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Rethinking Milan Kundera and the Idea of Central Europe
Much of the debates in this book revolves around Milan Kundera and his 1984 essay “The Tragedy of Central Europe.” Kundera wrote his polemical text when the world was pregnant with imminent social and political change, yet that world was still far from realizing that we would enter the last decade of the twentieth century with the Soviet empire and its network of satellite states missing from the political map. Kundera was challenged by Joseph Brodsky and György Konrád for allegedly excluding Russia from the symbolic space of Europe, something the great author deeply believes he never did.
To what extent was Kundera right in assuming that, if to exist means to be present in the eyes of those we love, then Central Europe does not exist anymore, just as Western Europe as we knew it has stopped existing? What were the mental, cultural, and intellectual realities that lay beneath or behind his beautiful and graceful metaphors? Are we justified in rehabilitating political optimism at the beginning of the twenty-first century? Are we able to reconcile the divided memories of Eastern or Central Europe and Western Europe regarding what happened to the world in 1968? And where is Central Europe now?
Life Stories of Lithuanian Women, 1945 – 1970
For millions of people, the Soviet experience meant not only living through the torment of Stalinism and the GULAG, the unbelievable destiny of men and women during the 1917 Revolution, civil war, and the Second World War, or those breathtaking, gigantic Socialist construction projects. Many citizens of the former Soviet Union lived “ordinary lives in ordinary times”, where the fate of men and women depended not on armed coercion, but Soviet ideology and propaganda. Adopting and Remembering Soviet Reality contains the stories of ten women, talking about their lives in Soviet Lithuania, one of the annexed Baltic republics. The book gives a compelling account of how, in the last years of Stalin’s rule, after 1945, during the so-called “Khrushchev Thaw”, and in the beginning of the “Stagnation Era”, Soviet ideology transfused the everyday life of women and dictated just about every major aspect of their lives. Based on interviews, the journalistic press of that era, as well as other material, the book reveals how propaganda shaped women’s understanding of family and work responsibilities, child care, interpersonal relationships, romantic love, and friendship.
Democratisation and minority communities in the post-Soviet Baltic
The research on Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania has pointed out some controversial social and political developments since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Crucially, there is a discrepancy between the governments’ commitment to creating democratic political regimes, to ensuring harmonious social relations and to accommodating the ethno-cultural diversity of the resident communities. In reflecting on the legacies of the Soviet past, the book addresses the role non-titular populations have played in the process of democratisation and the relation between the states, societies and minorities in the post-Soviet Baltic states. The argument proceeds along three lines. Firstly, the book examines the institutional dimension of democratisation in the region, thereby addressing the processes of state- and nation-building as reflected in various policy-developments. Secondly, it compares the impact of ethno-cultural diversity on the development of the respective Baltic nation-states. The discussion makes clear that the framework of Baltic political communities was designed to suit the interests of the titular groups and thus resulted in the marginalisation of the minority communities. Thirdly, the book assesses the participation of minority communities in the development, criticism and improvement of state institutions and policies since independence. The analysis points out that, two decades after independence, the post-Soviet Baltic states and societies are seen by many members of the majority groups as primarily serving the interests of their ethnic community. In this situation, the members of the non-titular communities need to adapt to the majorities’ perceptions in order to benefit from the achievements of democratisation.
Human Factors, Secret Actors
For 20 years Soviet psychiatric abuse dominated the agenda of the World Psychiatric Association. It ended only after the Soviet Foreign Ministry intervened. Cold War in Psychiatry tells the full story for the first time and from inside, among others on basis of extensive reports by Stasi and KGB – who were the secret actors, what were the hidden factors? Based on a wealth of new evidence and documentation as well as interviews with many of the main actors, including leading Western psychiatrists, Soviet dissidents and Soviet and East German key figures, the book describes the issue in all its complexity and puts it in a broader context. In the book opposite sides find common ground and a common understanding of what actually happened.
This volume focuses on a previously under-researched area, namely exile in and from Czechoslovakia in the years prior to the Second World War as well as during the wartime and post-war periods. The study considers, firstly, the refugees from Germany and Austria who fled to Czechoslovakia during the 1930s; secondly, the refugees from Czechoslovakia, both German and Czech-speaking, who arrived in Britain in or around 1938 as refugees from Fascism; and thirdly, those who fled from Communism in 1948. From a variety of perspectives, the book examines the refugees’ activities and achievements in a range of fields, both on a collective and an individual basis. The volume will be of interest to scholars and students of twentieth century history, politics and cultural studies as well as those involved in Central European Studies and Exile Studies. It will also appeal to a general readership with an interest in Britain and Europe in the 1930s and 1940s.
Between Ethnic Diversity and Equality
The book presents a timely examination on a range of issues present in the discussions on the integration of ethnic minorities in Central Eastern Europe: norm setting, equality promotion, multiculturalism, nation-building, social cohesion, and ethnic diversity. It insightfully illustrates these debates by assessing them diachronically rather than cross-nationally from the legal, political and anthropological perspective. The contributors unpack concepts related to minority integration, discuss progress in policy-implementation and scrutinize the outcomes of minority integration in seven countries from the region. The volume is divided into three sections taking a multi-variant perspective on minority integration and equality. The volume starts with an analysis of international organizations setting standards and promoting minority rights norms on ethnic diversity and equal treatment. The second and third sections address state policies that provide fora for minority groups to participate in policy-making as well as the role of society and its various actors their development and enactment of integration concepts. The volume aims to assess the future of ethnic diversity and equality in societies across Central Eastern European states.
