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Post-Crisis Perspectives on Foreign Direct Investment in Central and Eastern Europe

By Lisa J Walters, on 26 May 2017

Balázs Szent-Iványi (Aston, Centre for Europe)

The Centre for the Comparative Studies of Emerging Economies  organised an afternoon round-table at UCL’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies on 25 April 2017 to launch a book, FDI in Central and Eastern Europe – Post-Crisis Perspectives (Palgrave 2017), edited by Balazs Szent-Ivanyi, Aston University in Birmingham. The event was organised with financial support from SSEES, the UCL European Institute and the Centre for Europe, Aston University. Professor Tomasz Mickiewicz (Aston Business School, previous SSEES), Professor Slavo Radosevic (UCL, SSEES) and Dr Randolph Bruno (UCL, SSEES) took part in this event.

FDI

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Reproductive Justice and Discourses of Childbearing in the Fringes of Europe: Ongoing Discussions with SSEES and Partner Researchers and Activists

By Lisa J Walters, on 19 May 2017

Dr Nevila Pahumi,  Alexander Nash Fellowship in Albanian Studies

Over the past year, a group of us SSEES researchers have actively engaged questions of reproductive justice and discourses of childbearing in Eastern and Western Europe. Given the commonality of challenges women face in both ends of the continent to practice reproductive choice over their bodies, we have joined forces to give voice to some of the key concerns behind pro-choice and reproductive justice abortion debates now raging across the continent and beyond.

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Eurovision Comes to Kyiv, Ukraine Gets Three-Quarters of the Way to Europe

By Lisa J Walters, on 17 May 2017

Prof Andrew Wilson, Professor of Ukrainian Studies

I am in Kyiv for the Eurovision Song Contest final. All marvellous fun, though I have done some work too. Ukraine has embraced the official slogan ‘Celebrate Diversity’ with apparent ease; not least because it is the perfect symbol for the new Ukraine and its European aspirations – multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-confessional and tolerant.

Eurovision 1

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Why did the Soviet Union collapse?

By Lisa J Walters, on 20 April 2017

Prof Alena Ledeneva, Professor of Politics and Society

The Soviet Union collapsed more than quarter of a century ago and since then many people have offered their own interpretations of the event. Most of them are valid, but none of them could fully embrace the complexity of the phenomenon and we still do not have a comprehensive account of why the largest country in the world disintegrated, and what the consequences of this were.

Political Mythologies_IMG_6523

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Belarus: Fraying Social Contract Puts Protestors on the Streets

By Lisa J Walters, on 5 April 2017

Prof Andrew Wilson, Professor of Ukrainian Studies

I have just got back from a few days in Minsk, where events are moving fast. First was an unprecedented wave of demonstrations that began on 17 February. Belarus is used to a largely ritualistic cycle of impotent political protest from the ‘traditional opposition’ against longstanding dictator Aliaksandr Lukashenka, who has been in power since 1994. These demonstrations were different, however, involving thousands of ordinary Belarusians, in provincial towns as well as Minsk, demanding the repeal of an ill-judged ‘social parasite’ tax, and protesting at the fraying of the social contract that has kept Lukashenka in power for so long.

Belarus is in its third year of grinding recession, with no end in sight. Real wages have halved and investment has collapsed; unemployment has soared and prices are higher than in supposedly chaotic Ukraine. Russian subsidies have been cut, the Russian market for Belarusian exports is in recession (until recently, so was the Ukrainian market), the Eurasian Economic Union is not providing the promised benefits, and the low price of oil has cut into Belarus’s life-blood; its earnings from refining cheap crude. GDP fell by 3.9% in 2015 and 2.7% in 2016. Russia has also been pressing Belarus hard, to end its ‘situational neutrality’ over the war in Ukraine. Belarus has been resisting hard, as it doesn’t want to see its sovereignty undermined in the same way.

