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No 3 | 2015

3 | 2015

Index: 287210

CENTRAL EUROPE

Aspen Institute Prague is supported by:

EDUCATION

Thinking and Skills


Frank Furedi, Marcel Gauchet, Jan Sowa, Aviezer Tucker, Michael antovsk

History on Trial
An interview with Lev Gudkov

Ukraine: The First Postcolonial Revolution


Ilya Gerasimov
W W W . A S P E N I N S T I T U T E . C Z

POLITICS Divining Putins Intentions Valenta with Friedman Valenta | Simulated Democracy? Ditchev
ECONOMY Euro, I Find You Very Attractive. Yours, Lithuania. Mauricas | The Use of EU Funds in Poland Kozak
CULTURE Surrealism Rules Eternal Majmurek | Stalins Laughter Kaczorowski

No 3 | 2015

ABOUT ASPEN INSTITUTE PRAGUE


The Aspen Review Central Europe is published by the Aspen Institute Prague, aCentral European
partner of the Aspen Institute global network. It serves as an independent platform where politicians
and businesspeople, as well as leading artists, sportspeople, scientists, and journalists can meet and
interact. The Institute facilitates interdisciplinary and regional cooperation, and supports Central
European leaders in their development.
The core of the Institutes activities focuses on leadership seminars, expert meetings, and public conferences, all of which are held in aneutral manner to encourage open debate. The Institutes Programs
are divided into three areas: Leadership, Policy and Public. In their implementation we focus on
priorities that are critical for the future of the Central European region.
Leadership Program offers educational and networking projects for outstanding young Central
European professionals. This areas flagship event is the Aspen Young Leaders Program, which brings
together emerging and experienced leaders for four days of workshops, debates and networking
activities.
Policy Program enables expert discussions that support strategic thinking and interdisciplinary
approach. Currently, the Institute covers primarily the following topics: digital agenda, cities
development and creative placemaking, cultural and creative industries, art & business,
education, as well as transatlantic and Visegrad cooperation.
Public Program aspires to present challenging ideas at public events, such as Aspen Annual
Conference that convenes high-profile guests from all over the world to discuss current affairs,
and via Aspen Review Central Europe.

Advisory Board
Walter Isaacson (co-chairman), Michael antovsk (cochairman), Yuri
Andrukhovych, Piotr Buras, Krzysztof Czyewski, Josef Joffe, KaiOlaf
Lang, Zbigniew Peczyski, Petr Pithart, Jacques Rupnik, Mariusz
Szczygie, Monika Sznajderman, Martin M. imeka, Michal Vaeka

Editorial Board
Tom Klvaa (chairman), Ludk Bedn, Adam ern, Martin Ehl,
Roman Joch, Jan Machek, Kateina afakov, Tom Vrba

Editors
Aleksander Kaczorowski (editor-in-chief ), Maciej Nowicki (deputy
editor-in-chief ), Robert Schuster (managing director)

Tra n s l at o r s
Tomasz Biero, Klara Velicka

Published by
Aspen Institute Prague o. p.s.
Palackho 1, CZ 11000 Praha
e-mail: office@aspeninstitute.cz
www.aspeninstitute.cz
Year IV
No 3/2015
ISSN 18056806
Aspen Institute Prague

The ideas expressed in the articles are authors own and donot
necessarily reflect theviews of the editorial board or of the Aspen
Institute Prague.

Contents
F O R E W O R D Radek picar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
E D I T O R I A L Aleksander Kaczorowski. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

C O V E R S T O R Y EducationThinking and skills


The Dangers of Processed Education Frank Furedi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Knowledge Belongs to the Past an interview with Marcel Gauchet by Maciej Nowicki . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Moscow to Bologna: The (Re-)Sovietization of European Higher Education Aviezer Tucker . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Republic of Idiots Jan Sowa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
C O M M E N T Michael antovsk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

11
15
19
25
29

T H E I N T E R V I E W History on Trial. An interview with Lev Gudkov by Filip Memches . . . . . . . . . . 32


C O M M E N T Walter Isaacson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
POLITICS
Divining Putins Intentions: Why We Must Lose Strategic Patience!
Jiri Valenta with Leni Friedman Valenta. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Ukraine: The First Postcolonial Revolution Ilya Gerasimov. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
What Would an Annan Plan for Ukraine Look Like? Iannis Carras. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Simulated Democracy? Ivaylo Ditchev . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Contested Nazi Victimhood after 1989 Nelly Bekus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
C O M M E N T Martin imeka. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

39
46
54
59
63
68

ECONOMY
Euro, IFind You Very Attractive. Yours, Lithuania. Zygimantas Mauricas. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Use of EU Funds in Poland Marek W. Kozak. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Waiting for the Impact Robert Schuster. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Russias Economy: AChanging Trend Vladislav Inozemtsev. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
C O M M E N T Martin Ehl. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

71
75
79
82
88

C U LT U R E
Stalins Laughter Aleksander Kaczorowski. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92
Whats Old Is New Benjamin Cunningham. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95
ARecipe for Religion Patrycja Pustkowiak. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99
Surrealism Rules Eternal Jakub Majmurek. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102
APhilosophical Marshmallow Tomasz Stawiszyski. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107
Oblivion and Photographs Wojciech Stanisawski. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111
Letters Laima Vince. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
Laima Vince Does Us Both an Injustice Peter Jukes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119

Dear readers,
We are living in atime when formal education is accessible to more individuals than ever
before. It is considered akey to personal and
social development, and prosperity. However,
education is also facing significant challenges
brought by the digital era. Therefore we have
decided to devote this Aspen Review issue to
the topic of education.
In an interview with Maciej Nowicki, French
historian and philosopher Marcel Gauchet
expresses his disillusion with the current
understanding of education and knowledge.
He explains that educational institutions have
lost much of their former great privileges
which were based on access to information
and books. Today, the teaching of knowledge
has been devalued and schools and teachers
have lost their once influential position
in society. Gauchet therefore calls for the
rethinking of the concept of education and for
areturn to some of the values, expectations,
and behaviors of the past.
According to sociologist Frank Furedi,
education in Europe is regarded instrumentally as atool for producing skilled citizens
who will fit the demands of the labor market.
However, in its own right, education is entirely
underappreciated. Needless to say, passing of

knowledge is crucial for asociety inorder to


produce ayoung generation that has cultural
and intellectual resources to deal with current
and future challenges.
In the post-communist countries of Central
and Eastern Europe, the educational systems
are facing struggles of their own. As Michael
antovsk points out, the last 25 years in the
Czech Republic have consisted of aconflict
between efforts to reform the educational
system and between those insisting that the
system we had inherited from the previous era
was not corrupted, and thus there was no need
for reparation. Michael mentions that we still
lag behind not only the traditional countries
with along history of academic excellence, but
also the Asian tigers that have recently made
significant progress.
The spotlight on education will also
apply to our events. In September, the Aspen
Institute Prague will host apanel discussion
at the Forum 2000 conference devoted to
the impacts of technological innovation on
education and the ability of schools to adapt
to the requirements currently imposed on the
youngest generation. Among the speakers
will be Ta le Moigne, CEO of Google Czech
Republic, Ondej teffl, CEO of SCIO, and Josef

lerka, Head of New Media Studies at Charles


University. You can find more information about
the event on our website and social media.
Digitization affects not only education, but
virtually all other spheres of life. In Aspen Institute Prague we understand the importance of
discussing digital issues. Therefore, we have set
digital agenda as one of our focuses and have
hosted anumber of related events and contri
buted to several papers and studies. InJuly, we
organized aconference on Digital Competi
tiveness of the European Unionthe first AIP
event that took place in Brussels. Thesuccess
of the conferenceattended by the Commissioner Vra Jourov and many other European
policy makers, entrepreneurs, and leading
digital expertsmotivates us to further explore
the topic.
In other program areas, we tackle arts
and culture and their role in social and urban
development. We have organized two debates
about creative placemaking at open-air music
festivalsPohoda in Trenn, Slovakia, and
Colours of Ostravaand we are also preparing
the second edition of the Open Up! Creative
Placemaking Festival. Within the Art and
Business program, we have launched Art
Matchabrand new series of debates about

cultural philanthropy in the Czech Republic and


Central Europe. The aim of these regular meetings is to develop adialogue between patrons
and collectors supporting the arts.
We are also busy preparing the Aspen
Annual Conference. This year it will focus on the
Czech Republic and its performance in three
key areas: economy, security, and the quality
of life. We will bring you studies by renowned
experts assessing the progress and identifying
room for further improvement in the selected
areas.
For more information about our upcoming
activities you can follow us on Facebook and
Twitter. Iam looking forward to meeting you at
some of this falls Aspen events and Iwish you
an inspiring reading.

RADEK PICAR

Executive Director
Aspen Institute Prague

Photo: Aspen Institute Prague

EDITORIAL

The War of Memory


Aleksander Kaczorowski

Is it possible to reconcile the Polish and


Jewish memory? Jewish and Lithuanian?
Lithuanian and Russian? Russian and Czech?
And is there even such athing as common
memory? Yes, we have the Institute of National
Remembrance in Poland and its counterparts
in neighbouring countries. These institutions,
as the name suggests, are engaged not only in
historical research, but also, perhaps primarily,
in creating acanon of collective memory,
consistent with the interests of the state. This
interest is defined by politicians (and there
is no shortage of historians among them, of
course). In other words, memory is apolitical
issue and this is whycontrary to declarations of people professionally involved in its
studyit divides rather than unites people,
not only of different nationalities, but alsoor
perhaps above allof the same nationality. It
is obvious to anyone who has tried to speak
about politics or history at aSunday dinner.
Historical policy, practised both by world
powers and the smallest countries, still plays
an important role in domestic and foreign
policy. Russian television recently aired
afilm about the Prague Spring in 1968, the
mendacity of which would put to shame
even the propagandists of Brezhnev. On the

ALEKSANDER KACZOROWSKI

Editor in Chief of Aspen Review


Photo: Jacek Herok

anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald (1410),


ahistorical (sic) Russian website presented it
as avictory of Russian troops, aided by Polish
and Lithuanian forces. The Poles traditionally
diminish the contribution of Lithuanian troops
in the common victory over the forces of the
Teutonic Knights: in ascreening of the battle
made half acentury ago, the director showed
the Lithuanians as abunch of half-naked
savages, jumping from tree to tree. In the same
period afilm about the Battle of England was
produced in this country, and Polish pilots

from Squadron 303 (the most effective in the


entire RAF) are presented there as agroup
of insubordinate morons, who donot know
aword of English. Tit-for-tat. The list could go
on for along time, we would certainly not run
out of examples. Each nation has its own book
of complaints.
All the more important is the role of education and research. Historians, sociologists,
demographers, and even literary critics and
journalists make it their objective to investigate
the historical truth and they believe that their
mission is to pronounce this truth, even when
it is not consistent with the dominant interpretation, collective stereotype, or simply with
the views of the majority. Freedom of intellectual debate is not only aprivilege, but also
aprecondition of the survival of democratic
societies. Therefore we can never have too
many places where dialogue across boundaries
is possible.
Aspen Review is such aplacein our
magazine intellectuals and scholars from
various parts of Europe and the world, with
differing views and backgrounds, share their
reflections and sentiments on the most
important questions with their readers, for the
benefit of us all. Of course, controversies are

unavoidable when you write about foreign


policy, economy, or cultural mores. But the most
dangerous minefield is memory, because it
constitutes the foundation of our identities.
In this issue of our magazine two of our
particularly esteemed and accomplished
contributors argue (pp. 116119) about the
past of an important figure from the Lithuanian
national pantheon. The only evidence in this
dispute isin the absence of other material
the memory of witnesses. And it is amemory
which divides. Frankly speaking, what we have
here are two completely different and incompatible memories. Ihave the greatest respect
and trust for both Laima Vince and Peter Jukes.
Laima Vince has published anumber of essays
devoted to the difficult 20th century history
of Lithuania in Aspen Review. Peter Jukes has
reviewed for us books by Madeleine Albright
(Prague Winter) and Artur Domosawski (Ryszard
Kapuciski: ALife). Ihope that the controversy
will help to deepen our understanding of the
issues related to World War II, the Holocaust, the
Nazi and Soviet occupation of the countries of
Central and Eastern Europe, the attitudes of the
wartime residents of the bloodlands, as well
as the memory and remembrance of the tragic
past in this part of Europe.

COVER STORY

The Dangers
of Processed Education
Frank Furedi
Both the so-called progressives and the conservative
educators regard education instrumentally. That is why
they regard the knowledge content of education as far
less significant than the teaching of skills.

One of the most striking features of the


debate on education is that despite the numerous
controversies surrounding the curriculum, when
it comes to the fundamentals the rival factions
actually converge. Calls by the left to make the
curriculum more relevant echo the demand of
the right to make schooling more pertinent for
the world of work. Both the so-called progressives
and the conservative educators regard education
instrumentally to the point where they regard its
content with indifference. That is why they regard
the knowledge content of education as far less
significant than the teaching of skills (soft skills
in the case of the left and practical vocational
one in the case of the right). Insofar as the question of standards is raised whats at issue is not
the academic content of schooling but the skills
(particularly literacy and numeracy) possessed by
students. The idea that education is important in
its own right is mainly expressed as arhetorical
gesture before moving on to the serious business
of considering its relevance for dealing with the
problems that children will face in the future.
The casual manner with which education is
regarded was demonstrated in 2007 when the
British Labour Government split what was once

the Department of Education into the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and the
Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.
The excising of the word education was by no
means aFreudian slip. It indicated the lack of
cultural affirmation in policy-making circles for
educationparticularly academic and knowledge
based leaning. What it also indicates is that over
the decades, education has been transformed
into an instrument of public policy for achieving
objectives that are entirely external to it. In current
times education is expected to put right the failures
of adult society. Consequently education is meant
to transform apathetic youngsters into responsible citizens. Education is used to promote social
mobility, multiculturalism, responsible sex, sound
financial behavior, emotional well-being as well as
to provide youngsters with avariety of key skills.
The instrumental transformation of education
into ameans for achieving apolicy objective
means that it is rarely appreciated as something
that ought to be valued in its own right. The
most disturbing symptom of this instrumental
turn education takes is that its principal function is identified as the provision of skills. The
teaching of knowledge is frequently devalued

11

as an old-fashioned and traditional custom that


is no longer relevant to the 21st century.

tempting to become one sided. The very distinction between knowledge and its application
can easily harden into polar opposite contrast,
which is not particularly helpful. However, one
can distinguish between knowledge (accomplished through learning principles, concepts
and facts) and skills (which refers to the capacity
to use that knowledge and apply it in specific
contexts). In reality the two are inextricably tied
up, since the gaining of knowledgeparticularly of deep knowledgerequires such skills
as the capacity to conceptualize, compare and
to engage critically.
Education unleashes a dynamic process
whereby greater depth of knowledge is achieved
through applicationusing the power of abstraction or experiment. At the same time the act of
application is contingent on the kind of knowledge to be tested. And it is through the acquisition of knowledge that sensitivity is gained into
the context of its application. Contrary to the
priority that the EU attaches to skills acquisition,
it is knowledge that provides children with the
capacity to conceptualize, compare and abstract.
Knowledge is logically prior to analytical skills and
such skills require acontext in aspecific domain
of knowledge. The logical priority of knowledge
does not mean that skills are unimportant or even
less important. It simply means that disciplinary
knowledge provides the intellectual and cultural
foundation for the exercise of what Aristotle
called phronesisthe virtue of practical thought.
The criticism of the knowledge model
of education is often communicated through
statements that explicitly question the authority
of knowledge. This pedagogic devaluation of
a knowledge based curriculum is fuelled by
apowerful anti-intellectual ethos that self-consciously refuses to take ideas seriously. From this
perspective knowledge is simply reducible to facts
and information. Accordingly, the acquisition of
knowledge is presented as akin to memorizing
facts. Hence the misleading representation of
knowledge acquisition as aform of rote learning.

Training Displaces Education


The European Commission consistently
pursues the subordination of education to the
project of skills training. Its report, Rethinking
Education Strategy, published in November 2012,
sought to make education more relevant by
producing flexible people who can be easily
absorbed into the labor market. To realize this
objective the EU Commission called for afundamental shift in education, with more focus on
learning outcomesthe knowledge, skills and
competences that students acquire. It warned
that merely having spent time in education is
no longer sufficient. Since merely spending time
in education has never been sufficient, what
the EUs rhetoric actually meant was that education as such has little intrinsic significance. What
really matters is that graduates possess the skills
deemed relevant to employers
The EUs Rethinking Education Strategy is
wholly committed to the glorification of skill
outputs. It also demonstrates acasual indifference
to inputs made through knowledge acquisition
and scholarship. Similar sentiments have been
advocated by avariety of international institutions
such as the OECD, UNESCO and the World Bank.
It is important to note that for policymakers
devoted to the skills agenda, learning outcomes
are not only standalone and distinct objectives,
but also far more significant than education.
AsAndreas Schleicher, an advisor to the OECD
secretary general explained, in the past the focus
was on delivering education; now it is on learning
outcomes. Schleicher added that now accumulating knowledge matters alot less. Apparently,
what also matters alot less is discipline-based
academic knowledge.
Knowledge and Skills
In any discussion about the relationship
between analytical skills and knowledge, it is

12

One recurring argument used to contest the


knowledge-led curriculum is that it is quickly
outdated in an ever-changing world. Typically,
truth is represented as amomentary epiphenomenon and knowledge acquisition is caricatured as
the rote learning of facts.
The representation of truth and knowledge
as an unstable and transitory phenomenon has
become an unstated core assumption of opponents of an academically-based school curriculum.
Skills focused pedagogy argues that atwenty-first
century curriculum cannot have the transfer of
knowledge at its core for the simple reason that
the selection of what is required has become problematic in the era of Big Data. The claim that transmitting knowledge to children loses its relevance
in an information-rich age fails to comprehend the
distinction between knowledge and information.
Asocietys knowledge gives meaning to new information, by allowing people interpret new facts and
helping society to understand what significance
to attach to them.
Through appropriating new experience,
knowledge itself develops. However, the latest
knowledge is organically linked to that which
preceded it. Skepticism towards the authority
of knowledge implicitly calls into question the
meaning of education itself. Once the knowledge of the past is rendered obsolescent, what
can education mean? If what is known to be true
changes by the hour, what is there left to teach?
Policy makers frequently adopt the rhetoric of
breaks and ruptures and maintain that nothing is
as it was and that the present has been decoupled
from the past. Their outlook is shaped by an imagination which is so overwhelmed by the displacement of the old by the new that it often overlooks
important dimensions of historical experience that
may continue to be relevant to our lives. The discussion of the relationship between education and
change is frequently overwhelmed by the fad of the
moment and with the relatively superficial symptoms of new developments. It is often distracted
from acknowledging the fact that the fundamental

educational needs of students donot alter every


time anew technology impacts on peoples lives.
And certainly the questions raised by Greek philosophy, Renaissance poetry, Enlightenment science,
or the novels of George Eliot continue to be relevant
for students in our time and not just to the period
that preceded the Digital Age.
Knowledge is not simply the sum total of
abody of facts. Disciplinary knowledge is based
not merely on facts but upon concepts, theories
and specific structure of thought. So while the
content of knowledge changes in line with new
developments, its structure and concepts can
retain their significance for aconsiderable period
of time. Geometric theorems may be contested
over aperiod of time but nevertheless they express
abody of knowledge that transcends centuries.
Change Rendered Banal
The fetishization of change is symptomatic
of amood of intellectual malaise where notions
of truth, knowledge, and meaning have acquired
aprovisional and arbitrary character. Perversely,
the transformation of change into ametaphysical
force haunting humanity actually desensitizes
society from distinguishing between apassing
novelty and qualitative change. That is why lessons
learnt through the experience of the past, and the
knowledge developed through it, are so important
for helping society face the future. When change is
objectified, it turns into aspectacle that distracts
society from valuing the important truths and
insights that it has acquired throughout the
best moments of human history. Yet these are
truths that have emerged through attempts to
find answers to many of the deepest and most
durable questions facing the human species, and
the more the world changes the more we need to
draw on our cultural and intellectual inheritance
from the past.
If the legacy of past achievements has ceased
to have relevance for the schooling of young
people, what can education mean? Historically,
serious thinkers from across the left-right divide

13

have always recognized that education represents


atransaction between the generations. Antonio
Gramsci, the Italian Marxist thinker, wrote that in
reality each generation educates the new generation. Writing from aconservative perspective, the
English philosopher Michael Oakeshott concluded
that education in its most general significance may
be recognized as aspecific transaction which may
go on between the generations of human beings
in which newcomers to the scene are initiated
into the world they inhabit. The liberal political
philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote that education provides an opportunity for society both to
preserve and to renew its intellectual inheritance
through an inter-generational conversation.
One of the principal tasks of education is to
teach children about the world as it is. Although
society is continually subject to the forces of
change, education needs to acquaint young
people with the legacy of its past. The term
learning from the past is often used as aplatitude. Yet it is impossible to engage with the
future unless people draw on the insights and
knowledge gained through centuries of human
experience. Individuals gain an understanding of
themselves through familiarity with the unfolding
of the human world.
The transition from one generation to another
requires education to transmit an understanding
of the lessons learnt by humanity throughout the
ages. Consequently the main mission of education is to preserve the past so that young people
have the cultural and intellectual resources to deal
with the challenges they face. This understanding
of the constitution of education as renewal stands
in direct contrast to the current predilection to
focus the curriculum one-sidedly on the future.
In Anglo-American societies curriculum planning
is devoted to cultivating an ethos of flexibility
towards the future. Of course the capacity to
adapt is avaluable asset to an individual. Butthe
exercise of this capacity requires asense of intellectual and moral grounding in an understanding
of the world in which we live.

