Plans to create a museum of European history in Brussels have existed ever since 2007. It took ten years of preparation for the House of European History to finally open in the beginning of May 2017. The purpose of the museum is to communicate to the public Europe’s common story, which stands above the 28 national histories, and to be a place for exploring and creating a European identity in the future. Can it successfully achieve its mission?
The Museum of Soviet Occupation in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, which opened in 2006, is a site of mnemonic contestation where the Soviet past is being displayed in a manner meant to reflect current disputes over politics and memory. This article discusses some of the discourses behind the museum’s current permanent exhibition linking it to Georgia’s geopolitical mission to become European, to mend relations with Russia and overcome internal political friction.
"No more war" is the message the Yser Tower Museum in the small Belgian town of Dixmunde tries to convey. It seems as if this war museum which showcases the atrocities of the First World War at an authentic site would like to be a museum for peace. Yet by opting for a pacifist narrative the museum bypasses the complex history of the site itself. It avoids any in-depth discussion about the controversial history of the Yser Tower and its role in the efforts to construct a Flemish nation.
The "Museum of Socialist Art" in Sofia is the first state-supported museum focused on the communist period in Bulgaria. Paying attention to debatable issues regarding its concept and structure, the article outlines the anxieties of the Bulgarian public about this museum, particularly regarding the "resurrection" of socialist ideology and the "re-habilitation" of artistic production during communist rule. It shows the lack of clear principles in the selection and arrangement of the exhibited items, and the hesitation to take a critical stance on the former regime.
In spring 2016, a new permanent exhibition opened at the Buchenwald Memorial near Weimar. The article provides a critical review of the exhibition against the backdrop of previous exhibitions: the first which was opened by the GDR regime in 1954 and the second one after re-unification in 1995. Compared to these, the new exhibition appears less raw and more aestetic in appearance. Moreover, it engages more than its predecessors with stories of perpetrators in addition to those of the victims.
The article critiques a recently opened temporary exhibition about Europe’s post-war history at the German Historical Museum (DHM). While the exhibition treats all major themes of the war's end with political and historical correctness, it poses no guiding questions for visitors; neither does provide comparative perspectives. Therefore, it ultimately fails to rise above mere eclecticism. Overall the DHM fails in its attempt to grasp European history as a zone of interconnections rather than of parallel strands.
The identity of Germany’s Ruhr area has been shaped by industrialisation, which transformed the former rural landscape and small towns into a centre of the industrial revolution on the continent. However, the history of civilization in the Ruhr stretches back to the early middle ages. All this is examined at the Ruhr Museum Essen, including the preconditions for and the serious consequences of industrialisation in in terms of the environment, as well as the long and largely unknown history of the Ruhr area before industrial times.
What happens when the Church engages in public negotiations of history by hosting and funding a museum? “The Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko Museum in Warsaw” poses this question as it is located in a church and presents the life of Jerzy Popiełuszko, a Catholic priest who fought against the communist regime and was murdered in 1984. Today he is perceived both as a national hero and a Catholic martyr. The article critically reviews the current exhibition and how it combines questions of history and religion.
In recent years, no other museum exhibition in Poland has been disputed to a similar extent as the one in the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk. The dispute seemingly concerned the main storyline of the exhibition but, in fact, it had little to do with history and more with current Polish politics. The article takes a sober look at the exhibition and analyses the extent to which it goes beyond merely presenting a selection of historical issues and allows visitors to experience history in different ways.
A small but state-of-the-art museum in the countryside of Poland’s southeast opened its doors in 2016 to commemorate Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, who shielded two Jewish families in their cottage. The twofold dedication of this museum, both to the Ulma family and to "Poles Saving Jews in World War II" opens up a window to understand 'big history' in the framework of the small. However, this approach also carries some risks.
The Silesian Museum opened in 2015 in a former coal mine in Katowice. The new permanent exhibition is the first attempt to exhibit the history of Upper Silesia, one of Poland’s most contested regions. The turbulent background regarding the development of the exhibition offers insights into the continuing processes of self-discovery in a post-industrial Upper Silesia in search of its place within contemporary Poland.
While the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk was still awaiting the opening of its final location, its staff prepared an exhibition that in 45 artefacts tells the story (or perhaps, stories) of the difficult process of transitioning out of war. The artefacts not only speak to us about the chaos and destruction that defined post-war life, but also about the daily practices that helped people create the intervals of peace necessary to maintain their sanity in the midst of destruction.
