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Tonio Weicker

It is well known that labor migrants from different countries all over the Eurasian Union are the backbone of crucial economy sectors in the Russian Federation as, inter alia, construction, agriculture or trade. This article deals with another less mentioned but similarly significant labor market, which substantially changed its assemblage during the last couple of years, namely commercial urban transport services. In the last two decades, the marshrutka sector underwent major reforms and formalization processes that, on the one hand, brought operators back into the tax net and ensured a certain extension of control to the local transportation departments but, on the other hand, worsened the labor conditions of the transportation workers. Drawing from the empirical evidence of my fieldwork in southern Russia, I describe currently problematized mobility assemblages and embed the actor’s articulations in broader conflicts within the marshrutka business and transportation regulation policy. I further analyze how labor migrants have been forced to accept unfavorable working conditions in the enterprises as a direct result of politically triggered reforms in the marshrutka business. The paper provides insights into the social arena of the marshrutka, which serves as a societal encounter of urban conflicts and transformation mirroring (un-)intended effects of the local transportation reformation attempts.

Cara Kerven

In Turkmenistan, Islamic charitable alms (sadaka) are a central part of daily life in the desert villages surrounding Gökdepe town, about five hours drive from the capital, Aşgabat. Adults give sadaka for reasons of religious merit, in order to pay respects to deceased family members and prior to major life-cycle events such as weddings. This article links Turkmen sadaka to other life-cycle ceremonies noted in the surrounding Central Asian countries. Life-cycle ceremonies have been theorised in two broadly different ways, as either concerned with prestige and status or as ethical projects. I bring these two approaches into conversation through the notion of social reproduction. Using long-term ethnographic research, I argue that Turkmen sadaka reveals how the economics of daily life and social reproduction are directly dependent on divine gifts. It is an ethical project for those participating that, at the same time, has recognised social consequences in terms of status and prestige.

Giulia Cabras

In the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (People’s Republic of China), history is taught according to Chinese nationalistic guidelines and the history of ethnic groups is built around their relationships with the Han majority. In this context of historical hegemony, the paper examines a series of books for Uyghur children on famous historical characters in order to understand how young generations’ ethnic consciousness can be shaped. The analysis identifies some trends of the Uyghur ethnic discourse transmitted to children (connections with the history of Central Asia and the Middle East, the focus on elements of identification such as Islam and muqams), as well as the presence of a Chinese paradigm that supports progress, secular education, and the standardization of folklore. Furthermore, the article aims to identify how much leeway is given to the development of a counter-discourse, particularly in the transmission of historical and cultural heritage to the younger generations.

Sebastian Gehrig, James Mark, Paul Betts, Kim Christiaens and Idesbald Goddeeris

Anti-apartheid advocacy allowed Eastern Bloc countries to reframe their ideological language of solidarity towards African countries into a legalist rhetoric during the 1960s and 70s. Support for international anti-racial discrimination law and self-determination from colonial rule reinforced their ties to Africa after the disenchantment of the Hungarian Uprising. Rights activism against apartheid showcased the socialist Bloc’s active contribution to the international rise of human rights language and international law during the Cold War. By the mid-1970s, however, international rights engagement became problematic for most Eastern European states, and dissidents at home eventually appropriated the term apartheid based on decades of state-mandated international rights activism to criticise socialism.

The Failure of the Socialist Declaration of Human Rights

Ideology, Legitimacy, and Elite Defection at the End of State Socialism

Ned Richardson-Little

In the mid-1980s, the Eastern Bloc faced increased pressure on the issue of human rights from western governments, ngos, and indigenous dissident. Although the Socialist Bloc had claimed to represent the ideals of human rights throughout the Cold War, by 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev called on the leaders of the Eastern Bloc to work together on a coordinated response to this threat and in response East Germany proposed the creation of an international declaration based on the principles of socialist—rather than bourgeois—human rights. Within a few years, however, the project collapsed in ignominious failure as it provided a vehicle for reformers to challenge the status quo in the name of human rights by demanding greater democratization. Although the project was originally devised to refute the human rights claims of the West, it instead acted to spur on the intellectual collapse of the Eastern Bloc’s ideological unity at its time of greatest crisis.

Erika Szívós

Since its publication, Pieter M. Judson’s history of the Habsburg Empire: A New History has sparked discussion and debate as a result of its novel reframing of the relationship between nationalism and empire in the Central European polity. Judson offers a new narrative of a vibrant and adaptive state that had the ability to balance empire and nationality, and thus was not doomed to fail, as has been one of the well-worn interpretations of the empire. The contributors to this debate come to the book from different regional and academic standpoints, and take on a number of key issues raised by the book: the role of nationality in the empire; the nature of Habsburg imperial rule within the broader context of European empire building; the relationship of Hungary within the larger empire; and the position of the Habsburg Empire within European history as a whole. Together, these perspectives shed light on core issues raised by the book as well as offer reflections on the future of Habsburg studies.

Ned Richardson-Little, Hella Dietz and James Mark

In recent years, the study of human rights history has expanded beyond Western-centered narratives, though the role of Eastern European state socialism and socialists in the evolution of human rights concepts and politics has not received sufficient attention. This introductory essay synthesizes recent research of the role of Eastern Bloc socialist states in shaping the emergence of the post-war human rights system and the implications of this new research for the history of the Cold War, dissent as well as the collapse of state socialism in 1989/91. Ultimately, state socialist actors were not merely human rights antagonists, but contributed to shaping the international arena and human rights politics, motivated both strategically as well as ideologically. And the Eastern Bloc was not merely a region that passively absorbed the idea of human rights from the West, but a site where human rights ideas where articulated, internationalized and also contested.