14

The impulse to free education from the past


is influenced by aprejudice that regards ideas
which are not of the moment as, by definition,
old-fashioned and irrelevant. Yet the project of
preserving the past through education does not
mean an uncritical acceptance of the world as
it is; it means the assumption of adult responsibility for the world into which the young are
integrated. The aim of this act is to acquaint the
young with the world as it is so that they have
the intellectual resources necessary for renewing
it. Through the education of the new generation,
all the important old questions are re-raised with
the young, leading to a dialogue that moves
humanitys conversation forward.
Aliberal humanist education is underpinned
by the assumption that children are the rightful
heirs to the achievement and legacy of the past.
It takes responsibility for ensuring that this inheritance is handed over to the young. It is precisely
because education gives meaning to the human
experience that it needs to be valued in its own
right. One of the principal characteristics of education is its lack of interest in an ulterior purpose.
That does not mean that it is uninterested in developments affecting children and society: it means
that it regards the transmission of cultural and
intellectual achievements of humanity to children
as its defining mission. Once society is able to
affirm an education system that values itself and
the acquisition of knowledge, policymakers and
the public can begin to envisage the practical
steps required to deal with the practical challenges
facing the classroom. Agenuinely educated cohort
of young people will have no problems in gaining
the skills required for their future.

FRANK FUREDI

is the author of Authority:


ASociological Introduction,
Cambridge University Press, 2013.
Photo: Matthias Haslauer

Knowledge Belongs
to the Past
Humanism was based on the assumption that you
need to know things in order to exist as ahuman
being. Today anindividual exists regardless of any
culture orknowledge acquiredsays Marcel Gauchet
inaninterview with MaciejNowicki

You wrote recently: The university thinks of


everything. It does not think only about itself.
How should it be understood?
For several decades, everybody has been
speaking about acrisis in education. This is not
very helpful, for we interpret the crisis in awrong
way. Schools or universities are constantly urged
to correct the situation through changing pedagogical methods. Of course, you have to ask questions regarding teaching methods themselves,
but current problems are mostly of cultural or
anthropological nature. Yet we donot appreciate
the scope of the changes that have taken place
in our societies.

MARCEL GAUCHET

is ahistorian, philosopher and sociologist, oneofthemost


influential French intellectuals, editor-in-chief
ofthemagazine Le Dbat.
Photo: Archive Marcel Gauchet

What changes doyou have in mind?


It is an insidious phenomenon, occurring
without major upheavals, and maybe that is
why we donot notice it. However, in the 1960s
and 1970s there was a complete change in
understanding basic concepts, such as culture,
scholarship or the role of knowledge in society.
Theso-called 1968 generation was an unwitting
agent of that change. Today, it even experiences
certain remorse. Because it has only recently understood to what extent our societies rely on the past,
on respecting certain hierarchies of values.

In the past the school was based on transmitting a certain portion of knowledge to
astudent who remained passive. In the new
school the student is much more active. Whatis
wrong with that?
At first glance, nothing is wrong. Its just that
we have gone too far. We have behaved in such
away as if it was enough to make this change

15

progressivism. But we at least as often hear


that they are outdated and disconnected from
reality.
The school has to remain afew steps back.
It cannot keep up with what is happening in the
most advanced sectors of society, for that would
mean its death. For example, it cannot announce
that everything it has taught so far is of no use
in the era of digital natives. It has to act as the
teacher in abook by Jules Romains, who immediately after the announcement to students that
abloody and terrible war awaits Europe, passes
on to the actual topic: And now Ibegin our
arithmetic lesson. An educational institution is
based on adifferent notion of timeknowledge
is acquired slowly and references to the past
are frequent, while anticipation of the future,
although it does appear, only plays adiscreet
role...

and then the teaching process would have no


secrets for us. Unfortunately, nothing like that has
happened. Instead of aCopernican revolution, we
have agreat leap into avoid. The 1960s revolution put the individual on an absolute pedestal.
Westarted to take the students as they were, and
our main goal was to increase their own abilities,
according to their own needs. That is the so-called
self-fulfillment. This is, by the way, areflection
of amajor modern myth that everyone is aselfmade man or aself-made woman. Thus we owe
nothing or almost nothing to others
This privatized vision of education has
acertain gap in it. Learning requires acertain logic
in building the successive stages of acquiring
knowledge. If everything is constructed around
the passions and desires of the individual, there
is agreat risk that not much will come out of it.
There is acertain ideal. But there is also acertain
school practice: producing passivity through
active methods. When the students are required
to be more active, most of them simply get stuck.
This rule applies even at university.

This is hardly good publicity.


Let us not fool ourselves, the school has lost
much of its former great privileges. Its legitimacy was based on access to information and
booksin the age of digitalization it looks slightly
different. Its ability to stimulate the imagination
has also slumped. We no longer live in an era
where entertainments are rare and the school is
awindow to the world. The media have invaded
ahuge space in our life and they have amuch
greater audience than educational institutions.
In asituation where our society highly appreciates certain hedonism, the school is left with an
ungrateful task of imparting knowledge which
does not offer direct benefits or immediate pleasure.

You sound as if calling for greater activity did


not have any advantages.
It does have advantages, and considerable
ones at that. But mostly among students from
the so-called well-to-do families, not among
lower classes. The latter ones show enthusiasm
initially, sometimes quite big, but it burns out
quickly. This is because they also have the need
for security. And atoo personal, too tailor-made
approach robs them of this sense of security.
They want the institution to give them certain
guarantees, to make certain decisions for them.
This new activist school was supposed to be
more democratic, was to serve building abetter
and more just world. But the new methods meant
that inequalities increased. The school ceased to
be asocial elevator.

Jonathan Franzen was asked once why should


we read books. And he answered this question
with another question: Is there any benefit
from not being an idiot? This question captures the spirit of our times.
The great role of knowledge or culture in
forming the individual belongs to the past.

You once were aradical leftist and now you are


criticizing educational institutions for their

16

Still, the fact remains that our life revolves


around education. Most parents think only
about one thing: how to find the best school
for their child. As afather Iknow something
about it.
You are right, we need school more and more.
We shower it with demands which definitely are
beyond its capabilities. But this is due to something elseto the evolution of the family itself.
The great dream of French pedagogues from the
times of the 1789 revolution was to steal childrens
minds from parental authority, in their view more
or less obscurantist. They did not want to form
children against the parents, but to form them
in isolation from their families. And to agreat
extent, this dream has come true today.
Formerly you became afarmer, shoemaker or
lawyer, like your father or grandfather. In many
cases an education was only supplementary.
It was something which allowed you to live
abetter life or to be abetter citizen. Today, education is primarily adeterminant of your career.
From the social point of view we are less and less
children of our parents.
Besides, there was always akind of division
of labor between family and school. As it was
once said, the family educates, and the school
teaches. But this division of labor is no longer in
force. The family wants to dump all the work on
the school and it demands from it that it both
educates and teaches. The family once was the
foundation of the community, it prepared for life
in the world, and today it has become privatized.

Humanism was based on the assumption that


you need to know things in order to exist as
ahuman being. Today an individual exists regardless of any culture or knowledge acquired. Thisis
agreat change, the ties between knowledge and
humanity have been broken. Knowledge has
become something external, having nothing to
dowith our essence. It is enough that it is accessible thanks to technologies surrounding us, that
you can find it in databases which you can plug
into whenever necessary. And besides that it is
of no major importance. So why bother with it?
We constantly hear that we are living in aknowledge society. But at the same time knowledge
has been greatly devalued.

The great dream of


French pedagogues from
the times of the 1789
revolution was to steal
childrens minds from
parental authority. They
wanted to form them
in isolation from their
families. And to agreat
extent, this dream has
come true today.
You sound as if education ceased to play an
important role in our societies. But never in
the history of mankind has education been
accessible to so many.
The mass scale of education is agood thing.
But at the same time it leads to another conflict,
which we donot know aremedy for. On the one
hand we have a large social demand, on the
other hand the mass scale of education lowers
its quality.

As Hannah Arendt put it: The family lost its


responsibility for the world.
This is an aspect of the evolution of the
family about which definitely too little is said in
descriptions of modernity. The new version of
the family appears in the 17th and 18th century
with the advent of marriage of love and the
discovery of childhood. In contrast to the old,
authoritarian family, the new family is based on
the principle of reaching agreement. It recognizes

17

that childhood is different from adulthood, but


at the same time it regards educationinitiating
the child into the worldas its aim. But then the
intimate, private factor overrides the educational
factor, it invalidates it. From then on the aim of
the family is most of all ensuring happiness of
its members, to acertain extent in isolation from
society. And hence the rather self-contradictory
demands of parents towards the school. On the
one hand they want the school to turn their child
into adynamic stockbroker, successful in every
sphere of life. On the other hand they want their
child to be treated at school like at homeas
someone absolutely unique, different from all
the rest, the whole educational process attuned
to its needs and vulnerabilities. As if the school
was some store or service center for children.

instruments of influence. Violence is not allowed


there and institutional coercion will not induce
the students to learn. We will not send police
to schools, although such ideas are sometimes
entertained. The teacher always embodied something greater than himself or herself. He received
amandate from society, he taught because the
community asked him to teach. Today, this pact
has been violated. Teachers have to rely solely on
their charisma. They work without aclear institutional mandate. Little wonder then that today
there is agreat discouragement among educators.
Another grim diagnosis...
I do not believe that the situation is irreversible. History has often brought problems
for which we had no ready answer. But eventually
we always found it. People have to understand
that if they want well-educated children, they
have to question awhole series of behaviors and
attitudes which have spontaneously emerged,
and which have specific consequences, often
contrary to their expectations. The school or
university will not solve these problems on their
own. Society must stand behind the teachers,
define what it expects from them and give them
aclear mandate. And Ihope that such times will
come. This is my dream.

Although previously the school was based on


the assumption that all children should be
treated in the same way...
Exactly. And under pressure from parents
the school has changed, and not necessarily in
the right direction. Many elementary schools in
France have adopted the family style, which has
hurt them alot. It is very cool there, children like
to go to school. Not least because authority is not
abused or even used at all. But once they go to
secondary school, disaster is in store for them. For
they have never written an essay before. Orthey
are not very good at counting.

MACIEJ NOWICKI

is Deputy Editor InChief of Aspen


Review Central Europe.
Photo: Maciej Nowicki

Family style is based on the assumption


that the school does not really need authority. Theconservative right would like to begin
repairing education through restoring authority.
The times of authority based exclusively on
hierarchy have come to an endwhether we
want it or not. The old maxim of the French army,
who seeks to understand is disobedient, is gone
forever. And two cheers for that! But the death of
authoritarianism does not mean that we donot
need figures of authority at all. At school authority
is especially important, for the school has no other

18

Moscow to Bologna:
The (Re-)Sovietization of
European Higher Education
Aviezer Tucker

One of the hallmarks of the neutral liberal


state is the independence of higher education,
just like religion, the judiciary, and the Central
Bank. If there is no separation of the state from
the universities, they become instruments for state
control of social stratification and mobility and an
inefficient tool for socially-engineering society and
its culture and ideology.
In post-totalitarian societies, the end of totalitarianism led to academic autonomy and internal
democracy. However, local democracy was of
faculty selected largely by the totalitarian regime.
Local academic democracy resulted in an elected
university governing administration that represented the interests of late-totalitarian academics,
resisting change, and protecting the hierarchy.
Autonomy and self-regulation allowed increased
levels of corruption, especially in admissions and
in selling degrees and grades. An education
system where senior professors received subsidies from the state irrespective of what they did,
and could select new employees, had no corrective institutional mechanism such as economic
competition to weed out failing academic units
or institutions. Inbreeding, the employment of
graduates by their teachers, allowed departments
to close themselves off from the world.
Some of these problems were shared by
Western European universities: Inbreeding,

authoritarian teaching, learning by rote, and the


discouraging of critical creativity and intellectual
autonomy plagued many European universities.
These similarities have led civil servants and politicians in the new member states of the European
Union to consider imitating the kinds of higher
education reforms that were implemented in
post-social-democratic European states. These
reforms eliminated the self-governance and
autonomy of universities and introduced instead
central planning and state control of higher
education. Implementing such reforms in societies still reeling from the destructive legacies
of state control and central planning in higher
education has been sadly ironic. The new cure for
the legacies of Communism was more Communism, this time coming from Bologna rather than
Moscow.
Elected Western European politicians had the
opposite goal to that of the Communists; they
wanted to socially engineer higher education to
expand the middle classes by increasing the ratio
of university graduates in society to increase the
competitiveness of their workforce. If there were
more people with degrees, (their content was
adifferent matter) more people would have better
paying jobs, they reasoned. They and their parents
would vote for the politicians who gave them
the education, and the result would be planned

19

prosperity from above. Better paid citizens would


pay more in taxes and the state will be richer and
stronger.
It is difficult to force reforms on autonomous,
self-governing, and therefore conservative institutions. Therefore, the trend in many European
countries beginning in the eighties has been for
central planners in the ministries of education
to centralize avertical of power that goes down
from the ministry of education to appointed
(not elected) academic managers (not scholars
or pedagogues). The new managed university
bears uncanny similarity to Soviet industry: the
Soviet state set production targets and quotas.
The managers had considerable local powers and
autonomy and were assessed according to their
fulfillment of these production targets without
micromanagement of the means they used to
achieve them. As in the Soviet Union, when there
was no paying customer to satisfy, the easiest
way to meet production targets was by falsifying
data and compromising on quality. Subsidies kept
flowing anyway.
To consolidate this vertical of power, the
new Brezhnevian managerial academic model
had to abolish academic self-governance, the
autonomy of universities and units within them,
like faculties, schools, departments, tenures, and
academic freedom. The general trend in the UK,
the Netherlands and Scandinavia, encouraged
by the European Unions Bologna Process and
the massification of higher education, has been
to turn universities into state-managed corporations dedicated to vocational training. In the
Bologna agreement all members of the EU agreed
to create asystem of easily readable and comparable degrees to promote European citizens
employability and international competitiveness. To impose this new order and fulfill production targets the appointed managers were not
accountable to the faculty so they could impose
policies and decisions against its will and discipline
those who dared to defy their commands. As the
Soviet experience showed, central planning may

20

succeed in afew projects by concentrating all


available resources on e.g. sputniks and sport. But
command economies cannot sustain the effort
across the board to match supply with demand.
On asystemic level, European higher education is
as likely to be as competitive with the decentralized
and partly private American academic system as
the Soviet industry.

The Communists
attempted to limit the
size of the professional
educated middle class.
The European planners
attempted to increase
the size of the middle
class. Ironically, both
types of central planners
chose to achieve these
diametrically opposed
goals by the same means.
The Soviet and European central planners
had diametrically opposed goals for their social
engineering. The Communists attempted to limit
the size of the professional educated middle class.
TheEuropean planners attempted to increase
the size of the middle class. Ironically, both
types of central planners chose to achieve these
diametrically opposed goals by the same means:
assaulting high culture, contracting the humanities and languages, expanding and encouraging
engineering, radically dumbing down the level of
education, limiting or eliminating altogether basic
research, basing education on learning by rote
with little or no space for creativity, and imposing
state appointed managers to force these measures
through and achieve quantitative targets. If such

policies had worked, the Soviet Union would have


won the Cold War.
The central planners could only measure the
satisfaction of quantifiable quotas they assigned
to the managers, and even that largely on the basis
of data provided by the managers themselves.
Actual control was in the hands of unaccountable managerial new class and the bloated and
expensive bureaucracy they created to centrally
plan, manage, and control. As Dutch academic
Chris Lorenz put it in an article in Critical Inquiry:
Because they lack professional authority,
managers are inclined to treat any lack of cooperation on the shop floor as athreat to their position and as subversion. Those who dare to cast
doubt on their decisions can therefore count on
pressure, blackmail, divide-and-conquer tactics,
and open humiliation. Because the discipline
of the market does not play arole in the New
Public Management, there are scarcely objective
constraints on managers freedom toward their
employees. After all, where profit does not exist
as an objective criterion for the performance
of the organization, the managers themselves
decide what performance is [They] tolerate
astaggering range of irrational management
practices under the wide, protective, ideological
umbrella of efficiency. In these two respects (the
lack of objective reality checks and the resultant
unconstrained power of management) the organizations in the quasi-market sector under New
Public Management and the party organizations
under state Communism again show striking
similarities. In both types of organization the
scope for irrational management practices is
virtually unlimited.
From the perspective of the central planners, college dropouts (e.g. Bill Gates, Michael
Dell, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Kerouac,
Woody Allen, etc.) who did not complete their
degrees were lost investments; not because
students who drop out of college donot benefit
from the time they spent there, but because the
bureaucrats did not know how to measure that

benefit. Confusing skills with formal degrees was


an easy option for central planners who could not
assess the long term effects of substantial rather
than formal education. The standard method to
substantially improve retention rates was the
radical dumbing down of the level of education
and requirements for graduation. But ask yourself,
if you had aserious medical problem, would you
like to be treated by adoctor who graduated
from amedical school where nobody ever failed
to graduate?
When he worked at such auniversity, Queens
University in Belfast, the new school head was
so successful in politics that he was promoted
to become aDean to impose his methods on all
the social sciences and humanities: he claimed
that expecting students to read anything critically and discuss it in class, was beyond their
cognitive level. If students opened their mouths
in class, they learned nothing, so they should
not talk. Instruction and exams had to be based
on bullet points, published on the intranet of
the university so students could memorize them
for the exam and pass with high marks even if
they read nothing and did not attend lectures.
He coerced the faculty to pass everybody and
hyper-inflate grades by measuring their performance according to the grades they gave to their
students. Teachers who failed to ensure that all
their students graduated with high marks were
dismissed or disciplined. If students failed despite
all the efforts, amanager with the Orwellian title
of Director of Education was in charge of falsifying the grades before they were submitted.
In one year, a70% graduation rate improved to
almost 100%.
The central planners and the managers
cheated students and parents about the value
of the low quality diplomas they were producing;
they could have thrown university diplomas out
of helicopters. Employers could not be cheated
so easily. Employers adapted to the decreasing
value of university degrees by demanding
advanced graduate and professional degrees

21

to enter theworkforce or by recognizing only


some universities and not others, especially not
institutions that should have helped lower class
students achieve upper mobility.
The central planners, inspired by a weird
application of business theories about the
commoditization of production, demanded
the homogenization of education. As production managers in McDonalds should make sure
that all hamburgers are the same, all university
courses had to be the same,usually in the form
of standardized units called courses or modules.
Amodule is defined in terms of afixed quantity
of time investment by both its producers and
its consumers. Moreover, it is characteristically
independent of its producers (professional
teachers) because it has astandardized (online)
form and content. Online modules typically are
no longer owned by their direct producers
the faculty but by management,[] the basic
idea and drive behind the Bologna Process is to
standardize all of higher education in Europe in
terms of interchangeable modules[]. (Chris
Lorenz, If Youre so Smart, Why are You Under
Surveillance? Universities, Neoliberalism, and New
Public Management, Critical Inquiry, 38, (2012)
612.) This led everywhere to incredible over-regulation of academic work, chasing an impossible
phantom of homogenization of education that is
neither possible nor desirable. Some topics are
naturally more difficult and time consuming than
others. Intellectual heterogeneity and competition between universities requires them to be
different, offer different kinds of education to
allow consumer choice.
To achieve efficiency, schools amalgamated previous departments. Since school heads
micro-managed contents as well as budgets,
they were tasked with planning the study of
fields they often knew nothing about and
even worse, dictated research programs to the
experts. Iwitnessed how ahead of school with
an interest in Habermas and aprofessor of Irish
politics who were, how shall Iput it, not exactly

