Review: New Eastern Europe
I was very pleased to be asked to review the second issue of New Eastern Europe, a new quarterly journal. New Eastern Europe is a broadly collaborative affair, co-financed by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the European Solidarity Centre, and published by the College of Eastern Europe. Each issue contains a lively combination of reports, opinion, analysis and review articles, written by a range of authors including political analysts, academics, journalists and economists.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the lead focus of the second issue is heavily Russo-centric, featuring a timely collection of articles relating to the March election and the implications of Vladimir Putin’s forthcoming return to the presidency. Speculation about the likely impact of Putin’s controversial victory has been rife in recent weeks, with some analysts suggesting that that Putin is unlikely to even survive the duration of his forthcoming third term. The general consensus amongst the authors who have contributed to this special issue of New Eastern Europe, however, seems to be that we should expect continuity rather than change, both in terms of domestic politics and foreign policy, at least in the immediate future.
I particularly enjoyed Jadwiga Rogoza’s fascinating article, where she argues that the recent surge in social activism in Russia is a product of social restructuring and the emergence of interest groups who increasingly conflict with the authorities (particularly the growth in prominence of the Russian middle class), linked to the role of the internet in helping to ‘demystify Putin’s rhetoric of success’ in defiance of the state-controlled media. Despite this, Rogoza still believes that the real challenge will be the evolution of the recent short term spike in social activism into a longer-term, more meaningful grass-roots opposition movement.
Ivan Preobrazhesnky goes on to analyse some of the historical parallels that have been drawn between the current Russian protests and those that took place during the dying years of the USSR (1989-1991), concluding that overall, the differences far outweigh the similarities, and that today, any change will be ‘evolutionary rather than revolutionary’. Dmitry Babich agrees, arguing that sweeping regime change within Russia will not happen any time soon, and that neither is Putin’s return to power likely to affect Russia’s relations with the West. Gail Lapidus extends the foreign policy focus, arguing that while Putin’s return may lead to ‘complications’ in US-Russian relations as we enter a period where areas of foreign policy convergence diminish while more contentious issues take centre stage, in the longer-term bilateral relations are unlikely to unravel or seriously diminish. The Russian coverage concludes with an inightful interview with Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of Russia’s Yabloko block and author of Realeconomik.
Shining the spotlight away from Russia and onto some of her neighbours, the middle section of this issue contains an eclectic mixture of articles, including expert analysis of developments in Belarus, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. Cornelius Ochman also provides a very interesting commentary about ideas of a new German ‘ostpolitik’ and I particularly enjoyed Thomas Escritt’s thoughts on the provocative policies adopted by Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party in Hungary. Further articles analyse the effects of the global economic crisis across various countries in the east European region before finally, the focus shifts from the political to the personal, including a wonderful interview with travel writer Colin Thubron, Katarzyna Kwiatkowska’s profile of Russian opposition leader Alexander Navalny and Slawomir Lukasiewicz’s portrait of Jan Nowak-Jezioranski and his work in the Polish underground during WWII and the communist period.
The second issue of New Eastern Europe concludes with their regular review section which, in this instance, includes thought provoking commentary on Agnieska Holland’s Holocaust film ‘In Darkness’; some thoughts about the newly published Polish autobiography by Danuta Walesa (better known as ‘Mrs. Lech Walesa’); a summary of Robert Massie’s portrait of Russia’s best known Empress Catherine the Great and a look at Taras Antypovych’s dystopian novel Chronos.
New Eastern Europe provides a welcome addition to existing periodicals focussing on central and east European affairs, effectively straddling the divide between more scholarly literature and popular media. The relatively short length of individual articles contributes to their readability, but without detracting from the standard of their content – written by a range of expert commentators, these articles are packed full of opinion and analysis. The inclusion of articles written by a diverse collection of authors also has the advantage of providing a variety of different approaches, insights and perspectives. One thing I particularly like about New Eastern Europe is the fact that their print journal is supported by additional commentary on their frequently updated website, active Twitter feed and Facebook page. At a time when traditional print media is struggling to adapt and survive in an environment which is increasingly dominated by digitisation and social media, New Eastern Europe sets an impressive example of how best to integrate and coordinate these different aspects to good effect. As a result New Eastern Europe is fast establishing itself as a ‘must-read’ for anyone with an interest in modern and contemporary central and eastern Europe.
New Eastern Europe is distributed internationally and Issue 2 is available now. You can also purchase an annual subscription to the journal HERE.
The main New Eastern Europe Website is HERE.
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