The new exhibition at Wrocław’s Contemporary Museum collected around thirty works centred on the formation of a Vratislavian identity following World War II. According to the organisers, the exhibition's title - The Germans Did Not Come - reflects the fear among the population of Wrocław at the time that the city might fall back into German hands - a fear that also provides a read line throughout this exhibition.
The European Solidarity Center, which opened its doors in Gdańsk in August 2014, is one of several new museum projects in recent Poland. Maybe this is why the museum’s founders emphasize the distinguishing characteristics of their institution. The center has two ambitious aims: to present exhibits on the history of Poland’s Solidarity movement as well as on the present-day meaning of solidarity as a social value. Does it achieve its own aims?
Alexandra Wachter and Ekaterina Shapiro-Obermair · 06. Mar 2017
This article discusses the new memorial site “Territory of Terror” in L’viv. It explores the ways in which the creators have tried to produce ‘new’ narratives of Western Ukrainian history by initiating museums at original sites of terror and violence committed during the Second World War and in its aftermath. It also places the exhibition in a wider context of similar sites in the area and discusses current memorialization processes more broadly regarding Soviet history in Ukraine.
What is really behind the growing popularity of Stalin in contemporary Russia? The article discusses different expressions of what has been termed a new “Stalin cult” or “Stalin renaissance” in Russian public and political discourse today, despite widespread knowledge and official acknowledgment of Stalinist mass crimes. It argues that short of constituting a rehabilitation of Stalinism, this phenomenon primarily reflects on people’s desire for stability and order.
The article gives an overview of the fragmented historical culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina, twenty years after the end of the war, which left the country deeply divided along political and ethnic lines. Parallel ethnonational narratives about the past, both recent and distant, are dominating the public sphere. Yet, the memory landscape in the country should not be reduced to its ethnonational divisions: variations within the dominating narratives and a wide range of attitudes towards them also exist.
Sarajevo’s tension-laden historical culture, in particular with reference to the war of the 1990s, is the focus of this article. Some historical background information on the city’s political divisions is provided by way of an introduction. An overview of the development and implementation of initiatives for cultural remembrance follows using the example of two permanent exhibitions. Finally, a number of blind spots and points of contention are discussed with regard to official cultures of remembrance in Sarajevo.
This text discusses the ways in which history and historical reasoning are integrated into memorialization practices in Kosovo, with a special focus on the Jashari Family Memorial. It demonstrates that as a dominant part of collective memory in Kosovo, the memorial is a site of discursive and memorial acts as well as performative cultural practices in the service of the nation. It is a staple of the ways in which the past is represented and how its meaning is maintained through commemoration.
In October 2012 a conference took place at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski that was dedicated to Lyudmila Zhivkova, the daughter of Todor Zhivkov and chairperson of the Bulgarian Committee of Culture (1975-1981). This was an attempt to remember Lyudmila Zhivkova and promote a positive image in the public sphere, yet it provoked a fierce response in the media from political parties and citizens indicating that the memory of socialism is a 'hot' issue in Bulgaria.
How does Croatia come to terms with the violent history of 20th century wars? Croatian society is deeply polarized over the narratives of the Second World War. Moreover, the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s have been framed within the imagery of the Second World War and are understood either as a continuation of that war, or as the same event conducted under new circumstances. This results in an intertwining of the memories of communism, fascism and the recent Yugoslav wars.
The article analyzes the official, state-sponsored celebration of “Operation Storm”, a military action that took place in Croatia in August 1995, and shows how the celebration has been used in constructing the official narrative about the 1991–1995 war, but also in creating and reinforcing Croatian national identity. The article also explores how the official narrative regarding the 1990s war has been deconstructed and contested by oppositional, sectarian narratives.
The Hague Tribunal (ICTY) is one of the most important transitional justice institutions with regard to the wars in former Yugoslavia. This article focusses on the different perceptions of the acquittals of the Croatian war-time generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač by the Appeals Chamber of the ICTY in 2012. While this verdict was greatly welcomed in Croatia (96 percent of the population), it was met with outrage in Serbia.
