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Infrastructural connectivity of the South Caucasus: A chance for a community of interests?

The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has shown the world the anachronistic nature of the problems faced by the politicians, armies and citizens of Armenia and

December 2, 2021 - Mariusz Maszkiewicz

A new corridor, a new impetus

The South Caucasus has serious potential to become a full-fledged logistics hub of regional significance. While opposition to developing a new corridor

December 2, 2021 - Ali Hajizade

The South Caucasus after the Second Karabakh War

The trilateral co-operation format – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia – has inexhaustible potential. Of course, not all external players claiming special

December 2, 2021 - Valery Chechelashvili

Understanding the Kremlin’s logic after the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

The Kremlin’s rationale for helping end the recent Nagorno-Karabakh conflict also explains its attitude towards transportation infrastructure projects that

December 2, 2021 - Volodymyr Kopchak

Caucasian geopolitics: Finding a path towards stability and peaceful coexistence

The Caucasus region is a wealthy area in terms of its geopolitical position, strategic importance and history. Certainly, the geoeconomic relevance of the

December 2, 2021 - Vakhtang Maisaia

The Zangezur corridor: An Azerbaijani perspective

The opening of the Zangezur corridor will play an important role in the security of Azerbaijan’s newly liberated lands. It would cement the implementation

December 2, 2021 - Murad Muradov

The Armenian view on the opening of the South Caucasus after the 2020 Karabakh War

The agreement that ended the 2020 Karabakh War called for transportation links to be put on the geopolitical agenda of the South Caucasus. According to the

December 2, 2021 - Benyamin Poghosyan

The position of Georgia within the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Georgia has great interest in advancing peaceful and neighbourly relations with the other countries of the South Caucasus. Now, there is an opportunity to

December 2, 2021 - Victor Kipiani

Vladimir the historian: Putin’s political revision of Ukrainian history

For roughly a half a decade now, there has been a radicalising shift in the Kremlin’s understanding of its relations with Ukraine. As Ukraine continues to

December 2, 2021 - Joshua Kroeker

Who benefits from the CSTO?

The CSTO has been promoted as a regional counterpart to NATO ever since its creation in 1992. Despite this, the purpose of the organisation remains unclear, with official talk of mutual defence often giving way to unilateral action in a region still dominated by Russia and its military.

Almost two decades after its establishment, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) remains a difficult entity to define. Although often described as a vehicle for Russian foreign policy and a security guarantee for member states, it is anything but clear how the CSTO serves these purposes. Indeed, Moscow has always preferred to act unilaterally in the face of tensions in the vast Eurasian region, while member states repeatedly invoking the organisation's support have never obtained it. Furthermore, the limitations of the CSTO and the lack of clarity about its actual objectives have made it incapable of attracting new member states. Now that NATO's dramatic withdrawal from Afghanistan has been completed, new challenges await Russia and its partners. Is the CSTO ready?

December 2, 2021 - Tatevik Hovhannisyan Tiziano Marino

The Central and Eastern European natural gas market 2013-19: trends and implications

Over the last decade, the natural gas market in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has changed dramatically. Today, we are seeing more cross-border pipeline routes that are bi-directional and the possibility of greater liquified natural gas (LNG) imports. These changes will bring increased economic opportunities for the full market chain under EU rules. Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine are emerging as key players in these developments.

Not long after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, western policymakers began to think about how to reduce European reliance on Russian hydrocarbon resources by expanding Europe’s alternative sources. Much of the energy diplomacy undertaken since then has focused on building pipeline infrastructure designed to bring new sources of oil and gas to Europe that bypass Russia. Of course, this strategy has seen many large successes, with the development of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline and the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) perhaps the most notable examples.

December 2, 2021 - Dwight Nystrom Geoffrey Lyon

The public diplomacy of the Associated Trio: Singing in unison?