22

beyond average intelligence, attempted to design


acourse in Logic. Then they had to forge the
grades. They were much better at the second
task than at the first.
Managers were evaluated and promoted
according to their success in satisfying the
required quotas. The people who rose up the
hierarchy, lacked moral fiber at best, were able
and ready to cheat, and were good at forcing
other academics to dothe same. At worst they
were psychopaths whose amorality and natural
proclivity to bully fitted the institutional design.
Conversely, the idealists, the best researchers
and teachers, who believed in the importance of
what they researched, wrote about, and taught,
and so refused to dumb down and cheat, found
themselves marginalized, denied promotions,
harassed, ejected, and dismissed.
Academic managers received and developed
sets of powers to break established hierarchies
at universities, fire members of faculty, discipline
them into submission, and harass them into resignation or early retirement. But once they received
the power deemed necessary for solving the
problems of higher education, they were under
no constraint to use this power as others wishfully
expected. First, they used these methods against
the incompetents. Then, they used them against
the disobedient who dared to challenge their
authority. After that, they sought to use their institutional power to eliminate any alternative center
of power within their academic units. Since much
of the power of the managers was based on terror,
it was in their interest to victimize occasionally
the apparently most secure members of faculty,
the deservedly senior professors with laudable
research record and international reputations.
Ifafew of the intellectuals were made redundant
or harassed into resignation or early retirement,
it became obvious to everybody who was the
psychopath in charge. Finally, once everybody
else was out of the way, managers went after
everybody who was different for some reason.
The bottom of the pathological cesspool could

then float to the surface. At Queens University


Belfast, some of the more primitive managers
went after other ethnic groups. The similarity with
the revolutionary establishment of totalitarian
regimes is striking: first they had to eliminate
their real political enemies, then their objective
enemies, then anybody who was respected but
not part of the party-state hierarchy, and finally
anybody who was different.
The methods that some academic managers
employed to maintain power bear bizarre similarities to some of the Gestapo methods that
totalitarian regimes and their secret police used.
Themanagers enacted long and vague lists of
declarative regulations that they could use selectively as acover to start disciplinary proceeding
against anybody arbitrarily, because there was
no independent judicial branch of university
governance. As in Kafkas Trial, everybody was
always guilty, but they could be granted reprieves.
At Queens University Belfast Iwitnessed how
managers started disciplinary proceedings with
trumped up accusations such as inattention
to detail, for writing typos in an email; lack
of responsiveness to student concerns, for
dismissing astudent request for rescheduling
aclass; inattention to student progression, for
assigning atake home essay to freshmen, or not
giving all the students high grades; lack of collegiality, for refusing to become an informer on
another professor for the managers. Managers
used disaffected failing students as agents provocateurs to undermine members of faculty. Since
managers had access to their universities digital
databases, they could find out which students
were about to fail and which had medically
recorded mental problems or an otherwise
recorded troubled background. When psychopathic managers targeted amember of faculty,
they could use this information on manipulable
students and suggest that if they wished to lodge
complaints against aprofessor, the managers
would revise their grades upwards. Then the
mangers were promoted. Another method for

divide and rule was to spy on members of faculty


by reading their university email accountseach
manager had access to the university email
accounts of their subordinatesto learn of frictions and then augment them.
The primary priority of European universities,
according to the all-European Bologna agreement
is vocational. The managerial interpretation of it
was to promote vocational, narrowly specialized
programs at the expense of theoretical and liberal
education. The assumption was that programs in
e.g. football management or web design would
be more professionally useful than philosophy or
history. Subjects that had lower graduation success
rates because they were more difficult were eliminated, most notably foreign languages and quantitative or formal training. Languages were then
hit twice, because they appeared non-vocational
to provincial managers and because they were
challenging for monolingual students. The result
was graduate degrees in musicology for students
who could not read musical notes, degrees in
international relations and comparative literature
for students who did not know foreign languages,
and the evisceration of quantitative methods
from the humanities and social sciences. Then,
the humanities went into avicious spiral downward: they were dumbed down, so employers
hired fewer of their graduates, this led to decline in
demand for studying the humanities, universities
were forced to admit lower quality students to
fill in the empty seats, graduating such students
forced still greater dumbing down, leading to
lower employability of graduates, lower demand
for admission, further dumbing down, until the
ingenious managers come with the obvious idea
that when demand is so low, better shut down the
departments. For example, for many years adegree
in Classics had provided entry to top jobs in Europe.
Classics were not more practical then than now.
But the mastering of difficult languages like
Greek and Latin served as asignal to prospective
employers that the graduate must be intellectually
brilliant and could handle any intellectualtask.

23

Then,theydropped Greek, and later Latin, and


now they close down the departments.
This result was central planning in its self-contradictory essence: one hand of the state wished
to turn universities into vocational schools by
teaching students skills, while the other planning
hand wished to increase student numbers and
graduation rates by dumbing down education,
especially the most transferable and vocationally
useful linguistic and quantitative skills. European
central planners worried that their countries
were losing their competitiveness because their
universities were worse than the great American
research universities, so they curtailed research
and dumbed down the level of mass education.
Vocational over-specialization, typical of the Soviet
model of higher education, created workers that
could doone and only one thing. When technology
advanced or production moved elsewhere, they
could not find jobs in other fields. For example,
post-totalitarian Europe was full of people with
engineering degrees who could not use their
obsolete over-specialized training commercially.
European central planners wished to adjust the
curriculum to the needs of the largest employers.
Corporations welcomed offers from the state to
pay for training their workers from the public purse.
However, the interests of the big corporations
have not been identical to those of students and
workers or even the long term interests of the state.
Corporations have an economic interest in highly
specialized workers who cannot change jobs easily
and cost nothing to train. Workers who are overspecialized cannot find alternative jobs easily and
therefore are in aweak negotiation position over
compensations. If the company collapses or downsizes, they have alimited set of skills to offer other
employers. The employers can replace them with
fresh graduates who possess new specific sets of
skills. Eventually and inevitably any specific sets
of skills becomes obsolete.
Some people who oppose the academic
managerial central planning model and were
not familiar with Soviet history were misled

24

by the use of jargon about production targets,


corporate identity, line-managers, and so on
to consider this model neo-liberal or conservative. Butwithout amarket, private universities, apricing mechanism to fit supply with
demand, and above all the creative destruction
of failing universities, the managerial universities are Brezhnevian. Asunder Communism, the
greatest achievement of the central planner is
to confuse language sufficiently by Orwellian
identifications between opposites to make criticism of the system linguistically impossible.
It becomes impossible to criticize Communist
central planning, if its hapless victims come to
believe it is market oriented and neo-liberal.
The true market alternative may be inspired
by the Estonian system of vouchers that students
receive from the state to study anywhere
(including abroad). If states privatize their higher
education system, it will level the playing field
allowing new and better universities to compete
with the old and force universities to become
more efficient and satisfy demand for high quality
education. States can then subsidize the customer
rather than the producer and let student choose
what and how they want to study. Eventually, the
trend would be for the best institutions to survive.
If you had avoucher for your education, would
you pay it to auniversity that dumbs down the
quality of education and gains bad reputation
consequently, even if it guarantees your graduation by forgery if necessary, or would you rather
invest your voucher in asuperior but demanding
program, even if there is risk that some students
would fail? You should decide, and not the central
planners. 

AV I E Z E R T U C K E R

is the author of The Legacies


of Totalitarianism, Cambridge
University Press, 2015.
Photo: Archive Aviezer Tucker

The Republic of Idiots


Jan Sowa
Only an idiot would work for 6000 zoty.
Elbieta Biekowska,
former Minister ofInfrastructure andDevelopment
oftheRepublic of Poland, currently European
Commissioner for Internal Market and Services

Learn, child, learn, because knowledge is the


key to power,Istill remember from elementary school that this uplifting slogan was often
repeated by teachers, parents, aunts and sundry
other adults who believed in this wisdom of the
ages. Someone gave it an ironically extended
form, which perfectly illustrates the contemporary
bother in which Poland has found itself: and
when you have alot of keys, you will become
ajanitor.
Since 1989 Poland has made a gigantic
educational leap, incorporating huge segments
of society in the system of secondary and higher
education. In the years 20022013 only, the
percentage of people with higher education in
the age group from 30 to 34 grew almost threefold, from 14.4% to 40.5%. Currently, about 50%
of secondary school graduates take up university education, which puts Poland close to the
top of the field. This quantitative increase more
often than we would wish has taken place at
the expense of quality, especially at the undergraduate level, where private colleges have
been selling diplomas of fictitious value for real
money. But it has not always been so and we
must generally admit that the average level of
education has significantly increased after 1989.
This is, of course, an excellent news in itself. No

one is in any doubt that today we are living in the


era of the knowledge society, were information
itself is becoming afactor of production. Marxist
theorists from the Italian school of post-operaismo invoke the Marxist category of general
intellect and speak about the epoch of mass
intellectuality which we are now entering and
where various forms of intangible work, including
cognitive labor, are becoming the main engine of

Since 1989, education


has been presented
in Poland as akey to
success, but it turns
out that the people
who acquire this key
are faced with the
prospect of becoming
janitors rather than
making acareer suited
to their education and
expectations.

25

theeconomy. Knowledge literarily proves to be


worth its value in gold and awell-educated population is today anecessary condition of economic
development for any country (except, of course,
for rentier states, making money on exports of
natural resources, asphere largely unaffected by
the level of education of the inhabitants). Yet all
indications are that in the case of Polandand
it is atypical situation for acountry which is at
most semi-peripheral, its place in the global logic
of production forcing it in the role of an exporter
of unprocessed goods and cheap labora similar
educational boom may create more social problems than solutions.
The fundamental problem accompanying
such arapid and general growth of education is
generated not so much by the process of learning
itself, but by its social consequencesthe quickly
growing aspirations. Since 1989, education has
been presented in Poland as akey to success, but
it turns out that the people who acquire this key
are faced with the prospect of becoming janitors rather than making acareer suited to their
education and expectations. Polish economy is
notand will not be for avery long timeable
to create jobs adequate to the qualifications and
aspirations of 50% of the people entering the
labor market every year. There is nothing astonishing in thatprobably no capitalist economy
would be capable of that. But in Poland, during
the whole post-communist period the citizens
have been told that although the situation is
difficult, there are not jobs for everyone and
wages are low, education is apassport to abetter
life. Little wonder that Polish men and women
have rushed to schools in their mass. However,
universities have proved to be half-way houses
for the unemployed rather than hothouses of
spectacular careers. Consequently, we have in
Poland agrowing surplus of educated people,
for whom there are and will be zero job offers
matching their diplomas. And it is not because
they chose the wrong field of study, but because
they decided to study at all. The reality of the

26

Polish labor market shows that studying does


not make much sense regardless of which subject
you choose.
The main beneficiaries of this process are
Polish businesspeople. First, they can pick and
choose among candidates ready to work hard
below their competences for little money.
According to the law of supply and demand
the overproduction of diplomas has led to their
inflation, that is to the reduction of the market
value of education, also meaning a reduced
cost of labor for business. Second, the student
as such has proved to be an extremely valuable
resourcebecause social security for undergraduates is covered by the government, you
can employ students at alower cost. In many
places, especially in restaurants, you can see job
offers addressed exclusively to students, for they
simply are the cheapest employees. It is not, of
course, awork compatible with any education.
Generally speaking, an overwhelming majority
of job offers on the Polish labor market involve
work which does not demand even secondary
education, at best it requires ashort training
course or particular, yet not very sophisticated
qualifications (truck driver, welder, etc.).
What are the social consequences of this state
of affairs? Well, two of them stand out: emigration
and rising social discontent. Mass emigration has
been going on since Poland joined the EU in
2004. It is estimated that about 3 million people,
that is 10% of the adult population, have left
Poland in the last decade. It is an event unprecedented in our history. In the last 200 years Poland
experienced several waves of emigration, and at
the turn of the 20th century in some of its areas,
especially in the poor south (Galicia), as much as
20% of the citizens emigrated, but we had never
experienced such awidespread and mass exodus
in such ashort time. Of course, it was mostly
young and enterprising people who have been
leaving the country. Their outflow systematically
drains the resources of Polish society, and there
is no indication that this negative trend will be

reversed any time soon. When asked, 70% of


secondary school graduates say yes to the question if they would like to leave Poland. According
to media reports in many secondary schools the
students are eager to learn only one subject
English. They are aware that the most attractive
job prospect for them is working at the proverbial
kitchen sink in Ireland or the United Kingdom.
Besides knowing foreign languages, any qualifications gained in Poland will be useless for them
anyway.

which in my view is not an expression of their


conservative outlook, but the only sensible way of
showing the liberals the middle finger in acountry
without political left. And this very circumstance
will be the main factor shaping the results of
the autumn parliamentary elections, when we
will probably witness amajor shake-up in the
ranks of politicians ruling Poland. Exacerbating
the situation are unfortunate pronouncements
by politicians, such as the words of Bronisaw
Komorowski, who was asked during the presidential campaign how can you afford to buy aflat
when after several years of looking for awell-paid
job you are making no more than 2000 zoty.
Komorowski said: Change your job and take
amortgage. There are also downright outrageous
opinions, for example when the former minister
Biekowska said during aprivate conversation
which had been secretly recorded and then made
public within the so-called wiretap affair: Only
an idiot would work for 6000 zoty. This opinion
looks interesting when we look at it from the
perspective of the Polish educational boom:
Polish men and women think like minister Biekowska, and because thanks to their education
they are becoming increasingly less idiotic, they
donot intend to work for pathetic salaries they
could get in Poland and they leave the country or
try to change the government for one that would
be less arrogant and more efficientor so they
hopein providing jobs more adequate to their
education and aspirations. By the way, minister
Biekowska did likewiseshe went to work in
Brussels, were she receives asalary equivalent
to almost 90,000 zoty. It is apity that what she
left behind for the rest of her countrymen and
countrywomen was ruins.
So it would seem that the situation is ironically and paradoxically bad: the undisputed
educational boom in Poland has led to mass
emigration and an increase of social discontent.
The former is disadvantageous primarily for the
Polish society, from which well-educated and
enterprising people are fleeing in large numbers.

It would seem that the


situation is ironically
and paradoxically
bad: the undisputed
educational boom
in Poland has led to
mass emigration and
an increase of social
discontent.
Another consequence of the growing chasm
between aspirations and opportunities open
to young people is the rapid growth of social
discontent. This factor is responsible for the
radical reconfiguration of the political scene we
are now observing in Poland. In the presidential
elections in May 2015, most young people voted
for Pawe Kukiz (aformer rock star who had unexpectedly become apopular tribune) in the first
round and for the conservative Andrzej Duda in
the second round. This completely changes the
existing configuration of support for political
parties and politicians. Until now, if conservatives
won elections in Poland, it was thanks to the
votes of older people, while the support of young
people was behind victories of the liberals. Today
young people vote for the conservative right,

27

As the voices of the migrs themselves show


inthe media discussions, they donot regret their
decision and donot plan to come back. Unlike
many liberals, Idonot regard emigration as an
opportunity rather than adisaster. Usually it is
adifficult situation and adramatic decision, but
all in all for the migrants it can bring more good
than bad. But for the country they are leaving it
means mostly problems and only one possible
benefit: the decreased supply of labor may bring
its price up. And indeed the amount of cheap
labor in Poland is diminishingAmazon, which
has recently opened awarehouse near Pozna,
has problems with finding employees ready to
work for the rates they offered to them. Sooner
or later, their salaries will have to go up. But this
will not offset the social losses produced by the
systematic outflow of young and educated people
from Poland.
Social discontent does not look like afavorable circumstance, but Ithink that in Poland it is
very much needed, and it may even prove salutary, if it translates into asupport for ideas and
people who offer achance of changing things
for the better not only for the elites, but also for
ordinary people. Many left-wing journalists and
commentatorssuch as Agata Bielik-Robson
and Cezary Michalskibelieve that Poland will
be saved by the new middle class, which in their
view is being born in our country. Regardless
of whether such agroup is indeed emerging
in Poland or not, Iregard hopes invested in it
as futile. They result from amisunderstanding
of the history of the Western welfare societies.
Welfare solutions enviously admired by Polish
commentators were not produced by some
self-enlightenment of the middle-class generously deciding to support apolicy of redistribution, but had been won over decades or even
centuries through social resistance and confrontation, sometimes turning bloody. We know that
very well from the history of the labor movement
from the Paris Commune up to May 1968. Polish
men and women are not inclined to resist today.

28

Surveys show that only 5% of employers feel


pressure to raise wages. Centuries of serfdom
and various social and political oppressions have
taught us to be quiet and humbly endure plight.
For Poland always was acountry of poverty and
hard, often slavish labor. The wave of discontent and protest currently sweeping through
the communities of educated young people and
to alarge extent resulting from the educational
boom, offers achance for change. If no change
occurs, if young, educated people go the way of
minister Biekowskaleave the country rather
than work for starvation wagesPoland will really
become what it has long been in the eyes of its
cynical elites: arepublic of idiots.

J A N S OWA

is asociologist, essayist, associate


professor at the Institute of Culture at
the Jagiellonian University.
Photo: Iwona Bojadijewa

MICHAELANTOVSK

Neither Bad, nor Very Good.


Just Average.

n the Sad Song of aVillage Jester Viktor Dyk


satirizes the propensity towards mediocrity
of the young Czech nation at the break of the
20thcentury: Neither bad, nor good. Something
in between. Something of that kind could serve as
an appropriate assessment of the state of education in the Czech Republic and the region one
hundred years later.
Following the changes 25 years ago, when
most people became aware of the sorry state
of the society and economy and of the uphill
struggle that awaited us, one alleged comparative
advantage remained abeacon of optimism for
the future: we were asociety of highly literate,
well educated, wonderfully skillful people, who
were well equipped to cope with any challenges
ahead, and would soon traverse the gap and be
once again up there with the best.
Unlike other verities promoted by the
Communist regime, this one was not entirely
amyth. The country was able to draw on more
than acentury of near to full literacy, on the body
of work of a number of world-class thinkers,
scientists and scholars and on adeep-seated
commitment to the values of education. Even
the communist school system, uninspiring and
indoctrination-heavy as it was, did adecent job
of teaching most young Czechs and Slovaks the
basics of the three rs and sometimes alittle
more, something that the more liberal school
systems in some of the most developed countries often find harder to do. At the same time,
it put avery low premium on competition, and

MICHAELANTOVSK

the President of the Aspen Institute Prague


Photo: Archive Aspen Institute

consequently, on excellence. The quest for the


latter seems to be eluding us still.
The last quarter of a century has been
ahistory of the struggle between efforts to reform
the educational system we had inherited and
the insistence that the system was not broken
and thus there was no need to fix it. There were
many false starts, many great leaps forward and
many retreats. The result today is amixed bag.
Certainly, there has been no catastrophic collapse
of the educational system due to amore liberal
and less disciplinarian approach to students
which many have feared. At the same time,
there has not been much evidence of scaling
new heights and pushing our way to the forefront.

