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ISSN: 2083-7372 quarterly

BEST OF THE WEB A compila t ion o f t h e b e s t online ar t i cles fr om 2 0 13



Russian Na onal iden ty Lessons from the Holocaust Georgia’s Western Perspec ve A New Balkan Integra on

Halik Kochanski Miljenko Jergović Alexander Rondeli Pyotr Verzilov

B O O K S & R E V I E W S: J O H N L E W I S G A D D I S , B E N J U D A H , W I L L I A M H . H I L L A N D W Ł A DY S Ł AW PA S I KO W S K I

Why Romania Needed Roșia Montană


Ioana Burtea

Yegor Vasylyev Paweł Pieniążek

The Geopoli cs of Missile Defence in Poland

Margaret Thatcher and the Collapse of Communism

Alex Jaholkowski

Filip Mazurczak

ISSN 2083-7372


ear Reader, Welcome to a free special edition of New Eastern Europe. We decided to put together a compilation of the best articles on the web site in 2013. As most of you know, New Eastern Europe is not only a printed quarterly magazine, it has distinct content online – meant to provide ongoing commentary and analysis on the issues facing Central and Eastern Europe. Our authors for the web site include those who write for the issue and also include up-and-coming analysts and experts on the region. We have specific columns on the web site, including “Digital Eastern Europe” – specifically looking at the changes taking place in the region as a result of the proliferation of internet, communications and social media technology – as well as “New Voices” – a forum for students and young researchers who are looking to begin their publishing careers with the help of New Eastern Europe. The year 2013 was a significant year for the region including developments in the European Union’s relations with Russia, the Eastern Partnership summit in November, protests in Romania, Croatia’s entry into the European Union, Ukraine’s EuroMaidan – just to name a few. This special issue is meant to give our readers a taste of the dynamic developments in this region in a readable format. At the same time, this issue is a free chance to see how our print edition is organised. As a free-downloadable issue; this special edition is formatted in the same way as our print issues. Many of our online readers do not have access to the print version, so we are pleased to be able to provide free content in this format and to better connect the web site with the printed issues. We hope that you enjoy this free issue. We appreciate the support of all of our readers online and offline. If you have not already, we also encourage you to please join us in the dialogue by connecting with us via social media – Twitter, Facebook and Google+. The Editors


Contents Opinion and Analysis 7

Time for the Eastern European Union? Lucian Tion

Whether called the “Yellow Peril” in the 19th century or Lebensraum in the 20th, Europe has pursued straightforward expansionism, or fought against an ongoing fear of invasion mostly originating from the East. However, the roles have changed and now Western Europe is likely to fear European integration from its eastern neighbours.



Advertised by the Romanian government as a source of growing prosperity, the Roșia Montană gold and silver mining project is largely a sham. But the protests that it inspired show an encouraging rise of Romanian civil society, at least among the younger generation.


Shevchuk: Like a fish in a net Piotr Oleksy

The Holocaust Lessons Marek Wojnar


Why West? The Georgian Perspective Nika Sikharulidze

Constructing National Identity in Russia: The Risks and Chances for Eastern Europe Jakub Korejba


Russia’s Policy towards Armenia: Big Stick and Small Carrot Konrad Zasztowt


When in Baku… Anna Żamejć


Stepping Forward with the Weight of the Past Natalia Zielińska

The Eastern Partnership: Which way from post-Soviet? Yegor Vasylyev

Apart from their declarations, none of the Eastern Partnership countries have pursued a determined long-term perspective of integration with Europe. The countries could form a new region to take a path similar to the Central Europe, but the internal and external factors that influence their choices are substantively different.

34 37

Why Romania Needed Roșia Montană Ioana Burtea

What Is Plan “B”? Paweł Pieniążek Hungary’s Government: Imperfect, But Not Undemocratic Filip Mazurczak

For several months, Croatia has been straddling the past and the future. On the eve of joining the European Union, it is facing problems directly related to its Yugoslav past. Ethnic tensions resulting from the offi cial introduction of Cyrillic and Serbian nomenclature in Vukovar have caused hate speech among politicians and violence.


Yugosphere: The Beginning of the New Integration in the Balkans? Anna Jagiełło-Szostak

5 77


Kosovo Elections: The South Steps Forwards, the North Moves Back Zofia Peplińska and Ida Orzechowska

New Voices 115

New Discrimination: A Dangerous Shift for Hungary’s Roma Lili Bayer


The Geopolitics of Missile Defence in Poland Alex Jaholkowski

On the Edge of Gaza Roman Kabachiy

Digital Eastern Europe 88

Hashtags and Fan Pages vs. Trade Barriers Igor Lyubashenko


The Western Paradox Alex Rubin

Interviews 92

Presenting the Wider Picture A conversation with Halik Kochanski

“I was born in Britaiwn, but my parents both came from Poland to Britain in 1946. They actually met in London. However, I was never brought up with a strong sense of Polishness, which meant I could be very objective writing this book, because I had not been brought up with the Polish myths.”


Russians Love Georgia, But They Don’t Love Independent Georgia An interview with Alexander Rondeli


Prisoner in the Urals A conversation with Pyotr Verzilov

History 106


The Early Years of an Unknown Albanian Patriot Evelyne Noygues Margaret Thatcher and the Collapse of Communism Filip Mazurczak

Given Poland’s emerging role as a significant European power, its commitment to NATO’s values as well as its growing defence budget and its need for security against an increasingly menacing Russia, the Obama administration’s decision to pull out of missile defence in Poland is a disappointment.

People, Ideas, Inspiration 123

We Have All Been Winners and Losers of This War An interview with Miljenko Jergović


Gaiety Is the Most Outstanding Feature of the Soviet Union Matthew Shearman

Books and Reviews 132

Filip Mazurczak – The Consequences of Being “Anti-Polish” On Pokłosie (Aftermath), a film directed by Władysław Pasikowski


Josh Black – The Heart of the Cold War On John Lewis Gaddis’s George F. Kennan: An American Life


Alexander Gabuev – Watching the Throne On Ben Judah’s Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin


Octavian Milewski – The Kozak Memorandum: One decade on On William H. Hill’s Russia, the Near Abroad, and the West: Lessons from the Moldova-Transdniestria Conflict


Natalia Kertyczak – The Ukrainian Journal A review of Український Журнал

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EDITOR AND PUBLISHER The Jan Nowak-Jeziorański College of Eastern Europe in Wrocław CO-EDITOR European Solidarity Centre EDITORIAL BOARD Leonidas Donskis, Yaroslav Hrytsak, Paweł Kowal, Ivan Krastev, Georges Mink, Zdzisław Najder, Cornelius Ochmann, Eugeniusz Smolar, Lilia Shevtsova, Roman Szporluk, Jan Zielonka EDITORIAL TEAM Adam Reichardt, Editor-in-Chief Iwona Reichardt, Deputy Editor, Lead Translator Giacomo Manca, Contributing Editor, Filip Mazurczak, Editor, Special Edition EDITORIAL INTERN Martina Cebecauerova CONTRIBUTING ARTIST Andrzej Zaręba ADVERTISING Wiesława Nowosad SUBSCRIPTION LAYOUT AND FORMATTING Agencja Reklamowa i Interaktywna SALON REKLAMY EDITORIAL OFFICES New Eastern Europe ul. Mazowiecka 25 p. 606 30-019 Kraków European Solidarity Centre ul. Doki 1, 80-958 Gdańsk tel.: +48 58 767 79 71

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Time for the Eastern European Union? L UCIA N T I O N

Whether called the “Yellow Peril” in the 19th century or Lebensraum in the 20th, Europe has pursued straightforward expansionism, or fought against an ongoing fear of invasion mostly originating from the East. However, the roles have changed and now Western Europe is likely to fear European integration from its eastern neighbours.  

The beginning of the 21st century is not giving us much by means of variety. The old Franco-Prussian defeatist protectionism has nowadays been replaced by the defensive divisionism of the British, and Kaiser Wilhelm’s “Yellow Peril” has been moved a little closer to home in the guise of the “Polish Plumber”. And while Britain is gnawing away at its own perceived perdition, and sucking its own lifeblood in a demented xenophobia that threatens to see rifts in its own overstretched social fabric, France and Germany (with a few other undecided ex-imperial powers thrown in the mix), finally in the process of reconciling their fears with reality, are delaying for as long as possible the foregone conclusion that the Europe of the good old nationalist (and isolationist) nation-state is gone forever. In the meantime, bedridden not as much with debt as with a dire motivational and existential crisis, the United States is already on the losing end of an economic war with China and south-east Asia. Now that catching up is only a matter of time, the US, ever the flexible player on the scene of world politics (well, at least as long as this Democratic government lasts) seems willing to re-adjust its once-unassailable status, and play from a more realistic position.


Opinion and Analysis

Lucian Tion, Time for the Eastern European Union? Balance of power

Europe on the other hand, still clinging to its long dead imperial sceptre (although “spectre” would be more appropriate), is by far the sore loser. Like a snail sensing potential danger, antennae carefully drawing in despite scattered voices urging the contrary, Europe decided to shift focus onto itself and sizzle in that confidence only the self-absorbed can sport in front of a bemused, if supporting, external audience. In the meantime, with capitalism an enviable commodity avidly pursued by the destitute of yesteryear, the East is beginning to reassert itself with a force to be reckoned with that is slowly reshaping the balance of power on a global scale. Eastern Europe, long the underdog of the pan-European power struggle – properly kicked and abused at that and unwilling to miss its moment – is finally dusting itself and preparing to enjoy its own day in the sun. Never, some would argue. And this may be so. Eastern Europe, its demons and past practices still unburied, is maybe destined to forever wallow in its corrupt inaptitude and economic lassitude. Based on current trends such as population decline and political inefficiency, the region will most likely turn into a political and economic wasteland – something of a Western European backyard reduced to the role of a buffer zone, a notion still appealing (and indispensable) to the Western sustenance of its utopian splendid isolation. However, how probable can that scenario be in face of the potential crumbling of the Western half of the European Union in a flurry of indecision, bickering, lack of unified vision or outright discord (let alone debt)? There are plenty of arguments that the much talked about weakening of the Union will occur. Britain’s paranoid anti-Eastern campaigning and precipitated stumbling towards the exit is the latest in a series of events that comes to prove it. The potential copycat examples that Britain may trigger on the continent are further reasons to fear the EU’s weakening.  Holland and Sweden’s perpetual procrastination of eastward Schengen expansion, and the much-trumpeted argument that the Union is a forcefully-imposed ordeal on members of the “rich” nations is enough to believe the West will eventually tear its fragile unionist ties apart. And finally, a prevailing, if not pathological, wave of Euro-scepticism among its population in the face of crisis may well deal the union its destructive blow. But does this necessarily spell doom for Europe? The younger eastern members of the Union, while feeling yet again let down by their condescending western partners, have less to fear than it would actually seem. With two economic engines revving up in Turkey and Poland, and the widely

It is no secret that the economies of Eastern Europe were the fastest growing ones in the entire union in the euphoric post-communist, pre-crisis environment.

Lucian Tion, Time for the Eastern European Union?

Opinion and Analysis

known fact that nature (and politics) abhors a vacuum, it is hard to see a region harbouring 250 million (that is over half the population of Western Europe) simply puffing up in political smoke and vanishing from history. To say nothing of the fact that, having lived with their sights set on the other side of the Berlin Wall for half a century, the ex-communist block countries are endowed with a motivation and determination to preserve the Union, which should put the founding fathers to shame. Eastern Europe as the raison d’être of an ailing union It is no secret that the economies of Eastern Europe were the fastest growing ones in the entire Union in the euphoric post-communist, pre-crisis environment. While countries like Lithuania and the Slovak Republic achieved a GDP growth rate of up to 10 per cent (which was higher than China’s) in 2003 and 2007, respectively, France has never, even during the boom years, surpassed 3 per cent. Romania, vilified and, together with Bulgaria, singled out as the cause for the impending Armageddon of British immigration once the UK opens its labour market to the two countries in 2014, saw a steady growth rate reaching up to 9.43 per cent until 2008. And Poland surprised everyone by being the only country in the Union that avoided recession entirely even after the big crisis hit, to such a degree that, from a predominantly emigrant country, it became host to migrants from the East. Now these numbers are of course nothing to write home about. Plenty of emergent economies are putting up similar performances. The only funny thing in this equation is that much of Eastern Europe is part of the European Union, and the rest of the world is not. How does this affect things? For once, it may finally provide Europe the economic raison d’etre for its survival as infrastructure and public works still badly needed in the East will draw an increasingly higher number of businesses to invest, get involved and transfer workers eastward. Secondly, in an environment lacking leadership and purpose, the eastern countries, their commitment to integration stronger than that of any western state, could provide the necessary framework for the foundation of a stronger union. Therefore, should the East seize this moment of Western indecision and throw in its own weight in the public arena, not only would it be able to blaze a much-needed path for itself, but it could revitalise the stuttering and ailing Western union as well.

License plates are increasingly starting to show that the traditional Berlin-Paris axis is slowly being replaced in this region by a Warsaw-Ankara axis.



Opinion and Analysis

Lucian Tion, Time for the Eastern European Union?

Moreover, for reasons easy to discern but uncomfortable to discuss, fighting an enemy has always proven beneficial for the development of healthy economies and political systems. Considering that the eastern countries are faced with an enemy at home rather than abroad – in the name of corruption, deficient practices, and bureaucracy – this makes their wars easier to win, as past examples of the swift development in Asian countries based on Western models clearly shows. In need of appropriate models, Eastern Europe also went west to shop for policies that would secure its budding democracies, and the West was only too happy, if always a little apprehensive, to at least provide the framework to apply them. However, faced with problems at home, the West is showing increasing indignation to offer support, which will only force the East to finally stop looking elsewhere, and start forging its own policies. Which means it will probably also fight more seriously to implement them. Thus, with the rift along East and West still negatively affecting attitudes on both sides of the defunct Iron Curtain, Eastern Europe has a unique chance to create its own political environment wrought out of its countries’ common past. Should eastern countries understand this, they would be able to faster come out of the transition-induced procrastination, and, rather than compete for priority into a union they are not entirely able to relate to and integrate in, shake off their nationalist scars, put their differences behind them and build an enduring economic alliance. The market has already confirmed a direction that politicians are still struggling to see: the move toward a potential Eastern European Union. Just look at the back of most household and food products you buy at the supermarket everyday. The languages of a single Eastern market are clearly inscribed on the trivial products in your hands from toothpaste to salami. And these languages are not English or French. They range from Latvian to Serbian, and from Turkish to Polish. Or look at the tractor-trailers crisscrossing the Eastern European roads (which are still badly in need of repair). License plates are increasingly starting to show that the traditional Berlin-Paris axis is slowly being replaced in this region by a Warsaw-Ankara axis. In the Eastern European economic landscape, Western Europe is increasingly becoming a remote presence. Finally, what is the EU founding treaty but the merger of the remnants of the Western European empires? Is it not surprising that this treaty was drafted around the time when all former empires, hard-pressed less by emerging nationalism than by the cost of maintaining unprofitable overseas colonies, announced with hypocritical aplomb the ceding of power and the triumph of self-determination. In one breath, shortly after letting go of their possessions, France, Germany and the smaller powers at first, joined by the British heavyweight later, soon became the founding fathers of the fledgling European Union.

Lucian Tion, Time for the Eastern European Union?

Opinion and Analysis 11

The (Eastern) empire strikes back? But what about the East? In contrast to popular Western misconception, the Wild East was once the playground of empires at least as powerful as their Western counterparts. The only reason the unravelling Russian, Ottoman and Habsburg Empires have not been able to forge an alliance between them was the simple fact that instead of being engaged in overseas competition they waged territorial wars on each other which, culminating with the disastrous experiment of imperialism in disguise, which was Russian communism, left the region in the ruinous economic situation it was at the end of the 1990s. However, with a power vacuum increasingly more acute in Eastern Europe and political manoeuvring being replaced by economic hegemony, the possible scenarios taking shape see either the reinstatement of economic monopoly or the advance of an alliance. Will these three former giants, like their Western counterparts, one day succeed in creating a union that would dissolve their differences and stimulate growth? If they learned anything from their troubled past, they would understand that Eastern Europe most needs a shift of focus from western integration to domestic management and a common search for effective local leadership. Such a union as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has all the ingredients to make development possible provided that participating countries let go of nationalism and find common ground. While it is maybe imprudent to even consider the success for such a scenario in the East in the current economic and political context, the seedlings of an Eastern European Union have already been planted. The lack of consensus as to the future of the Union in the West should only embolden Eastern leaders to seek common vision and snatch this chance to forge an unprecedented, yet badly needed, and almost certainly mutually beneficent alliance. Should they succeed, this would positively influence Western policy toward the preservation of the European Union and the affirmation of the East as something more than just a minor, inexperienced and perpetually corrupt junior partner. Originally published February 12th 2013

Lucian Tion is an independent journalist, fi lm director and international teacher. He writes for the weekly Revista 22 in Bucharest.

The Holocaust Lessons MAREK WOJNAR

Active cooperation with Germany in the Final Solution casts a shadow on the history of many Eastern European nations. Dealing with this dark chapter is very difficult, mainly because of its inextricable connection with the problem of the Soviet occupation. This, in turn, brings about the risk of belittling the suffering of Eastern Europe. Without a doubt, the Baltic states and western Ukraine are not the only areas where in the second half of 1941 the first wave of mass murders of the Jews took place. They are, however, the only areas where members of local communities, mainly inspired by the Germans or at their own will, took part in these crimes on a large scale. And yet, mistakes should not be made: the sources of this violence are neither an inborn anti-Semitism of the Baltic nations, nor a Ukrainian tendency for cruelty. To understand the surge of Nazi collaboration among these nations we need to realise the loss they experienced under the Soviet occupation. Just on one day in 1941, tens of thousands of people from the Baltic states were exiled to the Soviet Union. The trauma of this experience explains why 1941 became the “year of fear” for both Latvians and Estonians. It also explains why, in the summer of 1941, these very same nations welcomed Germans with flowers. Myth of an unequal victim It was the experience of this fear that pushed some members of these nations into believing in the Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy theory. And it was also the experience of this fear that explains why the local population in these countries joined the German police battalions and Waffen-SS legions. In addition, experience of this fear explains why the return of the Soviets in 1944 was not seen by these nations

Marek Wojnar, The Holocaust Lessons

Opinion and Analysis 13

as liberation. This was justified, as people from the Baltic states again could see the setting off of the cattle wagons. And once more, their local elites were faced with a dilemma: emigration or deportation (possibly involving execution). The experience of the Soviet occupation has influenced, to the greatest extent, the way in which Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians and Ukrainians perceive their history. Seemingly, it has also influenced the memory of their own participation in the Holocaust, especially with regard to one key question: how to write history in such a way as to make the crimes against Jews not obstruct the memory of the real tragedy of their own nations? This very difficult question has not been yet answered by any of the above-mentioned nations. In Estonia, the scale of the Holocaust was evidently much smaller than in the other Baltic states or Ukraine. Germans, together with local Estonian collaborators quickly “solved” the Jewish problem, which allowed Estonia to be called Judenfrei as early as December 1941. There were no ghettos in Estonia; hence the Jewish community (small in numbers) was perishing far away from Estonian society. At the same time, Estonians enjoyed a relatively large autonomy from the Germans, mainly because of the similarity of their racial features. This racial connection was also the reason why some Estonian communities were so eager to get engaged in local self-defence divisions (Omakaitse), police battalions, and – finally – the Waffen-SS units. The latter, known for their role in defending Estonia’s eastern border from the Red Army in 1944, entered the heroic narration of Estonia’s history. All of this explains why Estonia, when compared to the other states in the region, is less willing to confront the dark pages of its own history. However, it would not be true to say that it has completely ignored the problem; since 2003, Estonia has been celebrating the International Day of Holocaust Victims, and the official presidential commission of historians admitted that the Estonian Legion and local police battalions participated in the murders of Jewish people, while Estonian politicians make occasional gestures to commemorate the memory of the murdered Jews. Nonetheless, this does not mean that there is a widespread social acceptance in Estonia that the Holocaust is a part of the country’s history. Unlike Lithuania and Latvia, Estonia has not yet worked out broad educational programmes on this topic that would be implemented by the government. Nor at the national level have any laws been passed directly condemning the Shoah. Taking into account the general atmosphere and the fact that there is no law in Estonia on Holocaust denial, it is not surprising that there have been nationalist publications in Estonia denying the crime against the Jewish people.

The experience of the Soviet occupation has influenced the perception of history.


Opinion and Analysis

Marek Wojnar, The Holocaust Lessons

Various examples show that this lack of sensitivity towards the Jewish issue is on the rise. For example, in September 2011, the Estonian Historical Museum organised a special exhibition devoted to a “distinguished resident” of Tallinn, prominent Nazi Alfred Rozenberg, while a year later, the Estonian magazine Eesti Express placed an advertisement for diet pills with a recommendation to use the experiences of Buchenwald prisoners. Almost at the same time, a different Estonian company, Gas Term, placed an advertisement for its services in which it used the gate at Auschwitz with its infamous sign Arbeit Macht Frei. All these events indicate a serious problem. This problem is not limited to Estonian antiSemitism (which is its result, rather than cause), but rather to a dominant historical narrative. And this narrative is based on three assumptions. First, it reveals an absolute conviction about the innocence of the Estonian nation. Second, it puts a heroic areola around the ambiguous history of the 20th division of Waffen-SS. Third, it shows an unusual (in the European or even global scale) belief that the communist regime was worse than Nazism. All those assumptions make it difficult, or even impossible, to talk about the dark chapters in Estonia’s history. This is why, unless something is changed, Estonia will remain a strange country that combines incredible economic success with serious identity problems.

Estonia, when compared to the other states in the region, is less willing to confront the dark pages of its own history.

The Holocaust in Ukraine’s internal memory As opposed to Estonia, Ukraine did not pass the “Holocaust test” mainly because this painful issue has been placed in Ukraine’s internal memory conflict. When we look at the events that took place in the second half of 1941, we clearly see that the participation of the Ukrainian people in the Holocaust was limited to the region of Eastern Galicia, the very same territory that before the Second World War was the main centre of Ukrainian nationalism and later found itself in the hands of the Red Commissioners. The threat of repressions and exile was directed at everybody: Poles, Ukrainians and Jews. And yet, in Galicia there was potential, which allowed the Germans to effectively use anti-Semitic slogans. In all probability, the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists, which was the main political force in the region, did not distance itself from the Nazis’ plans for a “New Europe” and set up the ground. On June 30th 1941, the “Nachtigal” Battalion, led by the future commander of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army Roman Shukhevych, entered Lviv as the first German unit. Soon, there was an explosion of pogroms against Jewish people. Until today,

Marek Wojnar, The Holocaust Lessons

Opinion and Analysis 15

the role of this unit has remained a topic of many disputes among historians. The anti-Soviet and anti-Semitic atmosphere allowed Germans to form over a dozen Ukrainian police battalions, which took part in different actions directed against the Jewish people. In March 1943, their members deserted to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. Today, these facts are often brought up in discussion, however, not because Ukraine has managed to hold its own history accountable. They are used more as an argument which the supporters of the post-Soviet vision of history use in a debate with those who glorify the anti-Soviet fights of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in the western parts of the country. The latter, in turn, are trying to refute them and belittle them to defend their own historical myths. During Viktor Yushchenko’s rule, when the process of rehabilitating the Ukrainian Insurgent Army took place, that latter group had an advantage. The act of awarding Stephan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych the title “Hero of Ukraine” clearly coincided with the memory of the Holocaust. And while, indeed, building Ukrainian martyrdom around the Holodomor did not contradict it, the introduction to the discourse of a clearly overestimated number (seven million) of Stalin’s victims certainly led to the diminishing of the meaning of the Shoah. Examples of covering up the participation of Ukrainians in anti-Jewish activity during Yushchenko’s rule can be seen in the activity of the Archives of the Security Service of Ukraine. This institution, led by controversial historian Volodymyr Viatrovych, published in 2008 a document titled The Book of Facts, which was meant to confirm the lack of involvement of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists in Lviv’s pogroms. Critics of Ukrainian nationalism, Per Anders Rudding and John Paul Himka, called the material false. If the Yushchenko camp belittled the importance of the Holocaust (by increasing the importance of Ukrainian victims) and neglected the role of Ukrainians in the Shoah, the actions of Viktor Yanukovych have been very different. For instance, as a result of the attempts undertaken by the presidential administration, a meeting was held between Yanukovych and Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Avidgor Libermann during the ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the series of massacres carried out by the Nazis in the Babi Yar ravine. These gestures, however, are not necessarily a result of the current government’s empathy towards the Holocaust issue. They only reflect Ukraine’s internal conflict over history. Unless there is some reconciliation in the internal Ukrainian conflict, it will be difficult to talk about the possibility of reconciling the Ukrainian narrative with a Polish or Jewish one.

The experiences of Eastern European nations dealing with the Holocaust show an uncompromised attempt to defend heroic narratives.


Opinion and Analysis

Marek Wojnar, The Holocaust Lessons Consensus building

Latvia and Lithuania, unlike Estonia or Ukraine, have undertaken an attempt to deal with their nations’ participation in the Holocaust. Without a doubt, this decision of their governments was influenced by the tragic aspect of the extermination of Jewish people in these two countries. The case of Lithuania is especially painful with the infamous record of as many as 95 per cent of Jews being murdered there, the overall number reaching 195,000 people. In Latvia, this percentage was noticeably smaller and the number of those murdered was 61,000. These numbers are incomparably higher than in the case of Estonia. What distinguishes Lithuania and Latvia from Ukraine is a clear perspective of European integration that forced their governments towards certain activities, also in the sphere of memory. As early as 1990, both Lithuania and Latvia passed laws condemning the Holocaust and admitted their participation in the Shoah. Apologies for participating in the murder were expressed by both presidents Vytautas Landsbergis and Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga. Both states also introduced broad education programmes devoted to the memory of the Holocaust. In Lithuania, the Catholic Church played an active role in this process. The tragedy of the Jews is also seen in the symbolic sphere. The best examples are the memorials in Kovno and Paneriai in Lithuania, and Rumbula and the Bikernieki Forest in Latvia. Even at the Riga-based Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, which is primarily devoted to Latvian martyrdom, visitors can learn many important things about the Shoah that took place in Latvia, and the participation of local collaborators in it. This does not mean that Latvia and Lithuania do not have their own problems with the memory of the Holocaust. The most controversial issue is the attempts to reconcile the national narrative with its positive interpretation by some political organisations and military formations, which were indirectly involved in the Shoah with the memory of those murdered. In Latvia, this is directly linked to the problem of how to commemorate the activities of the Latvian Waffen-SS Legion. This unit, while fighting in 1944 on the Eastern Front against the Red Army, did not directly take part in the Holocaust. And yet, its rank and file, which is difficult to deny, also included, next to the drafted Latvians, members of the police battalions who had participated in the genocide. This problem may not be resolved anytime soon, although it is also not seen as being particularly stiff. This is because in Latvia, unlike in Estonia, soldiers who fought under the German flag are most often regarded as war victims, and not heroes of the anti-Bolshevik crusade. In Lithuania, the problem of participation in the Shoah is related to the problem of how to commemorate the memory of the members of the Lithuanian Activists Front, an organisation that, in collaboration with Nazi Germany, tried to rebuild the Lithuanian state in June 1941. The Lithuanian authorities do not take a clear

Marek Wojnar, The Holocaust Lessons

Opinion and Analysis 17

Photo: Marek Wojnar

A memorial to the Jews who were murdered in the Bikernieki forest. Bikernieki forest is the largest mass murder site during The Holocaust in Latvia.

position on this issue. The conflict with regards to this issue is softened by the fact that the meaning of this episode for the Lithuanian memory is much smaller than, for example, that of the anti-communist guerrillas. These are not the only controversial issues. There has been much controversy around the theory that assumes a symmetry between the Nazi and the Soviet crimes and that has been accepted in Lithuania and Latvia. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre has on many occasions pointed to the insufficient speed at which Nazi criminals have been hunted down in the Baltic states. While analysing these accusations, it is worth remembering that the Jewish communities also have their own narrative the past. In many aspects it is similar to the Russian memory. Hence, it should not be surprising that the countries under Soviet occupation do not want to accept some of its elements. Traits of memory The experiences of Eastern European nations dealing with the memory of the Holocaust show that an uncompromised attempt to defend heroic narratives about a nation’s own past may hinder a discussion on difficult moments in its history. In the case of Estonia, we notice this in the examples of conflicts with the memory of other nations. In Ukraine, it is placed in the conflict of two discourses (both unwilling to review their own position) in the framework of one state. A redefinition


Opinion and Analysis

Marek Wojnar, The Holocaust Lessons

of these narrations would have to be based, on the one hand, on respect for the nations’ own symbols, and an attempt to open to the memory of other communities, on the other hand. An answer to the question as how to achieve it is certainly not easy. Perhaps a certain hint can be found in Latvia (Lithuania’s relative success is a result of avoiding a difficult topic by focusing on the history of anti-communist guerrillas). In The Latvian Legion, a fi lm made in 2000 with a support of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs one of the veterans of this military unit, while assessing representative of his nation fighting in the Waffen-SS and the Red Army, says: “We had no heroes. We were all (author’s emphasis) victims.” And it is this kind of humanistic perspective that puts the individual tragedy of a human being higher than the abstract fight of a nation (although the latter does not exclude patriotic behaviour) seems to be the path towards breaking of the vicious circle of heroic and martyrdom-based narrations. Only in this way will we be able to honour the graves of those murdered by the SS and NKVD and only in this way will we understand the fate of those who fought on different sides of the front. And only in this way will we understand that, in truth, Eastern Europeans did not have heroes and that they were all victims. Translated by Iwona Reichardt

Originally published November 5th 2013

Marek Wojnar is a PhD student at the Institute of History of the Jagiellonian University. He is a recipient of the Foundation for Polish Science grant within the project led by Professor Andrzej Nowak called “Histories and Memories of Empires in Eastern Europe: Comparative Studies”. 


THE EUROPEAN SOLIDARITY CENTRE The European Solidarity Centre (ECS) is an institution of a new form: it is not only a museum, but also an educational and scientific establishment aimed at providing a greater understanding of Solidarność and the anti-communist movements in Poland and Europe. The objective of its founders was to create a Central European agora, a meeting place for citizens, who feel responsible for the development of democracy in Europe. The European Solidarity Centre supports reflection on the state of an open society, the role of a country, the identity of democratic communities and the issue of social justice.

