our identity; in the same sense in which my own memory builds my personal identity, makes me a human subject.”

December 7, 2022 - Daniel Edison

Belarusian political elites: new, imagined, lost?

The reality in today’s Belarus is that of decreased enthusiasm and less social mobilisation. The ruling elite of the Lukashenka regime is still wielding power and a large part of the society that was active during the 2020 protests is now living abroad or imprisoned.

When today we reflect on the protest movement that started in Belarus in 2020, we can see that one of its distinguishing features were the so-called new faces of the opposition that the whole world focused on and admired. Namely, the world became fascinated by the new Belarusian political leaders who were expected, and hoped for, to change, or fix, the country’s political system, drawing on the then enormous social energy that translated into political mobilisation unprecedented for Belarus.

December 7, 2022 - Maxim Rust

From utopia to dystopia

In August 2020 the whole world learned that there are two “Belaruses”. One is the utopian imaginary of “Lukashism” headed by a soft dictator, and the other is a dystopian, oppressive state in which the greatest enemy of power is a society fighting for their rights. From the term "the dictatorship of prosperity", only "dictatorship" remained and "prosperity" was enjoyed only by members of the power elite who show absolute loyalty to the leader.

Alyaksandr Lukashenka's retention of power for 28 years was widely regarded – even considering the standards known from other post-Soviet states – as a phenomenon of its own. There is no place for any deep philosophy in his leadership because the only goal of this politician was to survive at any cost. For the story of Lukashenka is not the tale of a politician of great stature, whose political career is a streak of success translating into an increase in state power and the well-being of citizens.

December 7, 2022 - Justyna Olędzka

The re-Sovietisation of Belarus

The nature of the crisis in Belarus is the same as in other countries of the region, with the collapse of old Soviet structures in the economy, society, politics and ideology. Alyaksandr Lukashenka does not understand the urbanised modern society he is trying to rule. In order to re-establish control, his regime is trying to move the society backwards. Repressions will be extremely costly for Belarusian society, but Lukashenka’s goal is unlikely to be achieved.

The past two years saw growing pressure from western sanctions on the Belarusian regime. Each move Alyaksandr Lukashenka took since 2020 has further limited his room for manoeuvre. After each of his decisions – the brutal crackdown of the 2020 protests; the repressions that followed; the grounding of the Ryanair plane; and finally, the support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine – a new wave of sanctions was introduced.

December 7, 2022 - Aliaksandr Papko Kacper Wańczyk

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

Neo-totalitarianism as a new political reality in Belarus

The large shift that has taken place within Belarusian society has illustrated both a high demand for change and the loss of broad support for Alyaksandr Lukashenka. This has led the ruling elite to realise that the regime can no longer operate in the same conditions it had pre-2020. Serious restructuring was thus necessary to ensure that the regime maintains its overall control of the state and counters any form of anti-system civic activity.

The political system in Belarus has undergone a series of changes since Alyaksandr Lukashenka came to power in 1994. Over this period of 28 years it has evolved from a hybrid regime, which included elements of façade democracy, to a neo-totalitarian one. This transformation was possible because of changes that had taken place within society and the state, and which in the end allowed for the formation of new authoritarian institutions, practices and methods.

December 7, 2022 - Pavel Usov

In anticipation of a new world

Despite being neighbours, the societies of Ukraine and Belarus know very little about each other. The Kremlin’s use of Belarusian land in its invasion of Ukraine suggests that this divide may persist into the future. However, it is clear that the two countries’ democratic populations will have great potential for cooperation in the years ahead.

The analytical group “BELARUS-UKRAINE-REGION” was established at the end of 2020 at the University of Warsaw. At that moment it was already quite clear that the Belarusian revolution of 2020 would not lead to a quick change of power in Minsk. There was also not yet much talk of a full-scale war in Ukraine, which is Belarus’s neighbour. In fact, analysts and observers who spoke about such a threat in 2021, or even early 2022, would usually add a disclaimer that in their view, the breakout of a war was a very unlikely scenario.

December 7, 2022 - Oleksandr Shevchenko

Gudijos istorija for the 21st century

With regards to Belarus, it is difficult to ask Lithuanians, or actually any other neighbouring society, about how they perceive Belarusians. The truth is that in this country we are dealing with two entities: the official Belarus and the Belarus of the opposition.

At first glance, in the autumn of 2022, Vilnius has enjoyed a normal life. The capital of Lithuania has finally almost returned to its pre-pandemic pace of life. The majority of institutions are now working like they were before. The same can be said about small shops, coffee shops and restaurants. Even though the prices that you pay there are much higher. It is also not difficult to notice that some new places have been set up. For example, on Gediminas Avenue there is a bar called Pahonia, while Vilnius Street is now home to the Belarusian House, which is located near the main government building.

December 7, 2022 - Andrzej Pukszto

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