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SSEES Research Blog


A showcase of research from UCL's School of Slavonic and East European Studies staff and students


Archive for March, 2015

On Pišťanek, Death, and Literature that Affirms Life

BlogAdmin30 March 2015

Tim Beasley-Murray reflects on the recent death of one of Slovakia’s leading contemporary writers.

There is an old commonplace – one that goes back to Seneca and reemerges throughout Western culture, say, in Montaigne or Heidegger – that says that it is death that gives meaning to life. More specifically, as one version of this commonplace would have it: one can only understand the life of an individual in the light of the manner of his or her death.

To my mind, these sorts of ideas and the thanatocentrism that they represent are completely misplaced. How can life gain its meaning from the often banal, often painful, often violent means by which life comes or is put to an end? Here, I am with Nietzsche and his insistence that the meaning of life can only be sought within life itself. Conceptualizing life in terms of death, thanatocentrism does little more than justify the claims of death over life. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori…. Well, we know where such ideas lead us: to societies that are willing – as on the killing fields of the First World War – to sacrifice the living by their thousands and hundreds of thousands.


Estonia’s 2015 election result ensures the Reform Party will continue to dominate the country’s politics

BlogAdmin12 March 2015

Estonia held a parliamentary election on 1 March. Allan Sikk writes that while the nature of the coalition which emerges from the election remains to be seen, the result was another success for the Reform Party, which has been in government continuously for the last sixteen years.

The most significant, although predictable, result of the 1 March general election in Estonia was another electoral triumph by the Reform Party (RE). RE has been part of governing coalitions continuously for sixteen years, and has held the position of Prime Minister for the last ten years. It is fairly likely to continue at the helm of government until 2019, cementing its dominance in Estonian politics. The chart below shows the results of the 2015 election and the previous general election in 2011.

Chart: Results of the 2015 and 2011 Riigikogu elections (click to enlarge).

Estonian elections


Note: Figures from National Electoral Commission. For more information on the parties see: Reform Party (RE), Centre Party (KE), Social Democratic Party (SDE), Pro Patria & Res Publica Union (IRL), Free Party (EVA), Conservative People’s Party (EKRE).

Even though two new parties entered the parliament (more on them below), the election was also characterised by stability. The vote shares of three out of the four erstwhile parliamentary parties changed little, as did electoral turnout (64 per cent). Only the conservative Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) suffered a notable loss of votes (6.8 per cent), mostly to the two new parties.

The continued success of RE can be explained by three factors: national security concerns, a successful leadership change, and a shrewd political strategy. As the incumbent, RE benefitted from voters seeking stability confronted with an increasingly aggressive Russia. In its campaign, RE emphasised the need for stability and boosting national defence. RE used NATO fighter jets as a backdrop for one of their campaign clips, for which it was criticised in the media, but this nevertheless helped cultivate among the voters an image of a party that prioritises defence.