ECS was created in 2007 by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, the City of Gdańsk, the selfgoverning body of the Pomorskie Voivodeship, NSZZ Solidarność and the Solidarity Centre Foundation. The floor space of the newly-built building of ECS covers nearly 26 thousand square meters. A permanent exhibition dedicated to the history of Solidarność will be the heart of the centre. There will also be a  library and reading room, a  media library, archives, a  scientific-research centre, an educational training centre, creative youth workshops as well as space for special exhibitions.


THE MISSION of the European Solidarity Centre We aspire to ensure the ideals of Solidarność – democracy, an open solidary society and the culture

of dialogue – maintain a modern perspective and appeal. We want to preserve, in the memory of Poles and Europeans, the experience of Solidarność as a  peaceful revolution, so that Solidarność, throughout European democracies, is remembered as a key part of the story of the establishment of Europe. We want Solidarność to be a source of inspiration and hope for those who do not live in open and democratic societies.

THE WEIGHT of responisbility Iryna Sheiko-Ivankiv, 25 years old, works at the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative in Kiev in the Ukraine. She is writing her PHD thesis on solidarity and is also a social activist.

- The Solidarity Academy in Gdańsk uncovered some very important details of the Polish road to real freedom, which I was previously unaware of. Having taken part in the workshop dedicated to leadership, I have begun to feel the weight of responsibility of a social leader. Thanks to the Solidarity Academy my understanding of Solidarność has broadened not only theoretically, but also with a view to its practical application.

THIS IS WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT Adam Pypan, an 12 year-old pupil from primary school No 12 in Elbląg, last year winner of the ‘My Little Solidarity’ competition.

Solidary means that everyone gets together To clean, play and help, With the difficulties we do not tackle on our own. Because when people love each other, they give solidary support to each other, And this is what it is all about, that solidary are the old and the young.

UNIVERSAL EXPERIENCE of Solidarność Basil Kerski, director of ECS -For the past five years ECS has carried out an extensive programme promoting the heritage of Solidarność throughout Poland and Europe. I feel that the most important task of ECS is to work with the young generation. We will not reach this generation through forceful monologue; instead we need to undertake arduous educational work. ADVERTISEMENT

2014 ECS moves into the new building

The building is currently under construction close to the Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers, the historical gate No 2 of the Gdańsk Shipyard and the BHP Hall where on 31 August 1980, the Inter-Enterprise Strike Committee signed an agreement with the communist government in Poland (PRL). The heart of the building will house a permanent exhibition, dedicated to the phenomenon of Solidarność and the changes which it influenced in the Central and Eastern Europe.


Constructing National Identity in Russia: The Risks and opportunities for Eastern Europe J A K UB KO RE J B A

While still consolidating state structures, Russia is also trying to pursue a more assertive foreign policy. Making both processes successful requires an answer to a fundamental question: what does it mean to be Russian, both at home and abroad?

Contemporary Russia is living in a completely new, post-imperial period of its history. The ongoing transformation is deep, as the implosion of Russia’s previous state borders and formerly dominant ideology has coincided with a general shift in the world order and the end of the bipolar era. In 1991, Russia lost its position as one of the two main superpowers and plunged into the internal turmoil of the 1990s. The 1990s were also a period of a certain loss of orientation in international relations. Russia’s role in world politics changed from a very clear one (that of a superpower) to a chaotic search for self-definition. Yet building a new model of society and its role in international politics is impossible without a national identity defined that is agreed on by both the majority of Russia’s political elite and its ordinary citizens.


Opinion and Analysis

Jakub Korejba, Constructing National Identity in Russia: The Risks and opportunities for Eastern Europe New president – old questions

After a period of constant deterioration of its external influence and internal cohesion, Vladimir Putin decided to restore “order” inside Russia and put the country back in its “proper place” in the international community. The power change was followed by a major mental shift, as Russian society became disillusioned with notions such as “democracy”, “capitalism”, “liberalism” and “western values”, which were all related to the miserable Russian realities of the Yeltsin era. This accelerated the quest for the new identity with the aim of preparing Russians to construct a new society and prepare themselves for the internal and external challenges of the 21st century. Becoming more reassured internally, Russia started generating ideas on how to organise its immediate international neighbourhood and make its influence real by using political, economic and ideological instruments. After Putin invented the notion of a “Eurasian Union” under Russian supremacy, it became the topic of speculation by politicians and analysts who feared Russia’s re-born imperial identity. Once the theoretical exercises and declarations were supported by the political actions of the state, which provoked several conflicts inside Russia (the elimination of opposition and public protests, the prosecution of businesspeople, limits to the free media, rising racism, social exclusion, regional inequality, etc.) as well as the elevation of tensions with its closest allies (Georgia, Belarus, Ukraine) and more distant partners (NATO, the EU, the United States, Central Europe), the problem of the definition of identity became a very practical question of a political and strategic matter. So far, there has been no thorough analysis of the impact of the new state-led policy on Russian society, the reality of life inside Russia and its international role and the search for its position in Eurasia. It seems that no one really knows what identity the Kremlin is creating and what the new content and framework of this notion is. In addition, even though there are analyses in both Russia and abroad, they do not go beyond the official line or its interpretations, without the further exploration of social change as a massive and probably most prospective endeavour that would transform the social structure of Russia and redefine its role on the world arena. Sources of new identity Russia in its current borders is one of the most complex and heterogeneous state entities in the contemporary world. The historical, mental and material basis of its identity is thus wide and eclectic. The new emerging identity has to respond to the needs of a multitude of social affiliations and embrace different areas and kinds

Jakub Korejba, Constructing National Identity in Russia: The Risks and opportunities for Eastern Europe

Opinion and Analysis 25

of self-identification. This includes ethnic, racial, linguistic, national, regional and religious differences. All of them are the sources of identities at their respective levels and sectors. With this multitude in mind, it is obvious that a universal national identity will hardly emerge spontaneously and thus must be initiated from the top. The key question concerns the way the central government uses all existing driving forces to create and promote a new national identity. This is why it is so important to reveal the real nature of the relations between the identity creation process and the political system. Can identity be the basis for the creation of political structures and mechanisms, or is it rather the political system itself, which deliberately creates an identity according to its current needs? Some of the components of Russian identity emerge spontaneously, while some of them are meticulously invented and inserted into social life through political discourse and the media. The main generators of Russian identity, such as the political elite, the intelligentsia, the Orthodox Church and other religious organisations (Catholic, Muslim) and the media, all try to pursue their own interests while being obliged to stay within the framework of official discourse.

Becoming more reassured internally, Russia started generating ideas on how to organise its immediate international neighbourhood.

Components of new identity For the Russian government as well as for the analysis of its policy, it is important to reveal and compare the positive and negative aspects of identity. This means answering the question: who are we and who are we not? In times of bipolar order and concurrence with the West, the response was quite obvious (communist vs. capitalist, internationalism vs. imperialism, the Warsaw Pact vs. NATO, etc.). Now, however, this is not so clear, which is why it is not obvious who can be considered Russian. An analysis of official state documents and speeches by top Russian officials gives an impression of a certain lack of precise vision, and shows that the final outcome of defining national identity is still not complete. The range of the possible basis of nationhood is very wide and varied, and includes ethnic Russians inside the Russian Federation, or all ethnic Russians including the diaspora in the post-Soviet space, and possibly the distant countries of traditional emigration. Citizens of the Russian Federation, regardless of their ethnicity or confession, including the residents of separatist regions of Georgia and Moldova, are those who use Russian passports, regardless of whether they received them legally or not. This sphere is an object of state policy by an agency called Rossotrudnichestvo.


Opinion and Analysis

Jakub Korejba, Constructing National Identity in Russia: The Risks and opportunities for Eastern Europe

Another option is the post-imperial or post-Soviet space commonly called the “Russian World”. The Russian state actively promotes this notion, namely through a structure called Russkij Mir (“the Russian World”). But a reading of its founding documents and interviewing its executives does not really give an answer to the official aims and practical significance of its activities. This is why it is more productive to identify and describe different spheres or dimensions of identity: personal, familial, professional, social, religious and cultural. It is also important to pay attention to different levels of identification: local, regional and statelevel, as well as its sources in national history. The main historic patterns, although often mythologized and manipulated, are pan-Slavic (referring to the period of the unity of the Eastern Slavs), imperial, Soviet and of the Second wWorld War era. All these elements are seen through different ideological prisms complicated by a specifically Russian interpretation: conservative, nationalist and liberal (Western). Moreover, taking into consideration the special place of geopolitics in Russia, it is crucial to define its geographic dimension: pan-European, Eastern European, Asian, Eurasian and global. Coming closer to defining an emerging identity in practice, it is also indispensable to identify and analyse criteria of its measurement: moral, material (wealth) and social (being a part of elite is not necessarily connected to economic wellbeing).

The lack of a modern national identity may give voice to nostalgic nationalists, neo-imperialists and other hardliners.

What Russia to expect? Taking into consideration all these elements, it becomes possible to predict the outcome of the identity-forming process and its consequences for internal stability and the international role of Russia. The result of the ongoing formation process may vary in the short, medium and long term. Notwithstanding traditional social apathy, the state-led policy is capable of affecting Russia’s national balance, social structure and economic life, and set up new dynamics. If effectively conducted by the Kremlin, it can establish and maintain cohesion between national, religious, ethnic and other groups inside Russia. If misled, it will certainly lead to growing tension and progressive destabilisation of the country. Russia’s relations with its immediate neighbours and international partners will depend on its internal cohesion. The lack of a modern national identity may give voice to nostalgic nationalists, neo-imperialists and other hardliners who miss the former Soviet glory. It is obvious that their rhetoric and actions will provoke conflicts inside Russia, which

Jakub Korejba, Constructing National Identity in Russia: The Risks and opportunities for Eastern Europe

Opinion and Analysis 27

will sooner or later spill over into the immediate neighbourhood, seize the regional level and finally destabilise the whole of Eurasia. The discourse of hatred, still present inside part of the Russian elite, presumes the implementation of a policy of exclusion under different criteria. This means the rise of racism, homophobia, structural inequalities, regional imbalance, social disparities, etc. It is still not clear whether the ongoing process of national identity creation will have a successful outcome or collapse, provoking a rise of alternative identities and leading to a possible social split. The first option gives the chance of stabilising Russia in its current borders, making it more predictable in world politics. The second option, however, draws a worrisome scenario of an internal struggle, which will most certainly affect Russia’s neighbours and may heavily destabilise the whole of Eastern Europe. Originally published January 10th 2013 Jakub Korejba is PhD candidate at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) and the University of the MFA of Russia, and an adviser for the Centre for Post-Soviet Studies at MGIMO-University.

The Eastern Partnership: Which way from post-Soviet? YE G O R VA SYLYEV

Apart from their declarations, none of the Eastern Partnership countries have pursued a determined long-term perspective of integration with Europe. The countries could form a new region to take a path similar to the Central Europe, but the internal and external factors that influence their choices are substantively different.

Unlike its neurotic and disconcerted reactions to the NATO and EU accession of the Central European states, Russia has been quite assertive in countering a possible turn westwards of the new Eastern Europe bloc. The unequivocal rhetoric of Vladimir Putin and his messengers is accompanied by intensifying pressure. Both in words and actions, the Russian leader and his team are showing off around Russia’s neighbourhood as the first guy in the village (pervyi paren na derevne). Effectively stalled Ukrainians, who, in Putin’s words, come from the same people as the Russians, part of whom, he claims, suffered for centuries at the hands of its western neighbours, are on track to sign the Association and Free Trade Agreement with the EU in November. Therefore, in August, Ukraine was given a taste of a fully-fledged blockade of its imports to Russia. Most recently, Putin’s adviser Sergey Glazyev openly threatened Ukraine with default in case the agreement came into force. Armenia, a country whose borders are co-patrolled by Russian forces, is in Glazyev’s vision essentially no less Russian than the Kaliningrad Oblast. Following a meeting with powerful Moscow-based Armenian oligarchs and an audience with Putin during his visit to Moscow, Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan announced

Yegor Vasylyev, The Eastern Partnership: Which way from post-Soviet?

Opinion and Analysis 29

Photo: European Commission

The Eastern Partnership, launched in 2009, had the potential to allow the member countries to form a new region to take the Euro-Atlantic path. However, internal and external factors that influence their choices are substantively different than those faced by the countries of Central Europe a decade earlier.

that Armenia will join the Customs Union. The long negotiated agreements with the EU have been effectively stalled. Moldova’s authorities, however, have no intention of following Armenia’s lead, although the Russian Federal Service on Customers’ Rights Protection has banned Moldovan wine. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitriy Rogozin has publicly expressed his sincere hope that Moldova, which has declared its resolve to alleviate its current 100 per cent dependence on Russian gas supplies, “will not freeze this winter”. Belarus is a founding member of the Customs Union, but its long-serving president, Aleksandr Lukashenka, still dismisses the surrender of the family jewels, which happen to produce most of the country’s GDP, to Russia. In the latest twist of his uneasy relations within the Slavic brotherhood, he is coming under another wave of economic pressure, once again being reminded how vulnerable his Russiansubsidised “socially-oriented model” is. Georgia, where outgoing Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili remarkably has “no opinion at all” on the issue, sees Russian troops installing fences on the borders of its breakaway region of South Ossetia. Even Anna Chapman has struck again, paying a very public trip to the conflict region of Qarabag, right after the avidly promoted but not really productive August visit to Baku by Putin. All this is taking place amidst growing discontent within Russia’s major regional integration project. The Eurasian Customs Union has so far no strikingly positive impact to boast, with one party – Russia – dominating, while the others – Belarus and Kazakhstan – turn to an increasingly piecemeal approach. However, this does


Opinion and Analysis

Yegor Vasylyev, The Eastern Partnership: Which way from post-Soviet?

not stop Russia’s assertive diplomacy from leaning over the post-Soviet Bloc to the “already runaways”. Lithuania has most recently also faced trade curbs and is currently going through harsh gas negotiations. Post-Soviet decision-making This overarching Russian political and economic influence makes the usual post-Soviet balancing approach to foreign policy increasingly problematic. The mantra repeated once and again by countries’ rulers about finding a middle way to cohabit both directions (or, in words of both Aleksandr Lukashenka and Viktor Yanukovych, “two monsters”) comes to loggerheads with the substance of the new commitments. So, what is next? Regarding the differences between the post-Soviet Eastern Partnership countries and the Central and East European EU members, there are two main factors. First, the political culture of the post-Soviet political players and their view of power lead to their decision-making being guided by the interests of their narrow elite networks, not by doctrines or beliefs. Thus, in practice, even the most crucial decision could be reversed or downplayed. Second, in the post-Soviet world, democratic procedures, even if formally observed, work in a special way. As far as there are no more ideological tyrannies in the region, any regime, however semi-authoritarian, is dependent on the support of the majority. If secured, it is perceived if not as an unabridged authority, then a mandate to pursue its own agenda. Effectively, this means that public opinion matters. But what are the prospects of geopolitical choices in these perspectives?  

Russia has been quite assertive in countering a possible turn westwards of the new Eastern Europe bloc.

Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine Belarus and its “last European dictator” are going through some challenging times. Approaching his 20th year in the office, Aleksandr Lukashenka is likely to face more problems in maintaining socio-economic promises, which lie on the basis of the lasting social contract, with his core post-Soviet, non-ideological electorate. At the same time, he has neither capable opposition contenders, nor a nationwide movement to confront his authority. Quite experienced in Russian ways and methods of cooperation, Lukashenka, who handles all the threads in a knitting ball of the country’s elites, is not ready to take more of Vladimir Putin’s integration offers, and knows all too well what

Yegor Vasylyev, The Eastern Partnership: Which way from post-Soviet?

Opinion and Analysis 31

a sign of weakness means in the post-Soviet political theatre. “What’s with our Western direction?” he recently questioned Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey, who is seeking “normalisation” and a “pragmatic character” in relations with the EU. There is an on going strengthening of popular support for the country’s rapprochement with Europe, which its largely populist leader might find worth taking into account. Some allege the country is approaching another European thaw. As the most experienced balancer on the block, he well might contemplate a new move from the last heel to Moscow, but that, of course, will have nothing to do with real democratisation. In Moldova, despite the announcement of a “velvet revolution” by the Communist Party, the next parliamentary elections will likely take place in 2014. The EU-oriented government, headed by experienced diplomat Iurie Leancă, will not take a U-turn in its geopolitical direction, whatever the circumstances. However, public support for this vector of integration is not that strong. The ever-present issue of Moldova’s identity, frustration with the pro-European coalition, which is no stranger to typical post-Soviet interests-based governance, and their incapability to deliver socio-economic improvement, might lead to a change of government in the aftermath of the elections. In such a case, an overhaul of foreign policy and geopolitical orientation may also be possible. Ukraine, during its early independent years has suffered from “post-Soviet schizophrenia” caused by a split in its national identity. Only 22 years since the fall of the Soviet Union, the country is experiencing a shift, with support for Ukrainian identity and the European vector prevailing and expanding eastwards. The potential for a dramatic increase in public support for integration with Russia is low. The pro-Russian political camp is in disarray, lacking capable political representatives. This makes the Communist Party, whose electorate is strictly limited to around a 10-per-cent share, the most electorally visible advocate of the Eurasian integration. Factors of the current energy and economic dependence suffice neither the president and his orbit, nor the networks of oligarchs to turn their full support to this vector. There is a shared conviction among both that the Russian-led project in the long-term perspective contradicts their political and economic interests. Aware of the sociological map, Viktor Yanukovych is currently rebranding, building up his image as a statesman and Europeanist in an attempt to expand his stalwart 20-25 per cent electorate. Still, among the three real contenders for the 2015 presidency, Yanukovych is the only professional graduate of the post-Soviet school of politics, which makes any geopolitical moves more likely.

Azerbaijan for the moment seems to be the most stable of all Eastern Partnership countries.


Opinion and Analysis

Yegor Vasylyev, The Eastern Partnership: Which way from post-Soviet? Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan

Georgian officials at all levels have stressed their commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration, which is strongly supported by their populations. The country is facing presidential elections on October 27th, but its most powerful man, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, claims he will resign and leave politics at the height of his influence. For the post-Soviet sphere, this is as unprecedented as suspicious in terms of a tradition of grey-cardinals, backstage puppeteers and other informal patterns in governance. Ivanishvili, who is known to have made his billions in Moscow in the early 1990s, cannot escape speculation about his connections within the Russian elite. His Georgian Dream political coalition still enjoys popular support. But the country’s political landscape, with its usual centralisation and strong leadership, is about to enter a new situation, when a genuine leader of public opinion ceases to be an official political player. Ivanishvili’s recent statement on Russia’s possible joining of the NATO and the EU, which has no ground whatsoever in the position of the Russian authorities, adds to the ambiguity about his foreign policy views. The country’s territorial problems are far from resolved, and its vulnerability to foreign pressure is high. The Armenian president’s choice of the Customs Union, despite making headlines, in essence, comes as no surprise. The country’s ruling elite and its almighty oligarchs have maintained close connections to Russia since Soviet times. The social tension in the country is rather high and the economic situation is poor, but its highly problematic relations with its neighbours has for years caused severe dependence on Russia, with which Armenia has no common border. This has also secured the support of the majority in favour of integration with Russia. Although in recent years this support has decreased, the decision announced by Serzh Sargsyan was met with little protest. Regardless of who holds power in Yerevan, the impasse in the country’s regional relations is likely to halt any meaningful developments in its European integration. Azerbaijan for the moment seems to be the most stable of all Eastern Partnership countries. The public, largely content with the long-standing President Ilham Aliyev, who is set to retain his office for the third time following the October 9th elections, does not distinctively favour any direction of integration. The president’s grip over the country’s power networks is no weaker than that of his Belarusian counterpart, and the alternative networks of oligarchs, the so-called Billionaires Club, are confined to Russia. Quite aware of its long-term energy resources and strategic importance of Caspian hydrocarbons for the geopolitical conundrum of the region, official Azerbaijan aims to bolster its regional position and is on track to do so in the coming years. Due to these specifics, Vladimir Putin is unable to

Yegor Vasylyev, The Eastern Partnership: Which way from post-Soviet?

Opinion and Analysis 33

apply the same sort of pressing arguments as in Russia’s Western neighbourhood, and any type of unilateral surrender to his integration projects by the current Azerbaijani regime is not possible. The EU: the need for a practical approach There are few rules in the post-Soviet game of politics practised in every Eastern Partnership country. The Russian Federation’s leader, with his confidence in the international arena boosted, knows this all too well. The language, most common for the post-Soviet political theatre, is one of pressure and cajoling, followed by formal and informal offers. Russia shows every sign of its determination to speak up, although the Eastern Partnership countries are increasingly reluctant to follow its words too closely. The EU is more substantive and certain in its reactions to developments in the Eastern Partnership than ever before. This brings hopes for a more targeted approach to engage the Eastern Partnership countries. It is true that democratic standards in the region are significantly lower than in any Central and East European country, but given the region’s past and the realities of the immediate post-Soviet period, demanding the triumph of rule of law here and now has provided little effect. The real independence of the Eastern Partnership countries and the ability to decide their own fate also seems to be crucial. There is a need for the diversification of approach to each country, taking into consideration their specifics. In sum, the post-Soviet elites’ self-preservation instinct can be used to help the countries uphold their independence and prospects of democratisation. EU economic offers are crucial in this case. Others have fundamental factors hampering their European integration. Yet all need Europe’s engagement with their societies at the lowest possible level to sustain the consolidation of European values and European choice. The post-Soviet situation of the Eastern Partnership countries is unique, and thus the way forward also requires a unique approach from those who want to support it.   Originally published October 6th 2013

Yegor Vasylyev is an analyst specialising in politics and transition of post-Soviet states. He holds an LLM in European Law from the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he was a British Chevening Scholar in 2009-2010, following five years in the Ukrainian civil service.

What Is Plan “B”? PAW EŁ PIE N IĄ ŻE K

Some key Ukrainian officials said that without the release of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko there would be no signing of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the Europe Union. Meanwhile, Russia has criticised the European Union, supporting its alternative “Eurasian Union”. Is Ukraine’s integration with the EU really in jeopardy?

Evidently, Russia has been leading an information offensive in Ukraine and is actively promoting the Eurasian Union, its project meant to serve as an alternative to the EU, and effectively discourage Kyiv from integrating with Europe. Vladimir Putin’s main economic advisor, Sergey Glazyev, who continuously prophesies a forthcoming catastrophe, plays the main role in this game. While speaking at the Yalta European Strategy Forum, which is organised annually by Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk and attracts leaders and politicians from all over the world, Glazyev bluntly said: “The level of life will dramatically go down, which will lead to chaos.” Glazyev also threatened the collapse of the Ukrainian state. Bright future Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has uttered a somewhat different opinion by saying that although he was not expecting to see many benefits from Ukraine-EU cooperation, he still wished Ukraine success. And while such is the view of Russia’s prime minister, its president Vladimir Putin elaborates on the bright future of the Eurasian Union as he did when talking at the annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club: “The Eurasian integration is a chance for the states of the post-Soviet space to become an independent centre of global development, and not Europe or Asia’s periphery.”

Paweł Pieniążek, What Is Plan “B”?

Opinion and Analysis 35

The debate on this issue is also quite heated in the media, as reflected, among others, in the strong words uttered on the state-owned Russian television channel Rossiya by Dmitry Kiselev, who described Ukraine’s resignation from Russian markets for the sake of European ones as a form of “euthanasia”. He added that only in the case of Ukraine euthanasia is not a conscious decision, but a lie about the future prosperity, which the Ukrainians were supposedly spoon-fed with. Impatient Brussels In response to these attacks, the EU started its own, less aggressive information offensive. Its goal is clear: to pressure President Viktor Yanukovych to release former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko from prison. “We have a few proposals on how to get out of this situation. And we’ve presented them to our Ukrainian partners. Not only once, but twice. Now we are expecting President Yanukovych to act,” said former President of the European Parliament Pat Cox, now also a member, along with Poland’s former President Aleksander Kwaśniewski, of the monitoring mission to Ukraine in an interview with the Ukrainian independent television channel TVi. Cox’s statement, in fact, reflects the main change with regards to the moderate rhetoric of EU officials, who we were used to hearing about Ukraine before. In the same vein, Poland’s current President Bronisław Komorowski, long known for his excessively positive opinion of Ukraine’s current government, admitted that Tymoshenko’s case is an obstacle to Ukraine’s signing the Association Agreement. On the day Komorowski expressed his opinion on this matter, Polish Member of the European Parliament Paweł Kowal told the Russian non-governmental news agency Interfaks that Brussels has been getting impatient with regards to Ukraine. This state of impatience is a result of Ukraine’s refusal to agree to any compromise with the EU, and this is despite Brussels’ decided support for Ukraine in its trade war with Russia, when Moscow blocked Ukrainian goods this summer. A compromise would, of course, mean making some progress in Tymoshenko’s case. Such also is the opinion of Kommersant journalist Serhiy Sydorenko, who believes that since the EU has not lowered its expectations with respect to Ukraine, Tymoshenko should be released before the Association Agreement is signed. Sydorenko brings up European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle’s overtly optimistic opinions about Ukraine which, given the fact that not long ago Füle was quite blunt on Yanukovych’s government, were not very well-received “even by some of his friends in Brussels”.

Russia has been leading an information offensive in Ukraine, actively promoting the Eurasian Union.


Opinion and Analysis

Paweł Pieniążek, What Is Plan “B”? If not an agreement, then what?

These and other statements made recently by European politicians on Ukraine come across as one more attempt to put pressure on Viktor Yanukovych, who seems not to know whether by “playing” with Tymoshenko’s case he deprives Ukraine of chances of EU integration. Such fears are not groundless. We still do not know why, for example, Cox and Kwaśniewski postponed announcing the results of their monitoring mission to Ukraine by a month. Was it because if they announced the results today, they would have to include a statement that Ukraine is not ready to sign an agreement? Or have they just been playing with time? Uncertainty also seems to increasingly characterise Yanukovych himself, whose recent statements suggest that, in fact, Tymoshenko’s release is still possible. And yet, regardless of Yanukovych’s position, it is also highly probable that Tymoshenko’s case will not influence the future of the Association Agreement. The EU has, to a certain extent, become stuck in a dead end over Ukraine due to Russia’s recent anti-EU campaign, which, undoubtedly, has led to an increase in anxiety over the fate of Eastern Europe. Seemingly, the only solution now is to sign and ratify the Association Agreement. Should this not happen, Brussels, clearly does not have a “Plan B”. In other words, it lacks a new plan for cooperation and maintaining its influence over Ukraine. The only alternative now is Ukraine’s integration with the Eurasian Union, whose influence – willingly or not – Ukraine will probably quickly succumb to, should the results of the Vilnius Summit of the Eastern Partnership be different from what everybody expects.

The EU has become stuck in a dead end over Ukraine.

Translated by Iwona Reichardt Originally published October 13th 2013 Paweł Pieniążek is a journalist specialising in Eastern Europe. He is a contributor to the Polish daily Dziennik Opinii, New Eastern Europe, the Polish magazine W Punkt and the portal 

Hungary’s Government: Imperfect, but not undemocratic FILIP M A ZUR C Z A K

Perhaps the reputation of no country in Central Europe has declined more rapidly than Hungary’s. A darling of Western investors in the 1990s, Hungary has reached near-pariah status in Europe since Viktor Orbán took power in 2010. While Orbán’s government has flaws, fears of liberal democracy’s collapse in Budapest are exaggerated. In 2010, the conservative Fidesz, East Central Europe’s largest political party, won Hungary’s parliamentary elections. Fidesz took in 52.73 per cent of the vote, giving it two-thirds of all the seats in parliament, enough to change the Constitution, and making a coalition government unnecessary. Fidesz’s leader Viktor Orbán, a charismatic, relatively youthful (then only 47 years old) veteran of Hungary’s anticommunist underground who had once served as PM in the 1990s, became prime minister. While Fidesz’s support in Hungary has gradually eroded, polls indicate it will win next year’s parliamentary elections (although it will probably need a junior partner to form a majority government). Needless to say, the West has been much less enthusiastic about Orbán’s cabinet. “As friends of Hungary, we express our concerns, and in particular call for a real commitment to the independence of the judiciary, a free press and governmental transparency,” then-United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lectured Orbán in a 2011 letter.


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Filip Mazurczak, Hungary’s Government: Imperfect, but not undemocratic Obtuse chauvinism

Meanwhile, in an article published by the left-wing American website The Huffington Post the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy wrote: “(Hungary) has revived the most obtuse chauvinism, the most worn-out populism and the hatred of Tsiganes [Roma] and Jews, transforming the latter in an increasingly open manner into scapegoats for any and all misfortune, much as they were in the darkest hours of the history of the continent.” He also writes that Hungary’s government “criminalises the poor.” Some media outlets have dealt Orbán below-the-belt blows, with Germany’s Die Welt calling Hungary “Führerstaat”. It is worth asking whether comparing a democratically elected government that respects civil liberties to a regime that enacted policies of genocide and invaded half of Europe in the bloodiest war in world history is tasteless and offensive (especially coming from a German paper), or rather childish and unwise. Perhaps the most controversial policy of Hungary’s government has been its media law, which was passed in 2010 and which Clinton alluded to in her letter. The law gives the government the ability to penalise private media outlets if they are accused of being unbalanced in their reporting. Under this law, parliament appoints a media council, which can access materials used by journalists to check whether journalists’ statements are founded on fact or not. And the prime minister appoints a chairperson of the media council for a nine-year term. Critics claim that the media law is undemocratic because it can “gag” anti-government journalists and does not allow for checks and balances. The media law is certainly imperfect, as it gives the government the ability to intrude too much into the media. Yet while Hungary’s media council is appointed by Parliament, its membership can be easily changed when another party takes power in the country. Checks and balances are great, but their relative lack is not necessarily undemocratic. In most European countries, there are only two branches of government, as the role of the presidency is purely ceremonial. Does this mean that most European parliamentary democracies are less free than the United States, which has a tripartite government?

Viktor Orbán has publicly condemned anti-Roma prejudices and pursued an ambitious policy of integration.

Unfounded insinuations Meanwhile, Clinton’s insinuation that there is a lack of transparency in Hungary is completely unfounded, as Orbán has fought against corruption like few other

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Photo: Derzsi Elekes Andor (CC)

Viktor Orbán has been a controversial figure since coming to power in 2010, but an honest look at Orbán’s government reveals that while it has flaws, fears of liberal democracy’s collapse in Budapest are exaggerated.