29

Inthemeantime, other countries (particularly


in Asia) have made significant progress in their
educational systems, especially in areas that drive
the global technological revolution.
So, is the glass half-full or half-empty?
Glancing at some of the data on education
gathered by the OECD Education at aGlance
2014 report, the picture is not entirely clear. It
seems obvious though that the weaknesses in
our educational system are nearer the top of the
educational pyramid than the bottom. TheCzech
Republic (and also Slovakia) has one of the lowest
percentages of adults with tertiary education
among the OECD countries, although over the last
decade it grew by ten percent. Notsurprisingly,
it has also the highest percentage of population with secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education. Good for automotive industry,
perhaps, but hardly for rocket science.
In mathematics, the philosophers stone of
21st century technological progress, the Czech
Republic scores right at the OECD average, slightly
below Poland and slightly above Hungary and
Slovak Republic, but falls behindalong with
the whole of the OECDthe Asian tigers in
Singapore, Japan, Taiwan or Korea. The level
of ICT skills in the Czech Republic, on par with
Austria, is higher than in Poland or Slovakia, but
lags significantly behind the Netherlands or the
Nordic countries. Compared to countries like
the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland or Japan, the
degree of ICT skills is poorly reflected in salary
differentials, clearly encouraging the promising
geeks to seek their fortunes elsewhere.
All educational systems, or so we hear,
are underfunded, but ours seems to be more
underfunded than most. Whether in terms of
expenditure on education per student or as
apercentage of GDP, Czech Republic (in spite of
an improvement over the last few years), Hungary
and Slovakias spending on education is below
the OECD average and near the bottom of the
OECD range, comparable to non-OECD countries
like Russia. The teachers salaries, compared to

30

the earnings of tertiary-educated workers in the


Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia (but not
Poland), are among the lowest in the OECD.
In the developed world, education has become
one of the most important industries, clearly
predictive of future economic success. The number
of international students has more than doubled
since the beginning of the century, reaching 4.5
million in 2012. We may be proud of the fact that
the Charles University is the oldest institution of
higher learning north of the Alps and it might
please us that the Czech Republic is still arather
attractive place to study in, with the percentage of
foreign students slightly above the OECD average.
At the same time, in none of the major global
university rankings will you find aCzech (or Slovak,
Hungarian or Polish) university among the top 200.
It is not that there is ashortage of talented
young people who are able to use the opportunities afforded by freedom and European integration
to obtain some of the best education available.
Every week, in my work as adiplomat, Iencounter
Czech (and Slovak and Polish and Hungarian)
students at some of the best British universities,
who flourish and excel in afiercely competitive
environment. The problem is that many of them
will not be coming back to their home country due
to their fear that they will not be able to make full
use of their hard-won skills in the academic, public
and corporate environment there, and that they
might even encounter asort of an immunological
reaction among the locals. Adegree of brain drain
to the most developed and prosperous countries is
an inevitable side-effect of globalization; thelack
of support for (and even adegree of distrust of )
those who could be the leaders of the future is
aself-inflicted wound.
On most of the above metrics, Poland is the
one of the V4 countries that has scored somewhat
higher, largely due to aprogress over the last
decade. It shows that reforms are not impossible;
they are just difficult. They are also essential;
without them we are destined to remain, well,
somewhere in between. 

History on Trial
Todays Russia is implementing the idea of happy
forgetting about the past. The point is not to traumatize the
young generation with unpleasant episodes of historysays
Lev Gudkov in an interview with Filip Memches

In what way have the changes in Russia after


the collapse of the Soviet Union affected the
historical education of society? Can we point
out some stable tendencies in this regard?
We are dealing with displacement of history.
After the crash of the Soviet Union there was
aperiod in which 20th century history was practically not taught at school. Teachers were afraid
to say anything about it. And even if they did talk
about it, it was only in very good schools. For that
is where young, creative, independently minded
teachers with initiative had come. Such schools,
however, could only be found in big cities and
accounted for about 2% of the whole.

LEV GUDKOV

is asociologist, director of the Yuri Levada Analytical


Centre, author of many books and articles on sociology
ofliterature, ethnic relations and problems of political and
economic transition in the post-Soviet society and other
matters.
Photo: Archive Lev Gudkov

What was the reason of this state of affairs?


Teachers were confused, especially in the
context of Stalinist times and what came after.
We should also remember that teachers are the
most conservative group among employees of
the public sector. In fact, we had several years
of total interruption in the teaching of history.
Thesituation started to change in the late 1990s.
But afundamental change occurred after Vladimir
Putin came to power, when the foundations of
the new state ideology began to be formulated.
There were new national myths and the process of
presenting history in Soviet terms started, which
led to avision of history which was apologetic
towards the Soviet Union. Government control
of the teaching of history also intensified.

32

But Putin did not intend to restore the communist state.


As far as the attitude towards the Soviet past
is concerned, the pattern of looking at it was the
same as in the Soviet Union. Imean here the
popular notions about the roots of the Soviet
state, the Great Patriotic War, the Stalinist crimes.
The only difference in comparison to the Soviet
times is greater openness in interpreting Stalinist
repressions. They were no longer hushed up, as
in the Soviet Union, but were considered acrime.

However, it all served aconcealed apology of


totalitarianism and aconcealed re-Stalinization.
The whole teaching of history revolved around
the Second World War as the symbolic event of
the 20th century, and at the same time as ademonstration of the victory of the Soviet system.
Today we can say that the last fifteen years
of ideological history teaching resulted in poor
knowledge of the past among the Russians.
Theintent of the regime is introducing only one
mandatory course book, officially approving one
single version of events, fighting against what
Kremlin calls falsifying history, that is fighting
against inconvenient facts, such as the crimes
of the Red Army in the Baltic countries and then
in those parts of Europe which became Soviet
spoils as aresult of the Second World War. Allsuch
events are repressed from the collective memory
by the government. Instead the ideaIquote
literallyof happy forgetting about the past
is implemented. The point is not to traumatize
the young generation with unpleasant episodes
of history. And to avoid creating rifts between
generations. Such is the main intent of these
activities.

the dictator where pointed at as causes of these


crimes: paranoia, cruelty, cunning, scheming.
Thesystem of organization of the totalitarian
society and the price it paid for the continued
existence of the Soviet regimesuch problems
were not touched upon. Hence the confusion
among history teachers. For on the one hand
there was aharsh criticism of the Soviet past,
but on the other hand no positive project
was proposed. The whole nation experienced
amasochistic sense of inferiority. The dominant
belief was that we had maneuvered ourselves
into ablind alley, that we were anation of slaves,
that we were the worst, that we served as anegative model for the world, that our history was
just misery and crimes, that the Soviet system
pushed artists to the sidelines of history. This
did not last long, but such sentiments became
much more intensethe percentage of Russians
sharing them grew from 7% to 57% in 19891991.
Theescape from this state of mind was not some
alternative construct of the present and the past,
but morbid frustration and an inferiority complex.
And then it turned into ablind nationalistic confidence and areturn to imperial values. And Putin
preyed on the national resentment.

You spoke about the confusion of teachers in


the early 1990s. But there were also such facts
as the banning of the Communist Party after
the Yanayev coup in 1991. When the Soviet
Union collapsed, Communism was declared
acriminal ideology by the Russian state under
President Boris Yeltsin. Have these symbolic
events not shaped the historical awareness
of the teachers as well?
Yeltsins policy was self-contradictory and
inconsistent. Generally speaking, perestroika,
and more specifically the years 19891991, was
the period of very harsh criticism of Stalin and
the Soviet system in general, but this criticism
was superficial. Stalin was considered guilty of
the death of many millions of people, but the
totalitarian nature of the Soviet regime was not
mentioned. Individual personality disorders of

Has that confusion of history teachers dating back to the early 1990s continued to this
day? Perhaps nothing really changed when
Putin became president for the first timethe
imperial or nationalist cause is not astrategy,
but an accident?
Of course, the confusion is the starting
point. And obviously it was not planned. This
is asocial effect of the collapse of the Soviet
system. However, efforts were made then to strategically exploit this confusion. And there is no
accident here. This is adeliberately maintained
tendency. It is part of government policy. Special
commissions were established, the content of
history teaching was ideologically homogenized.
The point is not to present the students with
acomplicated picture of history, but to educate

33

them patriotically, to instil pride in them, and thus


to guarantee the consolidation of society and
government. Rehabilitation of the Soviet past has
become an important factor in the context of the
annexation of Crimea. Iwould call it atotalitarian
relapse. The only difference in comparison with
the Soviet times is including in the dominant
narrative pre-revolution myths, that is myths
glorifying tsarist Russia. In this sense the attitude
is more eclectic, but the function remains the
same: glorification of the regime, glorification of
the great power. And this is followed by removing
any responsibility from the regime.

have educated parents. But still if they want to


go to college, they have to absorb the officially
decreed amount of knowledge compatible with
the Kremlin ideology. Thus, in the older classes
of private schools, teachers may tell the students
various things conflicting with the official government version of history. But when preparing them
for entrance exams, they have to provide them
with knowledge required by state institutions.
Can this situation simply be changed by agenerational change of guard, which means taking over the education by people who have
nothing to dowith Communism and the Soviet
Union?
The question is not generational change, but
dismantling the authoritarian regime.

The violent or even drastic course of the economic transition in the 1990s hit at the Russian
public sector. Has it not lead to aweakening
of the prestige of the teaching profession and
has it not encouraged nihilistic sentiments
among educationists, which could also affect
their attitude towards the past?
As far as nihilism is concerned, Iwould not
agree with you. Still the prestige of the teaching
profession has indeed fallen very low, mostly
because of very poor wages. Many people have
given up working in the educational system.
Inthe middle of the last decade, teachers salaries
went up significantly, especially in large cities,
where demonstrations against Putins regime
were taking place. And now it is fair to say that
the corporation of schoolteachers, and specifically their loyalty, was bought by the regime in
this way.

You said earlier that we are witnessing


a relapse of totalitarianism in Russia, but
we obviously cannot compare what is going
on today with the Soviet times. Let us take
the problem of freedom of speech. Various
institutions are trying to restrict it, but still
it does exist.
Iam not saying that the Soviet system and
the current regime are the same. What Iwanted
to underline is manipulating the awareness
of the masses, also in the context of historical
education. Of course, in the academic community there is much more freedom and tolerance
today than in the Soviet period. Although even
there you can see government control, themes
which are interesting for the regime get funding,
while researching issues inconvenient for the
government is restricted. All this is invisible to
the public. Debates in the academic community
donot reach the media and, importantly, donot
generate public discussion. Hence new historical
discoveries and publications of documents from
the archives are not widely known. Even intellectuals donot know more explicit works by historians. Forthese are short-run editions distributed
among professionals and hardly anyone hears

And how does the issue of private education in


Russia look like? Is it not abranch of education
which offers achance of objective and more
profound reflection on domestic history, even
if keeping in mind that avery small section of
society can afford this luxury?
Private schools account only for 2% of the
whole. Of course methods of teaching, social
relations and social capital are different there.
We should also say that students in these schools

34

are pragmatists and ideology does not play


any role for them. For they are people who
already in the Soviet times travelled all over
the world and saw what life looked like there,
so they aspired to Western political and economic standards. Is it not aproof of naivet
and atrap, for, as our conversation suggests,
the Russian elite of power rejected communism, but maintained its trust in the efficiency
of authoritarian power?
In the early stages of his presidency, Putin
and his political entourage attempted to make
the impression which you just described on
their Western partnershe focused on Russian
economic interests. This ended when the first
tensions typical for an authoritarian regime
appeared. Over time, as the desire to stay in power
intensified, the need for ideology was growing,
and this ideology had to be built from scratch, so
it is akind of simulacrum of traditionalism. New
traditionalist myths had to be supplemented
with elements from the Soviet era. 

about them. Such is the new technology of power.


And repressions also take place. One example
could be the well-known historian Andrei Zubov.
He was fired from aprestigious university MGIMO
after he announced that the justification for the
annexation of Crimea was reminiscent of Nazi
arguments about the Sudeten Germans.
Is it not the case that allowing critical thinking
about the past would just be too risky for the
regime? For Russia is not governed by enthusiasts of communism, but simplyto invoke
your own wordstechnologists of power, who
are afraid of chaos and are guided exclusively
by pragmatism.
Iagree. Moreover, the highest echelons of
power are occupied by former KGB agents, who
have specific notions about the world, specific
ways of thinking and, of course, specific experiences of executing repressive policy. The Russian
society is nowadays separated from real knowledge. And there are no instruments for rationalizing the past. This is an important factor. We are
now witnessing what was happening in Germany
in mid-1960s and what Alexander and Margarete
Mitscherlich described as an inability to come
to terms with the past, recognize your guilt and
take responsibility for your acts. And the regime
encourages that. The failed attempts at taking the
Communist Party to account, removing former
secret police informants from public life, re-evaluating the past and recognizing the Soviet system
as criminalall this produced avague attitude
towards the past and the desire to forget all about
it. As usual, traumas which are not rationalized
and talked about are reproduced, secretly duplicated. This can be seen in Russia.

FILIP MEMCHES

is acolumnist of the Rzeczpospolita


daily.
Photo: Archive Filip Memches

Prior to the current tensions between Russia


and the West, quite naive notions about Putin
prevailed in Western countries. These notions
looked as follows: since Communism came to
an end and ideological communists are now
the thing of the past, KGB people in power

35

WA LT E R I S A A C S O N

New Luddite Fears Are Misplaced:


If New Technology Really Cut Jobs,
Wed All Be out of Work by Now

ord Byron was aLuddite. The Romantic


poets only speech in the House of Lords
defended the followers of Ned Ludd,
who were smashing the mechanical looms in
England during the early 1800s because they
feared themachines would put people out of
work. Back then, some believed that technology
would create unemployment. They were wrong.
Theindustrial revolution made England richer and
increased the total number of people in work,
including in the fabric and clothing industries.
Byrons daughter Ada, Countess of Lovelace, was more prescient. On a trip through
the English Midlands, she admired how punch
cards instructed the looms to produce beautiful
patterns, and envisaged how such cards could
enable the numerical calculator being designed
by her friend Charles Babbage to process not
just numbers but words, music, patterns
and anything else that could be encoded in
symbolsacomputer, in other words.
Todays pessimists predict that these
computers will put people out of work. These
latter-day Luddites are also wrong. Technology can
be disruptive. It can eliminate jobs, from weavers
to buggy-whip makers. But 200 years of data show
it improves productivity and increases wealth,
leading to more demand and new types of jobs.
Take those mechanical looms. They were
invented just after 1800 by Joseph Marie Jacquard

36

W A LT E R I S A A C S O N

President and CEO of the Aspen Institute United States


Photo: Patrice Gilbert

in Lyon. Did that end up reducing employment


in the textile industry in eastern France? No.
Two centuries later, Lyon is Europes top center
for high-tech textiles. The city is the home of
the Textile and Chemical Institute, 40 labs and
schools, 140 companies and 10,000 textile jobs.
Nor did the machines destroy employment in
England, as Lord Byron feared.
The combination of computers and the
Internet began transforming our economy
decades ago. The app economy is the latest
example. It began in 2008 when Steve Jobs
yielded to the advice of his team atAppleand

decided to let outside developers create apps


for the iPhone. The global app economy last
year was worth $100 billion, more than the film
industry. This is an industry that did not exist
seven years ago.
Apps and other advances in technology have
helped create new forms of work, such as the
sharing economy in which enterprising folks
can rent out rooms on Airbnb and provide rides
on Uber and Lyft. Likewise, online marketplaces
such as Amazon and eBay have recreated the kind
of artisanal cottage industry that existed in the
pre-industrial age. If you have agood recipe or
can make acool product or service, you can find
customers. If you create abook or song, you now
have ways to self-publish and distribute. If you
dream up anew specializationethical hacker,
pet psychologist, nutrition coach?you have
achance of finding takers. More than 600,000
people nowadays earn a living by selling on
Amazon and eBay.

If new technologies reduced the total


number of jobs, we would all be out of work by
now. Buttimes of technological advance have
beentimes of job creation. Last year, as whole
new waves of robotic systems were introduced,
the US added 3 million jobs. The unemployment
rate hit asix-year low, and average hourly earnings for private sector workers rose.
Be wary of those who lament the demise of
jobs for checkout clerks and meter readers, as
if preserving such jobs will lead to ahealthier
economy. This Luddite fallacy is based on
apresumption that there is only aset amount
of goods and services people want. If technology
permits those things to be produced more efficiently, Luddites argue, there will be less work
to do. In reality, technology leads to an increase
in productivity and wealth. That in turn leads to
increased demand for goods and services and
thus more jobs, including ones in fields we can
barely imagine.

Published by arrangement with the Aspen Journal of Ideas.


This piece originally appeared in the Financial Times.

37

Divining Putins Intentions:


Why We Must Lose
Strategic Patience!
Jiri Valenta with Leni Friedman Valenta

Russian Decision-Making and Military


Interventions
We swear that we will never be slaves.
Thecommon aim of all revolutionary challenges
at Russias periphery that we studied, is echoed in
this old Hungarian anthem. The revolutionaries
have repeatedly sought to follow their own destinies free of Kremlin control. With the exception of
tribal Afghanistan, the trend has also been towards
Western-type democratic reform. Russias interventions have meanwhile manifested Kremlins fear
of these reforms spilling over and infecting their
neighborseven Russia itself. Thus, all Russias
interventions have aimed at regime change or
retaliation for it, to reverse this trend.
Yet Russian interventions are not predetermined and inevitable. Kremlin decision-making
is complex. Thus, grasping critical entry points for
pre-emptive diplomacy is essential. As historian
Richard Pipes noted in his memoir, Vixi, Decisions
are usually made ad hoc, on the basis of intellectual
predisposition and the mood of moment. This held
true not only of the Reagan administration, but all
that Ihave studied, including the governments of
Russia under the tsars and communists.
Each department defended its own interests,
wrote Russian general Alexander Lyakhovskiy,
addressing the decision on Afghanistan, yet
there was an unwritten rulesend primarily the
information which would suit the leadership. As

[] we dont have any reason to think its


more than military exercises. So opined asenior
U.S. intelligence official on February 27, 2014. Only
after Vladimir Putins little green men without
insignia took over the airport and government
buildings in Crimea did the light go on. We saw
this movie before in 1968 Czechoslovakia. Asthe
1975 Pike Committee concluded, U.S. agencies
were not up to the difficult task of divining Soviet
intentionsthey only found them [the Soviet
tanks] in the streets of Prague, but only by way
of aCzech radio news broadcast. Similar story
in 1956 Hungary, 1979 Afghanistan, 198081
Poland, 2008 Georgia and 2014 eastern Ukraine.
This study discusses Russian interventions
at her periphery, or what Prime Minister Dmitri
Medvedev, Putins partner in their presidential
game of Round Robbin, has called its sphere of
privileged interests. Note, however, that after
the 1991 geopolitical amputation of Russia, the
periphery moved dramatically inward. Rather than
much of Eastern Europe, it now includes Ukraine,
the Baltic States, Moldova, Georgia and the rest of
the Caucasus, and Central Asia.
Comparing the post-Soviet invasions of Georgia
and Ukraine to interventions past, our purpose
here has been to discern key factors of Russian
decision-making. What is still constant? What is
new? How can we better divine Russian intentions
and so enhance preemptive diplomacy?

39

Ipostulated in Soviet Intervention in Czechoslovakia


1968, Anatomy of a Decision, the key players organizational interests and personal idiosyncrasies
doaffect their stands on various issues.
In 1956 Hungary, Deputy Prime Minister
Anastas Mikoian in charge of economic foreign
relations consequently and repeatedly supported
negotiation in lieu of invasion. Aware that the
revolutionaries hated their Kremlin-appointed
leaders, he urged recalling popular former Prime
Minister Imre Nagy and reform-minded Janos
Kadar. Without Nagy, they [the Hungarian
leaders] cant get control of the movement, and
its also cheaper for us, he argued, urging political
measures. Notice cheaper. Akey Kremlin considerationthe cost of an intervention.
Mikoians course was moderately supported by
ideology tsar Mikhail Suslov, whose International
Department (I.D.) was in charge of Kremlin relations with foreign communist parties. His report:
3,000 wounded, 350 dead (Hungarians). Our losses
are 600 dead He was also shaken by reports of
Western communist parties opposing invasion.
Our line is not to protest the inclusion of several
democrats in the [Nagy] government. Conversely,
KGB Chief, General Ivan Serov, fuming about his
Hungarian agents being hanged, never wavered.
Nagy was connected with the rebels, he declared.
We must take decisive measures. He meant an
invasion combined with an anti-Nagy coup and
Nagys replacement by more reliable Kadar. To Serov,
Nagy, aKGB collaborator in his youth, was atraitor,
betraying both Russia and his organization.
During the 1968 Czech crisis, an unprecedented exchange took place between Prime
Minister Alexei Kosygin, with duties similar to
Mikoians, and Serovs successor, Yury Andropov,
concerned that Czech glasnost was destroying
secret networks. You are attacking me! accused
Andropov. No, you are attacking me! retorted
Kosygin. Trying to forestall invasion, he was again
supported by Suslov, Boris Ponomarev and other
senior officials of the International Department
with its Western European communist clients.