This article explores public opinion, commemorations and debates surrounding the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and traces commemoration-related changes since 1989 in the Czech Republic. It argues that the period of essentially ignoring the memories of the former communist narrative has come to an end: we now see a tendency to retrieve those former memories and, as a result, there is greater pluralism in the narration of the past in the public space.
Dealing with the communist past was one of the constitutive elements of the new or reborn democracies of East Central Europe after 1989. 'Coming to terms with the communist past' was especially important as a means of securing the legitimacy of new democratic regimes. This article provides an overview of how this process was shaped in the Czech Republic and touches upon the most significant events and actors since 1989.
Michal Pullmann's book “The End of the Experiment” distanced itself from earlier approaches to the last period of state socialism from a methodological and theoretical perspective and thus provoked a debate at various levels in the Czech Republic. This article focuses on these debates, which first and foremost touch the question of the characteristics of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia until 1989.
This is an analysis of the official initiatives, main controversies, and key scholarly activities related to the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust in Hungary in 2014. It reveals the dualistic agenda behind the official commemoration, an effort to commemorate victims without foregrounding historical responsibility. It also shows that this anniversary only reinforced the bitter societal divisions it was meant to help overcome.
The debate on the significance of the events of 1989 has so far taken place only within the realm of politics. The governing Fidesz party is attempting to reinterpret the events, which up to now have been ascribed a mostly positive connotation, and to re-tell them and the subsequent period of transition as a period of crisis that ended only with Viktor Orbán's victory in the elections of 2010. The article scrutinizes why the new interpretations of 1989 are relatively popular and wonders why academic circles have not reacted much to the issues raised.
The recent debate between Éva Kovács and Krisztián Ungváry, two Hungarian intellectuals, about the memory of Trianon took place in a political context that was defined by new government policies and laws regarding dual citizenship for Hungarians living outside state borders and by ongoing political and symbolic conflicts between Slovakia and Hungary. These conflicts are deeply intertwined with the divergent interpretations of the shared history. The article reviews the main arguments made in this debate and identifies the issues that were left untouched.
In 2012 a debate took place among Hungarian academics about how to write the country's 20th-century history in an ethically and professionally adequate way, with a particular focus on anti-Semitism and the legacy of the Holocaust. This article summarizes the main points of the original exchange between two historians and examines which threads of the subsequent discussion were the most fruitful in terms of initiating a debate about the controversial legacies of 20th-century Hungarian history.
The Hungarian government declared 2014 the ‘Year of Holocaust Remembrance’ in response to accusations that it had failed to stem anti-Semitic tendencies in the country. In July 2014 a monument was erected on Liberty Square in Budapest to commemorate the victims of Nazi occupation of Hungary. The article discusses the historically problematic message conveyed by this monument as well as the politics and protests that surrounded its creation.
Hungarian post-1989 politics has been very much defined by contrasting interpretations of the regime change and its aftermath. The article shows how these differences shaped Hungary’s political landscape, now very much defined by the Fidesz party. Moreover, the article reveals how the political context has shaped (and often distorted) debates about fundamental issues in the country’s more distant past, including the loss of territory after 1918, the interwar period and the comparison of German and Soviet occupations as two totalitarian evils.
Against the backdrop of Russia's military aggression against Ukraine and its ongoing political warfare against the West, Lithuanians have mounted a social and cultural campaign to elevate the post-WWII anti-Soviet insurgents as exemplars of patriotic resistance and statesmanship. Yet some critics have pointed to the controversial aspects of this armed struggle. The article outlines the historical and cultural context to an emotionally charged debate, arguing for a full and frank examination of the traumatic past.
A recently published travelogue by Lithuanian journalist Rūta Vanagaitė raised critical questions about Lithuanians’ complicity in the extermination of their Jewish neighbours. The book sparked vivid responses among both historians and the wider Lithuanian public. The article places the debate in the broader context of Lithuania’s post-Soviet politics of memory vis á vis the Holocaust and reflects on whether the popularity of this book constitutes a shift in public historical consciousness about this controversial period.
In recent years Lithuania has witnessed many heated debates and an extreme polarization of opinions regarding its Soviet heritage. At the epicentre of the most recent debate are four group statues representing major social groups of the Soviet period – industrial workers, peasants, students and soldiers – which were erected on the Green Bridge in Vilnius in 1952. In 2010 the controversy over what to do with the slowly decaying statues – remove or renovate - revealed a cultural conflict that has lasted for the past five years without reconciliation.