European leaders. Under the post-communist coalition governments of Hungary’s socialists and liberals corruption reached almost pathological levels, yet hardly any Western leftist noticed. Furthermore, it is worth noticing that anti-government demonstrations have been held in Budapest. Its participants have not been harassed, which seems to disprove allegations of Hungary’s lack of democracy. In this regard, it is worth noticing that the anti-government protests in Budapest have been tiny compared to those in favour of Orbán. For example, a notable anti-Orbán rally in Kossuth Square drew 5,000 protestors last year. By contrast, a recent march in defence of the Hungarian government attracted 300,000. If the Hungarians are “repressed” by their “autocratic government” (these are the terms used in a recent Freedom House report on Hungary), one must ask why are not the numbers of attendees at the two respective marches the opposite? Also, it is worth noting that much of the rancour against Hungary results from sheer ignorance. Lévy accuses Orbán’s government of anti-Semitism and hatred of the Roma. This allegation is completely unfounded, as Orbán has worked perhaps more than any other European leader to integrate his nation’s Roma minority. He has publicly condemned anti-Roma prejudices and pursued an ambitious policy of

It is tempting to wonder whether the leftist media and politicians’ concerns about the Hungarian government result from dislike of its social conservatism.


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Filip Mazurczak, Hungary’s Government: Imperfect, but not undemocratic

integrating Hungary’s largest minority group by increasing its access to vocational education, the logic being that a lack of schooling and idleness breeds crime and poverty. By contrast, the government of the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy disbanded legal Roma camps in 2010, deporting its inhabitants. Somehow Sarkozy, a tabloid sensation like few other politicians, never was faced with the same paranoid hatred from a major sector of the media as Orbán. Meanwhile, although the World Jewish Congress has expressed concern at rising anti-Semitism in Hungary, it cannot be attributed to Orbán’s government. Rather, xenophobia and racism are associated with the far-right party Jobbik. However, it is important to note that Jobbik is in opposition to Fidesz in parliament. Likewise, whereas Lévy accuses Hungary’s government of excluding the poor, the opposite is true. In fact, Fidesz’s centre-right orientation – unlike that of the British Tories, for instance, whose main distinction from the Conservatives is related to economic affairs – results more from social conservatism and anti-communism than from economic factors. In his 2007 manifesto Egy Az Ország (There Is Only One Fatherland), Orbán criticises free market capitalism and Western corporations in terms that should warm the cockles of the hearts of the leftist writers at the Guardian or the New York Times. In the book, he writes: “Currently, the biggest threat to our nation comes from the dogma of the omnipotence of the market… The basic law of the free market becomes a dogma when it obligatorily starts to be applied to life outside the economy. Hungary’s ruling aristocracy does just that.” Furthermore, in his three years in power Orbán has increased social expenditures and tax breaks for the poor, especially those with large families. “Troublesome” social conservatism? It is tempting to wonder whether the leftist media and politicians’ concerns about the Hungarian government result from dislike of its social conservatism. Orbán is a devout Protestant, and Hungary’s 2011 Constitution includes references to the role of Christianity in Hungary’s nationhood, condemns abortion and defines marriage as between a man and a woman. If one thinks that it is too much to see a link between dislike of Orbán’s social conservatism and the leftist media’s criticisms of him, one should return to the aforementioned text by Lévy: “Today, there exists in the heart of Europe a country whose government gags the media, is dismantling the health and social protection systems [and] challenges rights once considered acquired, such as that to an abortion (author’s emphasis).” Regardless of what one’s views on a controversial and divisive political issue as abortion are, to link its illegality to a lack of human rights is an exaggeration. Using

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Lévy’s logic, the international community should marginalise the governments of Chile and Malta, respected modern liberal democracies where the procedure is entirely banned, and put them on the same plane as Iran or Belarus. As demonstrated above, allegations of authoritarianism in Hungary are exaggerated. In fact, Orbán should be praised for his efforts to assimilate Hungary’s Roma and help poor families with children, the latter being a particularly significant move as Hungary suffers from one of Europe’s lowest birth rates (due mostly to material factors). However, there is much to criticise about Hungary’s government. Above all, its economic policy raises questions. While Orbán has lowered personal income taxes to a flat rate of 16 per cent and thus stimulated consumer spending and provided tax breaks for small and medium business owners, he has greatly raised taxes on foreign corporations investing in Hungary. In a small country dependent on foreign investors, the logic of such policies is highly questionable. Also, Orbán’s attempt to nationalise private pensions cannot bring positive economic results. Perhaps worst of all, Orbán’s government raised Hungary’s VAT tax to 27 per cent, by far the highest tax rate in the European Union (the European Commission recommends that the VAT not exceed 25 per cent). This is a move that will stifle consumer spending and only further weaken already Hungary’s lacklustre economic recovery (economists estimate that Hungary’s GDP will increase by only one per cent this year). However, economically inept policies and a lack of democracy are two completely different matters. In conclusion, while Orbán’s government has made some mistakes, especially on economic policy, its record is commendable in other areas. And to accuse it of being anti-democratic is silly at best, irresponsible at worst. Hungary continues to be a successful example of a transition from a one-party state to a vibrant democracy. And instead of lecturing Orbán on democracy, perhaps Ms. Clinton should ask her former boss how democratic keeping open Guantánamo Bay despite campaign promises or his drone war in Pakistan are.   Originally published September 12th 2013 Filip Mazurczak studied history and Spanish literature at Creighton University and international relations at The George Washington University. He has interned at The United States Congress and The American Enterprise Institute, and his articles have appeared in publications such as First Things, Tygodnik Powszechny, and Katolicki Miesięcznik “LIST”.

Why Romania Needed Roșia Montană IO A N A B URT E A

Advertised by the Romanian government as a source of growing prosperity, the Roșia Montană gold and silver mining project is largely a sham. But the protests that it inspired show an encouraging rise of Romanian civil society, at least among the younger generation. I still wonder why I went to the protest on September 1st. I had only attended such events as a reporter and what I had witnessed up to that point didn’t make me want to participate. Protests in Romania usually mean a bunch of middle-aged people or pensioners brought to Bucharest by some political party or union’s bus in exchange for a bag of groceries each. They would occupy a public square for a couple of hours, shout apathetic slogans, a few would get drunk on cheap vodka and then they would clear out. As for Roșia Montană – the area in Western Romania where the largest cyanidebased gold mining project will occur unless MPs object – I never cared much for it. I knew of volunteers trying to raise awareness on the issue since I was in high school, but civil society initiatives always seemed feeble to me and unable to involve a lot of people. In addition, just a few hippies who used emotional arguments to sustain their cause normally attended the pro-environment protests I had covered. Besides, I was too uninformed to care – as were many of the protesters. Now, the movement attracts tens of thousands and makes headlines all across Europe.   The wake-up call The 20 to 30-year-olds of Romania are infamously hard to bring together for a shared purpose. Research by sociologist Dorin Bodea in 2011 revealed that Romanians of working age are under the impression that their most important

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Photo: Bogdan Giușcă (CC)

On September 1st 2013, thousands of protesters came out to demonstrate against the gold mining project at Roșia Montană, raising concerns about the legality of the process and the risks to the environment.

values are not shared by most of their compatriots. To be precise, they don’t even think they have anything in common with each other. How can such a society ever reach a consensus? Still, on September 1st, 3,000 people took the streets of Bucharest (while several thousand others protested elsewhere in Romania), and I was one of them. Like many, initially I was not there to save Roșia Montană. Beyond my curiosity and journalistic instinct, I was there because, for the first time, I would get to my whole circle of friends’ protest. I wanted to see how it would turn out and if people would actually come – and what types of people would come. A few hours later, at midnight, I was sitting on the ground in front of the emblematic Hotel Intercontinental in University Square, slamming a plastic water bottle on the concrete and shouting: “United, we’ll save Roșia Montană!” I looked around: these were kids I knew from school or university, the clean, educated types whose parents taught them right from wrong. Some of their parents were there too, looking proud. They were determined. They weren’t going anywhere. The protests in Romania have been going on for three weeks now. The protesters want the government and Parliament to cancel the gold mining project at Roșia Montană, raising concerns about the legality of the process and the risks to the environment. Far from dying down, these are the lengthiest and largest protests in


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Ioana Burtea, Why Romania Needed Roșia Montană

the country since the students’ movement in 1990. It appears that Roșia Montană has managed to do what no greedy, corrupt and incompetent political leader has succeeded to do in almost 25 years of shaky democracy: bring dozens of thousands into the streets, united. How did a small area in western Romania with no tourism or infrastructure do this? Roșia Montană – the beginnings On August 27th, the government assumed responsibility for passing a draft law allowing the Roșia Montană Gold Corporation (formerly known as Euro Gold Resources) to start the exploitation project and even expropriate locals against their will. The controversial deal started 18 years ago when the offshore company Gabriel Resources (GR) received a licence to exploit the Roșia Montană area. The mountains in the region are said to hold deposits of 314 tonnes of gold, and over 1,400 tonnes of silver were identified, making it the largest gold-silver deposit in the European Union. The problem is that Gabriel Resources received the licence through a transfer from the state-owned company Minvest Deva, not through a public auction, as would have been legal. Furthermore, according to documents unveiled by the RISE Project (an independent community of Romanian journalists), a facade announcement stating the government was looking for a foreign partner to exploit precious metals in Roșia Montană was placed in a newspaper a day after the contract had already been signed with GR. After the deal was sealed, the state and the offshore company formed Roșia Montană Cold Corporation (RMGC) – a mixed company in charge of implementing the project. The backroom deals and the amount of documents connected to Roșia Montană still classified as state secrets are reason enough to make anyone doubt the benefits of the project. However, the controversy goes deeper. Frank Timis, a Romanian-born Australian businessman who founded Gabriel Resources, was convicted of dealing heroin several times until one day he decided to invest in mining. The offshore company was created with the specific purpose of mining in Romania, and had no previous experience in the field when it won the licence in 1995. One cannot help but wonder why the Romanian authorities chose to place its gold and silver, as well as four mountains and three villages, in the hands of Timis.

Research in 2011 revealed that Romanians of working age are under the impression that their values are not shared by most of their compatriots.

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The reasons for concern don’t stop here. The perimeter to be exploited has more than doubled in the past years through additional documents to the original contract. The project also involves heavy use of cyanide, which even in small amounts is lethal to the environment. According to experts, the mountains would be chopped and turned to dust, which would contain gold particles. Afterwards, the dust would be placed in a reservoir and treated with cyanide, which would allow the gold to be separated and collected. The area would be left with a several-kilometre-wide crater and a permanent cyanide waste lake. Asked to perform impact studies in the region, Ministry of Environment experts wrote state-of-the-art reports justifying the wiping out of three villages and historical monuments. They wrote that, even though the area was “beautiful” and its archaeological discoveries were “unique”, it also showed “redundancies” – as did the seven-kilometre-long “disfigured” Roman mining galleries that would “cost too much to renovate”. The most solid arguments in favour of the project remained the creation of jobs in the area (Roșia Montană has an 80 per cent unemployment rate), and producing an impressive amount of money for the state. Journalists and economists quickly dismantled these arguments. Win or lose? Marcel Ionescu-Heroiu, a Regional Development PhD graduate of Cornell University and a World Bank employee, wrote a widely appreciated piece about the economic implications of the Roșia Montană project. According to him, exploiting natural resources is actually hazardous for developing economies because it puts pressure on the national currency through fast money gains. In addition, economists’ theories insist that growth should be based on creative, innovative people and not on a country’s natural resources. For instance, mining does not generate human capital – leaving people vastly untrained and virtually unemployable after the end of the project – and hasn’t contributed to technological progress as much as other industries have. As far as creating 2,300 new jobs in the Roșia Montană area, this is also not true. Locals would only receive a few hundred of these jobs as cyanide mining is done on the surface, not in underground galleries, and requires specialised workers. In addition to the economic aspects, there is the matter of cyanide not being biodegradable. It is a much cheaper technology, but a far more dangerous one. The waste lake that would remain in Roșia Montană would have to be protected by a very strong dam – specifically, one that would be there forever. RMGC said it


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Ioana Burtea, Why Romania Needed Roșia Montană

would offer the state 250 million dollars for the dam’s maintenance, while the US Environmental Agency has estimated the cost at 2.6 billion dollars. Should the dam break, the calamity would equal Chernobyl. What’s scarier is that Romania already has a precedent when it comes to cyanide spills. In 2000, a dam holding 100,000 cubic metres of cyanide-contaminated waters broke at Baia Mare and the spill affected nearby farmlands and the Someș River. The waste spread all the way to Hungary and Serbia, killing most living things in its way. By comparison, the waste lake at Roșia Montană would be 2,500 times bigger than the one in Baia Mare. So how much money is RMGC offering Romania to begin this extremely sensitive project? About 3.5 billion dollars. The problem is that this amount is a joke compared to the country’s need for investment. Looking at the capacity to invest as well, the situation is even worse: Romania’s absorption rate of free EU funds was only 26.2 per cent in June 2013, the lowest in the entire European Union. Therefore, the money from the project, which would go straight to the Ministry of Economy, will likely have no real effect investment-wise. And even if RMGC offers more money for dam maintenance, even if an ecological disaster never happened, even if the money was properly invested by the state – it still wouldn’t be worth erasing four mountains, several historical places and three villages. The faces of the protest All of the above were forgotten or ignored by members of the government in August, when they decided it would be reasonable to strip Roșia Montană locals of their right to property. The country’s politicians also failed to anticipate the protests that would follow. For three weeks, protesters have been organising marches, sitins, happenings, bike demonstrations, human chains around the House of People and artistic activities. Largely ignored by the most viewed TV channels for the first few days, the protests have most faithfully been described by a new generation of independent journalistic communities such as Casa Jurnalistului, the RISE Project and by freelance photographers, fi lmmakers and activists. As a result, many protesters turned against the mainstream media, accusing it of receiving advertising money from RMGC. I spoke to 25-year-old Vlad Ursulean of Casa Jurnalistului about these issues. “The mainstream media performed badly and people turned to other channels. They needed the information, and we were in the right spot to offer it to them,” Vlad says. This journalist, who recently received acclaim for an investigation into shale gas fracking, has no problem in siding with the protesters. “The RMGC deal

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is, objectively speaking, a scam by the Romanian state, as dozens of journalistic investigations have shown over the years. I view these protests as a consequence of that work,” he concludes. Vlad Petri is a freelance filmmaker and photographer, and author of several popular short clips showing scenes from the protests. I asked him why he chose to go to the protests day after day. “I strongly believe that as a filmmaker and photographer I have to document the times I live in,” he says. “I also believe that I have to inform people of what’s happening these days at the protests, as the mainstream media is concerned with other issues, in part due to the financial support they have from RMGC,” Petri further explains. He admits to being a supporter of the Roșia Montană cause as well. “I have to say that I support the people on the streets who protest against the mining project, but I try to present things from different angles. I don’t want a fabricated image; I want to be as close as possible to what I see on the streets with a naked eye. A balanced view, with a subjective touch,” the filmmaker says. This is certainly an expression of a new form of journalism that has become popular with Romanian youth. According to Paul Radu of RISE Project, these are protesters who can change the face of Romanian journalism. A blog post by Paul Radu claims this phenomenon was made possible by the “lack of professionalism of journalists who, at one point, stopped learning and became self-sufficient and dependent on sources connected to politicians or media owners”. In contrast, the new generation of independent reporters has the internet and social media as means of distributing information; they are transparent about their investigation techniques and are open to collaboration with others like them. RISE Project calls this “evidence-based activism”.

The backroom deals and the amount of classified documents connected to Roșia Montană are reason enough to doubt the project.

New journalism vs. traditional media Without doubt, these newcomers are a welcome and necessary change to the media landscape of Romania. However, protesters’ criticism of the mainstream media and their accusations that established media outlets ignored them are not entirely accurate. Their biggest complaints were that, in the first days of protests, TV crews failed to show up and cover the events, and audience-pleasers PRO TV, Antena 1, Antena 3 or Kanal D broadcast no reports about them. This shows a weak understanding of the media’s basis. While the most-viewed TV channels have indeed failed to cover the


Opinion and Analysis

Ioana Burtea, Why Romania Needed Roșia Montană

protests, the majority of traditional outlets – Digi24 news channel, Realitatea TV, Dilema Veche weekly, Ziarul Financiar daily, Europa FM and RFI radio stations – did constantly. Meanwhile, anchor Moise Guran from the public television station spoke and wrote both about the protesters and the new generation of journalists emerging into the spotlight. They just weren’t what the protesters expected. People mistakenly associate the entirety of the mainstream media with a handful of TV channels that may or may not be politically tainted. However, it’s not just about which outlets covered the protests; it’s also about how the mainstream media did so. The recent events applied perfectly to the new generation of journalists (being a movement of the young and the interconnected), while Casa Jurnalistului, RISE Project and others like them are still niche. They impress audiences with surprising discoveries (like the documents published by RISE), in-depth reporting, their passionate tone and the warmth and familiarity of their depictions. They aren’t constrained by deadlines, 24-hour news cycles, editors, word limits or news genre. And yes, they aren’t constrained by politics or advertising. This alone is more than enough to lead to a change in audience habits and preferences. The merits of these young reporters and the value of their work are obvious; demonising the mainstream media and generalising aren’t necessary. Now it’s the public’s turn to choose what information it wants and how it wants it packaged. “Hipsters” and their demands One of the biggest criticisms received by the protesters in Romania is the fact that they have diverse demands – a certain lack of focus, according to critics. They voiced their discontent about the country’s politicians, about corruption, the lack of government transparency, capitalism, and the media, some even against euthanizing stray dogs. As a young woman interviewed by Casa Jurnalistului said, the protest isn’t entirely about saving Roșia Montană – this was just what the people needed to come out into the streets. Vlad Petri believes this diversity is a good thing. “I think we all have to discuss the important issues taking place in our society and think about strategies and solutions for the future,” he explains. The question is whether the protests will have any real results in stopping the Roșia Montană project or if that is even the most important aspect. Some say we are witnessing the civic debut of an emerging middle class – and this alone is encouraging. The youngsters in the streets of Bucharest have just started voting in the past decade and are fed up with seeing ballots that offer them no real choices. They are a generation of recession and either unemployment or inhumane work

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hours. Their elders sneer at them because their priorities are different from those of the revolutionary generation of 1989. They are a less cynical, less bitter, more humane crowd, willing to fight for their rights, just as a young generation should be. Comparisons with Taksim Square or Tahrir Square are not an overreaction. It is merely a consequence of the world we now live in. From Occupy and Indignados, to Istanbul and Cairo, we see young people living and thinking in a larger context. Their universes are vaster than those of their parents and grandparents. They are more connected to the outside world and they inspire each other. Writer Elif Shafak once said: “We are born into a certain family, nation or class. But if we have no connection whatsoever with the worlds beyond the one we take for granted then we too run the risk of drying up inside.” The younger generations know and understand this. As for the original purpose of the demonstrations, it is yet to be seen if the mining project will be prevented from happening. Roșia Montană has surely drawn some reputable protectors. Even if RMGC gets its way, the experience the people have been sharing for the past three weeks will surely not allow them to dry up inside or stop trying. And who knows, perhaps one day not too far along the road, they will succeed in bringing real change to their country.

Originally published September 24th 2013 Ioana Burtea is a writer for Europe & Me magazine. She also worked as a reporter for Mediafax News Agency in Bucharest for almost four years, covering the Ministry of Administration and the Interior.

Shevchuk: Like a fish in a net PIO T R O LE KSY

More than a year since taking power in the breakaway Moldovan province of Transnistria, the increasingly unpopular Yevgeny Shevchuk governs a troubled land faced with rising unemployment, a mass exodus of young people and legislation harassing civil society. “Finally, I would like to add that I see in Transnistria a huge amount of communal and social tension. We have very little time, really very little time, if we want to do something about it. Otherwise, it may lead to a demographic catastrophe or the outbreak of massive social unrest for the country. Something may explode.” With these words, Sergei Panteleyev, the director of the Moscow Russian Diaspora Institute, concluded his speech. These remarks caused great consternation among the organisers of the recent conference titled “Transnistria on the Road to Eurasian Integration”. And it would be so beautiful… Eurasian integration is a national idea in Transnistria – the cure for all the evils that, according to the Transnistrians, have been created by the Euro-regions. The “Transnistrian” Eurasian region would also include Gagauzia, Bălți and perhaps the Odessa Oblast. Listening to the pronouncements of most Transnistrian politicians and experts, however, it is obvious that this is just another slogan that gives the illusion of fi xing the current situation for the republic; in reality, no one has any idea how it would function. It is certainly why Panteleyev warned that the socioeconomic situation must be improved immediately – otherwise little will remain of this “beautiful” idea.      In Transnistria, it is hard to find someone other than government employees who, in private conversation, will speak positively about the 15 months since Vladimir Smirnov’s resignation. “The factories are at a standstill, week after week more and

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more people are leaving, the leadership is incompetent, there is increasing state pressure on social organisations and the media,” is an opinion which can be heard from different sides. There have been changes in Transnistrian society; and it is not very pleased with the new government. The conclusion is that President Yevgeny Shevchuk has become the victim of a combination of international and domestic factors outside of his control as well as the weakness of his own team. All of this creates the net. “When a fish finds itself in a net, it begins to thrash. Once to the right, once to the left – just to do something. In doing this, it performs a series of nervous movements; thus we see the emphasis on the opposition or the intensifying of Moldovan relations,” a journalist friend explained to me recently.   Packing their bags The scale of emigration has always been a problem for the unrecognised Transnistria. It is difficult to assess exactly how many people actually live in the quasi-state, how many have already left and how many only stay there – all of this is fluid. Today, however, an increasing number of people have made note of the stream of people leaving the country, and emigration is tangible. “Out of my 20-person high school class in Transnistria, three people remain,” Sasha, a law student, told me. “I’m waiting until my son finishes school and goes off to university, then I’ll leave. I’m already looking for work elsewhere,” said a friend of mine who works at a university. Of course, it cannot be said that there are no young people in Transnistria. The vivid descriptions of the escape of the young generation contrast with the scenes in Tiraspol or Bender, which are cities that are full of adolescents and young adults. The statistics are ambiguous, however: for every two working people, there are three pensioners. After finishing the Transnistria State University, which gives students a fairly good education, the young graduates have large ambitions that are not easy to achieve: maybe they can find a decent paying job, but not everyone wants to work in a Sheriff shop (one of Transnistria’s largest companies with business in many sectors of the economy) or drive a taxicab. And there are no state jobs. It is hard to say that Shevchuk and his team are to blame for everything; the deterioration of living conditions had begun during Smirnov’s time, but the prospect of change kept many people here. When, after a few months, it turned out that the

Smirnov’s departure caused Western organisations to become more interested in Transnistria.


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Piotr Oleksy, Shevchuk: Like a fish in a net

new team was in no state to change their situation (rather the opposite – getting a job has become increasingly more difficult), people have begun to pack their bags. It was said from the beginning that Shevchuk came to power without a team, and it was also clear that Smirnov’s collaborators had to have been removed quickly. Critics quickly began to rebuke the president for throwing out experienced officials and replacing them with young adults with uncertain pasts. Now, the incompetence of the new government is one of the main topics of conversations. People from schools or cultural institutions, who for years have been working with the authorities on numerous projects, say deputy ministers and directors change every minute. “What they don’t say about Smirnov’s people is that they were mostly former directors of large factories, people educated in the best Soviet schools. People who, for all their faults, tried to think ahead or just knew what they were doing. Now, the people who came of age during the criminal nineties, who were educated here, are in charge. These perspectives and experiences are not comparable,” a sociologist friend explained to me. “It is also a question of style: the new government has really angered people. How much Smirnov’s team stole will probably never be known, but no one ever knew where the president or ministers went for vacation. Today, the new elites flaunt their wealth: photographs from exotic vacations or of new, expensive cars are immediately put up on VKontakte and Facebook. A person can compare that to his own situation and his blood boils,” he continues. Managing the Transistrian economy requires more alchemy than creative accounting, and Russian gas has done its part to save the situation. Transnistria sells raw materials to entrepreneurs and citizens without giving money to Gazprom (hence the massive Moldovan gas debt). This allows it to get by. That is why it is also hard to understand President Shevchuk’s recent decision to raise the price of gas for the largest Transnistrian industries, including for the steel mill and cement factory in Rîbnița. The famous steelworks was the country’s second-largest taxpayer and both factories are extremely important for providing jobs. In raising the price of gas, Shevchuk definitely counted on higher income from the state budget, arguing that in this way he wants to gradually privatise the Transnistrian economy by weaning it off of Russian aid (gas prices in Transnistria are lower than in Russia itself). In the end, however, raising the price of gas has led to a spike in production costs and Transnistrian goods. Rising prices coupled with the global economic crisis (particularly the slowdown in the Russian construction market) have led to the cessation of orders flowing into Rîbnița. Now, the factories stand idle and salaries are paid in part or not at all.

The opposition often attacks Shevchuk accusing him of excessive deference to Moldova.

Piotr Oleksy, Shevchuk: Like a fish in a net

Opinion and Analysis 53 Society is not the same

The breakaway territory is more than 20 years old and its society is clearly changing. “We once were like a fist: Transnistria, the republic and its recognition were the most important,” recalls Misha, a journalist. “Now you see a huge social divide: who is for Shevchuk and who is against him who is for industry and who is for other sectors of the economy and so on. Rîbnița and Dubăsari want more independence for themselves; Bender claims to be the heart of Transnistria; while Tiraspol wants to run everything,” he continues. These social changes and the emergence of new preferences did not, however, begin with Shevchuk. It was quite the opposite: they brought him to power. Young Transnistrians, despite still looking toward Moscow, see the relations of the state with citizens differently. Smirnov’s departure caused Western organisations to become interested in Transnistria; there appeared to be a new area for cooperation and several organisations working towards the development of civil society and human rights were established.  It is difficult to talk about a boom of these groups, but a few interesting initiatives can be listed. One example is “Club 19”: a cultural club which has discussions on human rights, communal issues (such as stray dogs) and organising concerts with Western bands. All of this is done in a pleasant, family-friendly environment. Both the sponsors and organisers hoped that the new government would be a partner in their activities. However, it turned out to be the opposite: new initiatives were seen with suspicion, and there are exhausting state inspections, from fire safety to financial audits. The president even instituted a law prohibiting Transnistrian social organisations from receiving any foreign funding. “In Russia, at least you can register as an ‘agent’ and somehow work. Here, they want to completely forbid it!” says Julia, who recently was the head of the Proriv youth organisation, which was shut down a few months ago.   

Shevchuk sends the signal: “Cooperate with me and you earn more; oppose me and you will have problems.”

Top-down governance For some time, Dmitri Soin, the leader of the Proriv party, has been in Odessa. He was forced to leave due to a real threat for his arrest – Interpol wants Soin for murder. Moldova once raised the matter, but in Russia and Ukraine he is safe. Soin is not a particularly important politician, but is quite loud and knows how to care for his own image. Today, he is a deputy of the Supreme Council and a businessman. He has been very critical of Shevchuk from the beginning; and it didn’t take long before the courts


Opinion and Analysis

Piotr Oleksy, Shevchuk: Like a fish in a net

ordered the closure of Proriv. Soin managed to get to Odessa “for consultations” and there established the Association of Transnistrians in Ukraine. He denies that he fled the country or that he plans to return. His colleagues are not so sure. “Soin is no shining example, I myself would never vote for him, but his case says a lot,” Sergei, a young journalist, explains to me. “The new regime does not want any kind of opposition. They don’t like people in Transnistria who want to think for themselves and say so out loud,” he continues. “The authorities view everything in black and white: you are either with us or against us. In the first version, we will try to make life difficult for you: if you are a well-known businessman or a wellknown public figure, you can feel confident. If, however, something on you can be found, and there is always something, you’ll end up like Soin or Konoplev (Roman Konoplev is the editor-in-chief of the internet portal; he left Transnistria in May 2012 – author’s note),” emphasises the journalist. Workers at international institutions also argue that both Shevchuk and the star of his government, Foreign Minister Nina Shtanski, are in favour of strong-arm governance; the country should be top-down. It seems, however, that Shevchuk does not understand the changes that have taken place in Transnistrian society and hoped in some way to become the new Smirnov. However, that is not what the people want and the young president lacks the charisma of his predecessor. Opposition in Tiraspol The opposition in Transnistria can be divided into two groups. The main movement is the Obnovleniye (“Renewal”) party, and the second movement includes prominent politicians, activists and publicists (sometimes it is difficult to separate them). What is interesting is that the opposition often attacks Shevchuk from the extreme proRussian position, often accusing him of excessive deference to Moldova (and to the West), and even treason. The Obnovleniye party has a majority in the Supreme Council (the legislative body). At first, it seemed that a bipolar political system would be created in Transnistria. There was talk of war between the president and Parliament. As a result of this conflict, the republic was without an adopted budget for several months. Now, however, Obnovleniye’s activities are extremely passive, suggesting the possibility of a fusion of the two camps. This party was founded as the political arm of the Transnistrian conglomerate company Sheriff, which has a monopoly in most industries (Shevchuk himself was once the head of this party). The deputies of the party are businessmen, more or less attached to Sheriff. As it turns out, these links do not provide a protective umbrella. Many deputies, especially those with their own businesses, do not want to mess with the authorities. I myself

Piotr Oleksy, Shevchuk: Like a fish in a net

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witnessed an inspection by the tax authorities in one of Sheriff ’s supermarkets. The clients in the shop were counted, new ones were denied entrance and the computers and accounting books were confiscated. In accordance with the law, the shop was closed for three days and certainly incurred huge losses. In this way, Shevchuk shows who is the master of the house, that he can even hinder the interests of Sheriff. Shevchuk sends a signal: “Cooperate with me and you earn more; oppose me and you will have problems.” This argument is aimed at the Obnovleniye activists and the owners of Sheriff. At the last party congress, the mood was very peaceful and was dominated by slogans of cooperation for the good of the republic. A supporter close to the president also appears to be Mikhail Burla, the party leader and the president of the Supreme Council. Yevgeny Shevchuk has found himself in an unenviable position. He governs an unrecognised state, politically and economically dependent on Russia, and has no control over its most important industries (which belong to Russian oligarchs). Society has begun to change; the new regime is not seen as a prophet. The lack of experienced managers and people with vision has paralysed the government’s action. Friendly relations with the West (political “small steps” in relations with Moldova) have not brought tangible results, and thus receive no social support. The president definitely misses the times when “Transnistria was like a fist”. Postscript When I left Transnistria, my friend took me to the airport in Odessa. We spoke about Transnistria’s environment: the beauty, the lushness and the deep green landscapes. Several minutes after crossing the Ukrainian border, Vasily said: “Look, the colours are different here, this environment looks different.” I started to wonder aloud how this could be: maybe the Dniester creates a particular microclimate here, with a certain kind of humidity. Vasily interrupted me: “No! It means that we have a young president; it is for him that everything grows like that!” He summed up the discussion. The hitchhikers sitting in the back snorted with laughter. It’s hard to resist the feeling that for Transnistrians, Shevchuk’s youth is his final “trump card”. Translated by Gina Kuhn Originally published July 29th 2013   Piotr Oleksy is a PhD student at the Institute of Eastern Studies of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań.