40

Meanwhile, Andropovs KGB and allied Eastern


European services even fabricated evidence in
support of an invasion, code-named Dunaj. Simon
Wiesenthal let me examine his forged letter to
leaders of the Czech Jewish community, proving
aZionist conspiracy. Another case in pointthe
discovery of aU.S. arms cache, planted on the
West German borders.
But 1979 Afghanistan, its communist govern
ment then facing a Muslim rebellion, was
adifferent matter. Discussing amilitary intervention requested by Afghan President Nur Taraki,
Andropov this time agreed with Kosygin. No invasion. Cost prohibitive. But he reversed himself when
events (the killing of Taraki, under KGB protection) conspired to threaten his job. Appeasing his
grief-stricken leader, Leonid Brezhnev, Andropov
found evidence that Tarakis killer and successor,
Haffizolah Amin, was aCIA agent! Then Andropovs KGB took the management of Afghanistan
from Ponomarevs I.D., and Andropov became
apivotal actor promoting an invasion plan. Amilitary invasion, Storm 333, would cover an anti-Amin
coup, Agat. Murdered Amin would be replaced by
long-term KGB asset, Babrak Karmal.
Then came Kosygins last hurrahlargely
unknown. The day before the fateful decision, and
knowing that Chief of the General Staff, Marshall
Nikolai Ogarkov, had warned against the invasion,
the premier enjoined him to reverse the decision.
Meeting with the core Politburo, Ogarkov prophesied: We will pit all of eastern Islam against us.
And later, [] our action could be seen all over
the world as expansionism. But the professional
military was overruled by the former-defense-industries-overlordturned-Minister-of-Defense,
Dmitri Ustinov. To him, Afghanistan was acake
walk. Persistent Kosygin was soon retired; Ogarkov
eventually demoted.
In 198081 the cost factor reared its head again
in Poland. The Kremlin faced anew revolutionary
challenge from ademocratic-minded free trade
union, Solidarity. Polish leaders warned that Poles,
unlike the Czechs, would fight. Then the America

factor! Unlike in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the


Carter White House engaged in preemptive diplomacy, disclosing the military buildup at the Polish
borders, and thus denying Russia strategic surprise.
It also sent repeated warnings to Moscow about the
cost of invasion, with Carter adding: Best wishes.
Also helping was the Polish Pope, almost assassinated by aMuslim Turk, whom some believed to be
sponsored by Bulgarias secret service. Idont know
how things will turn out in Poland, said Andropov
[] but even if Poland falls under the control of
Solidarity, thats the way it will be

movements. Meanwhile, South Ossetians were


trained at Russias nearby Vladikavkaz military
academy. Russian passports were distributed in
both provinces.
On February 17, 2008, aNATO military intervention that saved Kosovo from ethnic cleansing
also resulted in its gaining independence from
Orthodox Serbia. Putin, aprofessed Christian autocrat and believer, used this as aprecedent for his
supporting the independence of the two rebellious
Georgian provinces. On April 21, 2008, Saakashvili
called Putin. Demanding that Putin rescind any
recognition plans, he cited supportive NATO leaders
statements. Using highly colloquial Russian, Putin
told Saakashvili where he could put them.

2003 Rose and 2004 Orange Revolutions of


Georgia and Ukraine
Enter Georgias and Ukraines color revolutions and the rise to power of independent and
reform-minded leaders in two important energy
transfer states. Both Georgias Mikheil Saakashvili,
and his Ukrainian ally, Viktor Yushchenko, strove
for eventual membership in the EU and NATO.
Thus, to Putin, both leaders had to go.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko
came to office in 2004 after the Putin-supported
candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, had to flee Kyiv
on corruption charges. Yanukovych was aformer
governor of Donbasan east Ukrainian region
linked religiously, linguistically, culturally and
economically with Russia. Yushchenko won,
despite afailed assassination attempt with dioxin
poison that left his face permanently disfigured.
Someone surely wasnt happy. Was it because his
newly appointed advisor became Boris Nemtsov,
Yeltsins former deputy prime minister and arival
of Putin? The late Nemtsov believed democratic
reforms in Ukraine would echo in Russia.
In 2008 Georgia, as in Czechoslovakia earlier,
the Kremlin imposed an economic embargo. Then
Putin explored the old game of divide et impera.
As Saakashvili was determined to integrate two
rebellious Russian-speaking ethnic provinces
South Ossetia and Abkhaziainto Georgia, Putin
fully encouraged the ethnic divide. In Abkhazia,
he built a new railroad for contingency troop

Operation Caucasus; Maskirovka and


Strategic Surprise
Kremlin interventionism is rooted in the Sun
Szu principle, All warfare is based on deception.
The Russian term maskirovka, however, has
abroad meaning; camouflage and deception,
but also disinformation, traps, and diplomatic
cunning. Maskirovka enables strategic surprise, or
what Marshal Zhukov posited as what will stun the
enemy, thus ensuring the success of the mission.
On November 13, 1956, Zhukov demonstrated his mastery of maskirovka while preparing
Operation Whirlwind for Hungary. And whirlwind it
was, explained General Bela Kiraly 40 years later in
Budapest. The former Cin-C of Hungarys National
Guards, he recalled Russian troops both leaving
and entering Hungary, confusing the Hungarians and the U.S. Meanwhile, Serov, having invited
the Hungarian generals to discuss negotiations,
promptly arrested them.
In 2008 Georgia, maskirovka began with the
usual large-scale nonstop military maneuvers at
the borders, code-named Caucasus. Then, after
several weeks, Putin set atrap and on August
7thSaakashvili walked right into it. Riots in the
South Ossetia capital Tskhinvali, the bait, invoked
Georgias artillery shelling and foray. The Russian
army was ready. Pouring into South Ossetia

41

through amountain tunnel, they overwhelmed


the astonished Georgians, and swarmed towards
Tbilisi. Simultaneously, Russian units, deployed
from C-in-C Admiral Vysotskys Black Sea fleet,
descended on Abkhazia.
Again, U.S. intelligence detected Russian
troop movements, but could not divine Kremlin
intentions. Wasnt the key Russian decision-maker,
President Medvedev, visiting the Volga region?
Wasnt his Prime Minister Putin, meeting
President George W. Bush at Chinas Olympics
in Beijing? Would the Kremlin initiate alarge-scale
military invasion during the Gamesatraditional
time of peace between countries?
Lunching in Beijing with W, Putin confided,
[] lots of volunteers are being gathered in the
region and its very hard to withhold them from
taking part. Areal war is going on. Did W, as
he looked into Putins blue eyes, understand his
soul? But within 24 hours, Vlad materialized back
in Vladikavkaz. Allegedly presiding over humanitarian operations, he personally oversaw the
invasion.
And America? Recalling the weak reaction,
former Defense Secretary Robert Gates was
reminded of asimilar one after the 1968 Czech
invasion. Former Soviet Ambassador Anatoly
Dobrynin remembered it too, shocked to find
LBJ utterly oblivious to what was happening in
Prague. As bodies piled up before Czech radio, he
smilingly said he, attached great importance to his
forthcoming trip to the Soviet Union to continue
SALT and negotiations over Vietnam.
After attacking NATO-certified assets, Putins
forces finally halted24 miles from Georgias
capital. Did the Bush administration hint that
America might prevent afull occupation? Or did
the high cost of one in anon-Russian speaking
country deter Putin? No need for another 19th
century protectorate. Taking just pieces, he made
his point.
Misha Saakashvili has to go! said Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov to Secretary of State Condi
Rice after the war. But Putin ended up satisfied

42

with only weakening Saakashvilias Dubek had


been weakened by the Soviet invasion in 1968
Czechoslovakia. Saved from being hanged like
Nagy, Dubek attributed his salvation to large
passive Czech resistance. Eventually he was forced
to resign. Saakashvili, humiliated by the defeat,
lost the next election to apro-Russia candidate.
In 2009, some in Tbilisi showed us asad photo
of Saakashvili during the Russian bombings,
nervously chewing his tie. Then ajoke: Buying
anew tie, Saakashvili is asked, Would you rather
take it with you or eat it now?
2009: Russian Navys Growing Involvement
in Crimean Politics
Russia is back and the Crimea is next! So
wrote ZaZaGachechiladze, editor-in-chief of Tbilisis, The Messenger in 2009. [] Western countries
are hesitating about creating aclear-cut strategy
to stop Russia, whose appetite is increasing.
Interviewing retired Russian navy personnel
in the Crimea, we witnessed their ire at Ukraines
demands that the Russian fleet get out when the
Sevastopol naval bases lease expired in 2017.
Many had earlier demonstrated against planned
NATO maneuvers. They applauded Putins decision to buy two French helicopter carriers. As now
ahighly acclaimed hero, Vysotsky boasted, such
aship would have allowed the Black Sea Fleet to
implement its task [in Abkhazia] within 40 minutes,
while it took us 26 hours to doso.
Other ominous signs: passports were being
issued to Russian speakers and visiting Moscow
politicians were making irredentist remarks. Most
overlooked, however, was the Dumas amending
of Russias constitution. Now Putin could take military actions abroad to protect Russian speakers
and Russian military anywhere. During the Yeltsin
era, they could only doso to combat terrorism or
participate in international operations.
In September, when Ilectured at Kyivs Taras
Shevchenko University, students and faculty
laughed at my absurd subject, Is Crimea Next?
Their laughs resonated with those of aprominent

Czech journalist in 1968 Czechoslovakia, when


Iasked, Is Prague next? upon my return from
Russia amidst ahostile anti-Czech press campaign.

keeping 20,000 men on the peninsulasufficient for aquick strategic surprise conquest with
an aura of legality. Sixty percent of the Crimean
population were native Russians; the Ukrainian
army was rag-tag.
And America? Just as the weak U.S. response
to Czechoslovakia had conditioned the invasion
of Afghanistan, the weak response of Bush and
Obama to Georgia, conditioned the invasion of
Crimea. Moreover, while Putin had some respect
for W, he had little for Obama. Hillarys silly reset
gimmick! Obamas back step from his own red
line in Syria! Divided Congress! Nation wearied of
large, costly invasions as Russia had been during
its own Afghanistan war.
The final key was strategic surprise. Once
again, new Olympic Games turned into perfect
maskirovka. But while cheering his athletes and
hosting U.S. security, furnished in the wake of
Chechen terrorism, Putins mind was on Kyiv and
Crimea.
Detected by aU.S. satellite, new, large and
nonstop maneuvers should have rung all the
warning bells. But U.S. intelligence simply could
not envision aCrimean invasion. Thus February
27 replayed August 20, 1968, Prague. Then, it was
fit young men disguised as tourists, who flew
to Prague, accessed weapons from the Russian
embassy, took over Prague airport, and called in
the invasion forces. Now it was the little green
men without insignia who did likewise after taking
over government buildings and Simferopol airport.
Why no insignia? To plausibly deny that these
were Russian soldiers. After all, Putin, still cautious
at this point, couldnt be wholly positive that the
paper tiger in the White House wouldnt suddenly
grow claws like Jimmy Carter after the 1979 Afghan
invasion.

2010: With Putins Aid, Yanukovych Takes


Power in Kyiv
Yanukovych won the close 2010 election,
fulfilling Putins boast that Yushchenko might
chew Saakashvilis tie. Putin also put the Crimea
on aback burner as Yanukovych complied with
his key demands. The lease on Sevastopols naval
base was extended to 2043. Rewritten history was
rewritten again. Russia enhanced economic ties
with eastern Ukraine; gas was discounted.
By 2013, however, the foul stench of corruption
arose again. Ill-begotten luxuries, like the private
zoo in Yanukovychs opulent palace, fueled awinter
of discontent. When he gave in to Putins pressure
not to accept an association agreement with the
EU, many Ukrainians gathered in Kyivs Maidan
Square to protest.
Yanukovych must go!Kyivs popular
slogan became the title of Alexander Motyls
seminal Foreign Affairs essay. Not everyone
agreed. In early February, Putins eminence grise,
Vladislav Surkov, was reportedly behind avirtual
replay of the 1956 Hungarian scenario. Snipers in
the Kremlins service killed 100 demonstrators.
Like their 1956 Budapest brethren, the demonstrators armed themselves and fought back.
The Coming of the Little Green Men
On February 22, the Ukrainian parliament
even Yanukovychs own partyunanimously
voted to remove him. Aturning point! Meeting
with his security council, Putins first order was
to save the life of the Ukrainian president. Then,
We will have to start work to return the Crimea
to Russia.
Like discredited Hungarian leaders Gero and
Hegadus in 1956, Yanukovych was rescued and
fled to Russia. Then came the decision-making on
an invasion. What about the costs! The Ukrainian
lease agreement with Russia permitted his

20142015: Proxy Intervention in Eastern


Ukraine
But he need not have worried. Insignificant
sanctions amidst divisions in NATO came within
a few weeks. Surkov reflected the Kremlins

43

contempt: Ihave no property in the U.S. besides


the socks Ileft in aChicago hotel.
Putin now borrowed from the December 13,
1981 Operation X in Poland. Back then the Russians
had pressured aproxy, Polish General Wojcziech
Jaruzelski, into staging asurprise anti-Solidarity
coup via martial law. Putins 2014 small scale variation, however, was not alarge army and security
service, but arelatively small proxy coalition of
Russian separatists, volunteers, Cossacks, vacationing soldiers and even paid criminals. Occupying government buildings, they declared two
peoples republics; Donetsk and Lugansk.
In the April 21, 2014, Kyiv Post1 we proposed
arms for Kyiv and tough energy sanctions. Afirm U.S.
response was mandatory. Arming the Ukrainians, as
Carter and Reagan had armed the Afghan resistance
after the Russian invasion, and instituting large sanctions, as they had after martial law in Poland, would
have been the best way to prevent still hesitant
Putin from further foray into the eastern Ukraine.
But Obamas weak sanctions only added to anew
assertive move, asmall direct Russian military intervention of 10,000 regular Russian troops in Ukraine
augmented by 40,000 rotating at the borders.
Meanwhile, Obama continued to deny arms
to Ukraine, because of his perceived need to have
Russias support in negotiating the Iran nuclear
deal. Then came Vlads miscalculation. Let me here
return to 1968 Prague, when Dubek decided
against resistance. No bloodbath, he told me,
also rejecting the proposed preemptive strategy
of a Ukrainian general-turned-dissident Petro
Grigorenko.
It would be fairly easy to defend Czechoslovakia, wrote Grigorenko to Dubek [] less than
adozen roads would have to be blocked [and routes
to halt tank armadas] and by [] adding asmall
number of airports, there could be no surprise
invasion. And without surprise, the entire invasion
would fail [ and could] end with atotal collapse
of the invadersBrezhnev might be afool, but hes
not going to risk war. His only hope is in retaining
the element of surprise.

44

As if they were following Grigorenkos dictum,


the Ukrainian army fought like the Poles, vigorously
defending important routes, strategic railroad hubs
and airports. They sustained high losses and often
retreated. Yet their brave resistance, with the aid
of some Western intelligence, helped to deny the
Kremlin its strategic surprise.
In the fall of 2014, tougher energy sanctions,
such as we had proposed in April, were finally
applied. Providence merged them with the sharp
decline of oil prices, which, as in the mid 1980s,
halved the revenues of the oil and gas dependent Russia.
Putin came twice to Minsk, on September 2014
and January 2015, and tried to negotiate atruce
with Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. Still,
ambiguous wordinganother maskirovka device
allowed him to break these agreements. And yet,
unlike Carter and Reagan in Afghanistan, Obama
foolishly continued to deny Kyiv defensive arms.
The Iran nuclear deals Joint Comprehensive Plan
of Action was inked with Russias help on July 14,
2015. Obama thanked Putin for his help. Was he
aware of Russias major interest in the dealthe
sale of arms and nuclear technology to Iran?
Divine Putins Intentions!
Kremlin decision-making has changed since
the Soviet era. Putin has centralized and dominates the presidential council, mirroring the role
of the U.S. president with his NSC. Pre-intervention
dialogue surely exists, and one can envisage that
the Russian navy benefitted from the Georgian
invasion and Vysotskys lobbying. Yet in contrast
to ageneral secretary, in acollective leadership,
Russias elected president is much more powerful.
He is able to make the key decisions, i.e. without
the fear of dismissal as in the cases of both Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev.
In 2000, former Gorbachev advisor Alexander Yakovlev explained to me that he could
not remember any decision which had not
been accepted without the KGB. Recall Andropovs growing dominance in the Kremlin deci-

sion-making from intervention to intervention.


Much like Andropov, who rose to be aSoviet leader,
Putin is aproduct of the KGB-turned-FSB milieu
and retains those connections.
Donot, however, expect Russia to attempt afull
occupation of Ukraine. The novelty under Putin is
limited low-cost interventions aimed at carving
only territories with sizable Russian speaking
populations. Unfortunately, although taking small
chunks of acountry may produce fewer outcries,
it is dangerous to the world order. The Chinese are
already emulating Putin by building man-made
islands in international waters. Nobody wants war.
Not even the Russian leaders, as we repeatedly saw.
Yet miscalculations can happen.
Clearly, we must redouble our efforts to divine
Russian intentions by reviving creative Kremlinology and resurrecting serious study of Russias
national security. This is indispensable to the
making of pre-emptive diplomacy. U.S. failures
at divining Putins intentions facilitated his surprise
invasions of Georgia and the Crimea.
We must lose what Obama calls strategic
patience. We must stop wielding awet noodle
instead of abig stick. We must dispense with exaggerated fears of antagonizing Russia. Toprevent
the U.S. from arming Kyiv, Putin has been using
Khrushchevian nuclear bluff and blackmail,
sending his obsolete planes with nukes over NATO
and even neutral countries, while his tottering navy
ships stalk Americas shores. Nevertheless, even if
Putin goes on nuclear alert as he threatened with
Crimea, he, like all his predecessors, will not risk
awider war and nuclear holocaust.
We must repeatedly reaffirm our firm commitment to NATO, backed up by deployments of small
NATO units in countries like Estonia and Latvia with
large Russian populations. The Baltics militaries
should deny strategic surprise by guarding airports,
railroad hubs and routes. Simultaneously, we must
heed the proposal of former Estonian Premier Edgar
Saavisar. Deny any justification for intervention or

cyber-attacks by upholding the civic and language


rights of sizable Russian minorities.
If Putin is not willing to seek agenuine diplomatic solution, then our statecraft must choose an
Afghan one for him. Nothing moves the Kremlin
leaders more than the vision of large numbers of
bodies returning home. Remember 1956 Suslovs
body count. Even old warrior Zhukov was shaken
by it in 1956, briefly contemplating Russias withdrawal from Hungary.
If Ukraine resistance continues, Putin will
eventually not be able to hide the body count
and his popularity will decline. Our backing the
resistance in the Afghan war helped to produce
what Grigorenko already believed in 1968the
defeat of the invaders and the eventual regime
change in 1991 Moscow. The late Nemtsov also
believed Afghanistan could be repeated in Ukraine.
As prominent Russian writer Stanislav Kondrashev wrote, Whenever violence is done to history
and the peoples will, it will sooner or later have to
be paid for and the later this happens, the harsher
the settlement. 

D R . J I R I VA L E N TA

is the president of the Institute of Post-Communist Studies. Heis


amember of the Council on Foreign Relations and author of many
books. His book, Soviet Intervention in Czechoslovakia 1968,
Anatomy of aDecision, Johns Hopkins University
Press, Baltimore, MD, 1991 (last edition), was published in English,
Russian, Chinese and Czech. The latest edition has apreface by
Alexander Dubcek.
L E N I F R I E D M A N VA L E N TA

is CEO, editor and co-writer of the institute's website and is


aplay writing graduate of the Yale School of Drama.
Photo Archive Jiri and Leni Friedman

1 http://www.kyivpost.com/opinion/op-ed/leni-friedman-valenta-and-jiri-valenta-arm-ukraine-and-impose-energy-sanctions-344368.html

45

Ukraine: The First


Postcolonial Revolution
Ilya Gerasimov
With the revolution of 2014, the postmodernism in
Ukraine ended. We still donot know how to conceptualize
this new reality.

The events of the past year in Ukraine


have been unprecedented, and therefore not
easily comprehensible as asingle yet complex
phenomenon. Naturally, both the participants
and the outside observers are trying to identify these events with some familiar scenarios,
recognizing the traits of yet another color
revolution against apost-Soviet autocracy, or
anational liberation movement, or abourgeois
revolution. As away of expanding the repertoire
of available explanatory paradigms, Isuggest
aserious consideration of the concept of postcolonial revolution. The Ukrainian revolution
is a postcolonial revolution because it is all
about the people acquiring their own voice,
and in the process of this self-assertive act, they
forge anew Ukrainian nation as acommunity
of negotiated solidary action by self-conscious
individuals.