The partial opening of the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk in January 2017 has become an occasion to reflect on the political struggles and rhetoric surrounding this museum. Reconstructing and discussing the most recent administrative and pseudo-academic attempts by the PiS government to prevent the museum from opening its doors, the article shows how this fight is part of a broader, still ongoing government policy to re-orient Polish ‘history politics’ along nationalist lines.
The Museum of the History of Polish Jews stirred up journalistic emotions long before its doors opened to visitors. The article discusses how this institution, located in a modern building in central Warsaw, gave rise to hopes and fears, satisfaction and sorrow. Some expected the museum would figuratively and literally become a place for debates, where 'Polish historical consciousness could mature'; others predicted that this investment would only serve as anti-Polish propaganda.
The recent past is frequently the subject of heightened public debates in Poland. Historians receive considerable media attention, their publications and statements draw comments from journalists and politicians. These disputes invariably revolve round three fundamental issues: Polish–Jewish relations, opinions about the Warsaw Uprising, and settling scores with communism. The article provides a critical review of the themes and arguments in each of these disputed areas.
The three-part German miniseries "Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter" (Generation War) gave rise to a heated German-Polish debate that focused on the depiction of members of the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa) as anti-Semitic. The article reconstructs this debate, demonstrating the widespread German ignorance about recent Polish history. It also concludes that the way the controversy was jointly moderated by both German and Polish actors was positive.
In 2012, while conferring a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom on the Polish anti-Nazi resistance fighter Jan Karski, Barack Obama inadvertently touched off the greatest crisis in US-Polish relations in recent memory. It was his use of the phrase "Polish death camps" in his speech that set Polish officials off demanding an apology. The article takes this incident as an opportunity to reflect on the sensitivities and pitfalls of addressing recent Polish history during Nazi occupation.
Seventy years after the outbreak of the World War II, Józef Beck, the Polish Foreign Minister between 1932-1939, briefly became the focus of public attention due to sensational reports by sections of the Russian media and research driven by the Russian Federation Intelligence agency. The article takes a closer look at the contexts and reasons behind depicting this pre-war Polish minister so negatively, thereby shedding light on Polish and Russian political history and the cultural aspects of Poland’s politics of memory.
The past years have seen a growing public debate among Romanian writers both in Germany and Romania, and increasingly a wider public, over the nature and extent of certain writers' collaboration with Ceauşescu's secret police, the Securitate. This article traces the key positions and characteristics of that debate, offering insights into Romania's present-day process of confronting its communist past.
The historical role played by the Orthodox Church and individual priests as both conspirators with and opponents to Ceauşescu’s rule continues to be debated in Romania today. Recent developments appear to associate the Church with a controversial movement that advocates for the canonisation of former political prisoners of Orthodox faith, some of whom were members of the fascist Iron Guard movement of interwar Romania. The article provides background and assesses the debate that spans issues of historical justice, memory and religion.
There is barely a hint that the buildings across from the most popular shopping mall in downtown Belgrade once housed the biggest fascist concentration camp in Serbia. Only the attentive observer will notice the derelict tower on the banks of the Sava river with rundown modernist pavilions clustered around it. How can it be that all attempts to create an appropriate place of memory at this site of the Holocaust and brutal repression against political prisoners have failed?
As Serbia began legislative debate on whether to renew a 2003 law on lustration, public debates erupted concerning issues of archival access and of dealing with past and present office holders who had allegedly committed mass human rights violations. An analysis of the public discourses, involving both media and civil society, however, shows that this subject is still largely up in the air.
The anti-fascist Slovak National Uprising in 1944 is generally considered one the most important events in modern Slovak history. This article focuses on the Uprising’s 2004 and 2014 anniversary celebrations and examines various approaches taken in defining its legacy. The text demonstrates how the political agenda of the day has influenced this process. Furthermore, it focuses on reactions to revisionist attempts to interpret the legacy of the Uprising and how the events of 1944 have been used to legitimize a new wave of nationalism.
The article discusses the 2014 total re-make of the cityscape of Skopje, Macedonia by a massive building offensive as well as the erecting of numerous monuments chosen for their value and utility in constructing a Macedonian national identity. The analysis focuses both on the remaking of the capital city as an effective means of changing the identity of a nation and on the unintended results of these efforts in a reawakened public sphere.