Why West? The Georgian perspective NIKA SIKH A RULID Z E

Starting in the 18th century, Georgia had been subordinated by Russia, which had always been the former’s aggressive, imperialist neighbour. The West saw this in 2008, when Russia invaded and engaged in a five-day war against the Caucasian republic. Yet despite this history, the country never changed its pro-Western orientation. According to international relations theory, small countries neighbouring superpower states that are economically dependent on them, have no linguistic borders and, therefore, are culturally influenced by them, tend to put all their efforts into having good relations with their authoritarian neighbour. Russo-Georgian relations, however, do not confirm this assumption. Glancing retrospectively over recent Georgian history since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, we see that Georgia has had four very different leaders in their political outlook and background. Georgia’s first president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, who was considered a nationalist, was an anti-Russian and pro-NATO politician. He was a dissident during the Soviet era and led a national movement whose main purpose was the regaining of Georgian independence. Strategic partnership The same cannot be said about the second president of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze, who was the last minister of foreign affairs of the Soviet Union and a distinguished Communist Party Politburo apparatchik. Despite his past, especially during the second part of his leadership, Georgia declared its main foreign policy priorities to be accession to NATO and the European Union, and started a strategic partnership with the United States.

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The first steps were realised by ensuring support from the US for Georgia’s armed forces and adjusting the Training and Equip Program. In 1994, Georgia joined the NATO-run Partnership for Peace programme. The next president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, who took power after the Rose Revolution, was notable for his pro-Western ambitions and, consequently, during his presidency made several steps towards approaching NATO and the EU. Russia reacted very aggressively to Georgia’s Western aspirations by occupying 20 per cent of Georgia’s territory in the course of the RussianGeorgian War in 2008, and recognising Georgia’s two regions as independent states after the Photo: George Nikoladze (CC) conflict. In 2012, Bidzina Ivanishvili, a A pro-NATO poster in Tblisi symbolises the country’s aspirations for Euro-Atlantic integration. Russian oligarch, who according to Forbes magazine is ranked number 229 among the world’s billionaires, won the elections and became prime minister of Georgia. The opposition accuses him of misconduct in gaining his new political status, although the prevailing reason for his election is his holding of one per cent of Gazprom shares and other dominant Russian holdings, assuming some kind of affi liation with the Russian political establishment. However, Ivanishvili rebuts these accusations and assures that he has sold all his shares in Russia. These intra-group shareholdings and hypothesised commitments to the Kremlin could become a realisation of President Vladimir Putin’s desire to regain Georgia as part of Russia’s sphere of influence, and block any negotiations with NATO. Ivanishvili’s rhetoric on Georgia’s aspiration to NATO and the EU remain the same as they were in the previous government, and he is expected to sign the Association Agreement with the EU during the forthcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius.


Opinion and Analysis

Nika Sikharulidze, Why West? The Georgian perspective

A short glance at Georgia’s past and present shows its Western-oriented foreign policy and its permanent abstention of close relations with Russia inspired by the long tradition of Georgia’s different political leaders with regards to their education backgrounds, life experiences, personal beliefs and other factors determining their political views. What is the reason for such “capricious” behaviour of this small Caucasian country? Where does the power to oppose to its northern aggressive neighbour originate? Some Georgian analysts and international relations scholars explain Georgia’s foreign policy using the “elite theory”, according to which the main strategic political decisions are made by the political elites of a country and only after these ideas are promoted among society. Other scholars argue that the Georgian people have 200 years of atrocious historical experiences, and remember all their collective tragedies from Tsarist Russia and the communist massacres to the deportations to Siberia and the war in 2008. This factor causes Georgian politicians to act accordingly to public opinion, which in terms of foreign policy-making means a pro-Western orientation.

A short glance at Georgia’s past and present shows its Westernoriented foreign policy and its permanent abstention of close relations with Russia.

Source of tension According to another opinion, due to its geostrategic location Georgia is a very important state for the West, which, consequently, approaches an intensive engagement policy with Georgia, causing its political leadership to turn towards Euro-Atlantic alliances. Georgia is located on the Transcaucasian route, called the Silk Road, which connects Central Asian and Azerbaijani energy-rich regions with Turkey and Europe. Historically, this strategic location was always a source of tension between superpowers from the Byzantine Empire and Persia to Turkey and Russia. Turkey as well as the EU are interested in Georgia’s being a stable partner, providing a transport and energy corridor to Asia. The US also has its interests: above all, guaranteeing Europe’s energy diversity, hindering Russia’s energy monopoly in Europe and having a political bridge-head to ensure its policy towards Iran and Central Asia. It is difficult to say that one approach or another has more ground. The discussed assumptions are logical and hold some validity. Arguably, the Georgian people’s

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memory, the political elite’s understanding and Western countries’ interests and activities in the region essentially determine Georgia’s foreign policy choice. Taking into account this variety of multiple opinions, one should include the Russian factor itself. Russia’s inadequate behaviour and aggressive stance; its lack of appeal in terms of the socio-economic situation, personal liberties and human rights conditions; as well as the attractiveness of the West all have enormous an impact on Georgia’s foreign policy decisions. There is one point that the Kremlin has not understood for centuries: whoever governs Georgia, its Western longing is already determined, and sooner or later Georgia will return to its natural birthplace – the European Commonwealth.

Russia’s behaviour and aggressive stance have enormous an impact on Georgia’s foreign policy decisions.

Originally published August 20th 2013 Nika Sikharulidze is the chief advisor at the Office of the National Security Council of Georgia.

Russia’s Policy Towards Armenia: Big stick and small carrot KO NR A D Z A SZT O W T

As Armenia strives to integrate itself with the European Union, Putin’s Russia is using a growing number of threats, especially those related to the contentious Nagorno-Karabakh region, and some economic promises to reassert Moscow’s former influence over the republic.

During his meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on September 3rd, President Serzh Sargsyan declared Armenia’s desire to join the Russian-led Customs Union. This decision may undermine Armenia’s economic rapprochement with the European Union, despite the fact that the country fulfilled the technical requirements of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU in July. This came as a surprise not only to EU officials in Brussels, but also to many Armenian observers of Yerevan’s foreign policy. One may ask if it was a surprise for Sargsyan as well. Most likely, he did not intend to go so far with declarations about Armenia’s integration with the economic structure. However, Putin had a number of arguments to influence the Armenian leader’s decision, the most serious of which regards the security of the Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh separatist state. This territory officially does not belong to Armenia, which means that the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) does not protect it. After the Georgian attempt to reunite separatist South Ossetia in 2008, which failed because of Russian military intervention, Azerbaijan has become less eager to choose military solutions to regain the lost territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia’s image of the mighty protector of all post-Soviet separatist entities deterred Baku from taking actions against Armenians.

Konrad Zasztowt, Russia’s Policy Towards Armenia: Big stick and small carrot

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Thus, even if not belonging to the CSTO, Nagorno-Karabakh was defended by Moscow. However, it was clear that this situation might not last forever. Vladimir Putin’s Russian foreign policy resembles the old Soviet style. It is not about universal values or even about Russia’s economic interest. These may be its declared goals. The real goal is to maintain Russian hegemony in the former Soviet Union. Once Armenia became too self-confident in declaring its wish to integrate economically with the EU within the framework of the Eastern Partnership, Putin decided to act. Russia heavily criticised Ukraine for selling weapons to Georgia, which it used in the 2008 war in South Ossetia. However, since July Russians have begun delivering tanks, artillery cannons and rocket launchers worth 1 billion US dollars to Azerbaijan, not paying attention to the fact that this equipment might be used in the Karabakh conflict. For the Armenian government it was a clear signal: Russia easily switches sides, like it had already done in past, and supports Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Putin’s visit to Baku on August 13th – the first since 2006 – only fuelled the Armenian leadership’s fears. Azerbaijan’s leader, Ilham Aliyev, acknowledged that his country had already spent 4 billion US dollars on Russian weapons since 2010. However, Russia has also offered Armenia a positive agenda. During Sargsyan’s visit to Moscow, Putin informed him that Russian Railways are ready to invest 15 billion Russian roubles in developing Armenia’s railway system. However, less obvious are Armenian profits from integration with the Customs Union. The current predicament in economic relations between Russia and Belarus, both members and founders of the organisation, reveals the deceptive nature of the Moscow-led Eurasian economic structure. Therefore, the Armenian leadership should recognise the main differences between the EU’s Eastern Partnership and Russia’s Customs Union proposals. The EU project’s agenda focuses on Armenia’s internal reforms, modernisation and sustainable development. Russia’s proposal does not require any reforms. However, it does demand resignation from any independent foreign policy goals, which may strengthen Armenian statehood and weaken Moscow’s influence on Yerevan. Originally published September 5th 2013

The real goal of Putin’s foreign policy is to maintain Russian hegemony in the former Soviet Union.

Konrad Zasztowt is an analyst at the Polish Institute of International Aff airs and specialises in the South Caucasus and Central Asia.

When in Baku… A N N A Ż A M E JĆ

Azerbaijan’s hosting of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest as well as the general modernisation of Baku, the nation’s capital, have resulted in forced evictions and inadequate compensation of city residents, raising questions about Azerbaijan’s human rights record. When the Azeri duo Ell & Nikki won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2011, Azerbaijan was overjoyed. In a country where the Eurovision breaks popularity records, there is no end to the applause for these native artists. The historical victory was a breakthrough for everyone: the government saw an opportunity for the quicker modernisation of infrastructure in the capital as well as for improving Azerbaijan’s image abroad, while the opposition saw a chance for its 15 minutes of fame, and human rights organisations jumped on the bandwagon with its “Sing for Democracy” campaign, hoping that the foreign limelight would expose the authoritarian tendencies of President Ilham Aliyev’s regime. But as soon as the enthusiastic wave of preparations for the organisation of the Eurovision 2012 finale in Baku got under way, it turned out that not everybody would be joining the celebrations. Eurovision’s dark side Tatyana Cherkessov, 42, and her family did not sit among the audience at Baku Crystal Hall, where the May crowning of the contest took place. At the turn of the decade, the Cherkessov family were on cloud nine when they moved into a spacious flat with a view of the Caspian Sea. The building in the heart of a city has a perfect location and they invested their life savings into their new home. But 12 years later, the attractiveness of the site proved a curse rather than a blessing. First, the government decided to bring down the local hospital. Next, a stadium and swimming pool were both levelled to the ground. And finally, the bell tolled

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for residential buildings in the area. In the meantime, National Flag Square was created nearby, which boasted the biggest flag and the highest mast in the world at the time. “It soon became clear that our nine-story apartment block near National Flag Square would be bulldozed. The municipal authorities were adamant that it had nothing to do with the Eurovision. Unofficially, it was said that a district for rich people was to be created there,” says Tatyana, an inhabitant of a building on Agil Guliyev Street. Extending National Flag Square gathered momentum when Azerbaijan won the Eurovision. On the other side of the gigantic flag, construction of the most ambitious project in Baku started: a multifunctional crystal hall, where artists from all over Europe would perform in May 2012. This architectural wonder accommodates 25,000 spectators, and Radio Free Europe has estimated the cost to be over 130 million US dollars, 40 times more than Ukraine, the winner of the Eurovision seven years ago, spent on its concert hall. The Cherkessovs, a family of five, are one of 72 families who were evicted from the last residential building near National Flag Square after a long battle with the government. Although at first resistant, inhabitants were finally forced out when the government cut phone lines, stopped supplying electricity and cut off water to the building. In February 2012, when Baku was struggling with freezing temperatures and the fiercest winter in decades, the gas was permanently shut off in the apartment block. In the same month, workers started to dismantle the building. The roof was torn off and the top floor demolished.

Azeri law provides compensation for inhabitants expropriated by the state based on the current price on the free market.

Non-negotiable On March 1st, the Cherkessov family had to carry its furniture down from the sixth floor, as the lift had been out of order for weeks. The building, which was being demolished from the top down, could have collapsed at any moment. Today, no remnants of the building can be seen and the former inhabitants still cannot believe what has happened to them. “First, as a form of compensation, a flat on the outskirts of the city was offered to us. It’s a new building, but the problem is that it officially doesn’t exist. The developer didn’t fulfil the security standards so he couldn’t receive the approval of the Ministry of Emergencies. How could we accept an apartment that doesn’t have an address and is located in a dangerous building?” Tatyana asks. “We were


Opinion and Analysis

Anna Żamejć, When in Baku…

ultimately informed that we had to move out. Compensation was calculated at 1,500 manats (1,900 US dollars) per square metre. Non-negotiable! But for this money you can’t buy anything of a similar standard in Baku. We had three rooms with a view of the sea and now we can only afford two rooms at most on the outskirts of the city. I don’t understand why a country earning billions through the selling of oil and gas can’t afford to pay people decent compensation.” Azeri law provides compensation for inhabitants expropriated by the state, stating that it should be based on the current price on the free market. What’s more, the state should also pay moral damages worth 20 per cent of the market value of the apartment to a person who is forced out, as well as cover the cost of moving and temporary accommodation, if necessary. The authorities fulfilled none of these provisions. Zohrab Ismayilov, head of the nongovernmental organisation PAAFE (Public Association for a Free Economy), which monitors the Azeri situation in property rights, has confirmed that 1,500 manats per square metre is well below the market value. “We have analysed the real estate market in this district. The market price is now 1,750 to 2,100 manats (2,230 to 2,675 dollars) per square metre. In other words, the inhabitants should have received at least 25 to 30 per cent more money. Of course, the owners of small studio flats are in the worst situation. This compensation wouldn’t even buy them a tiny apartment in the capital. The international organisation Human Rights Watch has published a report calling on the Azeri government to review the abuses of power carried out by evicting the inhabitants of the buildings near National Flag Square and pay them just compensation. Some inhabitants, however, have already decided to seek justice through the courts. “Fifteen families have decided to sue the municipal authorities and are demanding 20,000 manats (25,500 dollars) in compensation. We are currently helping another three families to file law suits,” says Zohrab Ismayilov, whose organisation offers legal aid in matters connected with the real estate and other property belonging to the inhabitants. So far there haven’t been any similar cases in which the courts have ruled in favour of people who have lost their property. According to information collected by PAAFE, the city of Baku has demolished nine residential buildings in the vicinity of National Flag Square, totalling 281 apartments.

The Human Rights Watch report documented 24 similar cases in which the authorities have given approval to demolish houses and flats with people still living in them.

Anna Żamejć, When in Baku…

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Tatyana Cherkessov and her family now rent a place and they are intensely seeking a new apartment to buy, but with the compensation they have received, it is not easy. Illegal evictions? The former inhabitants of National Flag Square are not the only victims of the ambitious plans of modernising Baku. In the last two years, dozens of historical buildings in the city centre have been demolished, located alongside the Winter Boulevard, a promenade for strollers, which is still under construction. Many old houses on attractive lots in the centre of Baku have also been bulldozed to the ground and replaced with elegant office buildings and luxury housing estates. All the inhabitants were offered was new accommodation or compensations of up to 1,500 manats (1,900 US dollars) per square metre. PAAFE estimates that the modernisation of Baku is infringing on the property rights of 20,000 people in the city of 3.5 million. Many inhabitants have taken dramatic steps to defend their rights. There were protests and hunger strikes, but to no avail. The demolitions and evictions have not stopped. In March 2012, a house on Mirzag Aliyev Street in central Baku was torn down at night with a tractor. The people sleeping inside miraculously managed to escape from the collapsing building. No one had warned them of the planned nightly demolition. The Human Rights Watch report has documented 24 similar cases, in which the authorities have given approval to demolishing houses and flats with people still living in them. Walls were brought down and roofs, windows and stairs removed in order to force the inhabitants to move out. These are extreme cases, but many experts believe that the Baku authorities are breaking the law because of the very fact that the aim of these projects is to make the city more attractive. Ulviyya Asadzade, a journalist of Radio Free Europe in Baku and author of the PAAFE report on the property rights situation in Azerbaijan, points to Article 29 of the Azeri Constitution, which protects private property and only allows the expropriation of real estate for specific reasons of the state (above all defence, the building of roads and transport infrastructure). “The Baku authorities have no legal mandate to make decisions on demolishing buildings. Only the Council of Ministers may issue a decree allowing demolitions, and only for reasons of the state. And expropriations must be approved by a court,” says Asadzade. According to the Azeri Penal Code the intentional destruction or damage of property is a crime.


Opinion and Analysis

Anna Żamejć, When in Baku…

Many believe that most of the ideas for modernising the capital come from Mehriban Aliyeva, the Azeri first lady. In a recent interview, Aliyeva rejected accusations that attempts at modernising Baku were illegal and that the latest demolitions of houses were connected with the organisation of the Eurovision Song Contest finale in Azerbaijan. “The rebuilding of the city had begun before we won the Eurovision Song Contest,” Mehriban Aliyeva is quoted as saying. “Of course, when implementing projects on such a scale you need to take over the land and demolish buildings, especially antiquated ones which are not up to modern standards.” The first lady is convinced that the problems with property rights as described by the media result from “the tactlessness of low rank officials, who do not always offer adequate help in organising the move”. Meanwhile, many victims are demanding the creation of a special government commission, which would also set the level of adequate financial compensation for evicted inhabitants. So far, however, the authorities have not expressed the will to take up this matter. In the eyes of many, the heart of the problem is not only the violation of the property rights of the inhabitants, but also the historic soul of the city, which is buried under the rubble of old buildings. “Baku is a city with a history. The authorities want to make another Dubai out of it,” says Tatyana Cherkessov. Translated by Tomasz Bieroń Originally published August 1st 2013 Anna Żamejć is a freelance correspondent with the Azerbaijani Service of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. She is a member of the editorial staff of the monthly magazine Liberté! specialising in the politics of the South Caucasus and the Arab-Israeli confl ict.

Stepping Forward with the Weight of the Past NATA LIA Z IE L IŃS K A

For several months, Croatia has been straddling the past and the future. On the eve of joining the European Union, it is facing problems directly related to its Yugoslav past. Ethnic tensions resulting from the official introduction of Cyrillic and Serbian nomenclature in Vukovar have caused hate speech among politicians and violence. The implementation of a legal act on the protection of human and specifically minority rights protection was one of the preconditions for Croatia’s international recognition in 1991. Furthermore, along with the accession, Croatia has implemented various reforms on national legislation related to minority rights. However, the level of ethnic tension in Croatia is still being felt, which raises questions about the quality of the reforms and, therefore, the real degree of socio-political transition forced by EU integration, and the quality of the transition in general.   A country in transition With regards to the shape of the transition, Croatia has been at the centre of international attention since the beginning of the 1990s, and the difficulties of some ethnic minority groups in Croatia were of major concern to several European institutions. They pressed the Croatian government to comply with domestic and international human rights standards. The normative regulation and practical realisation of the freedoms and rights of people belonging to national minorities has, therefore, become an important measure of the degree of democratisation of society for the Republic of Croatia since maintaining its recognition, and one of the essential conditions for economic and political integration with Europe.


Opinion and Analysis

Natalia Zielińska, Stepping Forward with the Weight of the Past

Photo: CC –

The main street in the small town of Vukovar Croatia still shows significant damage from the war. The city has become the centre of controversy surrounding the reintroduction of Serbian Cyrillic for official use.

However, the real turnabout occurred with the parliamentary elections in 2000, preceded by the death of right-wing leader Franjo Tuđman in 1999. Only since the change of the ruling party in 2000 has the real political transition begun. The spectacular victory of the centre-left coalition over the rightist ruling party changed the paradigm of Croatian politics in which European integration became the priority. The relationship between the EU and Croatia in the field of protection of minority rights is reciprocal in nature. Wars in the former Yugoslavia and the EU’s inefficient response to this conflict led to the deeper involvement of EU institutions in this area in the early 1990s related to the possible future enlargement on these countries. This, in turn, resulted in the incorporation of minority rights protection as one of the Copenhagen criteria for EU accession, according to which all applicant states must achieve “stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities”. Therefore, the involvement of the EU into the minority protection policy formulation began with

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granting Croatia a potential candidacy for EU membership status in 2000, and signing the Stabilization and Association Agreement one year later. In April 2004, the Commission published an Opinion on Croatia’s Application for Membership of the European Union according to which “Croatia is a functioning democracy, with stable institutions guaranteeing the rule of law. There are no major problems regarding the respect of fundamental rights.” Screening on chapter 23, which deals with fundamental rights and includes minority protection issues, has generally aligned with EU law and finished relatively quickly in 2006. It would seem that the issue has been resolved, and the process of transformation has been successfully finished. Nevertheless, the first signs of growing ethnic tensions occurred in 2012 with the publication of the Comprehensive Monitoring Report on Croatia’s state of preparedness for EU membership, in which several issues were pointed out, such as the low level of employment among the national minorities and the general need for the strengthening of tolerance towards minorities, in particular Croatian Serbs, as well as the need to take measures to protect those who may still be subjected to threats or discrimination, hostility or violence. The Report was published in October 2012, slightly ahead of the upcoming events.

The first signs of growing ethnic tensions occurred in 2012.

Cyrillic vs. Latin script After more than 20 years since the end of war in former Yugoslavia, the city of Vukovar is once again the flash point of conflict. Fifteen years after the peaceful reintegration of this city, the introduction of the Cyrillic script and the Serbian language has cast a new shadow not only over Croat-Serb relations in this particular region, but on the position of Serbs in Croatia in general. This public controversy, which erupted at the end of 2012, is a result of the government’s announcement that it was planning to introduce the official use of the Serbian language and Cyrillic script into about 20 Croatian municipalities where Serbs make up more than onethird of the population. Ironically, this decision derives from the constitutional provision of the Law on Rights of Ethnic Minorities, the result of EU accession pressure, according to which there is an obligation to introduce two languages for official use in areas where ethnic minorities make up more than one-third of the population. Therefore, it is applicable to Vukovar where, according to the 2011 census, ethnic Serbs make up 34.87 per cent of the population. Moreover, the Vukovar case is not the only example


Opinion and Analysis

Natalia Zielińska, Stepping Forward with the Weight of the Past

of this right implementation. Croatia already has bilingual signs, in Croatian and Italian, in the northern Adriatic Istrian peninsula. Nevertheless, the issue of the Serbian language and script is much more sensitive in this particular city, which became a symbol of Croatian resistance after it was devastated during the wartime siege in 1991. The government’s decision has not only created tremendous opposition of the local population, but has also motivated citizens to actively oppose the execution of the law by organising various protests. The most significant is the declaration by Croatian war veterans who have declared their intention to remove the signs by force once the authorities put them up. As has been noticed by the international media, there is no place for rational discussion of the project and everything is based on emotions resulting from fresh memories of war. Moreover, the prospect of the coming local elections increases the scope of the conflict. However, the government’s position on this is clear and stable, and despite opposition from various war veterans associations and right-wing parties, the Croatian government has been repeatedly told that the state will hold off implementation of the Constitutional Law on National Minorities, which allows the use of two languages in Vukovar. Ethnic tension The ethnic tension in Vukovar spread to the whole nation, highlighting the dichotomy of the political elite in this country. A few weeks later, in March 2013, Croatian Television (HRT) aired a controversial declaration of Ruža Tomašić, a member of parliament and head of the far-right Croatian Party of Rights dr. Ante Starčević, who has stirred up the Croatian political scene. During Saturday’s edition of the Dnevnik 3 programme, she referred to Croatian Serbs, as “those who spit on Croatia” and said they “should leave the country”. On the same programme, Tomašić attacked the president of Independent Democratic Serbian Party, suggesting that he was responsible for war crimes carried out by Serbian Chetniks (a Serbian military organisation). Tomašić’s declaration caused a strong reaction of the ruling, central left party SDP. The next day, Prime Minister Zoran Milanović sharply criticised HRT saying that the television station “gave an opportunity to someone who did more than

The conflict at the local level and the hate speech of national politicians has escalated into an example of ethnically motivated violence.

Natalia Zielińska, Stepping Forward with the Weight of the Past

Opinion and Analysis 71

hate speech by not interrupting her while she was committing a criminal offence”. Furthermore, Tomašić plans to compete in the upcoming elections to the European Parliament, where she would represent Croatian society. The conflicts at the local level and the hate speech of national political representatives have rapidly escalated into ethnically motivated violence. Later that same month, several young Croats attacked eight Serbian Orthodox theology students on their way to the Krka Monastery. Six were injured, one of them critically. One of the victims claimed that, as Croatian Serbs, they are used to verbal violence, but they would not expect physical assault. Moreover, just after the incident, one of the local representatives of the area in which the monastery is located declared that all this happened because the Krka Monastery is a nest of Chetniks in Croatia, trying to justify the act. In this case, the prime minister accused the opposition right-wing Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party of spreading ethnic hatred. Sadly, this has not been the only example of hate speech among Croatian officials during the past month. Also in March, Zdravko Mamić, the director of Croatian football club Dinamo Zagreb, referring to the country’s minister of sport, Željko Jovanović, officially said that, being a Serb, Jovanović is generally unable to lead sport in Croatia, and accused the minister and his country of hating everything Croatian. Sport, especially football, has long been the realm of ethnic clashes between these two countries. Croatia’s democratic legitimacy During the last decade, particular emphasis has been placed on institutional reforms that would bring Croatia back to Europe. On the final bend of a winding path, fulfilling European commitments exposes still-fresh war memories, as well as the presence of ethnic tensions and the fragility of the reforms. The sharp reactions of the national authorities along with official condemnation of every example of ethnic violence do not change the fact that one incident could cause such a wide response. European integration has significantly contributed to the peace building process in the countries of the Western Balkans by formulating the political and institutional frameworks and defining the direction of further reforms. What remains questionable is the level of absorption of these changes and transformations at the society level, of which the spirit of tolerance is the key issue. The dilemma over whether to erect bilingual signs in the iconic border town of Vukovar in the face of hostile demonstrations poses a test for Croatia’s democratic legitimacy.


Opinion and Analysis

Natalia Zielińska, Stepping Forward with the Weight of the Past

According to the most recent European Commission’s Monitoring Report, Croatia is ready to join the EU on July 1st. Moreover, the EU’s Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle praised Croatia’s example for the rest of the region as proof that the EU enlargement process is working. Hopefully, last month’s events in Croatia will not necessarily be shared by the other countries of the region. History has already seen similar cases. Originally published April 1st 2013

Natalia Zielińska is a graduate student of the European Studies Department at the University of Wrocław and a part-time student at the University of Zagreb. She was an intern at the Croatian Ministry of Regional Development

Yugosphere: The beginning of the new integration in the Balkans? A N N A J A G IEŁ ŁO - S Z O S TA K

The concept of the “Yugosphere” is arising in the Balkans. This is not a quixotic attempt at reconstituting the former state of Yugoslavia, but rather an emerging economic and political process of unification forged by strong linguistic, cultural and historical ties. The term “Yugosphere” emerged relatively recently and was first used by British journalist Tim Judah in 2009 when talking about the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which included Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia. “Yugoslavia is dead. Long live the Yugosphere!” wrote Judah. A similar idea was postulated in the early 1990s by Boris Vukobrat, a Serbian businessman living in France, who in his project of the so-called federation of regions wrote that the republics that emerged from the collapse of the former Yugoslavia should be economically integrated with Europe and create a link between the southeastern and western regions of Europe. Renewing ties In the former Yugoslavia, some treat the term “Yugosphere” as a conspiracy theory generated by Great Britain thanks to which Yugoslavia is, supposedly, to be created anew. However, the Yugosphere is a process of renewing the ties that have been cut off after the collapse of the former state. This process does not mean a return of Yugoslavia, which could be beneficial and is not impossible. Rather, the


Opinion and Analysis

Anna Jagiełło-Szostak, Yugosphere: The beginning of the new integration in the Balkans?

Yugosphere is a social and economic phenomenon. One can think about cooperation at the company level: if a Croatian company buys a Slovenian firm, which owns Serbian stocks, and the latter sells goods in the territory of Yugoslavia, then we are dealing with the Yugosphere. Judah also believes that in the economic sphere, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia are talking about tight economic cooperation. Plans include creating a common airline, stock exchange and railway. These activities would contribute to economic growth in the region. The mode of these talks was set up by Slovenia, which is already a member of the European Union. Croatia, which is to join the EU in 2013, could also become a pillar of this cooperation. Such a common economic market would be worth, as Judah has calculated, 192 billion US dollars. In addition, different companies, including supermarket chains such as Slovenian Mercator, Croatian Konzum and Serbian Delta are now opening their stores in the other countries. Judah believes that what is important is that the countries of the former Yugoslavia conduct trade mainly among themselves: Bosnia exports mainly to Serbia and Croatia and imports primarily from Croatia, Germany and Serbia. Meanwhile, Macedonia exports mainly to Serbia and Montenegro, while Kosovo tends to trade with Serbia and Macedonia. Tourism could also be an indicator of this cooperation. In Serbia, one can find more and more billboards encouraging people to travel to Croatia and Montenegro. Many Serbs and Slovenes still have summerhouses in Croatia. The situation with the labour market, which is not limited to individual countries but encompasses the whole region, is not much different. Without a doubt, what pushes this process forward is the similarity of language (until 1992, the language was called Serbo-Croatian). Judah also adds that the concept of the Yugosphere has nothing to do with “Yugonostalgia”, but it is also of a political nature. In the future, one can expect even greater cooperation between the nations of the former Yugoslavia. Encouraging examples come from such organisations such as the Visegrad Group (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia), the Benelux Economic Union (Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg) and the Nordic Council (the Scandinavian countries). Through these organisations, the states cooperate with each other, and by doing so facilitate different forms of integration: cultural, political and economic, as well as those related to security and integration with the European Union.

The concept of the Yugosphere has nothing to do with “Yugonostalgia”, but is of a political nature.

