PC Press Digest

Weekly Press Digest – September 25

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

Michal Chmela’s selection

Last week, the leader of extreme-right-wing party DSSS suffered a massive dose of disappointment when he was interviewed by the media for the first time in a long while. Poor little guy found out the hard way that being decidedly fascist is way out of fashion now that the verbal vomit he spews happens to be puked out on a regular basis by most mainstream politicians as well. And it turns out the widespread racist rhetoric will most likely end up actually diverting his potential voters to his more vocal brothers in bile. Which somehow feels to balance perfectly on the thin line between humor and horror.

Another terrorist scare resulted in hideous black-and-yellow barricades being erected in several of Prague’s most tourist-happy historical locations. Conservationists are foaming at the mouth, politicians and police are happy they seem to be doing something and terrorists still fail to show up in the country. One has to wonder whether these measures do not contribute to terror among the populace more than an actual attack would.

The underpaid teachers protesting last week had an unexpected consequence: the Ministry of Finance actually found some money. It turns out that the government possessed about nine billion crowns in “reserve” it was apparently utterly unaware of. Whether it ends up in the hands of the teachers remains to be seen, but the act itself proves at least two things: one, the (oh-so-efficiently Babiš-run) Ministry of Finance is in a state of complete chaos and two, miracles do happen, as the Communist MP invoking God in his election campaign billboards would probably attest to.

Michal Chmela is a translator and journalist.


Nino Sichinava’s selection

Georgia and Russia mourn death of Opera singer

Last week, famous Georgian and Russian Opera singer Zurab Sotkilava passed away at the age of 80. The student of La Scala and a long-term soloist of Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, he had a peculiar biography, which included a mining and geological studies degree in Tbilisi and a successful football career for Dinamo team. Being born in Sukhumi, Abkhazia, his ultimate dream was to visit his parents’ graves there before the death. However, he couldn’t do it. Why? See next paragraph.

Prime Minister of Georgia at the 72nd General Assembly of the United Nations in New York

In his speech in UN, Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, referred to Abkhazian occupation and said that ‘Georgia is firmly committed to the peaceful resolution of the Russia-Georgia conflict.’ Especially now, because according to him, this year Russia ‘has intensified its policy of occupation and factual annexation of [the] Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia.’ He also referred to numerous families living on the borders that cannot reach any medical help or simply go to school.

Georgian cuisine was included in the official menu of UK parliament restaurant

On a good note, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, the Georgian Cuisine Week was held in the British Parliament, after which the Georgian delicacies were brought to the permanent menu of the restaurant located in the parliament.

The new statistics show that in recent years most criminal attacks in Russia are targeting LGBTQ community

“Dozens are dying only because they are gay.” The adoption of the law on the prohibition of gay propaganda in Russia led to explosive growth of murders and violence against people of “non-traditional sexual orientation.” This conclusion was brought by the candidate of sociological sciences, an employee of the European University in St. Petersburg and the Center for Independent Social Research Alexander Kondakov. According to him, ‘hatred of a particular social group of persons in Russian legislation is indeed punished more severely. But when it comes to sexual orientation, judges are uncomfortable to apply this provision.’

‘The era of false news’ and internet surveillance is bothering 83% of Russian citizens

An increasing amount of Russian internet users feel unsafe to let the world see their opinion, because they believe that government is regulating the internet too much – therefore, according to them, the freedom of expression is being restricted even in the virtual reality. And such opinions are circulating not only in Russia with its ‘guided democracy’ but also in many other countries, such as Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, etc.

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

After introducing compulsory religion and morality classes a couple of years ago, demolishing the independent schoolbook-market, modifying sports curricula to be “patriotic,” and planning to build 107 shooting ranges on school premises, the Hungarian government’s new idea is everyday singing at schools. Kids, of course, are not asked what kind of music they are interested in, but the Ministry of Human Capacities will nevertheless allocate funds for founding dozens of choirs and daily singing classes. The Minister emphasised that you just can’t start early enough: mothers apparently start singing at the moment of conception, and when fathers join them, they pass down the love for music to their offspring.

In 2011, the ministry decided to provide elementary schools with “free” books for the 1–4. grades. These “durable” schoolbooks are the property of the school libraries, and children are to give them back at the end of the year – without any traces of use. But then, even experts working for the ministry admitted that pedagogically speaking, it’s more beneficial for younger children to write into their books, take notes on the margins, or make colourful doodles, and to feel ownership of the books. Then, the ministry extended the system of durable schoolbooks to the 5–9. grades. Then it cancelled it in the 1–4. grades. A seemingly good government proposal apparently ends in chaos again.

In a rare occurrence, the government commissioner for education (a kind of sub-minister at the massive Ministry of Human Capacities) held a public debate with an oppositional candidate for the post. The commissioner highlighted three areas of “development” he is most proud of – all of which are highly contested everywhere outside of the pro-government oligarch-funded circles. In spite of being so proud of these efforts, when confronted with the (widely publicised and well known) OECD data on the ongoing deterioration of public education, the commissioner denied any responsibility: apparently, the previous government – deposed in 2010 – is responsible for all that, and we should wait for the new education policies to “ripen.” While in opposition, Fidesz practically made a proverb of always referring to “the past eight years,” and after 7+ years in government it doesn’t look like they will start taking responsibility anytime soon.

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


Featured photo by Maria Savenko via Flickr.