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Europe, keep an eye on Minsk

By Lisa J Walters, on 29 March 2017

If the Belarus president is to survive, he will have to walk a narrow path between pressure from demonstrators and the Kremlin.

Prof Andrew Wilson, Professor of Ukrainian Studies

This opinion piece was originally posted on Politico on 17th March 2017

When Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko imposed a “social parasite” tax in 2015, he assumed — in normal populist dictatorial fashion — that a $245 fine on those who worked for less than six months a year would be a popular move.

What he didn’t expect was that ordinary citizens would, instead, show solidarity with the roughly half a million people affected and take to the streets in rare public protests.

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How to manage geopolitical risk and understand its implications on your portfolio and regional stability: Russia and the Ukrainian Crisis

By Lisa J Walters, on 23 March 2017

By Dr Eugene Nivorozhkin, Senior Lecturer in the Economics of Central – Eastern Europe
Centre for Comparative Studies of Emerging Economies

The economic and political turbulence around Russia in the aftermath of the Crimea annexation in March 2014 is an interesting illustration of how a geopolitical event is itself necessary but not sufficient to cause significant geopolitical risk for investment portfolios.

The Ukrainian crisis prompted a number of countries and international organisations to apply sanctions against individuals, businesses and officials from Russia.  In addition to diplomatic actions, the measures included travel bans and freezing assets owned by Russian officials and friends of Putin. A broad set of measures targeted sectoral cooperation with Russia and more general economic matters. In particular, Russian state banks were excluded from raising long-term loans in international financial markets. Bans were implemented on arms deals and exports of dual-use equipment for military use. The EU/US ban included exports of selected oil industry technology and services, to name just a few.

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Ukraine: Waiting for Donald, worrying about the EU

By Lisa J Walters, on 16 March 2017

Prof Andrew Wilson, Professor of Ukrainian Studies

This commentary was originally posted on ECFR.eu on 18th January 2017

Ukraine’s prospects are under threat from developments on both sides of the Atlantic.

Something is stirring in Ukraine. The most obvious cause is Donald Trump’s imminent inauguration on 20 January, and the widespread fear in Kyiv that his push for some kind of Yalta 2.0 agreement with Russia will be at Ukraine’s expense.

But another parallel cause is the fear that the European Union is losing interest in Ukraine. After Dutch voters rejected the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement at a referendum in April 2016 (though many were really voting about the Netherlands and Europe), the price of bringing the Dutch government into line was high. In fact, it took a triple reassurance just to get PM Mark Rutte to take the issue back to parliament for a vote to overturn the referendum result.

Those reassurances came in the European Council’s resolution of 15 December, which declares that ‘the Agreement does not confer on Ukraine the status of a candidate country for accession to the Union, nor does it constitute a commitment to confer such status to Ukraine in the future’. Furthermore, it ‘does not contain an obligation for the Union or its Member States to provide collective security guarantees or other military aid or assistance to Ukraine’. And finally, it ‘does not grant to Ukrainian nationals… the right to reside and work freely within the territory of the Member States’. While this resolution does not roll back existing, modest, European commitments to Ukraine, it was interpreted as a major setback in Kyiv.

‘Ukrainian Eurointegration’: The Ukrainians are barred entry to the locked doors of the ‘EC’(EU).#

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Report on Panel Discussion ‘Decommunization and the Reshaping of National Memory in Ukraine’

By Blog Admin, on 8 November 2016

 

On 1 November 2016 UCL SSEES hosted a panel discussion on recent memory politics in Ukraine, organised in collaboration with the Ukrainian Institute in London. The speakers on the panel were Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist, Andrii Portnov, a historian based at the Forum Transregionale Studien and Humboldt University in Berlin and a well-known commentator on Ukrainian memory politics, and Alina Shpak, Deputy Director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance (UINR).