Anna Jagiełło-Szostak, Yugosphere: The beginning of the new integration in the Balkans?

Opinion and Analysis 75

Post-Yugoslav cooperation The beginning of post-Yugoslav cooperation was the Sarajevo-based Regional Cooperation Council, which started in Sofia in 2008 at the summit of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Southern and Eastern Europe who were participating in the Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP), which was later to become the successor of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe. It was created to coordinate and promote cooperation between the countries of the region and to support EU and Euro-Atlantic integration. Its members include 46 countries, organisations and financial institutions. During the SEECP in Istanbul in June 2010, the Strategy and Programme for 2011-2013 was accepted. The main areas of activity are social and economic development, infrastructure, energy, law, mutual relations, and cooperation in the area of security, human capital and cooperation at the parliamentary level. Essentially, after 20 years, a symbolic transfer to the full cooperation between the states that emerged from the collapse of Yugoslavia was the summit meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Egypt in 2009. At the summit, Boris Tadić (the president of Serbia at that time) suggested that the next summit of the Movement take place in 2011; that is, the year commemorating the creation of the movement in 1961 in Belgrade, when Yugoslavia was the host country. Tadić also proposed that the summit take place in Belgrade and its organisation be the responsibility of the former Yugoslav republics. The Serbian president also proposed tighter cooperation between the enterprises of the former republics of Yugoslavia in seeking foreign military contracts. This, on the one hand, was a reference to the former Yugoslavia and, on the other hand, the creation of a new form of cooperation, the key to which was the economic integration of the region. In September 2011, the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement took place in Serbia’s capital. The idea of the Yugosphere meets many difficulties, including the issue of recognising Kosovo, the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the instability of its government; the limited cooperation with the Central European Free Trade Agreement and the unsolvable ethnic tensions between Albanians and Macedonians in Macedonia and Serbs and Bosnians in Sandžak.

A possible scenario is that there will be unification especially on the economic level.


Opinion and Analysis

Anna Jagiełło-Szostak, Yugosphere: The beginning of the new integration in the Balkans? Two options for the Yugosphere

Tim Judah sees two options for the Yugosphere. The first is combining forces and using the potential of its shared culture, history, languages and market for cooperation. This unquestionably would bring many advantages to the region. The second option is that with its ageing population, the region can continue being Europe’s suburbs from which anybody with even only a little talent is trying to get out. Under communism, Yugoslavia enjoyed a strong international position. It tried to balance the policies of Western democratic countries with those of the Soviet Union, and belonged to one of the world’s three political blocs. It was respected as a successful country in such areas as sports, culture and science. Yugoslavia was based on the idea of creating a federation state of many nations based on a common cultural, geopolitical and economic space. Just like the United States or Switzerland, it created a state and a common geographical and social identity, such that some people compared Yugoslavia to the first European Union. Had Yugoslavia entered the EU when it still existed, it would have lasted until today. A possible scenario is that there will be unification, especially at the economic level, of the states of the former Yugoslavia within the European Union. The first steps of this process are the Stability Pact for Southern Europe, the signing of the CEFTA agreement and entering the free trade zone. The idea of the Yugosphere and other forms of cooperation are, without a doubt, long-term prospects, which could help the states that emerged from the collapse of Yugoslavia come closer to each other. In the future, this may lead to the creation of a new political union not based on cultural and ethnic, but economic relations, and the linguistic proximity will facilitate this. Translated by Iwona Reichardt Originally published April 18th 2013

Anna Jagiełło-Szostak is an assistant professor at the Department of Eastern Research at the University of Wroclaw. Her academic interests include ethnic issues in Europe, nationalism, foreign and security policy (especially in southeast Europe) as well as social and cultural security.

Kosovo Elections: The South steps forward, the North moves back ZO FIA PE PLIŃ SKA A ND ID A O R Z E C H O W S K A

The April 19th Brussels agreement on the normalisation of Belgrade-Pristina relations represents a symbolic breakthrough in the European and Balkan narratives on Kosovo. Unfortunately, both the European Union and the governments in the region are in favour of symbols and easily forget that the ex-Yugoslav state is not a well-functioning democracy. Kosovo itself, as well as its bilateral relations with Serbia, still face enormous political and institutional challenges that cannot be overcome with a change in discourse. The recent events in the north of the country not only remind one of its powerful past and difficult future, but they have also re-exposed the indolence of the international community. Boycott As a result of the Brussels agreement, the first round of municipal elections was held in Kosovo on Sunday November 3rd. For the first time in the history of Kosovo, representatives of the Serbian community participated in the elections, which were to result in a replacement of the parallel institution in the north with organs legitimatised by both the Serbian and the Kosovar parties. The four northern municipalities – North Kosovska Mitrovica, Zubin Potok, Leposavić and Zvečan – were supposed to form an association of Serb municipalities together


Opinion and Analysis

Zofia Peplińska and Ida Orzechowska, Kosovo Elections: The South steps forward, the North moves back

Photo: Ida Orzechowska

A sticker encouraging the Serbian minority to boycott the November 3rd Kosovo elections.

with six more regions with a significant Serbian community - Štrpce, Klokot-Vrbovac, Gračanica, Novo Brdo, Ranilug, Parteš and possibly Gora – located in the south. As the Serbian government in Belgrade had been encouraging the Kosovo Serbs to participate in the elections in order to ensure the implementation of the Brussels agreement, right-wing parties and nationalist movements called for a boycott as an expression of opposition to the recognition of Kosovo’s control of the north. Mitrovica, a city divided between Serbs and Albanians along the Ibar River, has always been the burning point in northern Kosovo. Because of its critical importance for both sides, the city became the centre of interest for both the Serbian movements opposing the elections as well as the international community. On election day, North Mitrovica was covered with boycott posters, stickers and graffiti distributed by such nationalist organisations as Naši 1389 (“Ours 1389”), Obraz (“Cheek/face”) and Srpske dveri (“Serbian Doors/Gate”). The international community was represented by a large number of officials from the EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM), EULEX, KFOR, the OSCE and the UN. While the OSCE was responsible for running the elections, EULEX and KFOR were supposed to support the Kosovar police in securing polling stations and voters. Initially, the election process went relatively smoothly, with no serious incidents reported. A few shortcomings were noticed, however. According to locals, in some

Zofia Peplińska and Ida Orzechowska, Kosovo Elections: The South steps forward, the North moves back

Opinion and Analysis 79

cases the voters who came to the appointed polling stations were sent over to other voting centres. What elsewhere might have been considered a strictly technical issue here raises a question of possible political abuse. Furthermore, in terms of security – although the presence of international forces in the city was well visible, particularly on the main roads – their distribution among the polling stations was uneven. Moreover, smaller streets across Mitrovica were covered neither by the Kosovar police nor by international officials. Even though EULEX and UN cars could be noticed around the city, and Kosovar police, KFOR and OSCE representatives were present at some of the polling stations, they did not manage to prevent severe irregularities, including those at the very voting places themselves.  Initial information on Serbian nationalists threatening Serbs heading to the polling stations appeared relatively early during the day and quickly spread throughout the social media. Serbian voters were also intimidated while being filmed walking into polling stations. The incidents caused no reaction either on the side of the Kosovar police or the international forces.   Polling station closures The number of international officers was limited during the course of the day, as noticed by the domestic officials responsible for the organisation of the polling stations in North Mitrovica, despite rumours about possible blackouts and concerns regarding security after dusk. As soon as the sun came down, the OSCE suddenly shut down polling stations in the northern part of Mitrovica and evacuated the ballots under KFOR assistance. Because no official statement was given about the reasons for stopping the elections, people kept coming to vote. It soon became clear that the decision was made after an attack on a polling station at the primary school in Sveti Sava. A group of masked Serbian nationalists broke into the school with tear gas and fled with the ballots and voters’ lists. Later, it appeared that such incidents also occurred at the secondary technical school and the secondary medical school in the north of the city. Security forces discovered a bomb at one of the polling stations, reported a hand grenade thrown in front of another and a EULEX vehicle being stoned in the municipality of Zvečan, also in northern Kosovo. The evacuation was conducted effectively in most places, although the OSCE did not manage to secure all the voting materials from all of the polling centres immediately. The identity of the attackers remains unknown, which has resulted in numerous conspiracy theories created by both the media and political organisations.

Mitrovica, a city divided between Serbs and Albanians, has always been the burning point in northern Kosovo.


Opinion and Analysis

Zofia Peplińska and Ida Orzechowska, Kosovo Elections: The South steps forward, the North moves back

These theories develop various scenarios regarding political powers standing behind the attacks, as well as their motivations and aims. One of the most probable versions is that, due to low voter turnout among Serbs, an Albanian mayoral candidate, Agim Deva from the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), would have won in the Serb-dominated northern municipality of Mitrovica. Domestic and international security forces were perfectly aware of the possibility of the outbreak of violence during the elections, and they defined procedures in the case of their occurrence. The chain of command included the Kosovar police as the primary institution responsible for the security of the elections, established EULEX as the secondary institution and KFOR as the one to react in the most critical situations. The limited mandate of EULEX allowed for the monitoring of the voting areas, but deprived it of the possibility of taking action against violations. KFOR, on the other hand, intervened in easing the situation only after it became serious and the polling stations were shut down.

It is hard to assess whether the Serbian community stayed home on election day as a result of its discontent or because of fears awakened by nationalists’ actions.

The inefficient international community The widespread presence of international forces in northern Mitrovica on election day did not equal their ability to act effectively. The international community proved to be inefficient due to an imprecise share of responsibility among the specific organisations. The failure to prevent incidents is surprising taking into consideration that even though such situations could take place in any democratic country, here they were expected. Despite the difficulties in the north, the elections ran smoothly in other Serbdominated municipalities. The Serbian population in Kosovo did not boycott the elections. The turnout in these municipalities was one of the highest in the country and Serbs participated in the democratic process as encouraged by the government in Belgrade. The Citizens’ Initiative Srpska, the only one of 33 Serb electoral lists in the Kosovar elections backed by the Serbian government, won the majority of the polls both in the elections for the municipal assembly and the mayor in three of six Serbian municipalities. Additionally, the party won most of seats in yet another municipality: Štrpce, where the majority of the votes were cast for the Independent Liberal Party’s (SLS) mayoral candidate. SLS, supported by the government in Pristina, achieved its greatest success in Parteš, where its candidates won the majority of seats

Zofia Peplińska and Ida Orzechowska, Kosovo Elections: The South steps forward, the North moves back

Opinion and Analysis 81

in the assembly and the highest number of votes for mayor. In only one of the municipalities did a non-Serbian party – the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) – receive a majority of votes both for the assembly and the mayor. In none of the municipalities was the mayor elected in the first round. The second round will take place on December 1st. A positive step forward The November elections constituted “a positive step forward for democracy in Kosovo”, the EU EOM stated in its report. According to the report, the failure of the elections in the north should not be perceived as a failure of democracy as such in the state of Kosovo. To a certain extent, the elections represent a positive development in the process of the implementation of the Brussels agreement, especially considering the large participation among the Serbs in the South. The process of the normalisation of BelgradePrishtina relations is moving forward. However, the question of the north remains unresolved. It is hard to assess whether the fact that the Serbian community decided to stay at home on election Sunday was a result of its strong discontent with the April agreement, or because of the fears awakened by the nationalists’ actions. An answer to this question is crucial for a further normalisation of relations, and both the Serbian and Kosovar governments should take all necessary measures to find it. The elections revealed that both countries have serious internal issues that first have to be solved unilaterally in order to enable the next elections in the north to be orderly and peaceful, and to ensure the stabilisation of the north and the successful implementation of the Brussels agreement as well as long lasting normalisation of their relations. The most visible challenges in the election context were the intense criminal activity of nationalist organisations, which Serbia has to deal with, as well as the indolence of the Kosovar police forces. An early cessation of the voting has left the issue of the future of the local government in the north open. According to the Chair of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC), Valjdete Daka, three possible scenarios have been taken into account. The outcome of the elections in the north could be considered valid based on the polling materials secured by the OSCE; the voting could be repeated in the polling stations where the incidents happened; or the local elections could be restaged in all four northern municipalities.

Higher turnout than in previous elections indicates progress regarding Kosovo’s political culture.


Opinion and Analysis

Zofia Peplińska and Ida Orzechowska, Kosovo Elections: The South steps forward, the North moves back Re-running the elections

The initial statement of CEC members proposed holding again the elections in the three polling stations where the attackers interrupted voting. The decision concerning the validity of other gathered results is to be made after the OSCE report is published. However, after the trilateral meeting of Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi, Prime Minister Ivica Dačić and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton held on November 6th, the CEC announced that the elections would only be repeated in three polling stations in the north on November 17th. The elections are to be held soon in order to not delay the second round scheduled for December 1st. The decision seems to be at odds with democratic standards and puts into question the role the international community plays in the Balkans. In terms of the effective democratic process, the voting in the north was not conducted well. The early closing of the polling stations, which disabled the electoral participation of some of the voters, as well as the common sense of insecurity and inaccurate voters’ lists significantly put into doubt the legitimacy of the results. The inability to make a quick decision on what action to take reflects the variety of interests represented by different political powers, both domestic and international. The elections in Kosovo were undoubtedly a landmark in the implementation of the Brussels agreement, leading to the deconstruction of parallel institutions in the north. Higher turnout than in previous elections as well as the inclusion of the Serbs from the south into a common political system is symptoms of progress regarding Kosovo’s political culture. Both the state system, in particular its security sector, and the system of international supervision remain ineffective and still have not developed an efficient way of cooperation. As long as the latter does not change, no high-level international agreement can bring the expected results.   Originally published November 10th 2013 Ida Orzechowska is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Political Science at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. Currently based in the Balkans, she is developing her dissertation on the correlation between power and stability in the region and works as a freelance analyst.

Zofia Peplińska is a graduate of the Department of International Relations at the University of Wroclaw and is interested in the Balkan region with special focus on Kosovo.

On the Edge of Gaza RO M A N KA B A C H I Y

A visit to the military base in Kissufim is a fascinating cross-section of how young Ukrainian-born Jews’ military influences their identity, gender roles and perceptions of militarism in light of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Oli and Alex, born in Ukraine, protect the Holy Land from homemade Qassam rockets and operate a Guardium, an unmanned, all-terrain surveillance vehicle. Oli Berniker and Alex Fisher serve on the Kissufim military base in Israel not far from the Gaza Strip. Cactuses and palm trees dot the road from Jerusalem to Kissufim. The Negev Desert stretches further to the south. Adjacent to the desert and Kissufim are irrigated fields of wheat (the first crop that is harvested in early May) and peanuts, as well as olive gardens. Water, treated after being used in TelAviv, is used in the irrigation process. At the entrance to Kissufim, one’s eyes immediately spot the propaganda posters reminding that: “The enemy is on the watch!” Dogs roam the military base while fully equipped soldiers stroll in what appears to be at first a chaotic manner. The mess hall, also used as a lounge, is simple with a billiard table and television. In the centre stands a large round table set with dishes in a buffet style. Hummus and bread (which is a must) is served along with stewed and pickled aubergine. Kosher food is provided for those who need it. And there is a synagogue on the base. From Ukraine to Gaza Photography is generally allowed, including that of the infamous Israeli Merkava and Sabra tanks. The exception is the signal tower – which looks like a mobile communications tower and overlooks the barracks. Ania Ukolova, a former resident of Kharkiv, is our guide at Kissufim. She works primarily as a press secretary for the Russian-speaking department of the Israel Defence Forces. Ania serves in a nine-year programme, three years of which are


Opinion and Analysis

Roman Kabachiy, On the Edge of Gaza

devoted to studying for a bachelor’s degree, three years to mandatory military service and another three years to military service on a contract basis. Ania speaks Russian confidently with a slight Moscow accent: “All young men and women in Israel have to do military duty. Nearly 92 per cent of the positions are open for women. It’s not gender, but a person’s qualities and abilities that are examined.” She convinces us that there is no bullying in the army: “Nobody makes you clean the toilet with a toothbrush. What’s more, the commander cleans the toilet along with the soldiers, as he also uses the toilet! In fact, a soldier has to be able to clean up after himself. There is no sense in bringing a cleaning crew here.” Kissufim is the smallest among Israel’s military bases, so it does without any extra personnel. Twenty-year-old staff sergeant Alex Fisher was born in Ternopil, but spent most of his Ukrainian childhood in Yakymivka, a small town in the Zaporizhia Oblast. He remembers only dyakuyu (thank you) in Ukrainian, but speaks Russian fluently – it is a family tradition. Alex doesn’t want to stay in the army; he wants to study. Oli Berniker has served already for a year and eight months. Her roots on her mother’s side go back to the Krymchaks, a Turkic people who adopted Judaism. On her father’s side she is Jewish. Her grandfather, a businessman, escaped Romania to Crimea after the war. Oli visits Simferopol and Yalta often, as opposed to Alex, who has not been to his homeland since the age of 16. Oli serves in a unit servicing the Guardium, an all-terrain unmanned patrol vehicle. A pair of girls operates it: a chief and an operator from the base where the steering wheel and pedals are installed. There is a minefield between Kissufim and Gaza. The all-terrain vehicle is equipped with nine cameras for video-surveillance. Guardium scans any movement within the area, which surrounds Gaza. Oli demonstrates the features of the unmanned vehicle, which replies to her in a female voice. While the young woman prepares to start the vehicle, a truck with a Merkava tank on board heaves into sight from the direction of Gaza. “I didn’t think twice. I knew I was joining the army, and I wanted to serve in a position which is considered to be difficult for the women,” Berniker says. “I felt I was going to protect my country. Recently, when missiles were fired, one of them destroyed the barrier near Gaza, and we guarded the barrier with this vehicle for around 100 hours so that soldiers, like Alex, wouldn’t have to be on watch out there in the dark and cold for anybody sneaking in from Gaza.”

At the entrance to Kissufim, one’s eyes immediately spot the propaganda posters reminding that: “The enemy is on the watch!”

Roman Kabachiy, On the Edge of Gaza

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“To command a man not only at home” I ask about the joint service of males and females. “Guys have an advantage here, because there are bases where only men serve,” Oli says. She gets a little nervous with her Russian but continues: “And there are many girls here apart from us; there are girls operating the cameras. So the guys have fun here, but it is the most dangerous place in the country. The girls get to Kissufim through their own choice, while the guys are transferred from other bases. The girls also do a lot of hard work and are able to shoot any of the weapons; for example, the Tavor assault rifle.” Ania Ukolova, the press secretary, doesn’t hide her pride. “Our girls are not physically weak. We even have separate female combat units.” A Moscow repatriate, and now a representative of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress in Jerusalem, Chaim Ben Jacob served his duty in the early 1990s, and got a specific impression of the women in the army during those times: “Women commanders in the Israeli armed forces are stricter and more demanding than the men. It seems to me that this can be explained on a psychological level: a woman always dreams of commanding a man not only at home!” Oli Berniker does not see any harm in having women performing combat duty. “At the beginning, my mother was absolutely against my serving at Kissufim. And now she proudly talks about me with her friends from Kyiv. They ask her if I shaved my head because I joined the army. The truth is, hair has to be neatly gathered, and we are not allowed to wear earrings and no more than two rings.” In the beginning, a recruit undergoes basic military training. During basic training, the discipline is rather strict, but later the soldiers have more freedom. Alternatives are allowed. If someone adheres to a certain religious belief (for example young men from Orthodox and Hasidic families), he can obtain permission to wear a beard. But in this case it should grow freely, and no trimming is allowed. Mobile phones are not used at Kissufim due to the lack of signal and duty is performed in 12-hour-shifts. Nine days on the base, five days at home. The remaining time is usually devoted to sleep. Once she finishes her duty, Berniker is not going to continue on a contract basis. “Two years is not that much. When all my friends and relatives abroad hear of it, and they wonder, ‘Are you not wasting two years of your life for the military?’ But I do not feel that I am wasting my time.” Her words about friendship in the army are consistent with the conduct of the soldiers at the base. The ladies are lively discussing from where these “outsiders”,

“Nearly 92 per cent of the positions are open for women. It’s not gender, but a person’s qualities and abilities that are examined.”


Opinion and Analysis

Roman Kabachiy, On the Edge of Gaza

i.e. we, came. Alex walks up to greet the soldiers who have just arrived from other military bases and were sitting on the armoured personnel carriers. Among them are also Russian-speaking soldiers, commonly known as “Russians” irrespective of country of their origin. Rifle under the pillow The Kissufim base is located approximately in the middle of the eastern border between Gaza and Israel. Slightly to the north, at a point where the border turns to the sea, lies Sderot, the largest city in the region. A number of immigrants from the former Soviet Union live there. Several documentaries were shot about the city. The best known are Sderot: Rock in the Red Zone and Encounter Point. Sderot lives in permanent danger of being bombed: within two weeks in 2007, 293 Qassam rockets launched from Gaza fell on the city. “This part of the Gaza Strip is also called the ‘Officers’ Block,’” says first lieutenant Sharon Banian in Hebrew. “When Hamas took power in the Gaza Strip in 2007, they gathered all the officers of the Palestinian army from Fatah who were in opposition to them, and threw them off the roof of skyscrapers. Rockets launched from Gaza originate in areas containing kindergartens and schools, as they are afraid of any responsibility.” Both the “Officers’ Block” and the Israeli surveillance blimp are clearly seen from the hill not far from Sderot, where the monument to the Fallen for Israel is located. It is difficult to conceive the dangers of the coastland in the flames of the sunset. Gaza is one of the most densely populated regions in the world: 1.7 million people live within a 360 square kilometre area, which translates to roughly 4,000 people per square kilometre. In Ukraine’s most densely populated oblast, the Donetsk Oblast, by contrast, the population density is only 202 people per square kilometre. Anna Ukolova calls the Israeli missile defence the “iron shield”: “Immediately after a Qassam is launched from the Gaza territory, the ‘shield’ fixes it and identifies its flight path, to see if the rocket will hit a city or kibbutz. If it does, the siren turns on and each resident has 15 seconds to run for a bunker. The kids are also trained to do so. The bunkers are placed throughout Sderot. The city council has placed free internet cafes in some of them, in order to attract people to stay there. And, naturally, the ‘iron shield’ tries to bring the rocket down.”

Ania Ukolova, the press secretary, doesn’t hide her pride: “Our girls are not physically weak. We even have separate female combat units.”

Roman Kabachiy, On the Edge of Gaza

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In Israel, cities located within long-range rocket coverage mandate that new houses are constructed with a “concrete room”. Each accommodation has to be facilitated with a room capable of withstanding a military attack. Ania Ukolova has one, and doesn’t close the door as it is too heavy. She keeps her clothes in that room. Yevgeniy, the other guide from Ukraine, has decided not to equip his. Although Jews from the former Soviet Union often joke that all the state funds are spent on the “militarists”, they understand that there is no other way out. Upon returning to my hotel in Jerusalem, I meet a former resident of Kyiv, Bina Smekhova. She is a writer and a publisher. We speak in Ukrainian. I ask about her attitude to the army and the security situation in Israel. “Such a beautiful country, and yet how long can a person sleep with an assault rifle under their pillow?” Bina asks rhetorically. She tells me about her younger son, who joined the army after his first year at Jerusalem University, announcing that he had to serve his duty. After the army, he continued his studies in Oxford, and now works for television in Paris. Her oldest son stayed in Kyiv. Translated by Olena Shynkarenko Originally published March 24th 2013 Roman Kabachiy is a Ukrainian historian and journalist.

Hashtags and Fan Pages vs. Trade Barriers IG O R LYUB A SH E N K O

While the social media campaigns launched by Ukrainians in response to their trade war with Russia have been somewhat disappointing in their overall scope, this is not necessarily a sign that Ukrainians are not boycotting Russian goods. When Russia openly started a trade war against Ukraine in August 2013, the reason was quite obvious: to hamper the eventual decision on signing the Association Agreement with the European Union during the upcoming Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius and to make those who influence the decisions of the Ukrainian authorities think more deeply about closer cooperation with Russia’s Customs Union project. The stake is thus quite high. These events have provoked many comments. What is often stressed is the assumption that Russia’s coercion will appear counterproductive because of the negative reaction of society. They say that the end of the day, ordinary people will stop buying Russian products. Increased social media activity related to this problem is usually presented as the herald of the forthcoming fall in demand for Russian goods among Ukrainians. Indeed, in mid-August, several initiatives were organised aimed at encouraging Ukrainians to boycott Russian production. The Vidsich (“Rebuff ”) NGO made one of the most successful attempts by starting a campaign using their social media accounts. Numerous other activists also started using a “бойкот” (“boycott”) hashtag to manage the news feed related to the hardships in trade relations between Ukraine and Russia (interestingly, the same hashtag is used to popularise the idea to boycott the Winter Olympics in Sochi). However, even a fast and superficial analysis shows that these campaigns have not become something that has grabbed minds of Ukrainian internet users, let alone the whole society. After a short peak of popularity, the intensity of social

Igor Lyubashenko, Hashtags and Fan Pages vs. Trade Barriers

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engagement decreased. On the other hand, it is too early to say that the campaign was completely unsuccessful. Unlike many other social media actions of a political nature, when you are asked to “like” some cause, which in turn does not lead to immediate changes in the “offline” reality, the current boycott contains a very definite call to action: “Do not buy Russian products when you go shopping.” It is combined with more traditional actions, such as handing out leaflets in front of shopping malls. More importantly, the information about the engagement of social media users was echoed in the traditional media, in particular on television. Thus, it is possible to assume that the real reach of the campaign is wider than one can judge by simply looking at the fan pages and tweets. We have to wait for some hard data that shows whether Ukrainians indeed decided to boycott Russian products and to what extent. There are at least two other conclusions that could be drawn from the described situation. These conclusions may be important from the perspective of potential e-diplomatic efforts towards Ukrainian society. The first is the elitist nature of political engagement on the web among Ukrainians. Low viral effects could simply be explained as a lack of interest in such topics as the Ukrainian-Russian “trade war” among a wider audience. The second conclusion can be derived from it. Any strategy in the field of e-diplomacy should take into account the difficulty of finding topics that would capture the hearts and minds of Ukraine’s growing networked community, let alone real actions. Virtual reality extends the physical one, but will never replace it, at least when it comes to politics and diplomacy.

Virtual reality extends the physical one, but will never replace it, at least when it comes to politics and diplomacy.

Originally published August 29th 2013 Igor Lyubashenko is an academic teacher, new media enthusiast and international relations analyst. He has a PhD in Political Science from the Maria Curie-Sklodowska University in Lublin

The Western Paradox A LE X R UB IN

While Western governments criticise human rights violations in Belarus, it seems that the governments themselves as well as Western technology companies are aiding their development. The telecoms sector and online environment represent two key areas in which Western hands are allowing President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to enforce authoritarian rule. The Swedish telecoms company TeliaSonera has played a pivotal role in expanding the regime’s internal surveillance within the country. Through its 38 per cent share of the Turkish operator Turkcell, which in turn has an 80 per cent share of Life (Belarusian Telecom), the Belarusian regime has been able to phone tap, track and trace the calls of anti-regime activists. A particular example pertains to the presidential election protests in December 2010 when the Life network supplied black box surveillance equipment to the country’s security services. This equipment enabled the regime to monitor phone calls between activists, intercept text messages and locate the activists who attended the protests at Independence Square. As a consequence, activists were tracked down, arrested and prosecuted. Iryna Khalip, a notable journalist and critic of the Lukashenka regime, represents one of those activists who was detained by the authorities and later handed a two-year suspended prison sentence. Similarly, Ericsson, the Finnish telecoms company has also helped the regime to increasingly spy on opposition activists. The independent Belarusian new agency BelaPAN reported that the company sold communications equipment to the regime vis-à-vis the run up to and during the 2010 presidential elections. Andrei Sannikov, a 2010 presidential candidate, disclosed that his phone was tapped during the entirety of the presidential election campaign that year. During his trial, the Belarusian authorities reviewed text messages and phone conversations from Sannikov’s mobile phone, which subsequently led to a five-year prison sentence.

Alex Rubin, The Western Paradox

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Alongside the secret role of Western telecom companies in Belarus, Western governments themselves are hindering their own efforts to promote democracy and human rights in the country. Notably, the training of the Belarusian police force by its German counterparts in ICT software products is at the centre of this development. IBM-manufactured software Analyst’s Notebook, used by European police forces to process terrorist information, analyse complex data sets and recognise criminal patterns, represents one of these products that has been used by the Belarusian regime. The Belarusian police force has confirmed that training in Analyst’s Notebook software is used in day-to-day operations against opposition activists within the social networking environment. It is therefore important to distinguish between the words and actions of Western actors. What has become clear, however, is that there is a gulf between the two. If Western governments continue to denounce the actions of the Lukashenka regime, their actions must follow in the same direction. Furthermore, the European Commission must stand up to Western corporations such as Ericsson and TeliaSonera by restricting the sale of surveillance technology that continues to endanger the freedom of speech of individuals within Belarusian society.

Ericsson, the Finnish telecoms company has also helped the Belarusian regime to increasingly spy on opposition activists.

Originally published May 28th 2013 Alex Rubin is a postgraduate at the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies in London. His thesis titled The Internet in the post-Soviet space: a force for opposition activism or a vehicle for regime retrenchment? received the Frank Carter Postgraduate Prize. His research focuses on the internet and anti-regime activism in both Belarus and Russia.

Presenting the Wider Picture A conversation with Halik Kochanski, historian, and author of The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War. Interviewer: J P O’Malley NEW EASTERN EUROPE: What were the reasons for such a weak state developing in the Second Polish Republic between 1921 and 1939? HALIK KOCHANSKI: There were two problems: the first was that foreigners at Versailles established the western frontier and the second was that the Poles and the Soviets fixed the eastern frontier in 1931 after the Polish-Soviet War. These frontiers left Poland with hostile neighbours. The second problem was that Poland had been partitioned for over a century, and the Poles were then attempting to merge three different partitioned territories into one state. They did manage to bring the legal system together and create one currency, but the political system was particularly weak. When you don’t have a country, you tend to dream of what sort of country you want. However, when you are suddenly faced with a reality, it is actually quite a challenge. Where did Poland fit into the Nazis’ ideology in the Second World War? The Nazis’ ideology was to create Lebensraum in the east, which was to be

German. The Poles were to be slaves and therefore they would not need education, but simply needed to know how to obey German orders. The eventual plan was to remove the whole population of Poland and Ukraine and to create a German state that would hold the Soviets back. Here they would create settlements in which the Poles, the Ukrainians and the Belarusians were just expected to die out gradually from hard work and starvation. Were the Jewish ghettos created in Poland by the Nazis systematically planned? The initial part of the plan was to concentrate Jews in one place in each town. In Warsaw, this involved building an enormous ghetto surrounded by a wall. In small towns, it could literally be a matter of taking a few blocks, surrounding them by barbed wire and putting all the Jews there. But the Germans did not have a clear idea between 1939 and 1941 of what they were going to do with the Jews, other than working them, starving them and stealing the wealth that they had.

