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Author: Samuel Abrahám

Ukraine and its discontents

The outcome of the war in Ukraine will be determined by three key actors – Ukraine, Russia and the West. However, all three operate as if they are in different time dimensions. One of the features of this “totally new era” is that clocks are ticking on all sides, but the speed seems different.

Since February 24th, Ukraine has been at the forefront of global media and we have been inundated with both short and long-term predictions about the war as it progresses. It has led to endless analysis, some profound, some superficial, some objective, some ideological, some partisan and much contradictory. We all want to know how this tragic conflict will end, whether Ukraine prevails and remains free or Vladimir Putin’s Russia conquers its neighbour. What would either development mean for the future of the West? What would be the status of the external and internal enemies of liberal democracy that have grown during the last decade and have been somewhat muted since February?

July 15, 2022 - Samuel Abrahám

The revolution on the periphery and the reflection of 1989 in Slovakia

The developments in Slovakia leading up to 1989 can be interpreted as a belated response to momentous changes in Moscow and, more immediately, in Prague. They could be classified as a “revolution on the periphery” – a phenomenon describing how the wave of change travelled to provinces and distant cities from the centre. Nevertheless these events shaped Slovakia’s development and their interpretation plays a role in politics today.
Looking back now at the precarious post-communist transformation and pondering the turbulent period that we witness today, we might ask to what extent the current condition in Central Europe in general, and Slovakia in particular, were affected by the events of 1989 – that annus mirabilis when the communist regimes of Central Europe fell after four decades in power. Was the current status quo somehow predetermined by the events and developments of that year? Or did the post-communist transformation contain its own dynamics, reflecting the longer-term conditions and political cultures of the countries that now form the Visegrád Group?

January 28, 2020 - Samuel Abrahám

The intellectual in Central Europe: Havel, Orbán and Walter

What option is open to Central European intellectuals today? How can they maintain their independent stance and moral principles, yet find a position where they can support democracy in their countries? This is a particularly pressing question today, when Central Europe is again traversing a rocky road paved with nationalism and populism.

At a recent conference of European editors of cultural journals, an English participant remarked, a bit puzzled, how only in Central Europe do people still talk in all seriousness about – and even quarrel passionately over – the role, place and responsibility of intellectuals. First, I felt slightly embarrassed recalling that Kritika & Kontext, the journal I founded in 1996, had devoted a whole issue to “The Intellectual and Society”. The debate then was both serious and passionate and, rereading it now, seems still valid today. Perhaps after all there is a special place for intellectuals in the heaven and hell of Central Europe.

January 2, 2019 - Samuel Abrahám

No alternative to liberal democracy?

The status and merit of liberal democracy is a hotly debated topic, especially in Central Europe. The question remains whether Central and Eastern European states, which recently appear to be shifting more to the far right, will eventually embrace western liberalism or will populist and nationalist politics become more widespread.

April 27, 2017 - Samuel Abrahám

The centre cannot hold

Reflecting on the turmoil occurring in Europe today, one is prone to ask whether it is a symptom of the larger global crisis or a sign of the European Union’s systemic weakness to withstand pressure from within. In particular, has the influx of refugees in 2015 manifest Brussels’ lack of will, means or both to […]

April 20, 2016 - Samuel Abrahám

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