Uilleam Blacker of SSEES, who chaired and co-organized the event, reports on it here for SSEES blog. Video excerpts can be seen here:

The focus of the discussion was a set of laws redefining state memory politics that were introduced in 2015. The four laws, known in the shorthand as the ‘decommunization’ laws, entail the following:

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Russian Montparnasse: Transnational Writing in Interwar Paris

By Blog Admin, on 16 August 2016

Dr Maria Rubins, Senior Lecturer in Russian Literature

Russian Montparnasse

Transnational Writing in Interwar Paris

Palgrave Macmillan, 2015

[Revised and expanded Russian translation is in print at the NLO Publishing House in Moscow.]

 

Today, the famous Montparnasse cafés have become quite upscale establishments, and it is hard to imagine that in their heyday a homeless apatride could nurse a single drink on a café terrace for the entire night. During les années folles, as the interwar period was dubbed in France, “Le Dôme,” “La Rotonde,” “La Coupôle” and other brasseries near the intersection of Boulevard Montparnasse and rue Vavin were the epicenter of transnational modernist culture. Legendary artists and writers of the time – Modigliani, Soutine, Aragon, Chagall, Man Ray, Hemingway, Picasso – all passed through Montparnasse. The star of Parisian music halls, the American dancer Josephine Baker, would sometimes arrive in a café in the company of her pet leopard. And many a painter’s muse, the model Kiki, would take a dip in a water basin at the centre of “Le Dôme” to cool down after a champagne-drinking marathon.

Barely conspicuous in the bohemian crowd, young Russian émigré writers also thrived in this cosmopolitan and provocative environment. Alienated from their homeland, marginalized in their adopted country, and feeling constrained by conservative aesthetics prescribed by the émigré literary establishment, these young men looked toward European avant-garde for inspiration. Montparnasse offered a unique site where they could interact with Western peers and observe contemporary life, where hierarchies were suspended and where all cultural, ethnic and linguistic hybrids with unstable identities and precarious legal status could get a sense of belonging and relative freedom.

 

OPL1153075 Brasserie Cafe du Dome, Paris, 1920 (b/w photo) by French Photographer, (20th century); Private Collection; French, out of copyright

OPL1153075 Brasserie Cafe du Dome, Paris, 1920 (b/w photo) by French Photographer, (20th century); Private Collection/Bridgeman Images

The Montparnasse genius loci left an indelible mark on the style, thematic repertoire and personal lives of the young Russian writers. Many pages in the works of Gaïto Gazdanov, Vasily Yanovsky, Nikolai Otsup, Serge Sharshun, Boris Poplavsky (nick-named the “Prince of the Kingdom of Montparnasse”), and others contain colorful descriptions of a café scene, where, in Elsa Triolet’s words, “amidst the cigarette smoke permanently hung a scandal”.

In this book I treat Montparnasse not just as a place of gathering or a background depicted in interwar art and fiction but as a creative locus that generated its own aesthetics and discourse. Born out of exile and existential anxiety, Montparnasse literature responded to unprecedented cataclysms that shook the world, and also reflected technological and cultural shifts of the interwar period. Arguably, the real shock of modernity occurred in the 1920-1930s. This was, by David Trotter’s definition, the first “media age,” when radio and telephone entered the homes of millions. Air travel, symbolized by Charles Lindbergh’s historic solo flight from New York to Le Bourget, altered conventional perception of distances, geography, and the rhythm of human existence. World wars, mass migration, flows of refugees; widely popularized scientific discoveries, including radioactivity; the rise of mass culture and commodification of artwork; the dominance of cinema and progressive visualization of culture in general; the cult of celebrity; skepticism about positivist ideas; and discrediting any rational forms of self-knowledge under the impact of Freudian theories – these were the key processes that marked a drastic break with tradition and defined the world as we know it. In the interwar period, due to new communication technologies, artistic styles, fashion, music and ideologies began to circulate rapidly around the globe. As the “cultural capital of the world,” Paris was at the nexus of these trends.