Presenting the Wider Picture, A conversation with Halik Kochanski

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Photo by Justine Stoddart

Halik Kochanski, author of The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War


Interview At what stage was the Final Solution implemented? My own feeling is that it was in January 1942, at the Wannsee conference. Once the Germans realised they had not succeeded in taking Moscow in 1941, and that the war in the east would be a long one, they started on a plan to clear the area, beginning with the Jews. Starvation as a method was taking too long. It was also emotionally draining on the German soldiers. However much they had been taught to hate the Jews, it is still very disturbing to be surrounded by starving women and children. Psychologically, the Nazi soldiers found it difficult to shoot at people day after day. This is why they eventually started looking for other rapid and secret solutions.   Despite widespread anti-Semitism by the Poles in this period, you maintain that it was a slightly more complicated picture. There certainly does not seem to have been any disturbance felt by the Poles when the Jews were concentrated in the ghettos. In fact, because there was a lot of envy – in what was perceived as Jewish wealth – there was a certain number of Poles who were glad to see Jews working at last. But extermination, if you think about it, is such an unprecedented action: to take thousands of people, every day, by train, in secret, to a camp and kill them. There is a mental jump there that even Jews themselves could not make. Nor could the Poles.  

Presenting the Wider Picture, A conversation with Halik Kochanski

Would it be fair to say the overall balance was in favour of Poles not helping Jews though? Well, it was often a case of how do you give help when you know that you will be killed should you be found hiding a Jew. This was the case in Poland and nowhere else in Europe. The height of the Holocaust of Polish Jews was 1942, the peak of German power, when they the Nazis just getting towards Stalingrad. They were at their most successful. So when you take on the problem of hiding a Jew, it is a question of: for how long? And at that point, it seemed infinite. What was the position of the British Government and the Allies in terms of another massacre during the war: Katyń, where 22,000 Polish officers were massacred in 1940 by the Soviets? It was in 1943 when the British found out about this. In that period, the Soviet Union was doing all the fighting and had just caused the defeat of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad. The British had accepted that the liberation of Poland would come from the hands of the Soviets. Th is was something the Poles never really accepted. So it was a pragmatic and necessary decision at the time, but the extent of the lies and the deception that went on after the war, even during the Cold War, are surprising. You could understand that perhaps the British did not accept that the Soviet Union was an enemy until the Berlin airlift, but afterwards the British could have

Presenting the Wider Picture, A conversation with Halik Kochanski

admitted the Soviet guilt. The problem is: once you start lying, when and how do you stop? Was Poland always going to be the pawn sacrificed to the Soviet Union, in the diplomatic game played out in the Teheran conference in 1943, with Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill? This was the first meeting between Roosevelt and Stalin. And Roosevelt had a very casual attitude towards diplomacy. He did not read his briefs, and he really thought that he could settle diplomatic relations with Stalin in a very personal way. Roosevelt was also keen on going straight through France, launching the second front there. By contrast, Churchill was much keener on fighting through the soft underbelly of Europe. So Churchill was losing ground all the time in that conference. It really was a turning point in the war: where you see the American power, and the Soviet power, pushing Britain into the shade. Of course Churchill did not like it.   Why were both Churchill and Roosevelt – further on in Yalta in 1945, when peace terms for the war became public – so willing to give over Poland to Stalin? I think that Churchill and Roosevelt confused territorial occupation with political dominance. This was something that the Polish government-in-exile had been trying to point out to them: that it

Interview 95 was not just a matter of frontiers, but that it was also about a type of government. The question of frontiers was the one that Roosevelt and Churchill thought would be settled. This was agreed on at Tehran, and confirmed at Yalta. Was the end of the war an anticlimax for the Polish army? Among those who had resisted the Germans, there was very much a sense of anti-climax. In some of the diaries, you can see entries of “1946, the seventh year of the war”: they do not see the fighting as having stopped. The fighting against the Germans may have stopped, but the fight for Poland’s independence continued, and this was why Polish communist forces had to come down so heavily on the other resistance groups that became successors to the Home Army, because the Poles were still fighting for their liberation.   How badly did the Polish army treat German refugees expelled from the eastern borders after the war? You refer to this period in your book as “the wild phase”. The Germans of course have placed great stress on that, because there is a strand of German historiography that likes to show the Germans as victims of Hitler as well. This was blaming the Poles, but it was tit-for-tat really. The Poles had been deported from the western part of Poland that was incorporated into the Reich. So the same happened to the



Presenting the Wider Picture, A conversation with Halik Kochanski

Germans. It was seen as revenge for the way the Poles had been treated. What about those Germans who claimed they did not support Hitler and were also victims in the war? They still have to remember that throughout the war they had adequate food supplies, while the rest of Europe starved. And that the people looking after them, and tending their fields, were usually Polish forced labourers who should they had objected to anything were threatened with concentration camps. Even many German children – whom you might call innocent were clothed through Winterhilfswerk, a relief programme in Germany for the poor. The clothes were taken from Jews at extermination camps, and given to German children. These children may not have been guilty themselves, but they certainly were beneficiaries.  

How did it feel for you personally to write this book, exploring your own family history and Polish roots? I was born in Britain, but my parents both came from Poland to Britain in 1946. They actually met in London. However, I was never brought up with a strong sense of Polishness, which meant I could be very objective writing this book, because I had not been brought up with the Polish myths. Both of my parents are dead so they will never know what I have written in the book. But there are points that challenge even some of their conceptions of the time. Oral history is 100 per cent correct, because it represents one’s views and experiences, but it is also 100 per cent wrong, because it only presents a part of the picture. What I have tried to do in this book is to present the wider picture: to try and show individual people’s experiences and show the terrible decisions they had to make with incomplete information and often insufficient time to consider their actions.

Originally published January 1st 2013 Halik Kochanski is a British historian and writer. Her most recent book The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War is reviewed in New Eastern Europe I (VI) / 2013.

Russians Love Georgia, But They Don’t Love Independent Georgia A conversation with Alexander Rondeli, president of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies. Interviewer: Wojciech Wojtasiewicz WOJCIECH WOJTASIEWICZ: Georgia’s next presidential elections take place on October 27th. How do you see the outcome of these elections? ALEXANDER RONDELI: I think that these elections will bring a new period and a new person to Georgian politics. I think that it will be Giorgi Margvelashvili. He is an intellectual. He is supported by the ruling party and supported personally by Bidzina Ivanishvili, who still has a very large influence on society. But I also think that his will not be an overwhelming victory, as David Bakradze, the candidate of the United National Movement, is also quite a well-known politician, and I think he will get quite a significant number of votes, more than 20 per cent at least. Nino Burjanadze, who has been in the shadows lately, will manage to recover and come back with some political activity.

It is too early to judge what this political activity will be, but she will also get quite a significant number of votes. Do you see any differences between the Georgian Dream cabinet and the previous one? What have been the biggest achievements and defeats (or mistakes) of the current government so far? I think this is a different government. The problems are the same. They have very strong figures in government, good politicians and professionals. I think the speaker of the Parliament, David Usupashvili is a very serious person in Georgian politics. The justice minister, for example, Tea Tsulukiani, is also a very distinctive political figure and she is very popular. There are many good people in this government. Perhaps they have not had enough time yet to show



Russians Love Georgia, But They Don’t Love Independent Georgia, A conversation with Alexander Rondeli

their abilities, especially in the field of the economy and agriculture, as it is still a new government.

their patience. But he is a serious political figure and very controversial one for me.

Do you think Ivanishvili’s future resignation from the post of prime minister is a responsible move? Who will replace him? From a tactical point of view, it does not look very responsible, but from a strategic point of view it may be. Georgia eventually has to learn how to govern itself without strong political figures, without messiahs. Leaders, of course, are necessary, but no one has to dominate the political scene. If we are developing as a democratic society we have to learn how to manage without dominating figures. From this perspective, his decision is wise. I also think that he does not like politics; he does not feel very comfortable.

How do you see the political future of United National Movement? Do they have a chance to return to power? In our system it is really difficult to predict. First, they need to stay in politics, as it is necessary to have an opposition. And they have to adapt to the changing political environment. If they manage to adapt, then why would the not have a chance? A lot depends on how their political rivals develop. If they are very successful, then the United National Movement will not be so successful. But if their rivals fail, they may make a comeback to power. What this shows is that Georgia is becoming more mature in politics; the political culture is developing. It is a different Georgia then we had 20 or even 10 years ago.

What is the political future of outgoing President Mikheil Saakashvili? Is it possible that he will still remain in politics? It is difficult to say because he is a very distinctive political figure. He has achieved a lot for Georgia. At the same time, some people have not always appreciated his energy. It is safe to say that his place in history will be defined and judged after some time. Saakashvili has definitely contributed to Georgia’s nation building. Yet the authoritarian methods used in trying to force major change quickly led to Georgians losing

How do you see the process of the normalisation of Georgian-Russian relations that was launched last year by Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili? Is it possible to have good relations with Russia and at the same time declare a willingness to integrate with NATO? Will the Georgian Dream’s government in the end change the orientation of Georgia’s foreign policy from being pro-Western to pro-Russian? Russia is a very special state, and Poles know them better than anyone else. When we speak about normalisation, what is normal for Georgia is not normal

Russians Love Georgia, But They Don’t Love Independent Georgia, A conversation with Alexander Rondeli

for Russia. Russia wants Georgia to be a satellite. Georgia just wants to be a good neighbour, so we give different meanings to the term normalisation. When Ivanishvili or Georgian politicians talk about normalisation, they understand very well what they are talking about. I think they tried to use positive rhetoric to not to give Russia the possibility of accusing Georgia of arrogance. For Russia, which is a dying empire, respect is still very important; Russia wants to be respected. It wants to be counted as one of the world’s super powers. And when their small neighbour behaves as if Russia does not exist, it is absolutely unacceptable to them. At the same time, Georgians cannot become victims of Russian imperial paranoia. So one has to find a certain modus vivendi, but it is very difficult with a country that looks at Georgia’s independence with sarcasm and believes that it belong to Russia. Russians love their Georgia, but they do not love an independent Georgia. So it is very difficult to be normal with Russia. I like that the new Georgian leadership tries to use friendly language with Russia, but what will the result be? I do not think Russia is changing qualitatively too much. It is becoming weaker, but the nature of Russian politics is the same. What is better for Georgia: integration with the European Union or the Eurasian Union?

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There is no doubt that integration with Europe is the future for Georgia. At least the Georgian elites understand this very well. Ivanishvili’s answer is quite good: he says if it is in Georgia’s interest, we will then think about it. But we know what is in Georgia’s interest, and it is very easy to define. So our choice is made already. Our national interest is to become a modern, democratic, inclusive nation and democratic state. This is not only a strategic imperative for Georgia; it is also our survival that is at stake. Going back under Russian control would make Georgia weak. Do you think that Georgia will one day become the member of the European Union? Every soldier who goes to war wants to be a marshal. Our values and our inspiration are why we want to be part of Europe. And we will eventually get there. No doubt about it. Europe is now in trouble. But every political union and every system has its ups and downs. So now Europe is more internally focused, but it has to develop strategically, politically and militarily. Georgia is a borderland; the south Caucasus is a borderland. Europe is interested in having modern and democratic states. So we hope that if we behave well, everything will work out well, but this takes time. If we look beyond the region, how has the situation in Syria influenced



Russians Love Georgia, But They Don’t Love Independent Georgia, A conversation with Alexander Rondeli

the south Caucasus and particularly Georgia? First of all, the situation in Syria from the point of view of human suffering is black-and-white. This has to be stopped. From the point of view of the political situation, it is not so clear-cut, because no one is sure what will happen if Bashar al-Assad is removed. It is difficult to judge. I am not an expert on Syria, but this uncertainty and this unwillingness to make decisive steps shows that the main powers of the world are not sure about the positive results of any intervention. Georgia is part of Europe and we feel that we belong to the European political and economic space. But at the same time, we border with the Greater Middle East. If you go from Tbilisi to Syria by car, our border to the border of Syria is only 1,200 kilometres. Tbilisi to Teheran is also 1,200 kilometres. Tbilisi to Ankara is almost 1,000 kilometres by car. We are very sensitive to everything that is going on in our region. And what is happening in Syria also has an effect here. Despite the frequent visits of Georgian politicians to Poland, and Polish politicians to Georgia, Polish-

Georgian trade stills remain quite low. How do you see Polish-Georgian relations? Th is is due to Georgia’s economic weakness. Georgia was part of the Soviet system. And Georgia is now trying to reshape and redefine its economic capabilities and specialisation, trying to find a comfortable place in the international system. It is not easy for a small country. I think that our mutual trade will grow because we make many things that you need, and we buy Polish products with sympathy as our economies and politics are interwoven. Traditionally, Georgians are very positive towards Poles. Poles also look at Georgians positively. Polish tourists come to Georgia and I feel their sympathy. I think that our relationship will develop even more; we are strategically interested in each other’s strength and stability, as the threats coming to our countries have the same sources. And historically we have had a large Polish colony in Georgia with progressive Poles who fought for their independence in the 19th century; they have contributed a lot to the development of Georgia.

Originally published August 10th 2013 Alexander Rondeli is the president of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies.

Wojciech Wojtasiewicz is a PhD student at the Institute of Political Science and International Relations at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. He is a member of the Association “Bridge to Georgia” and the Institute of Eastern Initiatives.

Prisoner in the Urals A conversation with Pyotr Verzilov, a Russian-Canadian artist and activist and the unofficial spokesperson of the band Pussy Riot. Interviewer: Ola Cichowlas OLA CICHOWLAS: Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina (Masha) proclaimed the end of her 11-day hunger strike in June. It is being said that she has “defeated the Russian prison system”. What exactly does this mean? PYOTR VERZILOV: The main ideas behind the Russian prison system – the philosophy and the way the prison authorities think at all levels – are to never give in to the demands of prisoners. And when this does happen, it is always a big failure for them. So they look for every way possible not to give in to their demands; the prisoner has to be in a non-dignified position. If you demand something, you do not have the right to get it. But, in this case, it happened. Masha put forward a set of demands, and on the 12th day they were suddenly met. They were met in a very grotesque way – the prison authorities gave her a special tour around the prison – during the course of which they demonstrated all the ways in which they were met. This is very absurd. So in our imagination, there was some sort of a political decision made in Moscow.

What exactly were the demands? First of all, she demanded the removal of padlocks, which were placed where the women live. They really made the regime much tighter. For example, when the women went to work, when they wanted to go to the prison pharmacy, they had to sometimes wait up to two or three hours. The placement of these padlocks was awkwardly timed in sync with Masha’s parole hearings and the demands she made in court. Her initial demands when she began the hunger strike consisted of her receiving the right to personal presence in court, which was denied. When the court session ended, she diverted her attention to these strict prison rules which were put in place suddenly and were not there before. Secondly, the movement of the women was really restricted, and they had to be supervised by special prison officials wherever they went. Masha always had a special security person who was constantly following and monitoring her every movement. She also had some small demands with regards to movement between the prison blocks.


Interview So the demands also affected other prisoners? Masha does not really care that much about these rules. Obviously, her position is really special and she would never normally be placed in a situation where she would have to wait two hours to go to bed. But these rules were introduced so that other women would see that the various aggressive public movements, the loud court hearings and the other things that Masha does all have a negative influence on them. The prison authorities used this usual tactic: when they want to make someone’s situation worse, they influence the other prisoners who in return act negatively towards that person. So she was actually fighting for the others. How does she spend her free time? Masha had absolutely no free time when she was in the so-called obshiy otryad (common room). You work and when you return you are living with 60 women and have some chores to do, you can wash and then it is time for bed. But when she was moved to the hospital, she had time to read, think and write. She read Aristophanes and some books on political theory. How did Masha react to Paul McCartney’s letter to the Russian authorities in support of Pussy Riot when she started her hunger strike? It was great that there was support. She realised that this gets a lot of coverage. And it was obviously great that Paul

Prisoner in the Urals, A conversation with Pyotr Verzilov

McCartney mentioned the city of Berezniki, where Masha is being held, and the number of her prison cell – VK28 – and other small details in his letter. Masha reacted very well to this. There have been a lot of studies on how the reform of the Russian legal system has been consistently put off since the Yeltsin years. How dysfunctional is the Russian judicial system? It is extremely dysfunctional, although it is also sometimes surprising. For example, I managed to win a court case against Masha’s prison in order to be able to engage with her inside the prison. I have special papers commissioned to me by a human rights organisation, which according to Russian law gives me the right to offer legal help to prisoners – to people who have been convicted – and to visit them in the same conditions as lawyers visit them. However, I was denied this. So I went to court and a Moscow judge said that it was illegal not to give me the right to engage with Masha. After that, I came back here with this court decision. So, in some cases, the system does work. However, every judicial system is tested in its most important cases. There is a huge number of cases in which there is direct political involvement on the various levels, and obviously nobody doubts that Russian courts are very well controlled. They are centralised and are not controlled well by the regional authorities, although

Prisoner in the Urals, A conversation with Pyotr Verzilov

Photo: putnik (CC)

Pyotr Verzilov, husband of Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and unofficial spokesperson of the band.

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Interview the federal authorities very effectively govern them. One of the policies of Vladislav Surkov (the Kremlin’s former main ideologist – editor’s note) was that working bodies in the presidential administration handpicked the judges in every Russian region so that they would have smooth control of the judiciary across the country. Where does that leave the role of lawyers, and what is their role in cases that are effectively controlled from the top? You have to put up a very absurd legal fight. Your goal is to not just make public statements but to embarrass the judiciary as much as you can in legal terms; so, basically, the purpose is to underline the illegal nature of the decision. Thus, the work of a lawyer becomes even more important than it would be in a system with functioning courts. In a system with functioning courts you can hope that the judge will decide, no matter how professional the lawyer is. By contrast, in Russia you have to depend on the professionalism of the lawyer to pinpoint the illegal nature of the decision. Do many people in Russia support Moscow’s decision to jail Pussy Riot? Many people I have talked to have mixed feelings. The people I talked to in Berezniki, where there are people who witness the police escorts around the court and the city, and those who work inside the prisons, say that what Pussy

Prisoner in the Urals, A conversation with Pyotr Verzilov

Riot did was not right, but neither was jailing them. That is the most popular opinion I usually confront. And the recent Levada Center poll has said that currently, nine months after the conviction, more Russians are against the prison conviction than for it. There is a general feeling in Russia that if you are pro-Pussy Riot, then you are against the Russian Orthodox Church. What is your feeling on the Orthodox Church and its relationship with the Kremlin? It is just a formal body inside Russia’s power-line system, which has goals, tactics and methods that are definitely settled by the Kremlin. So I do not see the Orthodox Church as an independent spiritual body or something like that. It is essentially a propaganda ministry for Putin. Do you think that this disillusions ordinary Russians? I do not think that people really care, because the political choices that Patriarch Kirill makes at the top in Moscow are not really felt in congregations around the country. How often do you speak to your wife? I speak to her every two days. But I only see her once every two or three months. However, Nadia’s prison in Mordovia has the feeling of a KGB prison, whereas Masha’s prison is just your average Russian prison. In a KGB-style

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Prisoner in the Urals, A conversation with Pyotr Verzilov

prison, they look at you with a slight smile. There were three infamous political cases in this prison in the last 10 years: those of Svetlana Bakhmina, the former Yukos lawyer; Evgenia Khasis, who was an accomplice in the shooting of the journalist Anastasia Babulova; and the Pussy Riot case. All three cases were sent to the IK-14 penal colony in Mordovia. Nadia received a bit more attention than the rest of the girls, so they chose this particular prison for her. What do you think will happen when the members of Pussy Riot leave prison? It is hard to say. Although they have eight and half months until March 2014 (when Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina are due to be released – editor’s note), it is difficult to tell what will happen. Russian politics changes by the month. A year ago, before the May 6th riots in Moscow, internal politics and law enforcement politics were very

different. The position of the opposition was different. So, things do change. The girls get a lot of information inside prison: phone calls, newspapers and letters. They have prison email accounts, so they are up to date. How much does your daughter know about the situation? She knows everything. She tells the other children in kindergarten that Vladimir Putin has sent Nadia to prison and that she is in a special castle far away. Russia’s political system and law enforcement system is very understandable for children, because it is fairy-tale based. It lacks the complications of a mature legal system. So you have this bad Putin who jails people who do not like him. Children watch cartoons – especially Russian or Soviet cartoons, but also Disney cartoons – which always have a story about an evil king who imprisons people in a castle, and it is exactly like that.

Originally published July 16th 2013 Pyotr Verzilov is a Russian-Canadian artist and activist who came to wider prominence as the unofficial spokesperson of the band Pussy Riot when they were arrested and jailed by the Russian state in 2012. Verzilov is married to Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.

Ola Cichowlas is a British-Polish freelance journalist living between London, Warsaw and Perm. She covers Russian regional politics and the arts in provincial Russia.

The Early Years of an Unknown Albanian Patriot E VE LYNE N O YG U E S

Crucial to the ignition of the Albanian cause for independence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was the raising of national self-consciousness through literature and language education. In this regard, it is important to examine the life of the overlooked Albanian patriot, statesman and intellectual Jashar Sadik Erebara. In 1912, the Albanian nation became a fully-fledged member of the international community, although it had been contested by its neighbours as well as by the major powers. After much discussion, the independence of Albania was recognised internationally by the Conference of Ambassadors, which took place in London from December 1912 to July 1913, launching a new age for the Albanian nation. The communities of the Albanian diaspora and national elites that were dispersed all over different countries within and outside the borders of the Ottoman Empire played a key role by supporting the national movement and committing themselves to identity building. In many countries of the Balkans, the process of nation building was pursued through the efforts of educated persons, who, more or less isolated, operated in an environment that was not always favourable to them. Among those personalities one worth mentioning is the unknown Albanian patriot Jashar Sadik Erebara (1875-1953), a journalist, Albanian language teacher, civil servant, founding member of various patriotic societies and deputy in the Albanian Parliament from 1924 to 1939. However, in spite of his playing so many prominent roles, little literature has been published about Erebara’s life.

The Albanian question appeared on the international stage in the context of the signing of the Treaty of San Stefano in 1878.

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Evelyne Noygues, The Early Years of an Unknown Albanian Patriot

The early years of a patriot It seems that Jashar S. Erebara’s years of training were particularly formative. Although he is not a well-known figure, he was a significant protagonist of the era of the constitution of a state and the birth of national awareness. His life offers numerous insights on the formation of a new cultural legitimacy that allowed the process of identity formation as a creative principle of modernity. Jashar S.Erebara was born in early 1875. According to many sources, he was born in Mostar, Herzegovina, where he spent the early years of his childhood. Erebara came from a modest but educated social background; his parents were natives of Podujevo, Kosovo, and moved to Mostar because of his father’s employment. Jashar’s father was a civil servant of the Ottoman Empire who ascended from being an ordinary worker to having responsibility for a post office with a telegraph, as Jashar would later relate in several letters. The Albanian question appeared on the international stage in the context of the signing of the Treaty of San Stefano on March 3rd 1878, by which Russia imposed important transfers of territories, and notably the creation of a Bulgaria independent from the Ottoman Empire, which, for the Albanian nation in particular, implied a territorial question. The Ottoman Empire was made up of many provinces inhabited by Albanians that were granted to newly independent states: Sanjak of Pristina in Serbia, the regions of Ulqin and Hoti in Montenegro and the regions of Korça, Pogradec and Dibra, as well as Bulgaria. The final act of this treaty recognised the independence of Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, whose territories were expanded. After the Russo-Turkish War in 1878, Serbia became independent and conquered the city of Mostar, which had previously been part of the Ottoman Empire. The non-Serb segment of the population found itself in a difficult situation, both from a political and social point of view, and thus a large part of the population had to move, as did the Sadik family. Fleeing war, the family of the young Jashar settled in Dibra in the territory of present-day Macedonia, first seeking refuge in the Bajram Bey mosque, and was then hosted by the wealthy and prominent family of Sejfulla Erebara. At the age of six or seven, the young Jashar entered the Turkish system of elementary schools in Dibra and later secondary schools in Manastir, Bitola, which welcomed pupils training to become civil servants. The teaching there was conducted in Turkish and would be particularly profitable to the young Jashar

In the late 19th century, Bucharest was one of the most important centres of the Albanian diaspora outside the Ottoman Empire.



Evelyne Noygues, The Early Years of an Unknown Albanian Patriot

in 1912 when, after having worked in the press as a journalist, he would apply his knowledge and experience in assisting the nascent Albanian state. After his studies in Serbian and Turkish, Jashar still had a poor command of the Albanian language, which he only spoke at home. He received the chance to strengthen his knowledge of Albanian under the supervision of a militant of the nationalist movement, Saïd Najdeni, who taught him how to read and write in Albanian, notably thanks to manuals published by the diaspora in Bucharest. From those school textbooks the young Jashar at the same time familiarised himself with the ideas supported by the national movement. Significantly, one of the first demands made by a patriotic movement such as the Albanian one in the declining Ottoman Empire was the right to official education in the national language in schools. Ashar’s parents died when he was 10. The head of the Erebara family, who had welcomed his family, adopted him and from that moment on Jashar officially adopted the surname Erebara. The intellectual and patriotic training of Jashar In the last quarter of the 19th century, the patriotic message irradiated from the few educated Albanian environments in the south and north of current Albania, the diaspora settled within and outside the Ottoman Empire and, above all, from the community established in Istanbul. The Albanians’ national self-assertiveness benefitted from the awareness of intellectuals who had acquired experience abroad. They undertook the task of teaching the less educated sections of the population by relying on the Albanian diaspora. Jashar Erebara continued his secondary school studies in Bitola, which today is in Manastir in present-day Macedonia. Within a circle attended by Albanian patriots, he met Qerasim Qiriazi, a future teacher and publicist who recommended him to Sami Frashëri, one of the most prominent Albanian intellectuals of the 19th century. Jashar met him during a short stay in Istanbul, one of the most active political and cultural centres of the diaspora, which he headed with Beqir Plangarica. Back in Dibra, after having completed his secondary education, Jashar became friends with Dervish Hima, who would greatly influence the formation of his patriotic consciousness. Both belonged to Albanian circles and tried to disseminate the ideas of the patriotic movement in the town. Jashar and Dervish had to exile themselves because of an arrest warrant given by the Ottoman authorities. Their journey led them to Tirana and Durrës through Elbasan. In 1893, when they were both 20 years old, they met Nikolla Naço, who

Evelyne Noygues, The Early Years of an Unknown Albanian Patriot

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succeeded in convincing a handful of already educated young people to join an institute in Bucharest, which would become the first regular Albanian school, in Durrës. Jashar S.Erebara joined this institute in the Campo Lungo district of Bucharest, which welcomed a fairly large number of young intellectuals whom the patriotic societies devoted to the teaching of the Albanian language. During that period, the Albanians were still far from being politically united, yet they understood national awareness. It matured progressively thanks to the solidarity that fi rst existed across the territory of the Albanian population. Indeed, the assertion of this national identity was associated with an important linguistic work, a literary production, which was intended to polish and promote the language, leading to the creation of associations. Gaining national awareness in exile In agreement with the patriotic society of Istanbul, Erebara perfected his knowledge of the Albanian language between 1893 and 1895, together with many prominent future Albanian politicians, writers and heroes of the Rilindja Movement (the Albanian National Revival movement) such as Mihal Grameno, Aleks Stavre Drenova (known as Asdreni), Jani Lehova, Kristo Luarasi and many others. The Romanian capital was at that time one of the most important centres of the Albanian diaspora outside the Ottoman Empire, a crucial city for the dissemination of the thought and political and cultural activity of Albanian civil society. As the Ottoman government forbade the opening of Albanian schools between 1887 and 1892, it also banned those who openly expressed a patriotic Albanian sentiment from returning to Albania. The road back home was thus closed to the young Jashar as it was for many of his colleagues. During the 10 years Jashar S.Erebara stayed in Bucharest, he remained in contact with many prominent people. In his publication on teaching in Macedonia between 1830 and 1912, Dr. Neshat Abazi noticed that Jashar S.Erebara was “a compatriot, colleague and close friend of Josif Bageri, Said Najdeni, Dervish Hima, Dr. Ibrahim Temo, Hamdi Ohri, Kristo Dako, Asdreni and many others who during the last two decades of the Rilindja movement greatly contributed to paving the way towards freedom and national independence in the fields of education, the sciences, literature, the press and many others”. There was a long exile ahead of Erebara: he would see his country again only 20 years later in 1912. Among the 10 young Albanians who were trained in this establishment in Bucharest, some chose to stay and settle down, while others left for Sofia or dispersed throughout the Balkans. As for Jashar, he would live for



Evelyne Noygues, The Early Years of an Unknown Albanian Patriot

almost 10 years in Romania, where he would write in the Romanian language for newspapers such as Avdeni, Dropetul and even Lassa, as well as in Albanian for the publications of a number of patriotic societies. Once mature, Erebara continued his activity as a journalist and then as a media entrepreneur between 1895 and 1912, mostly in Belgrade and Skopje. After the declaration of the independence of the young Albanian state, Erebara became a civil servant and then a deputy in the Albanian Parliament between 1924 and 1939. Having fallen into disgrace during the middle of the 1940s under the communist dictatorship established at the same time in Albania, he died destitute and forgotten in Tirana in 1953. The question of the “National (Re)births” of different peoples who make up the Balkan Peninsula has marked its history. As for Erebara, the “isolated intellectual” is a recurrent Balkan figure created by a group of Balkan “Don Quixotes” who served the independence of nascent nations through their substantive work, the transmission of new ideas and the instruction of a language to many.

Translated by Lana Ravel Originally published August 7th 2013. This article was submitted to New Eastern Europe for a competition organised in collaboration with the Russian department of the University Rennes 2 in France, and is dedicated to students from French universities who have a passion for Central and Eastern Europe. This piece was selected among the best five sent to New Eastern Europe’s editorial team.

Evelyne Noygues is a PhD student at the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations in Rares, Paris.