In May 1985, Yugoslav Slovenia celebrated Victory Day and the 40th anniversary of liberation. In May 2015, independent Slovenia celebrated the 70th anniversary of the war’s end as if it had been a kind of a natural process that ended, just like summer ends. What happened to the victory celebration? This article argues that the discursive differences between the two state celebrations reflect the deep crisis of official state/national ideology.
The 2016 announcement that Tallinn's Museum of Occupations would soon be re-launched under the name "Museum of Freedom" brought swift and vitriolic critique from a diverse array of citizens, heritage groups, and politicians. The article analyses some of the key themes of the controversy showing how it emerged from competing ideas about what role the master narrative of Estonian victimhood should play; it also highlights the ways in which the debate was shaped by Estonia’s social and geopolitical context.
Official commemorations of the end of the Second World War in Estonia take place on May 8 and they focus on the victims of what is perceived as the most traumatic event in recent national history. A day later, another commemoration takes place that celebrates the war's end as victory and is attended by many Russian-speakers of Estonia. These two events epitomize the mnemonic landscape of Estonia characterized by two memory regimes that exist as parallel universes.
This article examines recent efforts by the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB) to preserve the memory of the Polish Home Army, an underground organisation of the Second World War, which also operated in areas that had been incorporated into the USSR in September 1939 and therefore belong to today’s Belarus. Particular emphasis is placed on analysing how the current political regime in Belarus has influenced the activists’ situation and efforts on the ground.
In 2015 the Serbian Supreme Court rehabilitated wartime General Dragoljub Mihailović, who had been prosecuted by a communist tribunal in 1946. The article places the protracted rehabilitation procedure into the context of both Cold War-era memory politics regarding the figure of Mihailović and post-Milošević transitional justice politics. Pointing to the highly politicized legal procedures of this case, it provides interesting insights into Serbia’s ongoing struggles over the legacies of the Second World War.
The focus of this article is the Russian state’s attempts to prepare for the challenges of commemorating the centenary of the 1917 revolutions, at precisely a time when the state has been acting as a bulwark against revolution in Ukraine and Syria, and has been attempting to undercut the bases for upheaval at home. What can we learn about the mindset of Russia’s ruling elite through examination of their approach to the centenary?
The sixtieth anniversary celebrations of the 1956 Hungarian revolution took a new turn when Viktor Orbán used the opportunity to criticize the European Union and further the Fidesz nationalist agenda. This article discusses the commemorations in their historical context since 1989 and closely analyses the speeches and festivities in Budapest. It shows the continuous uses of this date for partisan purposes and asks what this means for Hungarian collective memory.
After bringing the constitutional court to a standstill and cleansing public television to make it conform to party-political criteria, the Polish government that dominated by the PiS party has shifted its attention to the politics of memory. The article gives a critical review of recent steps taken by the government and parliament to stir the public representation of contemporary history in a national conservative, “patriotic” direction. This "historical policy" not only comes at the expensive of pluralism, but it has also already resulted in public unrest.
History plays a huge role in Polish public debates, politics, and the ideology of the ruling PiS party. "Historical policy" is now officially on the agenda of the government and its agencies. Doctrine regarding the układ and all-pervading communist agents is now the official version of history. This article examines the way history has been used under the PiS government in Poland since November 2015.
The article puts a spotlight on recently discovered files about Lech Wałęsa’s collaboration with the state security forces in 1970 and the political debates that followed from this discovery. Showing how the right-wing PiS party seized this opportunity to bolster its narrative of the “treacherous” roundtable talks and of the post-1989 transition as engineered by the communist authorities, the article makes the point that once again, history is being instrumentalized by the party in power.
Media throughout Europe began covering the events in Ukraine when the massive demonstrations on the Maidan in Kiev began in November 2013, after then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych unexpectedly refused to sign a planned association treaty with the EU in Vilnius and turned instead to Russia and negotiations over a multimillion-dollar line of credit. After the first demonstrators were tortured and shot to death by Ukrainian security forces in January 2014, the Ukrainian protest movement became a lead story. Further developments in the crisis have since been subject to heated debate in television news, daily newspapers, talk shows, roundtables, and special reports. From the escalation of violence on the Euromaidan in February 2014 to Yanukovych's flight to Russia to the installation of a new government in Kiev, the crisis in Crimea, and the armed conflict and escalating disturbances in eastern Ukraine, coverage of these events has been fraught with emotions, historically grounded fears, and partisanship.