First, it should be explained why revolutionand not civil war. Doubtless, over the
past year Ukraine has seen an escalation of
intercommunal violence, with citizens of the
same country killing each other. Atypical civil
war twentieth-century style implies the principled clash of opposing collective subjectivities,
when two truths cannot find acompromise.
The Maidanites are all about distinctive subjectivity, political ideals, and social program. What is
the distinctive truth of their armed opponents,
their alternative program for Ukraine? There is
no such program and no interest in Ukraine, as
the leaders of Donetsk and Luhansk republics
explicitly announced their ultimate goal to secede
and join the Russian Federation. To this, one can
respond with an example of the archetypal civil
war of the nineteenth centurythe U.S. Civil War,
which was about secession from afederation.
This historical parallel only underscores the inappropriateness of the civil war model to analyze
Ukrainian events: did American Confederates
dream about joining, say, Mexico? Separatism
is an understandable cause for arebellion, why
should it be masked by something else?
The notion of bourgeois-democratic revolution is occasionally employed when discussing

The Many Faces of the Maidan Revolution


To asuperficial observer, any revolutionary
rhetoric appears the same, but we should look
beyond the obvious manifestations of rebellion.
We will see then that not every type of revolution
can equally meaningfully describe the realities
of Ukraine.

46

Maidan and post-Maidan political developments, primarily because the most visible
public figures associated with the movement
belong to the educated middle-age, middleclass stratum. The appeal of the classical formula
is understandable, but in the modern world,
bourgeois-democratic revolution can be used
only as ametaphor rather than an analytical
category. It was coined and developed by
Marxist ideologues and social scientists in the
nineteenth century specifically to denote the
radical transformation of society from feudalism
to capitalism. Maidan took place in asociety
with acapitalist market economy and an institutionalized political democracy. Instead of
amonarch, it overthrew alegitimately elected
president and expressed distrust of the parlia-

with the authoritative declaration by Gayatri


Chakravorty Spivak:
Subalternity is aposition without identity. []
Subalternity is where social lines of mobility,
being elsewhere, donot permit the formation
of arecognizable basis of action.
Anticolonial revolution is apowerful act of
transcending ones subalternity, but not ones
embedded dependence on the former colonial
master. The anticolonial paradigm just does not
fit the imagined community of Ukrainians and
the vision of Ukraine from the Syan to the Don
that integrates the varied regional and local
knowledge in Ukraine.
The model of national revolution or national
liberation movement seems to better fit the
realities of Maidan and the public discourses
making sense of it. The abundance of interpretations for the phenomenon of nation provide
ample opportunities to cast Maidan in national
terms. This seems all the more appropriate given
the high visibility of Ukrainian nationalists on
Maidan and on the front of the Russo-Ukrainian
war that followed, as well as the centrality
of the discourse on nation-building in postMaidan Ukraine. This model can be combined
with the anticolonial framework (anti-imperial
struggle) or the idea of bourgeois revolution
(internal liberation movement), but in any
version and combination one fundamental
condition remains in place: initially, some sort
of anational compound rises to the ultimate
consciousness as an entity, and then it moves
on to eliminate all obstacles on its path to
sociopolitical self-realization. This (essentially
Hegelian) historical scenario can be recognized
in the story of the downfall of the Soviet system
in 19891991, quite typical for the twentieth
century. Think of the Baltic republics of the USSR
that demanded the right to self-determination
as away to restore some preexistent condition of
violated wholeness: national purity unhindered

The model of national


revolution or national
liberation movement
seems to better fit the
realities of Maidan and
the public discourses
making sense of it.
ment, but it did not question the very values
and principles of capitalist economy and parliamentarism.
The concept of an anticolonial uprising
makes sense when people rise against either
direct or indirect alien rule. Anticolonial rhetoric plays arather marginal role in Ukrainian
public discourse. The very refusal to play the
subaltern card as an ultimate justification for
the Ukrainian revolution can be explained by
their fundamental incompatibility. Subalternity
can be found as asignificant social condition in
Russia, Belarus, or Uzbekistan, but just imagine
characterizing the Ukrainian Euromaidan

47

by Russian/Soviet admixtures, and statehood


ruined by the Soviet annexation.
This rhetoric was employed by a rather
marginal group of Maidan activists (mostly
by nationalists), and does not correspond to
the general social and political dynamics of
the movement, from November 2013 through
January, to post-revolutionary developments.
In this broader perspective we see that the
main pre-Maidan political force representing
organicist nationalismthe all-Ukrainian
movement Freedomhas dramatically lost
its popularity amid the unprecedented national
mobilization. There is no contradiction here:
what we are seeing in Ukraine is the process of
national mobilization and consolidation, only
this process takes the opposite course compared
to standard twentieth-century national movements. There was no real preexistent historical
Ukrainian state to be restored within its original borders. Individual people with active civic
positions stepped forward to protest the abuse
of their rights by the tyrannical regime, and in
the course of their collective action anew type
of solidarity emerged, and a new Ukrainian
nation came into being. The Ukrainian nation
became the product of the revolution, not its
perpetrator.
The last and probably the least intellectually productive of the familiar revolutionary scenarios is the concept of color revolution. The most sophisticated rendering of
this explanatory strategy views it as a final
anti-Soviet revolution. This is an insightful and
thought-provoking approach, but it is more
ametaphor than aself-sustainable explanatory
model. The dominant take on color revolutions perceives them as little more than special
operations by some powerful political actors.
Within amore analytical and academic context,
it is recognized that color revolutions were
just a milestone somewhere in the middle
of the long transition process from Communism, and not true revolutions. Code words

48

or not, the names of color revolutions are really


meaninglessbut we cannot say this about the
Ukrainian revolution of 2014 that immediately
proclaimed itself the Revolution of Dignity.
The Revolution of Dignity could have been
produced only by self-conscious moral and
political subjects, hoping not just to topple
the irritating government but to impose their
subjectivity as anew system of coordinates for
the revolutionary society.
The Postcolonial Revolution
The 2014 revolution was not purely political
or civic. Its participants of different cultural
backgrounds were concerned with stressing its
culturally Ukrainian character, using the main
symbols of Ukrainian cultural identity: language,
patriotic greetings, key figures of the literary
canon, dress, and imagery. Even so, this revolutionand the nation it forgedshould not
be conceptualized in terms of fixed identities
(civic vs. ethnic, political vs. cultural, etc.)
as Yaroslav Hrytsak stresses. The radical breakup
with the politics of identity is what sets Ukraine
apart from its neighbors, Russia first of all:
The Ukrainians of Euromaidan are preoccupied with modernization and values, whereas
Putins Russia worries about security and identities []. National issues were not the only
items on its [Maidan] agendain fact, they
were not even central. Neither were, for that
matter, questions of language or historical
memory.
This distinction drawn by Hrytsak is key to
grasping the unprecedented uniqueness of what
is happening in Ukraine.
Ukrainian revolution is postcolonial because
it not only set out to overthrow the political
and economic hegemony of atyrant, but also
released the forces of societal self-organization.
Even more: the public agenda of revolution (and
particularly of the post-revolutionary period),

has been defined predominantly by the citizens


of Ukraine and on their terms, not by Yanukovych
or Putin.

was provided by yet another insanity broadcasted


by Russian state TV insinuating that Ukrainian
volunteers were promised aplot of land and two
slaves (sic!) for fighting in Donbas, followed by the
whirlwind of hilarious creative interpretations of
this news in the Ukrainian section of the Internet.
It is important to stress that this reaction to
Russias attempts to seize the initiative may be
spontaneous, but not unconscious. This became
completely clear when President Poroshenko
appeared in public sporting the Dill insignia: this
was an official response to the public campaign
in Russia smearing Ukrainians as ukrops (literally, dills). New Ukrainians can call themselves
Yid-Banderites, Dills, or Khokhly, because they
donot follow some preset fixed identities and
national rolesinstead, they negotiate new
values and acceptable forms of social interaction. They are creatively minding their business,
inventing anew country for themselves, and
when they have to respond to outside pressure,
they frame the response in their own terms.
This is not just a figure of speech: they
stands for amajority of Ukrainian citizens who
can be quantified in various social situations
and interactions. Nothing demonstrates the
material power of subjectivity better than the
scale and diversity of activities of the volunteer movement in Ukraine. Arguably, the very
process of state building after February 2014
has been stimulated, guided, and even staffed
by grassroots citizens initiative. People could
contribute by bringing drinking water to Maidan
or volunteering to fight Russian militia and troops
in Donbas; carrying military helmets across the
border in their personal luggage to donate to the
underequipped Ukrainian military or assembling
radio-controlled flying models as impromptu
drones for the army; accommodating refugees
from occupied territories or taking care of the
wounded soldiers. Today, former volunteers are
serving as advisers to the president and defense
minister, as staff for newly created departments in
ministries, and they are elected to the parliament.

Ukrainian revolution is
postcolonial because
it not only set out
to overthrow the
political and economic
hegemony of atyrant
but also released the
forces of societal selforganization.
We know that this is anew phenomenon
because it largely ignores or creatively recodes
the readily available historical precedents and
symbols. The readily available political symbolism
and historical mythology of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) plays asurprisingly marginal
role in the country at war. The free subjectivity of
Euromaidan revealed itself in its arbitrary appropriation of the famous UPA greeting Glory to
Ukraine! Glory to the heroes! without feeling
obliged to import the whole complex of twentieth-century identity-fixed nationalism associated
with the UPA legacy. When Russian propaganda
attempted to troll new Ukrainians as Banderites for repeating the old fascist slogan, they
responded creatively, not reactively. Ukrainian
Jews immediately produced the meme Yid-Banderite and actually developed it into asocial
identity that many proudly accepted. This is just
one episode in aseries of creative responses
to Russian propaganda that demonstrate more
than agood sense of humor: the identity-indifferent, value-oriented imagined community of
new Ukraine is capable of accommodating any
sluron its own terms. The most recent example

49

Interestingly, according to the World Giving


Index (WGI) compiled on the basis of data
provided by Gallup, in 2013 Ukraine ranked 103
out of 157 countries in the cumulative index:
ahead of Russia (ranked 123), but still lagging
behind 10 other post-Soviet countries. Specifically, Ukraine was 26th in terms of the amount
of volunteer time, but only 112th when it came
to helping strangers. Arecent representative
sociological survey revealed a dramatic sea
change in Ukraine: between May and October
2014, almost 80 percent of Ukrainians donated
their time, money, or property to the army or
refugees from the occupied territories.
How does this postcolonial and post-postmodern collective subjectivity differ from
regular national subjectivity, twentieth-century
style? Several authors mention the significance of
hybridity as anew phenomenon in Ukrainefrom
asign of marginality and parochialism to atrendy
and mainstream personal quality. Yid-Banderites
can be viewed by some as carnival exotics, but the
overwhelming role of the new Russian-language
and culturally Russian Ukrainian patriotism and
nationalism cannot be dismissed. The project
Information Resistance launched on March 2
by Dmitry Tymchuk on his Facebook account had
by mid-April close to 80,000 registered followers
(the number of unregistered readers is likely much
higher; today he has over 220,000 followers).
This Russian-language resource, equally popular
with Ukrainian and Russian speakers, embodies
the postcolonial nature of Ukrainian revolution
as aclaim for independent subjectivity. At the
time of the general confusion in the wake of
the Russian invasion in Crimea, this was the only
efficient form of resistance: not by military force
(nonexistent at the time in Ukraine), but by refusal
to follow the lead of the Russian media. While
the role of Facebook and other Internet media in
the Ukrainian revolution is aspecial topic, here
it is important to stress the very hybrid identity of the postcolonial rebellion by Tymchuk or
another cult Facebook personality, commander

50

of the volunteer battalion Donbas, known by


his revolutionary alias Semen Semenchenko
(close to 187,000 registered followers today).
The list can be continued, but it is important
to stress here the profoundly hybrid nature of
the uncompromised self-proclaimed Ukrainness
of these people: though they admit belonging
to Russian culture, they are comfortable in the

The project Information


Resistance launched
on March 2 by Dmitry
Tymchuk on his Facebook
account embodies the
postcolonial nature of
Ukrainian revolution as
aclaim for independent
subjectivity. At the
time of the general
confusion in the wake
of the Russian invasion
in Crimea, this was the
only efficient form of
resistance.
Ukrainian-language environment and consciously
embrace Ukrainian ethnic culture.
In this perspective, the unexpected transformation of Dnipropetrovskarguably no less
Russian or even Soviet city than Donetsk
into a champion of new Ukrainian patriotism
and amajor factor of public war mobilization
efforts appears in anew light. The decisive role
in this transformation of the governor (oligarch
and leader of the Dnipropetrovsk Jewish community, Igor Kolomoisky) and his deputies (Gennadii
Korban and Boris Filatov) has been broadly

acknowledged. Their motivations are usually


explained by their personal convictions and values,
particular business interests, and political rivalry
with Donetsk elites. While no doubt plausible,
these explanations donot account for the key
factor of the Dnipropetrovsk phenomenon: the
genuine popularity of Kolomoisky and company
in Dnipropetrovsk and across Ukraine precisely
in their capacity as leaders of the Ukrainian antiseparatist fight. Could it be that the Russo-Jewish
Kolomoisky team spontaneously embodied the
very essence of new Ukrainian hybridity, which
made their example so attractive to many people
in Ukraine? After all, the social group that can
be tentatively defined as Soviet Jews was the
most consistent representative of hybridity in the
twentieth century. In the nationalist social imagination obsessed with defining fixed identities,
they were perceived as marginal and parochial.
In revolutionary Ukraine, the marginal type of
Soviet Jews has become surprisingly relevant as
an archetype of the new, post-identity form of
solidarity. This is why Russian-speaking Soviet
Jew Korban and Pskov peasant and self-proclaimed Zionist Filatov have established close
relationships with the charismatic leader of the
Right Sector, atrue Banderite Dmytro Yarosh
something that blows the mind of identity Nazis
in Russia, Israel, or Germany.

of cynical skepticism: critical reflection is focused


on publicly expressed ideas and values, not on
the identities (and personalities) of the people
who dare to express them.
To the citizens of Ukraine it is largely irrelevant how abunch of scholars will label what
is for them the everyday life, everyday referendum and everyday struggle. But to scholars
themselves this is truly the last judgment. If the
model of postcolonial revolution is correct,
this means that Ukraine has opened up new
historical horizons and is already living in the
future. Its adversaries get stuck in the past, and
technicallyfrom ahistorians prospectiveare
dead already, just like achicken with its head
cut off running in circles (andthis is hard not
to addrattling the sabre and waving aflag).
Everybody has the right to disapprove of the
Ukrainian revolution and wish bad for the
countryone should just realize that by doing
this in the name of reviving and freezing some
mostly imagined past, s/he is getting locked in
adifferent temporality with no future.
There is no grand superhuman History to
determine the fates of individuals and peoples,
deciding who got stuck and who got apass to
the future: all are subject of their own fortunes.
It is just that some rise up to the role of self-conscious subjects of common history, and others
voluntarily surrender their own subjectivity to
become the slaves of predetermined identities
and scenarios.

With the revolution of 2014, the postmodernism in Ukraine ended. We still donot know
how to conceptualize this new reality. From
the outside, this brave new world looks like
high Modernity (but not compromised by the
Eros of the state and the supremacy of the
national body): with self-sacrificial heroes,
collective improvisations, and complex forms
of self-organization. Most importantly, even the
most radical social and personal experiments
manifestations of emancipated subjectivityare
perceived without the familiar postmodern sneer

The Stance of Outside Observers


What will happen to Russia?
She doesnt answer, but looks at me carefully.
Iwait with trepidation.
Nothing.1
One year after the outbreak of Euromaidan,
we see that the Ukrainian revolution has put to
the test not just the political order in Europe,
butto amuch greater degreethe reputation
of intellectuals who are professionally involved
in analyzing Ukraine or revolutionary politics.

51

Several authorsparticularly Sergei Zhuk, Yaroslav Hrytsak, and Anna Veronika Wendland
express their frustration over the stance taken
vis--vis Ukraine by professional historians and
public intellectuals in the United States, Russia,
and Germany. It seems that the main reason
for this frustration results from encountering
an explicit refusal of very intelligent people to
put their minds to work rigorously. Such is the
effect of the Ukrainian postcolonial revolution:
the main adversary of the self-expression of
subjectivity is not another subjectivity, but its
absence.
This probably explains the otherwise
inexplicable solidarity of West European and
Russian left-wing activists not with the Ukrainian
anti-kleptocratic popular uprising with astrong
anticolonial component, but with explicitly
imperialist and chauvinist Russian aggression.
This is what makes quite anumber of American
historians side with Putins regime: they are in
the business of identities, and when pressed to
choose between familiar scenarios structuring
their field and conceptual revolution brought
about by Ukrainian events, they choose stability
(not unlike their Russian counterparts). Otherwise, they would have to reconsider their ideas
of what constitutes Russianness and Jewishness,
fascism and nationalism, revolution and reaction. They forget that operating with conventional categories and models is only part of the
institutionalized scholarly process. The other
part is essential for preventing the process from
succumbing into shallow performativity: those
conventions should be revised and reconfigured
from time to time.
The position of Russian scholars on Ukraine
is the least interesting to analyze, as they donot
try to preserve even the status quo in the face
of rapidly changing reality, but wholeheartedly
succumb to excessive archaism and intellectual scarcity. With rare exceptions, the level of
expertise on Ukraine has deteriorated in Russia
to astate beyond any intellectual relevance.

52

General public discourse in Russia demonstrates the same fundamental lack of intellectual productivity and distinctive personal
subjectivity. The dominant discourse explains
everythingfrom the Ukrainian crisis to Russian
domestic problemsthrough the trope of
foreign agency, whether the United States,
cunning Kremlin manipulators, or aliens from
outer space.
The problem is not that amajority of Russians
hate Ukraine and believe the state propaganda
of unheard of idiocy and crudeness (which is
possible only because they want to believe it).
The tragedy (for Russia) is that they are doing
this for no personal reason, just because these
people have no subjectivity as members of
society, beyond immediate personal interests.
It is in this perspective that the seemingly
strange slogan of the Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny should be perceived: The
Final Battle between Good and Neutrality. Only
through the prism of Ukrainian revolution can
the opportunist tactics of Navalny be best
understood: his readiness to cooperate with
nationalists, liberals, and communists is but
asoft version of the creative hybridity of new
Ukrainians that gradually transforms the political sphere in the country. Thus, the personal
choice of Russo-Yid-Banderites received official
political sanction recently when the chairman of
the Ukrainian parliament, Alexander Turchinov,
proposed that newly elected MPs should take an
oath during the swearing-in ceremony simultaneously to three respectful representatives of
different parts of Ukraine: the ex-member of
the pro-Russian Party of Regions and Jewish
activist Efim Zviagilskii, the leader of Crimean
Tatars Mustafa Dzhemilev, and Yuri Shukhevych,
son of the supreme commander of the Ukrainian
Insurgent Army and leader of the Organization
of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). This decision has
nothing to dowith political correctness,internationalism, or multiculturalism, because there
are no fixed groups to claim representation on

the grounds of some fixed quota. These people


just represent the most characteristic faces of
the same hybrid Ukrainness defined through
the solidary expression of individual subjectivityquite in line with the often-quoted but
misunderstood 1882 dictum of Ernest Renan
(nation is adaily referendum).
The case of Navalny proves that Russian
society is not alien to processes unfolding
in Ukraine, which, however, have very bleak
prospects of success. In Ukraine, it took at
least adecade (since the Orange Revolution of
2004) of intensive public debates to collectively
produce that new feeling of the solidarity of
individual subjectivities.
At least ten years of debating values and
goals cannot be telescoped to afew months
of propaganda even by the most talented and
progressive political leaders such as Navalny.
To make such adialogue possible in Russia ten
years from now, the public discussion should
have been initiated yesterday. It was not, and if
it does not begin now, the only hope for Russian
intellectuals will be the promise given in April
2014 by Dnipropetrovsk Russo-Banderite and
Zionist vice-governor, Borys Filatov:
We should become an alternative to what
Moscow was in the former Soviet Union. We are
simply obliged to develop relationships with
all brotherly peoples who threw off the yoke
of Moscow: the Balts, Moldovans, Azerbaijanis,
Georgians. It is to Kyiv, not Moscow, that Russianspeaking citizens of these countries should look.
[] Ukraine should become the second home
for the Russian (russkaia) intelligentsia, business,
and professionals, who are suffocating under
the KGB boot of the bald Fuhrer.
Those intellectuals, who believe that scholarship is incompatible with acivic (and necessarily political) position, and that they should

stay away from the public sphere, are simply


declaring the absence of personal subjectivity.
There is no need to debate their views: socially,
these people already donot exist. 