Margaret Thatcher and the Collapse of Communism FILIP M A ZUR C Z A K

Margaret Thatcher, one of the great political figures of post-war Europe, died at age 87. Thatcher’s accomplishments are significant, especially her revitalisation of the British economy following the disappointing 1970s. However, Margaret Thatcher’s role in the collapse of communism was much more modest than many have exaggerated. In assessing the true role that Thatcher played in the collapse of communism a helpful starting point is The Cold War: A New History, written by Yale University’s John Lewis Gaddis, arguably the greatest living historian of the Cold War. Gaddis identifies six “saboteurs of the status quo” most responsible for the end of the Cold War: Pope John Paul II, Lech Wałęsa, Deng Xiaoping, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Of these six individuals, Thatcher and Deng Xiaoping arguably have the most modest role in the end of communism. Lewis essentially limits their role to reigniting the world’s faith in the superiority of laissez-faire capitalism over the planned economy in the economic crisis-hit 1980s. Grossly exaggerated The British journalist John O’Sullivan – himself a former speechwriter for Thatcher – went a step further, writing a book titled The President, the Pope and the Prime Minister: Three Who Changed the World. According to Sullivan’s book – whose bibliography mostly consists of secondary notes and, at least in regards to its discussion of Poland, contains some factual errors – Margaret Thatcher is one of the three individuals most influential in the end of communism. O’Sullivan’s



Filip Mazurczak, Margaret Thatcher and the Collapse of Communism

book typifies much of the Cold War literature that grossly exaggerates Thatcher’s role in ending communism. Thatcher’s relationship with Solidarity was quite ambiguous. In January 1982, right after the imposition of martial law in Poland, the United States Information Agency produced a television special for American viewers entitled Let Poland Be Poland. Hosted by Charlton Heston, the film features uplifting words of support for the Polish nation from celebrities as diverse as Frank Sinatra and Orson Welles. Margaret Thatcher also makes an appearance in the programme, claiming that many in Britain admire the bravery of the Polish fighter pilots who fought in the Royal Air Force during the second world war, and that the Poles’ defiance of totalitarianism again impresses many Britons. Another gesture of support for Poland was Thatcher’s visit to Gdańsk, the cradle of Solidarity, in 1988. She had rejected General Wojciech Jaruzelski’s invitation three years earlier, and insisted that she would once again decline to visit Poland if she could not meet with the head of Solidarity Lech Wałęsa and Cardinal Józef Glemp, the leader of the Catholic Church in the country. During the visit, Lady Thatcher laid flowers at Westerplatte, the site where the first shots of the Second World War were fired. Despite these sympathetic gestures, Thatcher herself was sceptically disposed towards Solidarity. Recently declassified archives discussed at length in Germany’s Der Spiegel reveal that, based on the notes of West German diplomats, Thatcher herself distrusted Solidarity and Lech Wałęsa. Specifically, she feared that Solidarity’s demands as a labour union would radicalise Polish society and lead to Soviet intervention. Whereas the United States directly helped fund Solidarity through the CIA, Thatcher’s foreign minister, Peter Carrington, claimed that Britain would not directly support Solidarity and its aid to Poland would be limited to kind words. Thus, Margaret Thatcher opposed the Reagan White House’s imposition of sanctions against General Jaruzelski’s Poland in the 1980s. This fact should be somewhat surprising to the many Polish politicians and journalists who in the past few days have been repeating that they owe their freedom in large part to Margaret Thatcher. Also, it is worth noting that Thatcher vociferously opposed the reunification of Germany, a symbol of the reunification of Europe after 1989 to many, fearing that it would lead to an aggressive rearmed German state. In this regard it is surprising that so many in the media regard Margaret Thatcher and not Helmut Kohl, as one of the figures most responsible for the unification of Europe.

Recently declassified archives reveal that Thatcher herself distrusted Solidarity and Lech Wałęsa.

Filip Mazurczak, Margaret Thatcher and the Collapse of Communism

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Closest ally It is undeniable that Ronald Reagan’s presidency played a key role in exposing the weaknesses of the Soviet Union and posing a formidable threat to Moscow. The building up of the United States’ military, the support of dissidents behind the Iron Curtain, the rejection of détente, the fighting of communism in the Western Hemisphere and the realisation that Marxism-Leninism is an immoral ideology were all potent anti-Soviet weapons of Reagan’s foreign policy arsenal. Granted, Washington’s anti-communism sometimes had a dark side, such as its support of El Salvador’s brutal junta in the 1980s (although to be fair, the Reagan administration did push democracy promotion in US-backed military dictatorships such as the Philippines and Chile), but overall it aided the liberation of many oppressed nations. With regards to Reagan, it is traditionally believed that Margaret Thatcher was his closest ally. Indeed, the British prime minister and the American president enjoyed a close friendship and had great respect for each other. Both had a similar economic philosophy that was influenced by the Austrian and Chicago schools of economics. In reality, Reagan and Thatcher had strong disagreements on Cold War policy. Their political alliance can best be understood by the title of Richard Aldous’ illuminating book, Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship. In 1983, the United States sent in Marines to end a pro-communist coup d’état in the tiny Caribbean nation of Grenada. Margaret Thatcher strongly opposed the American invasion of a nation that was an ally of Cuba, North Korea and the Soviet Union in the Cold War, giving him an angry phone call to express her disapproval. Since then, Thatcher never fully trusted Reagan again. Additionally, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher profoundly disagreed on nuclear weapons. The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which Reagan’s opponents jokingly called “Star Wars”, was Reagan’s ambitious effort to protect the United States from nuclear attack by creating anti-missile technology as opposed to continuing the nightmarish Cold War strategy of “Mutually Assured Destruction” between the US and USSR. Likewise, Reagan was committed to the principle of bilateral nuclear disarmament. On the way to the summit in Reykjavik with Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan was ready to agree to bilateral negotiations between the two superpowers to rid the world of nuclear weapons for good. However, Thatcher’s strong protest ultimately led to Reagan’s abandonment of these intentions. Finally, Thatcher did not quite share Reagan’s concerns about Europe’s energy dependence on the Soviet Union. In the 1980s, Reagan strongly opposed the Soviet

Thatcher vociferously opposed the reunification of Germany fearing it would lead to an aggressive, rearmed German state.



Filip Mazurczak, Margaret Thatcher and the Collapse of Communism

Union’s building of a gas pipeline to continental Europe and, in fact, threatened to impose sanctions on British companies participating in the project. This reaction provoked a strong rebuke from Margaret Thatcher. If the dependence of today’s Eastern Europe on Russian natural gas has profound political implications, during the Cold War it could have led to a victory for the Soviets. Margaret Thatcher’s place in history is, however, secure. Having inherited a rapidly deteriorating British economy, her economic reforms related to deregulation and the downscaling of the welfare state quickly brought her country back to prosperity. At a time when Europe’s economy is in free fall, the most successful EU economies are in the Baltic states, whose leaders openly acknowledge their deep debt to the ideas of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman. Today, so many politicians in the West are partisan sycophants who lack principles, and one can only miss how Thatcher tenaciously held to her values even when her own cabinet was in disagreement with her. Yet while Thatcher did give moral support to the opponents of Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe, to credit her as one of the architect’s of communism’s fall is exaggerated.

Reagan and Thatcher had strong disagreements on Cold War policy.

Originally published April 10th 2013

Filip Mazurczak studied history and Spanish literature at Creighton University and international relations at The George Washington University. He has interned at The United States Congress and The American Enterprise Institute, and his articles have appeared in publications such as First Things, Tygodnik Powszechny and Katolicki Miesięcznik “LIST”.

New Discrimination: A dangerous shift for Hungary’s Roma LILI B AYER

Roma communities throughout Eastern Europe experience discrimination every day from the lack of quality healthcare to de facto segregation in many schools. This summer, events in the town of Ózd in northern Hungary raised the spectre of a new, dangerous form of direct discrimination against the struggling local community. Once flourishing due to the metallurgic industry, Ózd is located in a depressed area afflicted by a high unemployment rate. Although officially only seven per cent of Ózd’s residents have declared themselves to be of Roma ethnicity, according to some estimates one-third of Ózd’s population may have Roma origins. In early August, the city council in Ózd shut off the 27 water pumps, which supply free, safe drinking water to the town. According to the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), 500 families in the area do not have running water in their homes and thus rely on the public water pumps. The city council’s decision directly targeted the town’s Roma community, which makes up the majority of those who cannot afford to have water in their homes. Although pressure from NGOs and international institutions ultimately forced Ózd to restore the free water pumps, the town’s ethnically motivated decision to completely terminate a public service crucial to the Roma community marks a turning point in the form and level of overt discrimination against the town’s Roma minority. In the past, discrimination against the Roma community in Ózd had been widespread, but nearly always masked. Like in many other villages and towns


New Voices

Lili Bayer, New Discrimination: A dangerous shift for Hungary’s Roma

throughout Eastern Europe, dozens of Roma families were evicted from their homes in Ózd in the late 1990s and early 2000s for either failure to pay bills or simply because the town council wished to “remodel” and bring new, non-Roma residents to their neighbourhoods. In the mid-2000s, one study found that Ózd’s emergency ambulance service tended to arrive later – or not arrive at all – when Roma families called for assistance. Despite the ethnic prejudice that has contributed to the evictions and the unreliability of emergency services, the discrimination manifested itself indirectly, broadly in the ways in which the town and individual bureaucrats chose to target Roma residents. When Ózd’s city council shut off the public water pumps in August, however, Ózd’s longtime indirect discrimination was replaced by direct and officially sponsored racism. While previous discriminatory practices are perhaps equally harmful to the wellbeing of the Roma, in the past authorities in Ózd had only engaged in small-scale racism – one missed ambulance, one apartment complex at a time – that could be easily disguised. This summer, the city council, which includes representatives from both the ruling conservative Fidesz party and the opposition Socialist Party, felt empowered to publicly and directly target the town’s most vulnerable population. The city council’s decision to shut off the public water supply results partly from the growth of Hungary’s far right and from a growing toleration for racist public discourse in Hungarian society in recent years. The Fidesz government, while repeatedly attempting to defend its human rights record internationally, has done little to respond to racism domestically, even within its own party. As a result, discrimination is beginning to evolve from an informal and indirect practice into a potential public policy. On the other hand, open and directly racist practices, especially at the local level, are not unique to Hungary. Recently, authorities in Košice, Slovakia, have come under fire for tolerating the existence of a wall separating the town’s Roma community from the rest of the population. Local officials in places such as Ózd and Košice are becoming bolder and more assertive in publicly expressing their prejudices and implementing policies that visibly disadvantage the Roma. Ultimately, these policies are designed to appeal to local constituencies that hold racist views. The latest European Commission poll found that only 9 per cent of Slovaks, 11 per cent of Czechs, 23 per cent of Hungarians and 47 per cent of Poles would feel “comfortable” about their children having Roma schoolmates.

In the past, discrimination against the Roma community in Ózd had been widespread, but nearly always masked.

Lili Bayer, New Discrimination: A dangerous shift for Hungary’s Roma

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While it is unclear whether political factors, economic hardships or both are contributing to the persistence of these levels of prejudice throughout the region, as long as public opinion continues to hold such negative perceptions of their Roma neighbours there will likely be more and more alarming cases similar to that which took place in Ózd. Informal and indirect discrimination, which has contributed to the deterioration of the standard of living of the Roma since the transitions to democracy, will give way to more direct, officially-sponsored forms of discrimination, whether in the form of denying access to public services or formal attempts at marginalising Roma communities. Unless public attitudes change, Ózd’s public water pumps may stop working again.

Local officials in places such as Ózd and Košice are becoming bolder and more assertive in publicly expressing their prejudices.

Originally published September 25th 2013 Lili Bayer studied Russian and East European Studies at the University of Oxford. She is a contributing editor to, and a contributor to Vostok Cable.

The Geopolitics of Missile Defence in Poland A LE X J A H O LKO W S K I

Given Poland’s emerging role as a significant European power, its commitment to NATO’s values as well as its growing defence budget and its need for security against an increasingly menacing Russia, the Obama administration’s decision to pull out of missile defence in Poland is a disappointment. By fate, Poland has always found itself in a geopolitical quagmire forcing the Polish nation to struggle to maintain its own sovereign state, and at the worst of times fight to keep its own nation alive. It comes as no surprise that prominent historian Norman Davies decided to title his book regarding Polish history God’s Playground. The pivotal location of Poland on the map of Europe has made it another point of interest for yet another recent geopolitical play: missile defence. The discourse over missile defence has gained momentum in recent years due to the increasing proliferation of nuclear weapons and the technology to launch them, as well as the legitimate threat of the acquisition of nuclear weapons by non-state actors. Some of the criticism directed towards missile defence addresses the technical ineffectiveness of these missile defence systems, the excessive costs, the threat of an arms race or even entirely the erasing of the value of a deterrence strategy based on Mutually Assured Destruction, which successfully kept the Soviet Union and the United States from completely annihilating one another through nuclear warheads during the Cold War. What the US wants There is also much controversy surrounding missile defence in Poland and the contention between the main two actors involved – Poland and the United States – as well as significant third parties such as the European Union, NATO

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Alex Jaholkowski, The Geopolitics of Missile Defence in Poland

and Russia. This year’s announcement of the US Administration’s cancellation of Phase 4 of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), which would include long-range missile interceptors based in Poland, and the Polish government’s more recent ratification to secure 33.6 billion euros to fund its own middle-range Missile Defence System (MDS), have raised concerns and made the topic relevant again. The major investor in Poland’s missile defence system (MDS) is the US. The system in Poland would be part of the bigger MDS throughout Europe, the so-called European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), and would consist of middle-range missile interceptors to be deployed in 2018 in the Polish town of Redzikowo, near the Baltic coast. Phase 4 was supposed to consist of long-range missile interceptors to be deployed by 2023, which would also protect the US homeland, but was scrapped by the current US administration this year. The US justification for the EPAA is the threat of missiles that may be launched from the Middle East, namely Iran, which is predicted to have the capabilities to launch an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile by 2015 that could potentially hit NATO allies and its troops stationed throughout Europe. Poland was chosen to be the host of Phase 3 and 4 due to its supposed ideal location to intercept these middle and long-range missiles. Now, it seems, the US is looking for ways to back out of the agreements made by the previous administration.

For Poland, missile defence is less about Iran and more about the permanent presence of a strong ally on its soil contributing to its security.

What Poland wants Poland has dealt with many obstacles hindering what it sees as a critical part of its national security and self-preservation. First of all, the missile defence project involves the permanent presence of a foreign superpower (in this case, for the first time, an ally) only 20 years after the Soviet troops left the country. Poland’s history of foreign occupation and the existence of Red Army military bases in the past have brought about caution and suspicion among many Poles, resulting in mixed views among the population regarding the deployment of major military installation on its soil. Secondly, many Poles worry that their homeland will become a new target for state adversaries and terrorist organisations that regard the US MDS as a threat. Thirdly, when initial bilateral negotiations of the placement of a US MDS between US President George W. Bush and former Polish President Lech Kaczyński in 2006 started, Poland enthusiastically jumped into negotiations with full confidence despite the many harsh criticisms of its EU partners.


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Alex Jaholkowski, The Geopolitics of Missile Defence in Poland

Photo: Lawree Roscoe Washington Jr (CC)

A US patriot missile system in Morag Poland in 2010. Poland was let down by the Obama decision to scrap the original missile defence system that was supposed to be established in 2013.

On top of this, Poland has become a target of belligerent rhetoric coming from the Kremlin in response to the United States’ placing a missile defence system in Poland. Thus, one might ask why Poland’s political elites have enthusiastically offered their territory for a US MDS despite the domestic split on the issue, harsh criticisms from its EU partners, multiple reversals of US plans on the MDS in Poland and threats of nuclear annihilation from Russia. What Poland sees is less of a threat from Iran and more of the permanent presence of a strong ally on its soil contributing as more to its security. It also wants to be seen as a relevant and credible member of NATO contributing to its overall security and defence while improving its own geopolitical standing. Polish missile defence After Poland’s steadfast commitment and the time it dedicated to a US MDS, Poland was let down by Obama’s administration. On September 17th 2009 – the infamous 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland in the Second World War, which is still very much alive in the Polish narrative – the newly elected president, with little sensitivity to Poland’s past, scrapped the original MDS that

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Alex Jaholkowski, The Geopolitics of Missile Defence in Poland

was supposed to be established in 2013 and created a new plan leaving the Poles to dry for another five years. Such a diplomatic blunder made by the US administration on this significant date betrayed a disregard for the goals and hopes of Central Europeans seeking additional security outside of NATO’s Article 5. This announcement, combined with the Obama administration’s proclamation of the “reset” of the relations with Russia, created a wave of negative sentiment towards the US among Poles fearful of a sell-out. Poland once again tried to remain positive about these developments, yet was once again let down when Obama scrapped Phase 4 due to budget constraints. Many Poles once again viewed this as an appeasement to Russian demands by the US at the expense of their NATO ally. Obama’s infamous “After my election, I will have more flexibility” gaffe, with respect to Russian Prime Minister Medvedev, did not help, either. Unfortunately, Poland can only wait and see if the US remains “iron-clad” in its commitment to Phase 3 of the MDS. It is, however, taking no chances and has decided to take matters in its own hands by planning its own middle-range missile defence that would become NATO interoperable by 2023. The future How the US and Polish MDS unfolds in subsequent years will undoubtedly affect European security. A US MDS in Poland will show that the US is still committed to the long-term security of the region as it slowly pivots its national security interests towards the Asian Pacific region. However, as a result of the US’s inconsistencies, Poland has made plans for its own MDS at a crucial time when many of its fellow EU and NATO member states have faced major budget cuts in defence and cannot afford such investments at this time. Poland is currently one of the very few countries in Europe that have increased the size of their defence budgets and stay close within the two per cent of GDP target set by NATO. Poland’s allies should welcome such a contribution. A resurgent Russia and its recent moves to deploy fighter jets in Belarus this year, as well as its plans to place shortrange Iskander missiles on the EU border in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, already the most militarised area in Europe, should not be taken lightly and addressed in constructive dialogue as to not reignite an arms race. Two decades after its independence, Poland is a rising regional player, increasingly confident in its own capacities and ambitions, yet it still struggles with its past and

Poland is currently one of the very few countries in Europe that has increased the size of its defence budget.


New Voices

Alex Jaholkowski, The Geopolitics of Missile Defence in Poland

place in the international arena. Nonetheless, the threat of nuclear proliferation is real, and Poland should use its geopolitical standing and seize the opportunity to advance the case for a US and its very own MDS with full support of its allies, as it embodies the core NATO values of solidarity and the indivisibility of security and oers a solution to the many challenges European defence confronts in these tough times of ďŹ scal austerity. Poland has been let down by its allies and used as friend of convenience too many times in the past. Let us give Poland a chance with missile defence, and see it grow into the credible and valuable partner it could become.  Originally published October 30th 2013

Alex Jaholkowski is an MA student at the Centre for European Studies at the Jagiellonian University, Krakow. He received his BA in international relations at Saint Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

We Have All Been Winners and Losers of This War An interview with Miljenko Jergović, writer and journalist. Interviewers: Adam Dohnal and Adrian Kossowski. NEW EASTERN EUROPE: Who was Miljenko Jergović in the early 1990s, and who is he today? MILJENKO JERGOVIĆ: I think that not much has changed in my life during this period of time. In the 1990s, I was more or less the same person I am today – a writer, an essayist and a journalist. I had my own column in the Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian press where I was publishing essays. By the end of the 1990s, I started to write for the Serbian press again. Since then, not much has changed. In that time I have also written the majority of my books. In all, I wrote several thousand pages. From the very beginning, they have been translated into many languages – Italian, German and French. In other areas, my life has not changed at all. What pushed you to start writing? Was it the result of a specific event that took place in your life? Surprisingly, it was a very ordinary situation. As a seven-year old, I decided one day to become a writer. At first, my

parents did not treat this plan of mine seriously. However, later, probably because I did not come up with any better idea, they finally came to terms with my choice. By saying this, I just want to show that this was the only thing I wanted to do in life. I have always been the happiest when I could write for different newspapers and magazines, something that I am still doing today. In your newest book, Father, the main character says that he is the last living member of his family. Putting personal motifs aside, could we say that this book is some sort of metaphor? Yes. However, in both of these aspects, personal and metaphysical, it should not be treated as something negative and tragic. I would even say that for me it is a rather lucky coincidence. Why? Because writing requires some drifting away from one’s identity and sense of belonging into which one is historically entangled. We can compare this to a


People, Ideas, Inspiration

We Have All Been Winners and Losers of This War, An interview with Miljenko Jergović

situation of people who have been growing up in the shadow of trauma caused by their family history. For them, the death of those who can bring any memory of the painful past is a relief. Such people tend to stay alone. For them, everything that has happened before becomes memory. Only then is a person really free. How has the situation in the region changed since the early 1990s? My attitude to the region is bleaker than it was before. Simply speaking, in the late 1980s and early 1990s I would get very annoyed with the Serbian nationalists and their leaders headed by Slobodan Milošević. After that, I started to get annoyed with the Croatian nationalists and General Franjo Tuđman. And today, everybody annoys me. Today’s situation in the region looks as if we were all watching a western in which all the guys are bad. The only positive element of this situation is the fact that somebody has managed to disarm all of the bad guys, and that is a good thing. In fact, the disarming of these idiots could be regarded as the only accomplishment of the international community in the former Yugoslavia. I would really like to see greater change, a new reality created by a new generation. For sure, I would have a more positive attitude towards it. Unfortunately, such a reality practically does not exist in the Balkans. The younger generations are trying to escape from the region and cut themselves off from its tragic past. This is a very sad perspective, but it is a

perspective without a war. Escape is the only thing that can prevent an escalation of the conflict and bloodshed. In this situation, do you think the countries of the former Yugoslavia are in danger of a mass exodus? I would not call it an exodus. What is happening now is instead a slow process of emigration, which is noticeable only every 10 years when national censuses are taken. This process of leaving and giving up one’s homeland is very quiet. Where do these young people go? Where? They go to the West, of course. And if you want to ask me where, from the perspective of the former Yugoslavia, is the desired “West”, I will say that most often it is the United States and Canada. However, the Serbian youths who, as a rule, are easily influenced by different forms of extremism, seem to be Russian-oriented and feel a deeper connection with the ideals of Pan-Slavism which emerged in the 19th century. I do not think that we should generalise here. The truth is that, in general, the youth is prone to be attracted to any form of extremism. Such a situation can be seen in Serbia and Croatia, but also in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The only difference between them is that while for the Serbs the ideal is indeed Russia, for the Croats, it is Germany and the Vatican.

We Have All Been Winners and Losers of This War, An interview with Miljenko Jergović

People, Ideas, Inspiration 125

Photo by Andrzej Gałązka

Miljenko Jergović is an award winning Croatian writer whose books have been translated into many languages including English, French, Italian, Polish and German. Jergović currently lives and works in Zagreb, Croatia.


People, Ideas, Inspiration

We Have All Been Winners and Losers of This War, An interview with Miljenko Jergović

Is there a feeling and need in this region to seek justice with the past? This is a dramatic problem and not only limited to the people in the Balkans, but to the whole of Europe. The view of the Balkans’ past has been completely clouded, and the goal to build a mutual dialogue seems extremely complicated. Historical truth has a tendency to be very vague and based on semi-truths. This is why nobody wants to deal with it. It is impossible to start building relations anew if we first do not discuss issues from our stormy past. Nobody has succeeded yet in building any form of positive relations between conflicted nations without seeking justice for acts done in the past. In this way, the Balkan nations find themselves in a tragic situation. And what can you tell us about social relations in Croatia after the death of Franjo Tuđman (the first president of Croatia after the fall of Yugoslavia – editor’s note)? General Tuđman passed away a long time ago, 13 years ago, and yet no direction of development we could call good has been taken since. Many attempts have been made to tackle the difficult, previously not talked about, issues related to Tuđman. It was then when the statement should have been made that Tuđman was a fascist dressed in a communist uniform. And that is why he was very dangerous and, in the end, put the country in reverse. The problem in Croatia is that the right wing has a tendency to copy what

the fascists did during the Second World War, while the left wing is scared of being called communist. At the same time, the Catholic Church supports the radical right wing. In churches, one can hear praises of convicted war criminals from the Second World War. In this situation, the cult of Tuđman as a defender of Croatia’s independence is not getting any weaker. This glorification of people who broke the basic principles of Christian morality seems counterintuitive. How would you explain the social acceptance of such a situation? Unfortunately, the answer to this question lies in history. The role of the Catholic Church in Croatia during the Second World War was very different from the role of the Catholic Church in Poland at the same time. And this differed even from the role of the Catholic Church in Germany. The Catholic Church in Croatia, with a few exceptions, was enthusiastic in greeting the independent state of Croatia, meaning the pro-Nazi state. To a large extent, it actively or passively supported the system of concentration camps and the Sarajevo-based bishop from the Second World War era – Ivan Evangelista Šarić, whom I mention in my novel Father, openly supported the extermination of Serbs and Jews, and wrote odes to glorify the independent state of Croatia and its leader Ante Pavelicia. In Croatia, the Catholic Church never, even with the smallest gesture, stopped playing the role it had during

We Have All Been Winners and Losers of This War, An interview with Miljenko Jergović

the Second World War. It did not do so under communism, nor afterwards. I will just provide you with one important comparison in the Catholic world. After the Second Vatican Council, the conference of Polish bishops accepted the apologies of German bishops for what had been done during the Second World War. At the same time, they also asked the Germans to forgive the Poles. This seems a bit like a tragicomedy, that the Poles ask the Germans for forgiveness for something that the former did to this nation during the Second World War, but it is essentially correct. Because even if only one Pole who hurt one German the apologies are already in order. Croatia was the complete opposite. The Croatian bishops, instead of taking responsibility, put the blame on all those who, during the Second World War, were not on the fascists’ side, and those whom the Croatian Catholic Church regards as communists were those who declared themselves anti-fascists. This is probably something that does not exist anywhere else in the European Catholic Church. Unfortunately, this was also due to the influence of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, whose position during the Second World War was somewhat unclear; and, when compared to his predecessor, John Paul II, his intentions were perceived as not being fully honest and, therefore, questionable. What is the attitude to the diaspora that comprises people who managed to leave the region in the earlier phase

People, Ideas, Inspiration 127

of the military conflict, or even just before the war? Croatian and Serbian emigrants who left in the early 1990s were relatively welleducated people, usually city dwellers, who have adapted to their new countries. They usually come to visit their homeland once a year, and it seems that they do not have any ambitions to come more often. As opposed to the older emigration, whose attitudes are traditionally nationalistic and pro-clergy, the new generation has a very positive attitude, but is also quite passive. They are not politically engaged in any way and very few are involved in culture. There are a few writers, fi lmmakers, artists, painters and all kinds of professors of liberal arts, but these are not any big names. Some of them were educated in the West, but only very few have returned to their family areas. Does your novel Father include any hints about your next novel? In one of the chapters, the main character says that he would like to write a story about the moon landing. Is this your dream or just literary fiction? Th is is a true story, and everything written in Father is true. Although I write all the time, until I fully fi nish it I cannot tell you that it will become something concrete. I am fascinated with the moon landing. It was the last big romantic moment for humanity. It is sad. The fi rst man landed on the moon in 1969, and the last man landed in 1972. Nobody has gone there in the last 40


People, Ideas, Inspiration

We Have All Been Winners and Losers of This War, An interview with Miljenko Jergović

years. It seems that since then the world cannot fi nd another big idea to push it forward. That enthusiasm and feeling of delight have died out. Currently, we

are caught in the exhausting greyness of the fi nal stages of capitalism. In my opinion, the world has fallen into a malaise. Translated by Iwona Reichardt

Originally published April 4th 2013

Miljenko Jergović is an award-winning writer whose books have been translated into many languages, including English, French, Italian, Polish and German. Born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jergović currently lives and writes in Zagreb, Croatia.

Adam Dohnal is a student of philosophy and Eastern studies at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań as well as a member of the “Vostok” association and Res Politica – the Poznań Society for Political Thought.

Adrian Kossowski is a graduate of Eastern studies at the history department of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań and a member of the “Vostok” association. He is also the editor of a portal dedicated to the football club Polonia Warszawa.

Gaiety Is the Most Outstanding Feature of the Soviet Union M AT H E W SH E A R M A N

The ironically titled “Gaiety Is the Most Outstanding Feature of the Soviet Union” exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery in London, provides a gritty and harrowing descent into the corruption, injustice and demoralisation of the post-Soviet world. Orthodox churches are scrawled into their bodies, as are swastikas, yet the monochrome portraits of Russian prisoners look serene. “Gaiety is the most outstanding feature of the Soviet Union,” Stalin once said; and like the collection’s title, the exhibit is laced with much irony. There is little beauty in London’s Saatchi Gallery now, and any amusement here is confined to a few photos of a bloodied, drunken man being carried through the streets, re-emerging every so often as you make your way along the row of photos, always just a little further down the road. It is a deeply dark and soul eating collection, bringing together work from across Russia and Eastern Europe, where the decay and degradation from 1989 is mixed in with what remains today. Harsh world Sergei Vasiliev’s encyclopaedia of Russian prisoner tattoos brings together a network of codes that the inmates use to chart their allegiances and crimes into their skin. Deeply ingrained in modern day prison culture, skulls signify high criminality, whilst the swastika, ironically, is a call to anti-fascism. Walking along the clean white walls of the Saatchi, one is drawn to the dull black gaze in the prisoners’ eyes. Three years on from their photo shoot, the work effectively conveys a brief moment away from a lifetime of wild tribalism in Russia’s jails. These subjects are, like much of the collection’s photos, de-contextualised from the harsh world they are meant to portray, the cracks of which barely seep


People, Ideas, Inspiration

Mathew Shearman, Gaiety Is the Most Outstanding Feature of the Soviet Union

into the frame. Boris Mikhailov, born in 1938 in Kharkiv, “documents the social oppression, the devastating poverty, the harshness and helplessness of everyday life for the homeless”, the guide says, across a set of 413 photographs taken in Ukraine between 1997 and 1998. His “case history”, however, demonstrates more the artist’s preoccupation with nudity, venereal diseases and hazes induced by cheap vodka. He alludes, without explanation, to the Holocaust, “displaying naked people with their things in hands like people going to gas chambers”. Instead of charting social disintegration in the post-Soviet period, the artist seems content to present overly choreographed representations of things that are well established in the public memory of post-Soviet Ukraine. The drunk on the floor, the framing of dirt as grave and the manic eyes of a subject plied with alcohol before the shoot. The bomzh – the homeless without any social support – are plucked from the streets and pose at command, and the work loses something. It remains until the 413th photo for a print of the backdrop, a snowy, chaotic degradation afflicting mid-90s Ukraine to emerge. Allusions to it are there throughout, but they shrink into the backdrop in the face of the posing nudes. Uniquely barbaric In Gosha Ostretsov’s work, one gets a much deeper sense of the anger artists are levelling against the dark forces that control Russian society today. Packaged in a futuristic homage to American comic books, the artist’s “Criminal Government” portrays a harrowing set of imprisoned officials swinging by nooses or, dismembered, surrounded by the tools of torture. American pop art was never assimilated into Russian culture in the same way that it was rooted in the West, and the artist’s dystopian world is uniquely barbaric, without the gleam of any American dream. The reviled institutions of today are brutally caged; they elicit neither sympathy nor scorn, as they might in a traditional comic book. Instead, one is left with a lingering unease at the dualism drawn out between modern Russia and this fantasy world. The names and targets may change, but the weapons of oppression and where they lead to remain the same. That left one room with the beauty of the region portrayed. Valery Koshlyakov’s large-scale cardboard paintings, collages and installations of renowned architectural works fall firmly into the category of a traditional form on innovative material. The pastel coloured paint seems to glimmer, as if wet, against the patchwork canvas of squashed down cardboard boxes displayed one per wall. His image of the high-rise

Deeply ingrained in modern day prison culture, skulls signify high criminality, whilst the swastika, ironically, is a call to anti-fascism.