This year saw the launch of the “Associated Trio” by Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Eager to pursue further European integration, the three states have prioritised public diplomacy as one of the key parts of these efforts. Yet, recent developments suggest much work is still to be done if the new group hopes to work together effectively.

Various hybrid challenges, as well as the foreign policy realities of the regions of Central and Eastern Europe and the Black Sea, have led Ukraine to increasingly promote itself as an independent and active actor in the international arena. The country’s new projects, such as the large-scale Crimean Platform and a number of regional alliances, including the Ukrainian-Turkish “Quadriga” and the Ukrainian-Polish-Lithuanian Lublin Triangle, serve as evidence of this new assertiveness.

December 2, 2021 - Maria Protsiuk

The new Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Centre is a Trojan horse for Putin’s hybrid war

An interview with Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, a historian, philologist and essayist. Interviewers: Aleksander Palikot and Jerzy Sobotta

ALEKSANDER PALIKOT AND JERZY SOBOTTA: You’ve been visiting Babyn Yar since you were very young. The 80th anniversary has just passed. Was it different this time?

YOHANAN PETROVSKY-SHTERN: Most importantly this time there were two different commemorations. Between September 29th and 30th, there was an unofficial or semi-official event. I would have been there too, if not for my Northwestern University teaching commitment. Many people came, including representatives of various public organisations and representatives of different Ukrainian Jewish communities. They paid tribute to the 33,771 Jews massacred at Babyn Yar over two days in September 1941 during the Nazi occupation of Kyiv.

December 2, 2021 - Aleksander Palikot Jerzy Sobotta Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern

Novgorod, violence and Russian political culture

The themes of violence, plots and suspicion are integral parts of Russian political culture. Although it is not easy to trace the origins of these issues, they appear to partly stem from the times of Ivan the Terrible. His oprichnina and the sack of Novgorod marked the beginning of instutionalised oppression on an unprecedented scale.

Every autumn, the city of Veliky Novgorod hosts the Valdai Discussion Club. Introduced 17 years ago, these talks have focused on the country’s present and future and provide an arguably open and democratic environment for expert dialogue. Meanwhile, Russia’s political system has been evolving into an autocracy where basic civic freedoms are greatly limited and state violence is on the rise. Poisoning of those proclaimed foes and defectors, long prison sentences for peaceful protesters, and intimidation have become everyday realities for those who oppose the current state of affairs in the country.

December 2, 2021 - Miłosz Jeromin Cordes

Blindspots in Second World War history

Historical memory related to the Second World War is too complex for there to be a single version recognised around the world. This is because historical “truth” is by no means a simple matter of black and white. Addressing various blindspots and imbalances in understandings of the past may subsequently help tackle difficult historical legacies at political, legal and civil society levels.

The Second World War, with its unprecedented death toll, is the most painful and widespread armed conflict present in the collective memories of nations in the modern era. It was in fact many wars in one, with different front lines, enemies and consequences that can still be felt today. In an attempt to bridge the gap between different perspectives across the continents, the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and its history programme “Confronting Memories” held the third discussion in its series on the Second World War in May 2021. This is part of various ongoing socio-political debates on postwar memory-making. This series of discussions aims to broaden understandings of the war’s history beyond the mainstream narratives and to draw lessons from human suffering and injustice that are often overlooked.

December 1, 2021 - Kristina Smolijaninovaitė

Lithuania fumbles with 4,200 migrants, pushing human rights aside

As of September 28th 2021, 4,163 migrants have illegaly crossed Lithuania’s border with Belarus. To deter migrants – now and for good – Lithuania has pinned its hopes on a fence along the frontier.

Rudninkai, a sleepy Lithuanian settlement of 500 inhabitants in the Salcininkai district along Lithuania and the EU’s border with Belarus, has been in both the local and international media spotlight this summer. Over 700 illegal male migrants had been placed for nearly three months in a makeshift tent camp, which is now eerily empty. All the migrants, mostly Iraqis, Kurds, Afghans and Sri Lankans, have been moved from the settlement to a former correctional facility in Kybartai, in the south-western district of Vilkaviskis near the Russian border. At the same time, around 400 vulnerable migrants have been moved to a refugee reception centre in Rukla, which is located in the central Jonava district. Some others are still living in municipal shelters, mostly crumbling dormitories in municipalities located along the 680 kilometre border with Belarus.