From The Soviet Union of Leonid Brezhnev to the "Soviet Union" of Vladimir Putin
The book contains the memoirs of Robert van Voren covering the period 1977-2008 and provides unique insights into the dissident movement in the Soviet Union in the 1980s, both inside the country and abroad. As a result of his close friendship with many of the leading dissidents and his dozens of trips to the USSR as a courier, he had intimate knowledge of the ins and outs of the dissident movement and participated in many of the campaigns to obtain the release of Soviet political prisoners. In the late 1980s he became involved in building a humane and ethical practice of psychiatry in Eastern Europe and the (ex-) USSR, based on respect for the human rights of persons with mental illness. The book describes the dissident movement and many of the people who formed it, mental health reformers in Eastern Europe and the response of the Western psychiatric community, the battle with the World Psychiatric Association over Soviet, and later, Chinese political abuse of psychiatry, his contacts with former KGB officers and problems with the KGB’s successor organization, the FSB. It also vividly describes the emotional effects of serving as a courier for the dissident movement, the fear of arrest, the pain of seeing friends disappear for many years into camps and prisons, sometimes never to return.
Fourteen Hard Questions and Straight Answers about a Baltic Country
What do we know about Latvia and the Latvians? A Baltic (not Balkan) nation that emerged from fifty years under the Soviet Union – interrupted by a brief but brutal Nazi-German occupation and a devastating war – now a member of the European Union and NATO. Yes, but what else? Relentless accusations keep appearing, especially in Russian media, often repeated in the West: “Latvian soldiers single-handedly saved Lenin’s revolution in 1917”, “Latvians killed Tsar Nikolai II and the Royal family”, “Latvia was a thoroughly anti-Semitic country and Latvians started killing Jews even before the Germans arrived in 1941”, “Nazi revival is rampant in today's Latvia”, “The Russian minority is persecuted in Latvia. . .” True, false or in-between? The Finnish journalist and author Jukka Rislakki examines charges like these and provides an outline of Latvia's recent history while attempting to separate documented historical fact from misinformation and deliberate disinformation. His analysis helps to explain why the Baltic States (population 7 million) consistently top the enemy lists in public opinion polls of Russia (143 million). His knowledge of the Baltic languages allows him to make use of local sources and up-to-date historical research. He is a former Baltic States correspondent for Finland's largest daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat and the author of several books on Finnish and Latvian history. As a neutral, experienced and often critical observer, Rislakki is uniquely qualified for the task of separating truth from fiction.
Meaning and Practice of Russification in Lithuania and Belarus after 1863
Making Russians is an innovative study dealing with Russian nationalities policy in Lithuania and Belarus in the aftermath of the 1863 Uprising. The book devotes most attention to imperial confessional and language policy, for in Russian discourse at that time it was religion and language that were considered to be the most important criteria determining nationality. The account of Russian nationalities policy presented here differs considerably from the assessments usually offered by historians from east-central Europe primarily because the author provides a more subtle description of the aims of imperial nationalities policy, rejecting the claim that the Russian authorities consistently sought to assimilate members of other national groups. At the same time the interpretation this study offers opens a discussion with western and Russian historians, especially those, who lay heavy emphasis on discourse analysis. This study asserts that the rhetoric of officials and certain public campaigners was influenced by a concept of political correctness, which condemned all forms of ethnic denationalisation. A closer look at the implementation of discriminatory policy allows us to discern within Russian imperial policy more attempts to assimilate or otherwise repress the cultures of non-dominant national groups than it is possible to appreciate simply by analysing discourse alone.
Emerging from the ruins of the former Soviet Union, the literature of the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia is analyzed from the fruitful perspective of postcolonialism, a theoretical approach whose application to former second-world countries is in its initial stages. This groundbreaking volume brings scholars working in the West together with those who were previously muffled behind the Iron Curtain. They gauge the impact of colonization on the culture of the Baltic states and demonstrate the relevance of concepts first elaborated by a wide range of critics from Frantz Fanon to Homi Bhabha. Examining literary texts and the situation of the intellectual reveals Baltic concerns with identity and integrity, the rewriting of previously blotted out or distorted history, and a search for meaning in societies struggling to establish their place in the world after decades - and perhaps millennia - of oppression. The volume dips into the late Tsarist period, then goes more deeply into Soviet deportations to the Gulag, while the main focus is on works of the turning-point in the late 1980s and 1990s. Postcolonial concepts like mimicry, subjectivity and the Other provide a new discourse that yields fresh insights into the colonized countries’ culture and their poignant attempts to fight, to adapt and to survive. This book will be of interest to literary critics, Baltic scholars, historians and political scientists of Eastern Europe, linguists, anthropologists, psychologists, sociologists, working in the area of postcommunism and anyone interested in learning more about these ancient and vibrant cultures.