Mathew Shearman, Gaiety Is the Most Outstanding Feature of the Soviet Union

People, Ideas, Inspiration 131

on Raushskaya Embankment, painted with tempera on cardboard in 2006, stands out as a truly majestic piece, producing something as regal as the original building, yet through humble means. In contrast to the other works, the artist seems to reclaim grandiosity more akin to pre-Soviet Russia than to the present day. The layers of card give the building a tower of Babel-like shape, reaching further and further to the sky, away from the realities of life inside these high-rise buildings. This is hardly gaiety, but it stands out of the collection as a unique and stunning piece. The Saatchi exhibition is remarkable for having sucked the gaiety out of art. Walking through the collection of 20 Russian artists was cathartic, making a rainy Sunday in London seem like a haven. The exhibitions grab you, drain the life out of you and, at their peak of “gaiety�, provide only a brief respite before thrusting you back into the chaotic world of Russian art and life.

Originally published March 17th 2013 Mathew Shearman is a London-based politics editor of the transnational life magazine Europe & Me.


Books and Reviews

Pokłosie (Aftermath), Władysław Pasikowski

The Consequences of Being “Anti-Polish” A review of Pokłosie (Aftermath), a film directed by Władysław Pasikowski, 2012.

Few Polish films have in recent years stirred as much controversy as Władysław Pasikowski’s Pokłosie (Aftermath). Despite being criticised as being “anti-Polish” by some, this new film, inspired by the Jedwabne pogrom of 1941, can lead to more honest discussion of PolishJewish relations. Regarding Polish-Jewish relations during the Second World War, the Polish-British historian Adam Zamoyski writes that under German occupation, a minority of Poles were heroes who risked their lives to save Jews, and a minority were scum who sold out Jews to the Gestapo for sausage and vodka. Most Poles, however, kept to their own affairs. This did not result from callousness. Rather, the Nazi ideology regarded Poles as only slightly above groups singled out for extermination, such as Jews and Roma. Consequently, the Nazis killed over three million non-Jewish Poles. Furthermore, Poland was the only occupied country where aiding Jews was punishable by death. In 1942, the Polish underground formed Żegota, the Council to Aid Jews (the only government-run organisation devoted to saving Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe), saving tens of thousands. Żegota was an alliance of diverse

political groups, from right-wing Catholic nationalists to communists. It gave Jewish children forged baptismal certificates and placed them with Gentile foster parents and monasteries. Meanwhile, Jan Karski, a courier of the Polish government-in-exile in London, met with Roosevelt and Churchill’s inner circle to tell the American and British governments of the extermination of Europe’s Jews and to persuade them to use their military power to stop the genocide, tragically without success. Overall, 6,339 Poles – more than any other nation – have been designated as Righteous Gentiles by Yad Vashem in Israel. However, Gentile courage is only part of the story of wartime Polish-Jewish relations. Although during the Middle Ages Jews fleeing persecution were welcomed by tolerant Polish kings, this changed in the 20th century. As elsewhere in Europe, the economic hardship of the Great Depression encouraged popular and institutional anti-Semitism. Right-wing politicians in the interwar period boycotted Jewish businesses. Polish universities set up quotas to limit the number of Jewish students, while the Parliament pushed legislation restricting the production of kosher meat. However, perhaps the most horrific case of Polish anti-Semitism was the Jedwabne pogrom, which occurred in a small rural community in Podlachia on July 10th 1941. At the command of the local Nazi occupiers, a group of Polish men gathered as many as 340 Jews into a barn, setting it on fire. This was the single largest massacre of Jews in which Poles took part. Until 2000, locals believed that solely Germans were responsible for the pogrom in Jedwabne. Revelations that Poles participated in the murder of a couple hundred Jews provoked a

Pokłosie (Aftermath), Władysław Pasikowski

cathartic discussion on anti-Semitism among all parts of Polish society. Although more than a decade has passed since the Jedwabne debate, the pogrom continues to provoke contentious debate in Poland. Recently, Władysław Pasikowski released his latest film Pokłosie, loosely based on the massacre. The film tells the story of Franciszek Kalina, a Polish émigré who has returned to visit his brother Józek in rural Poland after spending 20 years as a construction worker in Chicago. A few years before, Józek discovered that during the war the Nazis used matzevot (Jewish tombstones) to pave a local road. Józek believes that this is morally unacceptable: “They may not be Christians, but everyone deserves a decent burial,” he muses. Thus Józek safeguards the tombstones at his farm. With the exception of the parish priest (who will soon retire and be replaced by an anti-Semitic younger cleric) who believes that the Jews’ graves should be respected, the local villagers hate Józek. They kill his dog, burn his property and spray paint anti-Semitic graffiti on his house. Initially, Franek is an anti-Semite, constantly noting that in Chicago he worked for “the Yids”, who are simply bloodthirsty capitalists. He fears that Józek’s concern for the Jewish tombstones will lead him to be hurt by the villagers. Yet with the passage of time, Franek agrees with his younger brother that what he is doing is morally right. As Franek and Józek’s interest in their village’s Jewish history piques, they reach a horrific discovery – the local Jews were killed not only by the Nazis, but also with the help of local Poles. In what has become Pokłosie’s most emblematic scene, one villager kills Józek,

Books and Reviews 133 nailing him to his barn door, causing him to resemble the crucified Christ, to stop him from telling the world about what really happened in that village. Naturally, Pasikowski’s newest film has provoked bitter controversy. As is usually the case with controversial films, those most opposed to Pokłosie have not seen it. Jarosław Kaczyński, the head of Poland’s opposition Law and Justice party, said that he does not plan on watching it, yet that it was scandalous that Poland’s Ministry of Culture subsidised such a work. One of Poland’s most prominent right-wing journalists, Rafał Ziemkiewicz, said that although he has not seen Pokłosie he knows that it is an example of propaganda that is intended to show Polish patriotism and Catholicism as something backwards. Although unlike Kaczyński and Ziemkiewicz he had seen the film, Jan Pospieszalski – a famous albeit controversial television personality (and a former guitarist of Czerwone Gitary, one of Poland’s great rock bands) – deplored Pokłosie as “anti-Polish libel”. Is this film a work of anti-Polish propaganda? Such accusations are absurd. Although there are wicked Poles in the film, such as the old man who participated in the wartime massacre of Jews, there are noble ones, such as Franek and the priest. The fact that the latter character encourages Franek’s rescue of Jewish gravestones and protects him against local antiSemites debunks Ziemkiewicz’s assertion that Pokłosie links Catholicism with backwardness. Furthermore, the discussion of sins in Polish history does not equal being anti-Polish. Perhaps the best evidence of this is that critics of Pokłosie such as Kaczyński and Ziemkiewicz eagerly discuss the crimes of Poland’s communist


Books and Reviews regime. Does that make them unpatriotic or anti-Polish? Many modern nations have had to deal with shameful episodes in their history. Germany was particularly successful in this. In the early 1970s, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt’s gestures such as kneeling in front of the Warsaw Ghetto and laying a wreath in front of Poland’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were instrumental in the process of Germany’s reconciliation with the Poles and the Jews. Others have been less successful. Post-Soviet Russia comes to mind, as particularly under Putin there has been a tendency to downplay Soviet crimes and to glorify Stalinism. Since the shocking information that Poles took part in the Jedwabne pogrom emerged, Polish society has not denied past anti-Semitic crimes in the way that much of Russia’s political and intellectual elites have whitewashed the Soviet Union’s crimes. Perhaps the most telling sign of this is that Roman Giertych, a onetime deputy prime minister and former head of Poland’s Catholic-nationalist League of Polish Families party, himself the grandson of Jędrzej Giertych, one of interwar Poland’s most rabidly anti-Semitic politicians, personally went to Jedwabne in 2006 to pray and to ask for forgiveness on behalf of the Polish nation. Nonetheless, the Poles overwhelmingly like to downplay horrific events such as Jedwabne and to overemphasise the heroics of people such as Jan Karski or Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker who under Nazi occupation smuggled 2,500 Jewish from the Warsaw Ghetto, saving twice as many Jews as Oskar Schindler at much greater personal risk. Perhaps works like Pokłosie can help Polish society discuss its past relations with the Jews and realise that,

George F. Kennan: An American Life, John Lewis Gaddis

when Hitler turned Poland into the world’s largest Jewish graveyard, there were both saints and monsters. Originally published January 17th 2013 Filip Mazurczak

The Heart of the Cold War A review of George F. Kennan: An American Life. By: John Lewis Gaddis. Publisher: Penguin Books, London, 2012.

Few diplomats influenced American post-war foreign policy as much as George F. Kennan. John Lewis Gaddis, the dean of Cold War historians, takes a worthwhile look at Kennan’s paradoxical combination of anti-communism, Russophilia and poetic approach to analysing Cold War politics. George Frost Kennan, America’s most influential Sovietologist and author of one of the fundamentals of United States Cold War strategy, has a considerable claim to fame. According to no less an authority than Henry Kissinger “no other foreign service officer ever shaped American foreign policy so decisively or did so much to define the broader public debate over America’s world role”. The need for a definitive biography is therefore obvious, and although Kennan’s archives and prize-winning autobiographies have spawned many descendants, the access

George F. Kennan: An American Life, John Lewis Gaddis

granted for John Lewis Gaddis’ book was remarkable. Gaddis waited nearly 30 years until the death of his subject (who died aged 101 in 2005) and then spent six years writing his biography of Kennan, but it has been worth the wait. Scores of personal interviews and sources as obscure as Kennan’s dream diaries have been utilised to construct a picture of the man behind the lectern. Unsurprisingly, Gaddis’ mastery of the twists and turns of the Cold War also goes a long way towards explaining Kennan’s apparent volatility. Kennan’s view of the world was complex to the point of contradiction. His training for policy planning was rooted in empirical thinking, although he thought primarily in terms of historical ideals, especially once freed from the employment of the State Department. Communism, Kennan could tell from his time in Moscow, was an unnatural phenomenon that would eventually overstretch itself. As a governing philosophy, it made harmonious diplomatic relations between the USSR and US impossible, but its coexistence alongside capitalist systems was plausible within distinct spheres of interest. Out of this situation came the policy with which Kennan came to be most closely associated, yet always felt had been represented. As Gaddis is at pains to point out, “containment” was never the “strategic monstrosity” that Walter Lippmann, an advocate of strategic minimalism, painted it to be. Kennan initially, although with some exceptions, opposed the extension of the Truman Doctrine to military confrontation. His suggestion of extending Marshall Plan aid to the Eastern Bloc – thereby forcing Stalin to explicitly deny Czechoslovakia

Books and Reviews 135 the chance of financial independence from the USSR – provided a perfect example of his tactical nous. The fear of nuclear war, which Kennan frequently described as doubtful, nonetheless compelled much of his thinking. His resignation of Central and Eastern European states to what he considered the more vital influence of Soviet security interests saw Kennan out of touch with the growing support for “liberation” amongst Republican circles and makes him appear cynical to modern eyes. Despite flirting with a political career, he was always hopeless at understanding the constituencies to which American politicians played. Kennan’s lack of political empathy and his tendency to shy away from conflicts led to dramatic shifts in policy. After initially supporting the invasions of both Korea and Vietnam, he ended up espousing withdrawal. He was in favour of supporting communist forces in China as a means of dividing the world communist movement even before Mao Zedong’s 1949 victory, yet complained to Kissinger in 1969 that diplomatic recognition would risk a war with the USSR. Kennan remained in favour of unilateral disarmament, yet regarded both détente and Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties as hopeless. These inconstancies in Kennan’s proposals frequently led contemporaries to diminish his qualities as a thinker. To Dean Acheson, he had a somewhat mystical view of power relations, while the consensus of the Committee on Present Danger (a hawkish outfit co-founded by Paul Nitze, whom Kennan himself first recruited to the State Department and maintained a friendly rivalry with later) was that he was “an impressionist, a poet, not an earthling”.


Books and Reviews The thinker and fellow-Russophile Isaiah Berlin acknowledged this description, arguing that “his famous dispatches were concrete, clear, useful and truly important”. It was when Kennan was unleashed that he became “a mystic and a visionary… a kind of Jekyll and Hyde”. In his short time on the Policy Planning Staff, Kennan’s tactical intelligence was instrumental in gaining momentum in the Cold War. Yet by 1949, Kennan’s strategic thinking was too bold to influence policymakers. Outside of government he could offer telling insights, but as with his 1957 Reith Lectures, he all too often floundered searching for a strategy that the Cold War really did not demand. He remained something of a minimalist, but frequently sought out the initiative, perhaps lacking faith in the collapse of the Soviet Union, but more likely doubting the resolve of the American people over a long period of time. It was in part Kennan’s hyperactivity as a lecturer, writer and thinker that allowed him to escape the second contradiction in his life – his dramatic influence on public debate and its sharp contrast in his desultory experience in government. To Gaddis, Kennan’s distinctiveness was that he did not simply sit back and anticipate the future but was constantly reassessing the state of US foreign policy. By sharing his insight, Kennan informed a whole generation in exactly the way he proposed in the Long Telegram (a 5,500-word telegram outlining a new strategy on how to handle diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union – editor’s note). For it was only if “our public is enlightened and if our dealings with Russians are placed entirely on realistic and matter-of-fact basis (sic)” that America

George F. Kennan: An American Life, John Lewis Gaddis

could sustain the morale needed to project American values and undermine the survival of communism. The third and final contradiction in Kennan’s life is expressed in Gaddis’ peculiar choice of subtitle. If Kennan ever truly belonged to America, there is little evidence that he felt it. With his love of Russia (and particularly of Chekov), his Norwegian wife and his distaste for his homeland’s asinine consumerism and democratic politics, Kennan remained a perennial outsider. Despite Kennan’s efforts to win the Cold War for America, this is no typical, heroic American life in the way one might expect a biography of John F. Kennedy or Andrew Carnegie to be titled, but a testament to the restless, not preordained spirit of the planning of the Cold War. Originally published January 31st 2013 Josh Black

Watching the Throne Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin. By: Ben Judah. Publisher: Yale University Press, New Haven, London, 2013. In November 2010 at Kushchevskaya Stanitsa in Krasnodar Krai, one of the richest agricultural regions of southern Russia, bandits led by the district deputy of the pro-Putin party United Russia killed the family of a local farmer. He

Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin, Ben Judah

was hindering the deputy’s business, so the bandits murdered his family and guests right in front of his eyes. They then killed him, piled up the corpses on top of each other, laid his still-living nine-month-old granddaughter on top, doused the pile with gasoline and ignited it. This account opens Ben Judah’s book Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin, published in 2013 by Yale University Press. Correspondingly, the book concludes with another story, which also happened in 2010, in Vladivostok, the biggest seaport in eastern Asia. A band of six teenagers carried out a series of raids on police departments, killing policemen over the course of several months. A task force finally encircled them and two of the teenagers shot themselves, while the remaining ones are still awaiting trial. In between these two stories, there are 330 pages of powerfully argued text that cover the entire history of the new Russia from the dissolution of the Soviet Union until the end of 2012, when Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin. The artistic frame – from the tragedy in Kushchevskaya Stanitsa, to the bloody events in the Far East – is aimed to illustrate the main task of the book: to explain why Putin, despite 12 years of increasing prices of hydrocarbons (such as oil and gas) and the solidification of an authoritative regime, has failed to turn Russia into an effective state. The author of the book is only 25 years old. After graduating from Russian studies at Oxford, he worked at the Moscow news office of Reuters and spent some time at the British office of the European Council for Foreign Relations. His book, Fragile Empire, is written in a classic journalist style: eloquent, with rich

Books and Reviews 137

details and vivid portraits of the lead subjects. And yet it combines an analytical view of the events in Russia that took place over the last few years. Judah not only describes the picture he sees but tries to explain in numbers why the Russian reality is how it is. The book is divided into two parts of approximately equal length. The first one, “The Rise of the Lieutenant Colonel”, features a description of what has happened in Russia in the last 30 years. As the title indicates, this part has a protagonist: Vladimir Putin. Judah’s investigation gives answers to several important questions, especially: how did this secondrate officer, an unsuccessful KGB agent sent to spy on Soviet workers in the East German city of Dresden, not even Berlin, become the ruler of one of the most powerful states in the world? Judah painstakingly reconstructs Putin’s biography, recounting stories of Putin’s friends from St. Petersburg, and describes the Russian reality of the 1990s. He tries to explain not only Putin’s mindset, but also the reasons why the Russian people accepted his leadership so enthusiastically. The author analyses in detail how the young dynamic president, who in early 2000 ended the war in Chechnya, implemented successful economic reforms and tried to develop good relationships with the West. He describes the evolution of Putin over the years, prior to his becoming president until the present, and how he is viewed in the West and the rest of the world. Fragile Empire gives an account of all the challenges inherited by Russia from the 1990s: secessionist sentiments in the regions, criminality, low governability, corruption and the abundance of various groups struggling for influence, power and money. By meeting


Books and Reviews

Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin, Ben Judah

each of these challenges, Putin strengthened Russia but also formed a severe regime that would later cause even graver problems. One of the great merits of the book is the fact that Judah keeps trying to lose himself within the context of the events and tries to understand the logic of the participants. Thus, the analysis and the narrative are hinged not on the theories of a totalitarian society or advocacy rhetoric, as in many books of this genre, but on the passionless analysis of the struggle for power, money and ideas. The jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, for example, is far from being presented as a hero and a liberal. The second part of Fragile Empire, “Watch the Throne”, is obligatory reading for those wanting to gain an insight into modern Russia. Judah relies on his journalistic experience at Reuters and his contacts in Moscow to present the events of December 2011 and the protest campaign that followed. The range of sources is vast: from the deputies of the ruling United Russia to the young opposition activists, as well as people who are rarely mentioned in narrations: ordinary Russian people representing the notorious “pro-Putin majority”. Fragile Empire traces how Russian economic growth from the middle 2000s (largely due to the boom of natural resources) led to the formation of a young middle class that initially was not interested in politics. However, the economic crisis of 2008-2009 led to an abrupt politicisation of this social group, as did he elections to the Duma in December 2011, which ended with protests of the opposition. Among the most valuable parts of the book are the detailed portraits of the leaders of the protest movement, whom Judah knows personally. He sheds light on figures from the

charismatic blogger Alexei Navalny, who studied at Yale University and pursued a political career with the liberals and the nationalists, to the figures who are less known in the West, such as activist Yevgeniya Chirikova, who became the face of the ecological opposition. The value of these portraits – even if there is too much detail about café meetings and the descriptions of the food eaten during the interviews – is that Ben Judah does not allow any of them to enchant him just because they are Putin’s opponents. The book fairly reveals the opposition’s lack of vision and lack of clear political plans and collaboration. Divisions between Navalny and his allies are a part of modern Russian politics that is rarely discussed (and little known) in the West. Meanwhile, understanding the nature of the modern Russian opposition is extremely important for building relationships and planning future strategies in relation to Russia. The last three chapters of the book are devoted not to the capital city, whose life is chiefly described by journalists and diplomats in dispatches such as the ones that can be read in the WikiLeaks archives, but to life in the regions of Russian. The author travelled the whole country, from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok, and these chapters should be of interest not only to the Western reader, but also to the educated Russian. Judah provides a unique description of what is taking place in provincial Russia – the citadel of the pro-Putin majority – and is very up-to-date. Judah travelled to Nizhny Tagil, the Ural city that produces tanks and that is considered a bastion of Putinism, and to Primorsky Krai, where people are incensed at the influx of migrants from Central Asia.

Russia, the Near Abroad, and the West, William H. Hill

From these chapters, especially the excellent last one describing the situation on the border between Russia and China, the title of the book Fragile Empire becomes clear. The fatality of the system, which is sunk in corruption, has no meritocracy and is ruled by nepotism, is not best seen from the protesting capital city, but from the suburbs, where the people seek change but do not even put their faith in Putin. The author concludes that Russia’s problem is not only the lack of democracy and fundamental freedoms, but also a lack of efficiency and the total degradation of the state. If these problems escalate, the consequences could be grave, and a simple replacement to Putin, such as a democratically elected populist like Navalny, would not necessarily make Russia more stable and democratic. Originally published July 11th 2013 Alexander Gabuev Translated by Olena Shynkarenko

The Kozak Memorandum: One decade on Russia, the Near Abroad, and the West: Lessons from the Moldova-Transdniestria Conflict. By: William H. Hill. Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2012. This book, a narrative focusing on the southwestern confines of the “Russian space,” is an event unto itself: a must-read, full of

Books and Reviews 139 inside information, for any student or scholar studying Moldova, Transnistria, and de facto statehood (particularly de facto statehood under Russian supervision), and all tinged with an awareness of Russia’s perception of the West. It also should be read, and maybe even re-read, by any scholar, student or erudite observer with an interest in Eastern Europe. As a research volume interwoven with many elements of a professional memoir, the book has a specific approach based on the author’s personal values and formative experiences. One such experience is reflected in William Hill’s use of the name “Transdniestria” in the very title and throughout the book in general. A blending of the international “Trans” and Russian “Dniester”, which is used less and less by Moldovans living on the right bank of the Nistru river, the author writes that he keeps to this form for reasons of “neutrality, consistency and stubbornness” (p. xiv), which, although not a plea for neutrality, can be attributed to some sort of comfort of conviction among the staffers at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Although neutrality is hard to maintain when dealing with entrenched discourses in a protracted conflict, Hill could have offered more explanatory insights on the use of this most common word of his book, if only because Transnistria is de jure part of Republic of Moldova and could be referred to according to the legal authority’s own terminology. A presupposed reason could be the reference to “Transnistria” in Western historiography on the Holocaust, although the author is not explicit about that. The volume’s structure is easily grasped. The first three chapters describe the complex relationship between Russia and the West during


Books and Reviews the 1990s and first half of 2000s. They bring nothing new to the debate, but they cogently contextualise the main foundation on which the patterns of Russian interaction with the West occurred and the permanent form it took after the series of events now conventionally called the “Kozak Memorandum”. The gist of the book comes in the ensuing chapters, where the author transforms the dynamics of the protracted Transnistrian conflict into a barometer of Russia’s mercurial relations with the West. The crescendo of events surrounding the Kozak Memorandum of 2003 is described in detail, with inside information to which the common observer normally has no access. The author broadly uses conversations, discussions (closed or otherwise), and personal reports, interlacing these with the visions, ambitions, and interests of Moldovan, Transnistrian, and Russian stakeholders as expressed during the negotiations aimed at solving the conflict. Hill’s own contribution to events provides food for thought, eventually compelling the reader to ask to what degree the personality heading the OSCE Mission is shaping the policy choices of the organisation. In this context, a benign bias that threads its way throughout the text stems from the author’s civic background. As a citizen of a state which is one of the most eloquent examples of federal republic (the United States), Hill provided input that sought a solution based on the most consensual state administrative platform possible, that is one based on federalism and decentralisation of authorities (as seen in the OSCE’s eventual proposed agreement). The author seems to manifest a certain tension toward the civil society of those days,

Russia, the Near Abroad, and the West, William H. Hill

tangentially blaming it for contributing to the failure both to federalise Moldova and to provide the international community with a precedent for solving an ongoing conflict in the post-Soviet area. It would have been very useful to know the author’s view on why this society is so fiercely anti-federalist and willing to struggle for Moldova’s development as a unitary and not a federalised state. In this respect, Hill does not pay much attention to identity issues, nor, in particular, to the strategic identity issues of elites on both sides of Nistru River and in Moscow (since the Transnistrian conflict in general and the Kozak memorandum scenario in particular, was and is a cycle of events of mostly Russia’s making). The concluding chapter is shorter than one would expect, given the book’s structure, but perhaps for good reason: it is too early to draw any conclusions about the Transnistrian conflict, as well as about Russia’s place in the world after the collapse of USSR. The book’s final chapter, then, can be completed only after the conflict is resolved. Ten years after the Kozak Memorandum, the conclusions of the book are true as ever, which is striking testament to the intractability of the conflict. An interesting element is the analysis of the individual. The book itself is an individuallevel analysis – the individual as a leader and stakeholder. And there is little hope that we will ever have a similar analysis by protagonists of the Kozak Memorandum which in many respects ran opposite to OSCE mediator document. It would, however, be useful to have accounts by other participant-stakeholders, since in the jargon of conflict analysis in the post-Soviet space the word “Kozak” is an acronym for the

The Ukrainian Journal – Український журнал

(con)federalisation a la russe of post-Soviet countries. Hill enjoyed the immense advantage of having been in the midst of the very events that, had they been brought to a resolution, might have set a precedent (however questionable) for an entire continent. He officially represented the OSCE – and, one might judge, indirectly the US position – on the conflict, contributing directly to the process that fortunately brought the Kozak Memorandum to a standstill. Imagine how much better we would understand the events of 2003 if other participants in the negotiating process were to publish their own memoirs and accounts. Whether that happens remains to be seen. Until then, Hill’s book will remain the central bibliographic reference to the “Kozak Memorandum” and Russia’s management of its southwestern borderland. This review has been re-published with kind permission of The Russian Review and Wiley. Originally published October 7th 2013 Octavian Milewski

THE UKRAINIAN JOURNAL – УКРАЇНСЬКИЙ ЖУРНАЛ As Ukraine’s political situation once again gains international attention and the country on the one hand seeks to integrate with the EU and its standards of democracy are under question on the other, the Ukrainian Journal offers a unique view of Central Europe from a Ukrainian perspective.

Books and Reviews 141 A Ukrainian magazine published in Prague but addressed to readers in multiple countries – the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia – who would read this? Where did the idea for such a unique customer profile originate? The interest in Ukraine is not only prejudged by geographical proximity, but by the strong presence of Ukrainian communities in these countries – indigenous, minority and migrant. Additionally, the uniqueness of the magazine is decided by the ambition needed to create such a publication whose perspective goes beyond the boundaries of the given country and local specificities; it is an attempt to look at Ukraine and being Ukrainian in the wider context of Central Europe. At the source of the creation of the magazine in 2005 was the encouragement of the exchange of ideas and the integration of Ukrainianspeaking intellectual circles with Central Europe. For example, it fosters their integration through the publication of articles and interviews with the participation of authors from all countries, including the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and, of course, Ukraine. Each issue of the magazine focuses on a leading topic, but since its beginnings there has been a noticeable shift in subject matters from cultural and socio-historical matters to politics. While in the previous issues one could find topics such as leading architecture and urban planning, religion, historical Ukrainian cinematography and Bukovina, the last few focus on current political issues. Thus, in the most recent issue one can find a discussion of the last parliamentary elections in Ukraine, an attempt to assess the Yanukovych presidency over the past three years and an analysis of


Books and Reviews the opportunities for Ukraine’s getting closer to the European Union. How does this balance of Yanukovych’s years in power look according to the magazine’s authors? On the pages of the Ukrainian Journal one will find key perspectives on the contemporary political debate in Ukraine. Much space is devoted to the tearing of the country between East and West, between Russian and European influences. There is the ambiguous policy of Yanukovych, whose manoeuvring between Russia and the European Union the recent summit in Brussels properly illustrates. Meanwhile, Jurij Romanenko and Taras Berezowec point out that Yanukovych is in fact a skilful politician, despite being portrayed in a completely different way in the mass media. Another subject for discussion is the issue of Russian influence. In the article “Russia Has Forgotten Ukraine”, Iwan Preobrażeński points out that the last Ukrainian elections did not receive much attention in the Russian media. Nor were there any open attempts to influence the outcome of the elections. Among the various reasons, such as Yanukovych’s disappointment as well as the organisational influence of the Russian media on Ukrainian receivers, Preobrażeński also underlines that Russia finally started seeing Ukraine as foreign; the same trend is noticed in Russia’s relationship with Moldova. Ołeksandr Piddubny has a completely different opinion. He believes that from the Kremlin’s perspective, Ukraine is still a “domestic territory”, whereas Russia is fighting for influence through economic instruments, disinformation and discrediting. In his text, Piddubny calculates the impact of the measures applied by Russia, as well as its significant role in

The Ukrainian Journal – Український журнал

irritating the Polish-Ukrainian conflict regarding historical memory, using strong terms such as “economic war” or “informational war”. While focusing on such broad Russian influence, the author does not, however, note the neglect of the Ukrainian state, not only in relation to the current leadership. Comments about current developments in Ukraine have always been an important element of the Ukrainian Journal, mainly due to its readers in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, where the subject matter of Ukraine in the media is discussed much less frequently than in Poland. It is unfortunate that the most recent issues are lacking in topics that are not political and “cross-cutting” in theme, which previously distinguished the magazine, not only with a taste of timelessness but also by allowing the reader to see Central Europe through the Ukrainian perspective. Originally published May 11th 2013 Natalia Kertyczak This review was written within the Free Speech Partnership programme supported by the Visegrad Fund.


Profile for New Eastern Europe

New Eastern Europe -Best of the Web 2013  

A free issue of New Eastern Europe with a compilation of the best web articles from 2013 in a readable format.

New Eastern Europe -Best of the Web 2013  

A free issue of New Eastern Europe with a compilation of the best web articles from 2013 in a readable format.