PC Press Digest

Weekly Press Digest – July 31

Political Critique's weekly selection from the Eastern European press.

Kateryna Semchuk’s selection

The Ukrainian Hromadske.ua has published a piece on sexism at universities: “They leaned in to give a kiss on the cheek, but, as if accidentally, kissed the lips’ by Anastasiya Kanaryova. It consists of a few stories by female Ukrainian students who suffered from sexual harassment at universities. It reflects on recent events, when a group of female students from the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy protested against the sexist behavior of their professor Alexey Kurinny on July 14. Their protest was disrupted by members of right-wing organizations. Allegedly, Kurinny himself invited the nationalists. The administration of the Academy have responded sluggishly and puted the responsibility on the organizers of the action. The article also contains a test to see whether you can tell the difference between harassment, non-harassment, and discrimination.

The Russian Novaya Gazeta has published a video appeal to the President of Russia made by mothers of Russian soldiers Viktor Ageyev and Stanislav Klykh fighting on the Russian side in Donbas who got captured during the fight. “It is in your power – to bring our children home and stop the war!,” they say. Victor Ageev (22) was captured on June 25 during a battle between the Ukrainian Army and the Luhansk separatists. His mother Svetlana, together with the journalist of Novaya Gazeta Pavel Kanigin visited her son in the Starobilsk Investigation Isolator on July 22, where he’s being detained for the period of the investigation by the Security Services of Ukraine.

The Belarusian Makeout published an article on women with alopecia: “Without a wig and a hat I feel more sexy.”. It’s the story of Ira and Katya living in Minsk who have hair loss condition. In a world where hair is considered an important criterion of attractiveness and “normality,” people with alopecia, as a rule, are hiding. The protagonists compare the experience of wearing a wig with life without it and talk about the long process of accepting yourself.

Kateryna Semchuk is an author at the Ukrainian edition of Political Critique (Політична критика), graduated from Paris Sorbonne 4 University, interested in political philosophy and ethics.


Michal Chmela’s selection

A2larm reports on the culturally automotive farce that took place in Brno: the second largest city in the Czech Republic accepted a second-hand car seller’s generous donation for a cultural festival… in exchange for allowing the company to organize an “ordinary car exhibition” in the center of the city. Said exhibition took the form of a used car sale – complete with price tags – literally taking over a park and Brno’s most-visited square.

This raised a wave of protest, much to the festival organizers’ shock, disbelief, and dismay (in that order); after all, the good folk of Brno should be perfectly happy with their admittedly great festival being free, right? And maybe they could buy a nice, slightly banged car while in there?

After a lot of political backpedaling, the cars are gone but questions remain: most notably, was it worth it? Do ten days of culture justify a month (according to the original plan) of a commercial capture of the park and square? And shouldn’t the organizers of festivals – especially festivals that utilize public space – consider the choice of their sponsors with something at least resembling care?

The ever-so-important swimsuit crisis reported last week suddenly took a turn from absurd to alarming when a woman that took pictures of burqini-clad visitors at a swimming pool in Prague reacted to being politely asked to delete the photos by attacking the Muslim woman. The police classified this as an offence but if anything it is a symptom; the Czech media and politicians are openly encouraging racism and what the hell can we do against it?

A commentator on aktualne.cz offers a possible explanation: the people are not, contrary to the popular opinion, idiots; they are just in love. Letting emotion overwhelm their reason and listening to politicians that make raising emotions and suppressing reason their jobs. Sure, the author is reinventing the wheel but it’s a wheel we keep forgetting about.

Michal Chmela is a translator and journalist.


Nino Sichinava’s selection

Stateless President

Former president of Georgia and Governor of Odessa Oblast in Ukraine, Mikheil Saakashvili was deprived of his Ukranian citizenship. In his interview to BBC Russian Service, Saakashvili called President Poroshenko’s decision a “stab in the back,” blaming the union of two oligarchs, Poroshenko and Bidzina Ivanishvili, being against him. Igor Kolomoyskyi told Palitra Weekly that such action can negatively impact the reputation of Ukraine in the world.  Let us remind the readers that it was President Poroshenko who granted Mikheil Saakashvili his Ukrainian passport around the time when he had to give up his Georgian citizenship to avoid imprisonment in Georgia. According to Svobodnaya Pressa, Lithuania is considering giving Saakashvili shelter.

