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This week’s front page editor


Francesc Badia i Dalmases is Editor and Director of democraciaAbierta.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Is there reason to hope for Minsk II?

The last Minsk agreement on eastern Ukraine failed to bring peace. The latest looks similar—but the context has changed.

Ukraine ceasefire announced at Minsk summit—what next?

The ceasefire agreement in Minsk over Ukraine was better than no outcome at all. But only a little better.

In Ukraine, NATO has ceased to be an instrument of US foreign policy

In the renewed cold war over Ukraine, while Russia’s economy has been weakened by European sanctions, the US is no longer the hegemon it once was—and NATO is under strain.

The new cold war Russia (again) won't win

The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, burst the 25th-anniversary balloon of the symbolic end of the cold war by warning of a new one, fed by NATO's eastward expansion. An economically weak USSR lost the last one; a still weaker Russia will lose this one too. 

Slow and steady: Hungary’s media clampdown

The Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, sent a frisson across the EU with his boast last weekend that he is building a “non-liberal” state, like in China, Russia or Turkey, free of “western European dogma”—but then his steady destruction of liberty in Hungary has gone largely unchallenged.

Azerbaijan challenges Europe's human-rights mettle

As Azerbaijan takes up the six-month chair of the Council of Europe, the deteriorating human-rights situation in the Caucasus state exposes its disregard for its rights obligations and risks further complication by the crisis in Ukraine

The new Russian power bloc

A quarter century after Mikhail Gorbachev supervised the collapse of Europe’s cold-war division, a world of new dividing lines is emerging—with Vladimir Putin playing an active part in inscribing them.

Racism: troubling truths

Fighting racism in Europe is not easy when Europe has two hands tied behind its back—debilitated by neo-liberal policies on the one hand and the securitisation of minorities on the other.

How was he to know? The cracking of the Ukraine regime

Ukraine’s parliament has abandoned the law to curb public protests only recently introduced and the prime minister has resigned. What lies behind these dramatic events?

Stavropol — frontline between Russia and the North Caucasus

THE CEELBAS DEBATE// Stavropol is the only one of seven North Caucasus territories with a majority Russian population. Andrew Foxall explores the implications of interethnic conflict on this increasingly fraught political frontline.

Ukraine today: a guide for digging deeper


When in 2007 Ukraine was given the privilege of co-hosting the Euro 2012 games, the tournament was seen as a unique opportunity to unite the country, improve infrastructure and set in train European reforms. Everything that has happened since has deviated from that script. Today, the world’s media routinely portray a country in democratic crisis; Andrew Wilson’s take, which delves a bit deeper, concludes that things are, in fact, even worse.

Why are Pussy Riot girls still in prison?

Reaction inside Russia and further afield to the imprisonment of 3 members of a punk rock girl band after their performance in one of Moscow’s cathedrals has been by turns outraged and baffled. The girls are still on remand, awaiting trial for hooliganism (maximum sentence 7 years). One can only hope they will triumph in the end, says Yelena Fedotova

After Putin – who ?

Which ever way the forthcoming election swings, Russians will soon be looking for a new leader. With much of the current elite either of retiring age or discredited with voters, Andrey Kolesnikov wonders what a future presidential run-off could look like.

A tableau for Václav Havel

Vaclav Havel

Tjebbe van Tijen presents a montage of graffiti and photographs in honour of Václav Havel

Russian economy: trying to please people doesn’t help

20 years ago there was all to play for: the USSR was defunct and Russia was embarking on a bright future. But the much-needed economic reforms have had patchy success. Every time they took a step forward, the government lost both popularity and its nerve. Now the Kremlin no longer has the funds to keep people sweet and another financial crisis must be a real possibility, says Dmitri Travin

Tbilisi, Moscow: the language of architecture

Before Soviet rule, Georgian capital Tbilisi had none of the towering blocks, highways and marble palaces that today stand as symbols to a fallen, rejected regime. Why, therefore have Georgia’s young leaders chosen to continue this imposing neo-classical language in their own buildings, asks Pawel Wargan?

Making waves: the only way to improve Russia’s river fleet

The shock of the recent steamer tragedy on the Volga and the huge loss of life all too quickly moved off the front pages, but the condition of the Russian river fleets needs to be kept in the public eye so as to avoid another such disaster, explains Oleg Pavlov

Putin’s National Front: lifebelt for a sinking regime?

Prime Minister Putin’s attempts to shore up his falling popularity ratings have now extended to setting up a new electoral platform. But this is not just any old platform, laments Dmitri Oreshkin. It’s another return to old methods and old labels, and bodes no good for Russia.