December 1, 2021 - Linas Jegelevicius

The disintegration of the Soviet Union is still going on and it is not peaceful

A conversation with Serhii Plokhy, Professor of Ukrainian History at Harvard University and director of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. Interviewer: Adam Reichardt

ADAM REICHARDT: This year we commemorate the 30-year anniversary of the fall of the Soviet Union, an event that brought an end to the Cold War as well as what Francis Fukuyama called “the end of history”. Yet, this event also led to social, economic and political instability; nation and identity building; the creation of new states and divides; and conflicts and wars among neighbours, just to name a few of the key processes. But let’s start maybe with the positives. When you look back over the past 30 years, after the collapse of the USSR, what would you say were the most important achievements or milestones throughout these past decades for the post-Soviet space?

SERHII PLOKHY: I will start with something that on the surface sounds controversial but in reality is not. The collapse of the Soviet Union signalled the “end of history” – but the history that I am talking about is not associated with the victory of liberal democracy. It was the victory of private property and market economics. With democracy we have a mixed record at best, but certainly the late 1980s and early 1990s really signalled the end for economies that were not based to one degree or another on the private property and market. Even China, which survived as a party run state and preserved a form of communist ideology, did so by adopting the principles of the market economy. So that is certainly one very clear turning point of global significance, as throughout most of the 20th century that the economic model was often directly challenged.

December 1, 2021 - Adam Reichardt Serhii Plokhy

Legacies of the real and imagined Soviet Union 1991–2021

Over the past 30 years, Soviet legacies have persisted in many former Soviet republics and it remains unclear under what conditions they will disappear. Furthermore, the various real and artificially created images of the Soviet Union seem to reinforce each other.

Thirty years have passed since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. The majority of those born immediately after the end of the USSR have already completed their education, joined the labour force and started a family. As a result, it appears less and less appropriate to refer to countries like Armenia, Kazakhstan or Ukraine as “post-Soviet” countries. Does this mean, however, that we can forget about the Soviet past while trying to understand the political, economic, cultural and social realities in countries that were once part of the USSR? Overall, the legacy of the Soviet Union appears to be more durable and complex than one would expect.

December 1, 2021 - Alexander Libman Anastassia Obydenkova

Russia’s young generation and the Soviet myth

Young people in Russia today generally possess a complicated relationship with the Soviet past. Having no direct experience of the communist state, this group continues to inhabit an uncertain middle ground with regards to historical understandings. The government makes everything more confusing as it continues to offer no clear alternative with regards to national identity.

September 2021 was marked by the elections to the State Duma in Russia. Of the 14 parties on the ballot, only five actually overcame the minimum five per cent threshold to gain representation in parliament. The country’s traditional “party of power” United Russia (UR) scored a record low of 49.82 per cent. Previously, the party had easily gained more than half of the votes and was for a long time the only party in a position to independently push through new bills in the Duma. Despite this recent shift, it does not seem like the situation has changed a lot in Russian politics. UR still achieved a greater number of votes than any other party and, consequently, the most seats in the Duma.

December 1, 2021 - Victoria Odissonova

History never ends

People never know exactly how to change history. But they should try, and try hard. This is because history is very much unpredictable, it loves to surprise and is often ironic, sometimes in a bitter or even cruel way.

Forty years ago, when I was two, a young artist named Arthur Fredekind did something unusual in my native city of Dnipropetrovsk (modern Dnipro). Together with his colleague, he produced a couple of flyers with only one word and a question mark on them: Solidarni? It was a clear allusion to the Polish social and political movement that started in Gdańsk. Arthur scattered several flyers in the mailboxes of various blocks in the neighbourhood. It happened in a closed Soviet city under special KGB surveillance far away from the Polish border. Despite this, some newspapers from then socialist Poland were available. Even these served in some way as a window to the West… Pretty soon, Arthur was arrested and convicted on defamation charges.