Russia imposed retaliatory sanctions against the US in advance

Instead of waiting for the agreement on the new sanctions against Russia, Moscow decided to impose its ‘reaction’ sanctions. According to BBC Russian Service, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs banned American diplomats from using the dacha in the Serebryany Bor and a warehouse in Moscow, and suggested reducing the number of personnel in American diplomatic and consular offices in Russia.

US sanction against Russia might put to an end the Trans-Atlantic partnership.

Previously, the coordination between Washington and Brussels were the key to the harsh sanctions against Russia. However, since many big corporations have lost their money due to this politics, Congress decision on the new sanctions might not be agreed on by the European Union, according to Svobodnaya Pressa.

Nino Sichinava is an International Relations student at Lazarski University (Poland) and Coventry University (UK). A contributor for Political Critique and European Alternatives.


Anna Azarova’s selection

On July 30 1937, Stalin signed Order Nr. 00447, considered to be the beginning of the Great Purge. Meduza commemorates the event’s 80th anniversary with several articles.

First, we can refresh our historical knowledge with a collection of questions we are too embarrassed to ask, answered by Memorial, a human rights group researching the totalitarianism in the Soviet Union  – such as, how many victims there actually were, did Stalin order the executions himself, and whether the perpetrators were ever punished.

Then, experts discuss the “Stalin-myth” and the (ongoing?) process of de-Stalinisation. One of them argues that the people who today say that Stalin is the best leader the Soviet Union and Russia has ever seen, the point isn’t to “explain” to them who “the real” Stalin was – because what they mean by parading under his giant portrait is that they want “less inequality, less corruption. We dislike the current situation so much that we chose the most terrifying figure there is to express this.”

And lastly, Meduza interviewed historian and journalist Anne Applebaum, who tells about how Russia’s and the West’s approach to Stalin and the legacy of totalitarianism has changed in the past decades.

Anna Azarova is a graduate student in Budapest and a freelance translator.


Sophie Rebmann’s selection

The Balkan Investigative Research Network (BIRN) reported that journalists in the Balkan region experience growing political and financial tensions. While regions like the Middle East became of more importance to the United States and the EU, their interest in the Balkan weakens, which leads to less control of government and a higher influence of Russia, BIRN analyses. Only once the EU goes through reforms will it be able to engage stronger in the affairs of the region.

Balkan Insight also deals with Russia’s influence: Journalist Marcus Tanner reports on a book by Bulgarian scholar Dimitar Bechev analyzing Russia’s rising economic, military, and diplomatic impact on the region. According to the article, the book traces Russia’s engagements and concludes the reason for Russia’s engagement in the region “is bent on interfering with Western plans with the region” rather than creating satellite states. This seems especially interesting since there has been a similar book published on the entanglement of Poland’s Defense ministers advisors with Russian entities.

Igor Spaic highlights the positive impact of migration in the years of 1992-1995: Now, migrants who have been to German-speaking countries have no problems finding jobs in call centers in Bosnia often earning more than job positions for well-educated Bosnians. The educational system should tailor their program more towards the need of the business sector, he concludes without critical remarks on the development.

A picture of Martin Schulz, the candidate of the Social Democratic party in Germany for parliamentary elections in September 2017 appeared in a Russian newspaper advertising … Russian windows! The company who set up the ad insists the picture shows “Tim Erikson,” allegedly a “Swedish expert.” Are German voters being fooled by a Swedish window expert?!

Sophie Rebmann studies Political science and Comparative Literature in Tübingen (Germany), Kraków and Sarajevo. She likes writing for magazines/newspapers and the radio – and mostly from abroad.