Ukraine’s mysterious exit from the arms trade

Having spent six years preparing for a lucrative deal supplying arms to Iraq, Ukraine seems to be about to breach the first part of the contract. Anna Babinets suspects external forces may be at play...

A recipe for radicalisation: the campaign against Islam in Tajikistan

A government campaign against Islamic education and political movements in Tajikistan, prompted by an armed conflict with ’mujaheds’ in the Rasht valley, risks creating the very militancy it aims to prevent, write Sophie Roche and John Heathershaw.

Tricky business in Abkhazia

Since Abkhazia declared its independence from Georgia in 2008, Russian money has been pouring in. But when it comes to doing business there, Russians can find themselves coming badly unstuck, as one investor from the Urals found. Anton Katin reports

Ukraine's new regime: the first 200 days

Mykola Riabchuk is one of Ukraine’s leading intellectuals. In an interview with Ingo Petz he outlines his views on the failure of the Orange Revolution and the early stages of the Yanukovych presidency

Wanted: Economic Equality to Mend Kyrgyzstan

Media reports of disturbances in Kyrgyzstan’s two main cities Bishkek and Osh focused on human rights and ethnicity. However, Balihar Sanghera suggests that the root cause lies in economic inequality.

Poland and Russia: a fresh start or business as usual?

Russia’s sympathy after the Polish government air crash in April 2010 gave real hope that relations between them would improve. Publishing secret Soviet documents relating to Katyn was a good start, but there was political calculation too. Russia is still playing its old imperial game in which Poland’s EU activities and promotion of democracy in Belarus play no part, warns Rafal Wonicki

Kyrgyzstan’s referendum brings a flicker of hope

The new constitution which the Kyrgyz people voted in on 27 June 2010 seeks to break the presidential pattern of government. But the recent violent upheaval has left the government weak. America and Russia both need Kyrgyzstan to thrive as a country ruled neither by despotism nor fundamentalism. They will have to collaborate closely to bring this about

Belarusian "godfather" falls out with his masters

On the eve of a Customs Union agreement between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, Russian state television began an information war against Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko. By the ferocity of this campaign, it seems Russian leaders have finally lost patience with their one-time ally.

Does Russia need a memory law?

Russia’s Duma has been trying to draft a ‘memory law’, in order to protect the Soviet version of the events of World War II from revisionist interpretations. The historian Nikolai Koposov deconstructs the attempts so far. His view is that the proposed law is not only misconceived, but would be unworkable. He also points out that the unspoken agenda behind it is the defence of Stalin and Stalinism. In the end, the law is never going to be the right vehicle for defending historical truths, he concludes.

Georgia's Promising Elections

The recent local elections in Georgia were deemed “free and fair”, but the opposition remains fragmented. Parliament is the proper forum for moving towards mature democracy, says Denis MacShane, but the world should not forget Georgia and its troubled relationship with its northern neighbour, Russia.

Georgia's Muddled Elections

Does President Saakashvili really deserve international plaudits for his party’s decisive victory in Georgia’s elections on 30 May 2010? What Jakub Parusinski saw himself, and heard from fellow election monitors, suggests that procedural violations and deliberate fraud were more widespread and organised than first appeared

Circassian Nationalism and the Internet

Circassian communities are scattered throughout the North Caucasus and the diaspora is spread throughout the world. On the day of Circassian Genocide and Exile, Zeynel Abidin Besleney examines the role played by the internet as a lifeline linking otherwise isolated activists and communities and reinforcing the Circassian nationalist cause

Teaching History in Orenburg

Against a backdrop of an ever increasing politization of the Soviet past, journalist Elena Strelnikova returned to her old classroom. Her fly-on-the-wall account shows the contentious debates played through the eyes of 14-year-olds.

Georgian Overtures to Abkhazia and Tskhinvali

Georgia’s State Minister for Reintegration floats a proposition for building bridges with Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region

The Shape of Europe's Future

In today's Europe, unlike that of the Cold War, the 'Finlandization' of the post-Soviet space does serve the interests of the West, Ivan Krastev reflects, taking issue with Ronald Asmus' book A Little War that Shook the World

Psychotherapy returns to Russia

The return of psychotherapy to Russia after Stalin’s ban has had to overcome many obstacles, including Russian suspicions of psychological colonialism

After the plane crash: Russian attitudes to Katyn

The NKVD’s mass execution in 1940 of Polish officers in Katyn Forest has complicated the often tense relations between Russia and Poland. But the plane crash on 10 April 2010 brought the countries closer together. Russia’s Levada Center has recently carried out a survey into Russian attitudes to Poland and Katyn in particular. The results were sometimes startling, as Alexei Levinson recounts.
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