My book was initially intended as a study of the prose fiction of the younger émigrés of the first wave, but then evolved into a reflection on the spirit and legacy of transnational modernism. Montparnasse became a metaphor for the interwar cultural production across Europe, which articulated the experience of modernity. It gradually became clear to me that Russian Montparnassians could not be understood only as an extension of the Russian national tradition, but had to be read against Hesse, T.S. Eliot, Aragon, Breton, Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence, Bataille, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and other writers who best expressed the sense of civilizational collapse and the advancement of a new era. Such works Georgy Ivanov’s nihilist “The Atom Explodes,” for example, condemned as provocation in Russian émigré circles, shares an aesthetic and conceptual lexicon with modernist texts like T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, and Breton’s Nadia. Ivanov, Yanovsky, Felzen, Bakunina, Adamovich, Poplavsky and other Montparnassians were among the first to realize that the Russian classical tradition was inadequate in the post-apocalyptic reality, and to set out to create a new language.

 

CHT253043 Cosmopolitan bohemia at Cafe La Rotonde, Montparnasse, 1924 (litho) (b/w photo) by French School, (20th century); Bibliotheque Historique de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France; (add.info.: La Boheme cosmopolite;); Archives Charmet; French, it is possible that some works by this artist may be protected by third party rights in some territories

Cosmopolitan bohemia at Cafe La Rotonde, Montparnasse, 1924 by French School, (20th century); Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France. Archives Charmet/Bridgeman Images.

While Russian Montparnasse literature was no less vibrant or experimental than coeval writing in other tongues, it long remained practically unknown beyond a narrow circle of Russian readers. To a much greater extent than other expatriates in interwar Paris, Russians lacked cultural networks, a vast audience in their homeland, translations and opportunities for marketing. But low visibility was also a self-fulfilling prophecy: the young writers called themselves the “unnoticed generation,” driven by the Surrealist discourse of anonymity and the myth of the “lost generation.”

Russian Montparnasse is a book about a transnational literary community that simultaneously drew upon, blurred and transcended Russian and foreign traditions and amalgamated different cultural lexicons and national narratives, anticipating more recent trends of cultural globalization. Their corpus of texts raises questions about the role in artistic expression of migration, borders, and dual identities. Today, the migrant has come to occupy a central place in arts and political discourse, prompting critics to rethink the relevance of conventional “national” affiliations for many authors and texts that thrive in the no man’s land beyond nation-states, languages and cultures – Rushdie, Nabokov, Kundera are just a few of the names that spring to mind in this regard.

I came to think of Russian Montparnasse as an early unconscious attempt to open Russian culture to a transnational dialogue, to transcend the national agenda and to reconfigure canonical values. Exile, which these writers saw as their curse, in fact allowed them to discover new directions in verbal art.

 

Further information from the Palgrave Macmillan site:

Maria Rubins

RUSSIAN MONTPARNASSE: Transnational Writing in Interwar Paris

Published by by Palgrave Macmillan in the Series “Palgrave Studies in Modern European Literature”

ISBN 9781137508027

This book is a case study in transnational modernist literature generated by exile, dislocation and cross-cultural exchanges, focusing on the younger writers of the interwar Russian Parisian diaspora, known as Russian Montparnasse. Maria Rubins argues that their hybrid, bicultural and bilingual writing transcended the Russian national master narrative, anticipating more recent diasporic tendencies. The book sets the Russian Montparnasse corpus into trans-cultural and intertextual dialogues with key Western and Russian texts to demonstrate that their artistic response to the main challenges of urban modernity and cultural rupture resonated with broader aesthetic trends in interwar Europe. By systematically reassessing the role of Russian Montparnasse in the articulation of modernism, this study expands our knowledge of the evolution of the transnational literary canon, contributes to the academic debate about national vs. transnational analytical approaches to bicultural artistic production, and challenges the conventional status of language as the chief marker of literary affiliation.

 

Please note: Views expressed are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of UCL, SSEES or SSEES Research Blog.

 

 

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