December 1, 2021 - Andriy Portnov

A History of Europe Fraught in Contradictions: 1989–2021

The peaceful revolutions of 1989 created a new Europe. This Europe is threatened to be lost today – 30 years later. Within the European continent national intolerance and the use of violence are part of everyday life. Politics is becoming more and more intransparent. Are there chances for change? Anyone who subscribes to the values of the Enlightenment is always at the beginning.

On New Year’s Eve 1989 I was standing on Wenceslas Square, Prague, in the midst of a crowd of hundreds of thousands. We were celebrating the country’s recently won freedom and chanted “Václav Havel to the Hradčany” – as president. Only four years earlier, I had been arrested and expelled from the country due to my contacts with civil rights activists. Later, I was in Poland and kneeled at the grave of Jerzy Popiełuszko, the priest who had been murdered by members of the secret police in 1984. In 1988 and 1989 I lived for many months in perestroika Moscow and there, at the very centre of the Soviet empire, I witnessed an exhilarating freedom movement across all countries of the “Warsaw Pact”.

December 1, 2021 - Wolfgang Eichwede

After the Soviet Union: a melancholy of unwanted experiences

When perestroika emerged and the Soviet Union gradually collapsed, a lot of people fell prey to great illusions. Many believed that the disintegration of the Soviet Union would bring the “American Dream” to the desert of post-communism. Inspired by Hollywood movies, they saw capitalism as the road to becoming rich, powerful and independent. But what they missed is that not everyone is happy in Hollywood films.

On the eve of the post-Soviet era, there was a strong belief that everyone would be happy in the new capitalist “paradise”. However, it is clear now that this paradise of capitalism does not and cannot exist. I was a child when communism failed in the Soviet Union and I remember the horrors of the new capitalist order that emerged after communist rule. Of course capitalism produces wealth, but it also has dramatic side effects, such as inequality, social injustice and poverty. In short, capitalism is not a paradise for the many but it certainly is for the few.

December 1, 2021 - Bakar Berekashvili

Society vs the elite: Belarusian post-Soviet experiences

After the collapse of the USSR, opposition groups in the republics found themselves unprepared for the new political and economic reality of independence. The anti-Soviet elites were expected to present a concrete socio-economic programme for the country. This is despite the fact that the group was deprived of earlier political or administrative experience. Its political capital was only limited to a vision of nation-building.

More than anything else, revolutions and social resistance movements in post-Soviet states show the large disconnect between authorities and society. They reflect differences in perceptions of reality as they are experienced by globalising societies and post-Soviet leaders. This disconnect can be explained by the fact that political elites, as well as some of the intellectual elite, are simply out of touch with a civil society that is now made up of a young generation of digital natives. Clearly, they do not understand this generation’s cultural needs or the global technological change that has taken place.

December 1, 2021 - Anton Saifullayeu Maxim Rust

The pain of Gongadze’s unsolved murder

A review of The murder of Gongadze: 20 years of searching for the truth. A documentary film produced by the Public Interest Journalism Lab

November 30, 2021 - Clémence Lavialle Iwona Reichardt

Deconstruction on the (semi)periphery

A review of Postkolonialne historiografie. Casus jednego średniowiecza (Postcolonial historiographies. The case of a certain medieval period). By: Anton Saifullayeu. Publisher: Oficyna Wydawnicza ASPRA-JR, Warsaw, 2020.

November 30, 2021 - Michał Przeperski

Happiness in small doses

A review of Moments of Happiness. By: Alex Dubas. Publisher: Academic Studies Press, Brookline (United States), 2021.

November 30, 2021 - Adam Reichardt

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