Events in Ukraine are currently drawing the attention of the whole world, but some aspects of the crisis have gone unnoticed: the Ukrainian crisis is far more than a domestic struggle of Ukrainians with their oligarchic rulers or tensions in Russian-Ukrainian relations. The entire balance of power and the rules of the game in the region are changing, and these changes are highly significant for all neighbouring countries. This article focuses on Belarus. Firstly, I will analyse the reaction of the Belarusian regime to the events in Ukraine and then explore the possible consequences of the unfolding of Ukrainian crisis.
The political developments in the Ukraine after the decision by its former President Viktor Yanukovych to withdraw from signing the EU accession agreement in November 2013 were followed with keen attention by the Bulgarian public and widely reflected by the Bulgarian media, in print publications and on the internet. Soon after the proclamation of this decision and the beginning of the protests, the events in Ukraine took the spotlight in all Bulgarian TV programs, radio broadcasts, newspapers, journals and electronic news websites. On the television screen, the evolvement of the Ukrainian crisis was followed regularly in news reports and discussed at roundtables with the participation of politicians, political scientists and public figures; the crisis occupied the front pages of the press for several months and was seen as the most important public event for the wider audience.
In order to understand the attitudes of the Czech public to the crisis in Ukraine and the public debates on this topic, we need to take Czech-Ukrainian relations in the last century into consideration. Both ethnic groups - Czechs and Ukrainians - were characterized by strong, culturally-oriented nationalist movements in the nineteenth century, and they were often sympathetic towards each other.
Tuning into and reading the Estonian media´s coverage of the Euromaidan and the later crisis in the Crimea, one inevitably experiences a déjà vu-effect. We've heard it all before during the war in Georgia in 2008: the utter disbelief at Russia´s behaviour towards its neighbours mixed with an attitude of "see, the (rest of the) West - we told you so - this is what Putin´s Russia is really all about"; relief that Estonia is part of NATO but anxiety about the alliance's actual efficacy in a possible crisis of a similar kind in the Baltic space; an outpouring of solidarity and sympathy with nations that stood on the same starting line as Estonia in 1991, combined with a quiet satisfaction that we got some key things right in our foreign and security policies; disgust at the immensity and crudeness of Russia´s information warfare vis-à-vis its victim; and last but not least, disappointment at the slowness and modesty of the EU´s diplomatic resolve in a major political and security crisis affecting the balance of power in Europe as a whole.
The discussion about the protests and the popular uprising in Ukraine triggered by the refusal of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to sign the association agreement with the EU in November 2013, the debate about the subsequent occupation of the Crimea, and Russia's destabilization of Eastern Ukraine all reveal significant fault lines in Germany linked to German history and the history of German-Russian relations.
From the very beginning the events in Ukraine attracted considerable public attention in Germany, increasingly so with the occupation of the Crimea. The debate in Germany was probably also more controversial than it was in other countries. More recent discussions about Germany's position vis-à-vis Russia have something of a soul-searching quality about them, posing the fundamental question about whether the values of a free and democratic culture are truly anchored in German society.
In Hungary, the crisis in Ukraine, the protest movement on the Maidan in Kiev, the violent clashes between demonstrators and the police, and the collapse of President Yanukovich's government made the headlines as they did almost everywhere else in Europe and North America. Besides the regular reports in daily newspapers and on television, public media often produced more sophisticated analyses of the events by consulting experts. In this kind of analysis, in the form of either television debates or published essays, two types of commentator typically spoke.
A former fountain at the Lithuanian Parliament Seimas was redesigned in July 2013. The fountain became a pyramid with a map on each side projecting the historical borders of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania onto today's political borders. The underlying map of the Grand Duchy is a growing black spot. Its historical lands swell to overlap modern Belarus and Ukraine before finally stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. This was easily read as the Lithuanian government's political statement, trying to point to an imagined historical continuity between the former multi-ethnic Grand Duchy and today's nation state of the Republic of Lithuania. Some critical comments about the involved notion of gigantomania were published back in July 2013, but the map was not changed.