I LYA G E R A S I M O V

is aco-founder and the editor in chief


of the international quarterly Ab
Imperio. He is the author of numerous
articles in several languages and
three books.
Photo: Archive Ilya Gerasimov

1 Russian original: nichego (V. Sorokin. Den oprichnika. Moscow, 2008. P.141). The 2011 English edition translates the answer as Itll be
all right, which is misleading.

53

What Would
an Annan Plan for Ukraine
Look Like?

Iannis Carras

Lessons for Ukraine, Russia, and the West from the


divided island of Cyprus

Coup dtat and Invasion


15 July 1974. The Junta government of
Greece organizes acoup dtat in Cyprus with
the aim of deposing the President of Cyprus and
replacing him with astooge who would back the
union of Cyprus with Greece.
20 July 1974. Turkish forces are landing in the
north of the island. The Greek Junta collapses,
replaced by ademocratically elected government.
14 August 1974. After smaller advances,
including ethnic cleansing, Turkish troops launch
asecond major offensive, advancing swiftly to the
present dividing line. Almost no Greek Cypriots
remain in the areas through which Turkish army
advanced. The Turkish military occupies 37%
of the islands territory. Aquarter of the Greek
Cypriot population become displaced persons
in their own country, with some forty thousand
Turkish Cypriots also leaving their homes for the
UK Sovereign Base Areas.
With Turkey concurring, unanimous UN
Security Council and General Assembly resolutions of 1974 call upon all states to respect the
sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity

54

and non-alignment of the Republic of Cyprus


and to refrain from all acts and interventions
directed against it.
Despite this resolution, aTurkish Republic of
Northern Cyprus is declared in 1983, recognized
to date only by Turkey itself. Though Turkey has
on anumber of occasions threatened to annex
Northern Cyprus, it has not in fact done so. Cyprus
remains divided to this day.
Ukraine in Context
Though extensive arguments for and against
the relevance of Kosovo and the former Yugoslavia have been developed, also the Cyprus
question should be considered as apotentially
valid historical analogy for events taking place
in Ukraine today. In Ukraine as with Cyprus, we
are discussing great power rivalry, the fragility of
anewly independent state, invasion by aformer
imperial power, fatalities and refugees, the
constitutionality of achange in government,
ethnic conflict and majoritarianism, sanctions.
In Ukraine as with Cyprus, the Wests response
to the aggression has been limited. The US arms
embargo against Turkey, instituted by the US

Congress in 1974 against the wishes of the then


Administration, was repealed at the request of
the next Administration in 1978.
If Cyprus serves as avalid historical analogy,
it is worth asking whether proposed solutions
for the resolution of the Cyprus conflict over the
last forty years provide any lessons for Ukraine.
Of these proposals, the most important by far
has been the Comprehensive Settlement of the
Cyprus Problem, commonly known by the name
of the then Secretary General of the United
Nations, Kofi Annan.

decision. Cyprus would have two federal parliaments, the first with members elected proportionately according to the population of the
relevant communities, the second split equally
between the two communities. ASupreme Court
would serve as the final arbiter, resolving constitutional differences. This would be made up of
three judges from each of the two communities
and three foreign judges.
External guarantees: the Annan Plan stipulated that Cyprus maintain special ties of
friendship with Greece and Turkey, respecting
the balance in Cyprus established by the Treaty
of Guarantee. It also stated: Until the accession
of Turkey to the EU, the United Cyprus Republic
shall not put its territory at the disposal of international military operations other than with the
consent of Greece and Turkey [].
Security: the Annan plan would have
dissolved all Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot
units. Turkish, Greek and British troops on
the island would however have remained for
aconsiderable duration, and in small numbers
indefinitely. AUN contingent would also have
remained on the island. There were no provisions
to balance Turkeys natural dominance in the air.

If Cyprus serves as
avalid historical
analogy, it is worth
asking whether
proposed solutions for
the resolution of the
Cyprus conflict over the
last forty years provide
any lessons for Ukraine.

Relevant Differences
As with all potential historical analogies,
there are both similarities and differences
between Cyprus and Ukraine. Cyprus had
been acomponent part of the Ottoman Empire
between 1571 and 1878, which is for not much
longer than Ukraine of the Russian Empire and
the Soviet Union. On any possible count, the
percentage of Russian Ukrainians (let alone
Ukrainians speaking Russian as afirst language)
is higher than that of Turkish Cypriots. The latter
constituted 18% of the population of Cyprus
in 1960. Further, there can be no doubt about
boundaries of aRepublic of Cyprus, as these
are determined by the sea.
At the same time, the Annan Plan was built
upon aseries of negotiations stretching back to

An Annan Plan for Ukraine?


The first of five versions of the Annan Plan
was submitted to Greek and Turkish Cypriots in
November 2002. All parties considered it aserious
attempt to create afunctioning bizonal bicommunal federation reunifying the island. Thebasic
model underlying the plan was aform of consociationalism, or power sharing. Only certain features
of the plan, potentially relevant to the situation
in Ukraine, will be highlighted here.
Constitutional arrangements: the executive
organ of the United Cyprus Republic would be
aPresidential Council made up of six members
with at least two from each of the component
states. The support of at least one of the two
minority members would be necessary for any

55

the Zurich agreement of 1959. Though the Zurich


agreement was never put to areferendum, it
did stipulate that afuture independent Cyprus
would be abicommunal federation. No agreements comparable to those of Zurich apply to
Ukraine today.
However, three further differences are much
more relevant and deserve consideration.
First, communal identities on Cyprus are
set and determined to aconsiderable extent
by religion. In Ukraine, identities are not clearly
entrenched and have been in astate of considerable flux. Religion plays no significant role.
Still, the increase in nationalisms on all sides
as aresult of the current conflict has brought
Ukraine closer to the situation in Cyprus.
Second, asystem of parallel power focused
on oligarchs constitutes avery important element
in the crisis in Ukraine. Individual oligarchs have
supported both sides of the conflict, though
their support for the Ukrainian state constitutes
part of the reason for separatists inability to
expand beyond core areas. These systems of
parallel power and the more general lack of
alegal culture in contemporary Ukraine mean
that constitutional and legal proposals along
Annan lines would have little traction in the
current Ukrainian context.
Finally, the de facto annexation of Crimea
by the Russian Federation clearly differentiates
Crimea from the similarly self-proclaimed Turkish
Republic of Northern Cyprus. This annexation
means Russia has rejected the possibility of
afederal Ukrainian state. It also makes it impossible for Ukraine to accept federalism as apolitical principle, because of the real danger that
other federated regions would separate from
the Ukrainian state and be annexed by Russia.

state has fallen short of certain minimum norms


in its treatment of the rights of minorities within
its territory. Unlike Cyprus where the Turkish
language was and is an official language of state,
in Ukraines case the question of equality of
Ukrainian and Russian was only treated belatedly
by President Viktor Yanukovych. The relevant
law allowed Russian to be an official language
only on aregional level, thus falling short of the
obligation that states treat their citizens with
equal respect.
Second, constitutional government. Any
constitutional settlement for Ukraine will, it
should be hoped, look very different from
what the Annan Plan envisaged for Cyprus.
Nonetheless, constitutions serve as pathways legitimizing and delegitimizing political behavior, and should command respect.
Apartially devolved and democratic (i.e. not
majoritarian) system of government including
checks and balances would be the best way to
achieve this in aUkrainian context. The alternative may be a centralized state that ends
up mirroring the constitutional defects of the
Russian Federation.
Third, security. In both Cyprus and Ukraine
military intervention by aformer imperial power
has destabilized anewly independent state. Any
security arrangement for Ukraine will, however,
have to be very different from those envisaged
by the Annan Plan for Cypruswhich were in
any event the main reason for rejection of the
fifth plan by Greek Cypriots voters. Nonetheless,
it is unlikely that Ukraine will become amember
of NATO, and it is provocative for third parties
to encourage Ukraine to apply for membership.
As with Cyprus, it is not possible to conceive of
amilitary solution leading to the reunification of
Ukraine. But Ukraine can strengthen its position
through the reorganization of its army with the
help of its Western allies.
Fourth, legal approaches. Though Ukraine is
militarily the weaker party, legally it has Russia
by the neck. It can challenge Russian actions in

The Lessons of Cyprus


And yet, all parties would dowell to draw
on the lessons of Cyprus.
First, minority rights. Like Cyprus in the
period between 1960 and 1974, the Ukrainian

56

the European Court of Human Rights and also in


the UN Security Council (where Russia has and
will veto) and General Assembly. Over time it
should be able to obtain financial compensation
and create obstacles to Russias integration into
international fora, much as Cyprus has done
vis--vis Turkey. Inevitably, this is aslow process,
requiring the development of alegal culture
within Ukraine itself.

barriers between the two communities in 2003,


one of the major issues in Cyprus, within both
communities, is whether a Cypriot identity
should over time become more important in
relation to the Greek and Turkish ones.
Ignoring the Precedent
The reasons why the Cyprus question is being
ignored as aprecedent for Ukraine today may
by now have become clearer.
The Greek government is seeking Russian
economic and political support, and any comparison between Russian actions in Crimea and
Turkeys occupation of northern Cyprus is
unwelcome. An additional factor influencing
Greek public opinion is that much of the Greek
minority in Crimea (and perhaps, but not
certainly, in Mariupol) is Russian-speaking and
broadly pro-Russian. Apart from close cultural
and economic ties, the government of Cyprus
has depended on Russian veto power in the
United Nations.
With both Turkey and Russia positioning
themselves as bulwarks against perceived
threats emanating from further West, Turkey
seems keen to brush differences with Russia
under the table. In May 2013, Tayyip Erdogan
had to survive Turkeys similar home grown
maidan, centered on Taksim Square in Istanbul,
and it is not impossible to imagine the outcome
of the two maidans reversed. Despite being
aNATO member, Turkey has not participated
in any of the sanctions against Russia, and has
barely raised its voice in support of the Crimean
Tatars (in sharp contrast, say, to its defense of
Palestinian rights).
Finally, in the West, only Ted Galen Carpenter
writing for the Washington D.C. based Cato Institute has drawn attention to the Cyprus issue in
order to attack the Wests hypocrisy on Ukraine.

The Greek government


is seeking Russian
economic and political
support, and any
comparison between
Russian actions in
Crimea and Turkeys
occupation of northern
Cyprus is unwelcome.
Finally, creating a unified state requires
political will. Ukraine must differentiate between
Russian Ukrainians and the policies of the
Russian state, with long term policies aiming
to increase the loyalty of Russian Ukrainians to
the Ukrainian state (both those within territories
currently controlled by the Ukrainian state and
those within Ukraines internationally recognized
borders). To achieve this, Ukrainians will have
to be honest in discussing their own mistakes,
including open discussion of the (unconstitutional?) deposition of a legitimately elected
president. Above all, building bridges means
taking the concerns of other citizens seriously.
It should be noted that, with the notable
exception of the annexation of Crimea, Russias
demands for the rest of Ukraine have so far fallen
well short of anything envisaged for Cyprus in
the Annan Plan. Ever since Ankara opened the

Anger and Legality


Anger at the Russian invasion of Ukraine is
justified. Asense of bitterness at the West for

57

instigating aset of policies that have led Ukraine


to its current dead-end, and then not following
through with anything like adequate support,
should be expected. As the weaker party, Ukraine,
like Cyprus, must stand firmly for the principles
of international law, both internally with regard
to its own Russian and other minorities, and,
externally, with regard to its territorial integrity
and state sovereignty.
Ukraine faces many challenges today. There is
the danger of more Russian incursions (especially
around Mariupol), of majoritarianism, and of the
country splintering as oligarchs create personal
fiefdoms. Economic collapse and the ever present
threat of athird Maidan would undermine such
constitutional order as still exists.
But even though Cyprus has not been
reunited, it does offer reasons for hope.
Thesecond and third versions of the Annan Plan
were rejected by the then leader of the Turkish
Cypriot community, Rauf Denktash, in collaboration with Ankara; the fifth version, amended
to obtain Ankaras support, was accepted by
the Turkish Cypriots and rejected by the Greek
Cypriot community in simultaneous referendums. Ukrainians can be thankful for the 76% of
Greek Cypriots who voted against the Annan plan
in the referendum of April 2004, and, paradoxically, for Russias support for the Greek Cypriots
in the UN Security Council at that time.
All in all, the work of building afunctioning
modern Cypriot state has been successful,
despitebut also becauseof the difficulties the island has faced. And where the UNs
secret diplomacy has failed, Cypriots own public
diplomacy continues. Both Turkish and Greek
Cypriots have been reaching out to one another
in an ongoing effort to build trust and cooperation on issues that affect their common home.
Most recent in a long list of initiatives is an
announcement on the formation of acommon
football league. Last but not least, and despite
ongoing division, Cyprus has become amember
of the EU, with all the benefits and obligations

58

associated with that organization. The EU


considers that part of Cyprus which remains
under Turkish military occupation an integral
part of its member state. 

IANNIS CARRAS

is an economic and social historian


of the 18th century Balkan
andRussian worlds.
Photo: Archive Iannis Carras

Simulated Democracy?
Ivaylo Ditchev
Democracy today is instrumentalized, making it on one
hand more manageable and secure, on the other, more
suspect and irrelevant

Iwill call it the principle of instrumentalization. Social practices emerge as agenuine effort,
implying risk and uncertainty, and no one questions their authenticity. At the next stage the
technique starts to be mastered, so that control
and predictability rise. But in the same time the
practice loses its aura, suspicions emerge as to
hidden interests and strategies, so that finallyat
the zenith of its technical excellencethe practice starts to decline strangely. Thus Greek art was
gradually emptied of its existential depth in the
Hellenistic period, royal court intrigues become
routine and obsolete during modern era, communist rituals degenerate into wooden language.
Iwill argue that democracy today has instrumentalized, too, making it on one hand more
manageable and secure, on the other, more
suspect and irrelevant. It used to be abattleground during the first modernity, having cost
many human lives, and the freedom of opinion
was certainly one of the most important issues,
censorship prevailing more often than not.
Sometime in the 80s (earlier in the US, later
in Eastern Europe) democracy became stabilized around aspecific type of instrumentalized
public debate, due both to the decline of radical
ideological alternatives and to the proliferation
of private media, where opinions are skillfully
promoted and juxtaposed without putting the
system at risk.

Let me note that for me the principle


of instrumentalization does not imply any
conspiracy or even class interest (Bourdieu):
it is the effect of some sort of invisible hand
private actors, on one side it is the media,
striving to attract audiences under the conditions of growing competition, on the other,
personal vanity and political self-promotion.
Amajor role in this was played by liberalization that fragmented the public scene (from
we against them towards all against all),
aprocess that was pushed to the extreme by
digitalization. Media had passed from political
or communitarian regulation, implying various
degrees of censorship, towards astate where
every single voice can make it into the public
sphere. Aregime of information shortage, where
the heroic citizen fights to get his/her message
published, was replaced by one where all voices
are ever easier heard, so that the goal now is
to get noticed in the generalized tumult. This
change reminds of the implosion of reality
described by Baudrillardmedia no longer
refer to conflicting positions in the social world;
reality simulated by the relation between signs
within the plane of representation itself. Political
conflict has violence and death as its ultimate
referent; relation between signs is atechnique.
Old-fashioned dictatorships still exist using the
old-fashioned repertoire of censorship and

59

manipulation; what I am talking about here


are the perverse effects of freedom itself.
The following is an analysis of some of these
unexpected results of an over-competitive
media market. To start with, there are no longer
unwanted events (say, protest movements) that
can be hidden because they go against the
interest of the owners and the establishment.
If one decided not to cover them for some ideological reason, hundred others would chose to
inform about them, stealing off audiences. Thus
every single fact having the potential to attract
attention tends to be over-represented: with pros
and cons, by experts and passers-by, from the left
and from the right, rationally and emotionally. Let
me call it the principle of avalanche. The event
has an ever shorter expiration period, it will be
thus exploited to the utmost while it is edible.
Completely new media appear on the marketplace on the occasion of aconcrete scandal1,
as it was with the French online Mediapart that
acquired its fame in 2010 with the revelation
of obscure financing of Sarkozys campaign, or
the Bulgarian OFFnews, aformer automobile
forum, that became anational information site by
covering on an hourly basis the protests of 2013.
Resulting from the avalanche-like organization of the information flow is the tendency
to occupy all possible positions in any public
debate. It is as if opinion has been liquefied, if not
gasified, and tends to fill in all pockets of agiven
volume. There are the mainstream opinion leaders
and their followers; but those provoke others to
take the radically opposing positions, be it on
Miloevi, September 11th, or Putins militarism,
and they also have their suites of followers. Then,
there is the niche for alternative opinions that
challenge both camps, e.g. Putin is neither an
aggressor, nor champion of peace, he simply has
lost control of his military. All possible conspiracy
plots that logical thinking allows for are usually
constructed, especially by bloggers; someone
would take up the role of the information-blas
inviting us to talk about other things; there is

60

the follow the money reasoning, as well as the


down-to-earth ad hominem argumentation
(Putin wants to impress his new wife). And so
on, and so forth.
Self-promotion has taken the place of public
debate as the Habermasian utopia had imagined it, where ashared view on public good and
the ways to attain it is painstakingly elaborated.
In older democracies, there are still centers of
authority like parties, traditional media, prestigious universities, etc., around which the fragmented opinions consolidate. In new democracies with no traditional legitimacy of elites like
Bulgaria or Romania, the all-imaginable-pointsof-view principle undermines not only public
debate, but also the very capacity of the audience
to understand what is happening and hence to
take action. For instance, the Bulgarian debate
on nuclear energy has been going on for years,
ranging from geopolitics to environment, from
poverty to national pride, from expertise to referendum. And yet, citizens donot know until this
day whether the countrys economy needs more
power or not. More and more often public discussions end in such aporiae. Were the elections of
2014 falsified? Was the biggest bank destroyed
by unwise management or by the intrusion of
the state?
Asub-genre here is the ping-pong discussion,
where participants express not only mutually
excluding ideas, but also state facts in open
contradiction, whereas the presenter turns his/her
head from one to the other, happy to moderate
avigorous democratic debate. On one of the big
private Bulgarian TV stations, there even was
ashow where such debates were staged inside
aboxing ring; and social networks adore sharing
videos of angry politicians in Ukraine, Italy or
Venezuela throwing things at each other, live.
Democracy can be fully experienced in aspectacle of free, passionate people defending their
point of view, without any authority trying to
interfere. But there is obviously nothing democratic about all that, as the result is not the formu-

lation of apublic opinion, but an outburst of


passions, divisions and finally civic impotence.
The private interest of the media is not to reach
some minimal consensus, but on the contrary,
to maintain divisions and thus accumulate clicks
on their ads.
The very role of the mentioned presenter
the journalist managing public debatesis not
neutral. He/she is, by definition, not specialized in

tion is finally reached as the citizen comments,


forwards, rates, and criticizes whatever he/she
is given by the professionals. What else could
we have wished for? But again, getting what
you want may be even worse atragedy than not
getting it, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde. Instead
of consolidating public opinion and enabling
resistance, social networks fragment and disorganize the debate even more, transforming the
average user into amember of what they call
the chattering classes. Iwill not enter here the
decade long discussions as to whether there
ever has been such thing as apublic sphere and
whether the Internet has not actually created
it by democratizing the debate (Poster, 1995).
Iam focusing my attention of how such sphere
is created, and what role the liberalization of
the media market and the development of technology may have played.
It has been noted that fragmentation is only
one side of the problem: in fact, public opinion
nowadays is aggregated more effectively than
ever. Millions can enter an information site the
second apresident is supposed to confess his
unfaithfulness, millions circulate petitions and
posters. The new thing is that aggregating of
opinions is done through the algorithm of the
machine (Geiger, 2009), and that is not always
transparent to the average consumer. The new
communication industries compete not only in
offering information, but also in designing new
forms of togetherness: sites, social networks,
forums, bookmarking services, even online
games. Instead of simply bringing together the
citizen to discuss matters of common interest,
those enterprises offer such services as choice,
filters for unwanted contacts, speed, multimedia
options. You may want aquiet echo-chamber, but
you may prefer aroom with view over the enemy;
only politics or only sports; be visible or invisible.
The new machines of social contact are,
in fact, machines for the mass production of
opinions: they put the person under constant
pressure to react to topics that would normally

Resulting from
the avalanche-like
organization of the
information flow is the
tendency to occupy
all possible positions
in any public debate.
It is as if opinion has
been liquefied, if not
gasified, and tends to fill
in all pockets of agiven
volume.
the topic, and even when having chosen an aggressive style, they donot impose their point of view
on the debating citizens, politicians or experts.
The aim is to operate an identification between
the eye of the camera or microphone and the
audiencethose laypersons who are supposed
to be shocked, amused, intrigued, or outraged
by the discussion. What is the implication of such
sort of staging? Democratic battles are deployed
before us as afascinating spectacle that we need
to watch, evening after evening. Rate, vote, take
sides, send messages, win prizes. In short, the
citizen becomes aconsumer of the political show.
The last example is linked to the Web 2.0
revolution. It seems that democratic participa-

61

not concern them. It is not the same thing to


see atext in the newspaper and to have it sent
to you by afriend. In the second case you are
personally challenged to react and thus maintain
the link with your group. The result is aconstant
generation of passions, irritations, conspiracy
explanations on every possible topic, in every
possible way. It is not the citizens that act and
hold power in check; it is corporations that offer
them the experience of participating, expressing
opinions, being critical... and they, in that way,
make money on the communication flow.
Simulated democracy is thus a spectacle
(Guy Debord), transforming citizens into passive
consumers of safe democratic experiences.
Theconsumerist turn of the political process is
crucial. Producers necessarily have some sort of
group belonging, as the work process supposes
rules, principles, and loyalties. The consumer is
free: he/she can walk away after paying and never
again to see the seller. Consumers gather spontaneously over aspecific topic, then disperse re-aggregate under adifferent constellation on another
occasion. By transforming the participation in
the public debate from abattle fought by the

citizens into an experience offered to consumers,


democracy is reduced to asimulacrum, making
it possible for societies to be governed by shady
groups with dubious legitimacy.
References
Baudrillard, J. (1998) Simulacra and Simulations. Selected
Writings, Stanford University Press, pp.166184.
Bourdieu, P.(1996) Sur Television, Liber, Paris.
Debord, G. (1992) Commentaires sur la socit du spectacle,
Gallimard, Paris.
Geiger, S.: Does Habermas Understand the Internet? The
Algorithmic Construction of the Blogo/Public Sphere. Gnovis
Journal X 2009, Nr. IFall.
Poster, M. (1995) CyberDemocracy: Internet and the Public
Sphere, Irvine.

