PC Press Digest

Weekly Press Digest – September 11

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

Michal Chmela’s selection

It has been a fairly eventful week in the Czech Republic, so let us start right away: teachers protesting against low wages managed to draw some media attention, pointing out the long-term underfinancing of education in the country and even implied a strike could be in the cards. The several politicians present nodded their assent, proclaimed their support and quietly left since they simply cannot be expected to do their jobs a month before elections.

Another group with a month left to do their job is the police: ex-Minister, billionaire, fraud and one of the most powerful men in the country Andrej Babiš has had his immunity revoked by the Parliament after a thrilling seven hours spent on just about every man jack in his party ANO loudly bemoaning the man’s innocence and hoping to drag the meeting out as long as possible. Of course, since he is still likely to win the elections in October, the whole process has a good chance of having to start from the scratch – and get buried by an ANO-dominated cabinet.

The current Czech alcoholic-in-chief, Miloš Zeman, has officially opened the transparent bank account for his re-election campaign. While it has gathered some supportive (and positively heart-rending, like a retired lady that sent a tenth of her monthly money) contributions, the vast majority of cash provided comes in the form of 0.01 crown payments (to get to Euro, divide that further by 26) intended to get messages across. It started off with jokes but as more people started following the account, the nature of the messages quickly shifted to improvised poetry, private messages (after all, it is cheaper paying for the service), advertisements (ditto), chess-by-post, and ASCII art of, of all things, Pokémon. One could argue that the amount of entertainment generated by the Czech internet from out of this (there even is a website dedicated to voting for the best and worst “payments”) is the first and only good thing that came out of Zeman’s tenure as President.

Sadly, the bank has outright stated it is not going to bill him for the transactions.

Michal Chmela is a translator and journalist.


Nino Sichinava’s selection

Mikheil Saakashvili crossed the border and entered Ukraine

On 10th of September, stateless Ex-President of Georgia and Former Governor in Ukraine, Mikheil Saakashvili, supported by Ukrainians, opposition leaders, Rada MPs, Polish MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski,  managed to cross the Polish-Ukrainian border in the end of a 9-hour live broadcast from the checkpoint. Earlier he was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship, which outraged the politician. The event was organized to fight for his rights as a citizen and against Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Smiling and happy as the crowd carried him into Ukraine, Saakashvili thanked everyone who supported him this day. Russian media noted that many of border guards on Ukrainian checkpoint were severely injured during the process. Both Russian and Georgian media were heavily covering the event with live broadcasts and articles due the strong advertisement of the event earlier this summer.

No one heard about elections in Russia

On Sunday the last major elections were held before the presidential campaign of 2018 in Russia. The event had the lowest turnout in recent years due to the lack of advertisement in the regions and the authorities’ desire to hide the intrigue in Moscow.

The sudden disappearance of skinhead movement and their worshipped music in Russia

One of the main topics of this year is the awakening of a new protest youth. They are able to listen to vich, techno, hard trip, vaporwave, black folk, chil-wave, dark-step-rap, new-old, psychedelic clap-rap. Meanwhile, the skinheads – both left and right – whose subculture and war were at the peak in 00s and early 10s, are decreasing in popularity. No one wants to listen to their malicious protest music. The new generation is at the doorstep, sick of violence, ready to merge with all other subcultures to create a strange kind of peace.

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

Last week, the Ukrainian parliament passed the bill which will end Hungarian-language primary and higher education in Zakarpattia Oblast, which has a large Hungarian-speaking minority – although the bill originally targeted Russian-speaking regions in the east. The national conversation on the Hungarian diaspora has been largely appropriated by right- and far-right-wing political groups (so long as it serves their own political interests), and comments in oppositional media often bear an encouraging and emboldening tone of reassurance. On Friday, eight oppositional politicians spoke out against the Hungarian government’s counterproductive foreign policy – whose only comment was: “Soros.”

A new political swearword was born. A couple of months ago the far-right Jobbik leader Gábor Vona said that pensioners are the main support camp of Fidesz because they are manipulated; and recounted some of his own encounters with the elderly, whose eyes were “full of hatred” and whose mouths were “overflowing with sewage.” The pro-government media responded with a campaign against Vona, which culminated last week, when the propaganda site Origo published an “article” on the new wave, what’s more, movement of elder abuse – according to which pensioners are being kicked off elevators and called szennyvízláda – “cesspits.”

And to round off, I’ll make an exception: here’s an English-language essay on the Russian dacha. How it all began, how it became a phenomenon, what people mean when they joke about it, and how it’s been represented in popular culture.

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


Featured photo by Maria Savenko via Flickr.