In Moldova, the latest developments in Ukraine have been a major news story. The Moldovan media and civil society groups are concerned about the implications that Russian military action in Ukraine will have for their country's national security and political autonomy.
The Ukrainian crisis and the challenges faced by the new government of that country have begun to make other CIS member states nervous. And nowhere is this more apparent than in Moldova. The country is particularly affected by the current situation in Ukraine, because of the Transnistrian and Gagauzian regions in Moldova. These two regions are centers of ethnopolitical conflicts, which pertain to rights of representation, territory, and identity and they are both considered to be under Russian influence.
In 2007, Dutch company Gasunie signed a multi-million Euro deal with Gazprom, which effectively meant that the country surrendered most of its energy supplies to the ups and downs of Russian state politics. Even more so, frankly, it meant that the Netherlands were now subject to the unpredictable workings of the mind of Russian president Vladimir Putin. At the time, activists and politicians expressed concern about the ongoing violation of human rights taking place in Russia, as well as the need to distance our country, a European nation famed for its long history of religious and social tolerance, from a nation in which such ideas and realities were repeatedly disrespected.
Łukasz Sommer and Joanna Wawrzyniak · 01. Jun 2014
The Ukrainian crisis has received massive media coverage in Poland. Politicians and journalists eagerly abandoned cultural wars to report on the threat of a real one. For a while, disputes over gender mainstreaming, which had hit the headlines last year, were suspended and many seemed relieved to finally have a grand topic to comment on.
In Romania, politicians, public intellectuals, and journalists are scrambling to comprehend the crisis faced by their neighbor. They are struggling to figure out the implications of the turmoil east of the border on the country's internal dynamics and international position. They aim to anticipate future developments in the context of rapidly changing strategic realities and a new East-West divide in Europe. The present article attempts to summarize the main topics discussed in Romania over the past month, focusing on newspapers, journals, and online platforms (i.e. more complex blogs, where experts, intellectuals, journalists, etc. write op-eds).
The present brief report describes the main fault lines of Russian media discourse on the political crisis in Ukraine between late November 2013 and April 2014. It focuses on the characterisation of the Maidan movement, the Crimean Crisis and the development of separatist movements in the Donbass region as three distinct episodes of the conflict. The report is based on articles and transcripts from the archives of online versions of a number of newspapers and one TV channel, whose reporting ranges across the political spectrum. This is intended to provide a broad overview of perceptions and an evaluation of both the dominant state discourse and marginalised liberal discourse.
This paper is based on information and articles published in the four most prominent Serbian dailies: Politika, Danas, Vecernje novosti, Blic, and the weekly Vreme. Although serious research journalism is on the verge of dying out in the Serbian media, Politika, Danas and especially Vreme are usually recognized as quality papers that tend to publish not only informative, but also more or less analytical texts. By contrast, Vecernje novosti and Blic are popular dailies that publish short, informative and sometimes tabloid-oriented texts.
It was in late November 2013, when the Kiev protests began, that the Turkish media first showed an interest in the Ukraine crisis. During this initial phase, newspapers frequently featured stories from Kiev in an attempt to update their followers on the political course of events. More specifically, the media's interest reached its peak during three critical events: the onset of protests in late November, Yanukovich's resignation, and the referendum in Crimea. In between these incidents, newspapers mainly provided their readers with basic information on the political context but discussed the Kiev protests as a distant crisis with little direct impact on Turkey. Moreover, they made few attempts to discern the different governments' positions within the EU and the larger significance of the crisis for EU-Russian relations, not to mention the power struggle between the US and Russia in the region. Only during the negotiations to end the political standoff, which were brokered by Russia and the EU, did the international dimension occupy center stage, albeit briefly.
Ukrainians generally get their political news from television. An opinion poll conducted between 17 and 22 May, 2013, by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation showed that 90% of Ukrainians named television as their primary source of political information, by contrast with local print media, radio and the internet, which were mentioned by 37%, 29% and 21% respectively. However, when protests against the government's decision to end its pursuit of an association agreement with the EU broke out in Ukraine on 21 November, it was the Internet and various social media networks that provided the most up-to-date, detailed and comprehensive information on current domestic and international events concerning the Euromaidan rallies. This paper is a short outline of the coverage of the Euromaidan protests by Ukrainian television and the Internet. It focuses on the period from 21 November, 2013, to 22 February, 2014 - that is, from the date of the first Euromaidan demonstration to that of the Ukrainian parliament's vote to oust President Viktor Yanukovych and set new elections for 25 May, 2014.
The reportage in the United States about the Ukraine crisis in the major elite news outlets - New York Times, New Yorker, and the New York Review of Books - has been surprisingly reminiscent of the Cold War. It seems as though attitudes toward Russia had returned to a preconceived pattern that had been prepared precisely for this contingency. From the first days of the crisis, as the pro-Western Ukrainians in Maidan were shouting for revolution, the editorials in the US attempted to convince the American public that the cause is right because it is anti-Russian.
Eva-Clarita Pettai and Michal Kopeček · 12. Sep 2017
The 'Lex CEU' and the heavy anti-EU and anti-Soros campaigns that accompanied this legislative move against the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest in the spring of 2017 caused a major stir not just among academics worldwide, but among European politicians too. It was widely perceived as yet another move by the government of Viktor Orbán to retreat from basic principles of liberal democracy.
Among the many idealistic reveries floating throughout Eastern and Central Europe there is one about a university. This place, crowded with highly motivated students learning zealously and professors teaching with ardour and producing excellent scholarship, would prove to the world at large what Central Europeans already know: that we belong, count and matter. Unfortunately, the world tends to rate academic excellence in terms that make it very hard for us to really belong, whether in teaching or in research capacities.
The following article revisits the history of the Central European University, its founding mission, and achievements. It surveys the Orbán regime’s policies since 2010, focusing on its education reforms and the CEU affair. The article thus contextualizes the 'Lex CEU' within recent national and international developments. The CEU affair is the latest battle in a 'Kulturkampf' between two mutually exclusive visions of Europe’s past, present, and future.
The news about the recent Hungarian legislation that threatens the existence of the Central European University (CEU), was received with mixed, sometimes strong feelings in the Bulgarian public. The current state of affairs in Bulgarian politics and society suggests clear anti-liberal tendencies and a recourse to militant nationalism. The article argues, that this is not really a new phenomenon. Instead, the developments in the country over the last decade and more rather point to a stable trend towards increasing illiberalism that is accelerated by rampant elite corruption and an ever decreasing media independence.
The events that surrounded the status of the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest at the beginning of April 2017 sparked vivid debates and public reactions in neighbouring Romania. While the academic world showed strong support for the CEU, only a few local government officials reacted similarly. This text discusses these reactions from a comparative perspective, placing the case study within a wider framework of open society, liberal democratic values, academic freedom and human rights.
Since its foundation in 1992 the Central European University in Budapest has attracted quite a number of students from Serbia. While there, they have learned to see the broader context of the events they grew up with – the war and the nationalist euphoria of the 1990s. Meeting professors and students from all over the world, as well as from the other former Yugoslav countries, has enabled them to identify and question the nationalist paradigms that led ultimately to the wars in the 1990s.
Marie Heřmanová and Štěpán Drahokoupil · 12. Sep 2017
In the context of the Visegrad countries (V4), the Czech Republic is sometimes seen as the “beacon of hope” – being named as such by liberals in Western Europe in reaction to the recent developments in the region which has seen a quick descent into an illiberal government (Hungary), an ultra-conservative government (Poland) and a government that includes a right-wing nationalist party (Slovakia). Unfortunately, the positive characterization of Czech politics works only in comparison with the neighbouring countries.
The article discusses the developments in Hungary and the issue of "illiberal backsliding" under Viktor Orbáns government against the backdrop of a broader crisis of liberal democracy around the world. Viewed in such a wider context, local specificities of post-socialist transitions do not seem to provide a full explanation for this phenomenon. Indeed, making sense of the present crisis may demand that we wholly revise the post-Cold War narrative of post-socialist democratization itself.
When Latvia held its first completely free parliamentary elections in 1993 two years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the winner was Latvijas Ceļš (The Latvian Way – LC), a self-proclaimed liberal party that gained a larger number of seats in parliament than any other political organization either before (during the interwar years) or since. Now, almost 25 years later, not a single party represented in the Latvian parliament identifies itself as liberal, and the word itself has become a term either of political abuse or ironic self-deprecation, a way of admitting that your views are largely outside the political mainstream.