I V AY L O D I T C H E V

is aProfessor of Cultural Anthropology


at Sofia University, Bulgaria. Hehas
been teaching abroad, mainly in
France and the USA. He is also
aneditor of the journal for cultural
studies SeminarBG.
Photo: TV Garelov

1 Or even wars, as it was the case with Al Jazeera and the second Gulf War.

62

Contested Nazi Victimhood


after 1989
Nelly Bekus
International Day of Liberation ofNazi Concentration
Camp Inmates and its geopolitical implications

The date 11th of April is marked by the Russian


News Agency RIA as International Day of Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camp Inmates.1
According to RIA, The International Day of
Liberation was established to commemorate
the international uprising of the Buchenwald
concentration camp prisoners. The Calendar of
Events projectCalendar.ru, the most comprehensive resource on holidays and memorial
days on Russian-language Internet, refers to
April 11 as International Day of Liberation of Nazi
Concentration Camp Inmates in two categories:
in Great Patriotic War and as International Days
of Observance.2 There is an article on this Day
of Observance in Russian Wikipedia; it refers to
RIA as amain source and even mistakenly claims
that it was established by the UN. Information on
International Day of Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camp Inmates, however, is not to be found
in other languages anywhere except the Russian
international news agency Sputnik, working in
foreign languages (previously known as The Voice
of Russia).
The piece of information provided by RIA
serves as astarting point for hundreds of publications across the Russian and post-Soviet media
that report on various remembrance events
dedicated to the memory of victims of Nazis
concentration camps taking place on this day.

In Moscow, amemorial rally at Poklonnaya Hill


is held at The Tragedy of the Peoples monument,
erected in 1996 in the memory of former Nazi
concentration camps inmates and constitutes
an integral part of the Victory Memorial Park
onPoklonnaya Hillin Moscow.3 Rallies are traditionally organized by the International Union of
Former Juvenile Prisoners of Fascism.4 TheUnion
was created in 1988 as the Union of Former Juvenile Prisoners in Soviet Union; in 1992 it was
reinvented as the International Union, which
provided platform for cooperation between analogous national Unions within the former Soviet
space. In fact, the April 11 has been observed in
those states, where national and local branches
of this International Union function. Attended
by former Nazi concentration camp inmates and
their descendants these memorial meetings have
profound public appeal due to the engagement
of educational and cultural institutions and media
coverage. Commemorations on the April 11 have
been widely supported by local government;
ceremonies are attended by top officials, with the
exception of Baltic countries, where the remembrance events on the April 11 are supported by
Orthodox Church instead.
Alongside the rallies, there are traditional
ceremonies of flower-laying at the monuments
and memorial sites dedicated to the former Nazi

63

camps prisoners held across the regions, and


also concerts in memory of victims, lessons of
heroism at schools, various dedicatory exhibitions and meetings in public libraries and
museums are organized across Russia and other
post-Soviet states. Governmental educational
resources provide variety of supporting materials
such as proposed scenario for the lessons on
heroism, suggested literature, etc. In away, this
informational support is analogous to what can
be found on the United Nations webpage with
educational materials and information products
recommended for the observance of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of
the Victims of the Holocauston the January 27,
established by UN in 2006. In fact, the status of
April 11 in post-Soviet countries clearly creates
the impression of maintaining aparallel memory
on the former inmates of Nazis concentration
camps.

by Communists. Similarly politically neutral narration can be found on the webpage of Buchenwald
Museum: April 11. The SS flees, but before the
fighting is over, inmates of the camp resistance
occupy the tower and take charge of order and
administration in the camp.5
Evidently, communists involvement in the
underground resistance at Buchenwald lost its
appeal in contemporary perspective. Nevertheless, immediately after the war this fact was
not only recognized but also effectively used in
promotion of corresponding memory narrative
on the struggle of communist antifascists against
Nazis. The camp was perceived as asymbol of
political victims who were also heroic fighters
and played essential role in memorialization
of the Second World War among anti-fascist in
many European countries. Buchenwalds key
role in the formation of international memory
of former concentration camps inmates was officially confirmed in 1948, when the International
Federation of Former Political Prisoners (FIAPP)6
declared the April 11 as The International Day of
Former Political Prisoners and The International
Day of the Deportees.7 Later it was renamed into
the Day of International Solidarity of Liberated
Political Prisoners and Fighters by the successor
of FIAPPInternational Federation of Resistance
Fighters (FIR). In those days, April 11 was aday
with profound international anti-fascist connotation, which could be proudly communicated
across the East-West divide. With the beginning
of Cold War and the rising tensions between the
Western and Eastern blocs, the political prisoners
organization, such as FIAPP/FIR, lost their influence in the West. Buchenwald memory and the
symbolism of April 11 were gradually reduced to
the communist milieu.
In GDR, Buchenwald was entitled the role
of major pantheon to heroic resistance fighters
and the self-liberation of the camp became the
focus of amemorial complex (1958).8 Buchenwald,
asite of official pilgrimage and ceremonies, stood
for antifascism and to some extent was called to

Between Auschwitz and Buchenwald


The symbolism of the datethe day of
liberation of Buchenwald camp on April 11, as
opposed to January 27, the day of liberation of
the Camp of Auschwitz chosen by UNappears
to have special meaning in commemoration of
victims of Nazi regime. This symbolism goes back
to the initial stage of memorial work in the early
post-war years. The history of the Buchenwalds
liberation compiled by RIA agency and reproduced every year in numerous post-Soviet media
on the April 11 tells the story of heroic uprising
of the Buchenwald concentration camp inmates:
65 years ago, on April 11, 1945, ared flag was
hoisted over the Buchenwald camp administrative
building. On that day the inmates disarmed and
took prisoner more than 800 SS-men and camp
guards []
Two days later US troops reached Buchenwald.
This concise story mentions only shortly the
red flag raised by underground rebels and fails to
mention that the resistance was organized mostly

64

instil pride. Memory narrative developed on the


Eastern side of the Iron Curtain, which preferred
to commemorate Communist fighters rather
than Jewish victims. On the other side of the
Berlin Wall, the association between communist
ideology and post-war antifascist discourse in
communist countries resulting in the marginalization of Holocaust made it easier for Western
Allies to listen to the voice of victims of racial
persecution, above all Jews.9 For them, it was
Auschwitz that became the symbol of Nazi crimes
as well as collective shame and guilt.
In the context of Cold War, the politicization
of memorial work on the other side of the Iron
Curtain was combined with the corresponding
political line. Communist states combined it with
anti-Western political propaganda; the Alliance
and other anti-communist organizations merged
honoring of Nazisms victims with the pursuit of
their own political agenda: comparing Stalinism
with Nazism did more than condemn Communism; it also downplayed the uniqueness of the
Nazis regime.10
It was at that time, in 1950, when also the
term victims of fascism was discarded by Philipp
Auerbach11 for its communist connotations and
proposed to replace it with victims of Nazism.
Since then, the previously common enemy was
even to be named by former Allies differently.

story in the territory of former Soviet Union than


previously. The real unification of European and
post-Soviet memory spaces, however, has never
been achieved. Instead, political transition in
former socialist states and the reconfiguration
of EU borders resulted in aformation of new
symbolic mapping of memory.
In the European history of remembering the
victims of the Second World War, the focus on
Holocaust was transformed, as Aleida Assmann
noted, into atransgenerational and transnational memory.12 Shared memories of Holocaust
were capable of uniting European countries in
commemorating its victims and teaching next
generation of Europeans the history lesson,
becoming afoundation myth for united Europe
and amoral yardstick for new member states
since 2005.13 Commemoration of the Holocaust
victims came to be one of unifying rites called
to manifest the common efforts in creation of
Europe as aremembering community. In 2005,
European Holocaust Memorial Day across the EU
was established on January 27. The same year
and for the same date the General Assembly
of UN established annual International Day of
Commemoration in Memory of Victims of the
Holocaust.14 Even though in some calendars of
several former socialist states one can still find
Day of International Solidarity of Liberated Political Prisoners and Fighters mentioned with the
reference to Buchenwald liberation, no commemorative activity has ever been reported on this
day outside post-Soviet space.
Many post-Soviet countries also join UN
commemorations of the Holocaust victims.
None of them, however, has the Commemoration Day included into the official calendar of
observance days. In Russia and other post-Soviet countries this day has been observed by
Jewish national organizations, foreign diplomatic
missions and has, as arule, semi-official status.
Several attempts have been made to include
commemoration of Holocaust into the official
calendar of Russian state which has considerable

After 1989: An Unsuccessful Memory Unification


The Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 brought
ahope that the memory of World War II could
provide a solid ground for overcoming Cold
Wars divisive legacy. In the 1990s it seemed
fairly possible that integration of the Western
and the Eastern perspectives into acommon
paradigm of remembering could become one
of the building bricks in anew European home.
Some changes in the memory politics of
the post-Soviet Russia and CIS countries have,
indeed, occurred. The memory of Jewish genocide
was given more consideration as apart of war

65

Reshaping aDivided Victimhood


Surely, in contemporary conditions the division lines in the memory sphere work differently.
Disregarding Holocaust in post-Soviet countries
proves to be both impossible and unreasonable
and Jewish communities across the former Soviet
space observe the Memory of Holocaust on
January 27. Emphasis on Holocaust, however,
conveys implicit meaning of being Western
interpretation of Nazis victimhood. And revitalization of public commemorations on April 11
in post-Soviet states clearly demonstrates that the
once envisaged unification of divided victimhood is not going to be achieved by one-sided
acceptance of the Western memory perspective
by the former East. Along with the Europeanization of the memory boom17 denoted by
rising significance of Holocaust Remembrance
Day on January 27, the official memory politics
in post-Soviet countries sought to establish alternative commemoration which would meet the
needs and wishes of the majority of former Soviet
people. April 11 was assigned this role of the
post-Soviet parallel to the European Commemoration of Holocaust which allows to maintain
other perspective on the victimhood of fascism
alongside the memory of Holocaust. Buchenwald
as asymbolic alternative came almost naturally
to fit this new memory practice demand. Buchenwald camp was widely known to the Soviet
people. Due to apopular patriotic song Buchenwald alarm bells, it was part of the official canon
of the Soviet cultural war memory.
April 11 reiterates in many respects the idea
of commemoration of Holocaust victimsbut it
avoids stressing the ethnic genocide of Jews or
any other particular ethnic group. Every publication on commemoration of the Liberation of Nazi
Concentration Camp Inmates speaks, instead,
about 5 million of Soviet people among 19 million
of Nazi camps prisoners; in some cases, 6 million
of Jewish victims are mentioned, too.
On the one hand, recalling the memory of the
Soviet victims among prisoners of Nazis concen-

Jewish community: in 2001, by the foundation


Holocaust; in 2008 by the Federation of Jewish
Communities of Russia; in 2012 by the Russian
Jewish Congress; in 2013 by aRussian opposition party Just Russia. None of these initiatives,
however, has been successful.
The day of 27th of January has been widely
commemorated by national and religious
Jewish organizations of Russia, often with the
participation of Russian top officials. The president of Russia often takes part in these observances, but the mode and the context of such
commemoration clearly marks the space of the
Holocaust memory as amatter of one of Russias
religious and national minorities. In 2010, Dmitry
Medvedev, the then President of Russia, sent
his greetings to participants in the ceremonies
commemorating the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration
camp. In his address, Medvedev urged not forget
that along with six million people that were
killed simply because of their ethnicity, simply
for being Jewish, there were other victims, too,
because according to the Nazis plan, at least
athird of the population in the occupied territories was to follow their fate.15 This attention
to other victims of Nazis genocide in Medvedevs address, as well as keeping the status of
International Holocaust Remembrance Day as
amatter of one of Russian Federations national
minorities reveal an unarticulated intention to
keep the weight of the Jewish aspect in the
post-Soviet memory of the Second World War
under controlled balance. It displays the post-Soviet determination to prevent total re-writing of
the Soviet-originated narrative of the history of
Second World War and the re-casting the memory
on its victims in accordance with Western mode.
And while Jewish communities in Russia join
worldwide commemoration of January 27 as
International Holocaust Remembrance Day, in
the calendar of Russian state, January 27 is also
marked as adate commemorating the end of
Leningrad siege (established in 1995).16

66

tration camps in public commemorations and


rituals held on the April 11 can be read as the
efforts to maintain post-Soviet space as aremembering community. On the other hand, persistent
emphasis on the international status of this day is
also telling. Nations that once belonged to USSR
today represent international community aspiring
to be an actor on the geopolitical memory arena.
At the same time, talking about any long-established history of April 11 as an International Day
of observance refers to the internationalism
characteristic for post-war political anti-fascism
and resistance fighters. And while communist
ideology that once constituted the core of that
movement became irrelevant and marginal, its
internationalist appeal remains meaningful.
Bridging these two aspects in the commemorative practices on April 11 makes possible the
prevention of the post-Soviet space of commemoration of victims from segregation and isolation,
at least symbolically.
This relatively new memorial date can be
interpreted as asignifier in the geopolitics of
memory coming to replace political ideologies,

which constituted inseparable feature of the


memorial work in the Cold War realm. It shows
how geopolitical entities have been re-constituted and united anew, while the process of
re-shaping memories attendant upon the end
of Cold War remains embedded in the divisions
of the past. 

N E L LY B E K U S

is an Associate Research Fellow,


University of Exeter.
Photo: Archive Nelly Bekus

1 http://ria.ru/spravka/20140411/1003173402.html
2 http://www.calend.ru/holidays/0/0/1007/
3 The complex on the Poklonnaya Gora occupies 135 hectares on which the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War, three temples
and the Victory Monument are located.
4 http://deti-uzniki.ru/
5 http://www.buchenwald.de/en/463/
6 The FIAPP (Fdration Internationale des Anciens Prisonniers Politiques) was founded by representatives of organizations of political
prisoners and resistance fighters from 17 European countries from East and West in February 1946 in Warsaw.
7 Barcellini Serge. Sur deux journes nationales commmorant la dportation et les perscutions des annes noires . In: Vingtime
Sicle. Revue dhistoire. N45, janvier-mars 1995, p.79.
8 Sarah Farmer, Symbols that Face Two Ways: Commemorating the Victims of Nazism and Stalinism at Buchenwald and
Sachsenhausen, Representations, No. 49, Winter, 1995, pp. 97119, 102.
9 Peter Monteath, ADay to Remember: East Germanys Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Fascism, German History Vol. 26, No.2,
pp. 195218, p.200.
10 Gilad Margalit, Guilt, Suffering, and Memory, Germany Remembers Its Dead of World War II. Bloomington & Indianapolis:
Indiana University Press, 2010, 129.
11 Philipp Auerbach was president of Reparations Office in Bavaria and member of BVN in 1950.
12 Aleida Assmann, Europes Divided Memory p.2542.
13 Ibid.
14 http://www.un.org/en/holocaustremembrance/index.shtml
15 http://eng.kremlin.ru/news/21516
16 TheSiege of Leningrad lasted from September 8, 1941 till January 27, 1944.
17 M. Paker and B. Strth, Introduction In AEuropean memory? ed. by M. Paker and Bo Strth, NY: Berghahn Books, 2010, 11.

67

MARTIN M. IMEKA

Czechs Smitten by Babi

hanks to Haek, Kafka, Kundera or Havel,


among others, the Czechs are considered
to be anation inclined to critical selfdoubt and, generally, not to take themselves too
seriously. This attractive feature, which usually
protects the Czech society from amomentary
lapse of reason other nations in the Central
Europe occasionally tend to suffer from, seems to
have disappeared lately. As if Vclav Havels death
broke some sort of amental dam and the bottom
muck from Czech ponds has spilled into the countryside. It does not only concern president Milo
Zeman, whose embarrassing behavior and views
have devastating effect, but luckily, thanks to the
limited powers of presidency, the damage is more
aesthetic than political. The Finance Minister and
leader of the political party ANO Andrej Babi
presents amuch bigger challenge. As one of the
wealthiest entrepreneurs in the Czech Republic
he controls virtually the entire food chain in the
country; as amedia mogul he owns the biggest
newspaper and one of the most popular radio
stations to boot.
Such concentration of political, media and
financial power in hands of one person is really
extraordinary and in Europe we can find aparallel
only in Berlusconi. How is it possible then, that the
Czechs voted his party into the second position
in the country (18.6% in 2013 elections) and ANO
is polling consistently on the first position (30%).
Where has gone the typical Czech vigilance?
It is true that the political right in parliament
opposition, though devastated, rings the alarm
and misses no opportunity to denounce the many
conflicts of interests. Journalists who left the
newspaper in protest against the new owner

68

MARTIN M. IMEKA

is editor of the Czech weekly Respekt


Photo: Archive Martin M. imeka

have founded several news platforms and bash


Babi with great gusto as the nemesis of democracy. Nevertheless, Czech voters donot seem to
perceive him as athreat, on the contrary. They
seem to be impressed by his success. And it is also
true that for average citizens the accumulation
of his power is something so abstract that it has
no influence on their daily life.
In reality the Babi phenomenon is really
dangerous for the Czech society. Not for his political views, which are somewhat changeable, but
in principle they are within rational boundaries.
The problem lies in his understanding of power,
which he uses ruthlessly as he sees fithis coalition partners have been taken by surprise with
his speedy claiming of any available position in
the state structure. In the ANO political party,
which is financed by large with his own money,

he is an authoritative leader who does not get


contradicted and is worshipped by his fellow
party folk. In February, he was re-elected by 100%
votes as the chairman.
So far he has managed to destroy two key
newspapers, which have become an obvious
tool of his policies and are used for justification
of every dubious step he is about to take (i.e. to
sack agovernment minister whom he previously
named into his position).
And so it is fitting to ask ourselves again:
where has the Czech vigilance gone? The correct
answer is that it has never existed. After 1989,
the Czechs were simply lucky not to have experienced asystemic threat to democracy and acorresponding type of crisis other Central European
countries have gone throughMeiars era in
Slovakia, a two-year episode of Kaczyski in
Poland and the current autocratic government
of Orbn in Hungary.
Czech politics has never been apretty sight,
but in the 25 years since 1989, the founding principles of democracy have never been in real danger.
Thus the Czech society did not have to mobilize in
order to save democracy, and, therefore, it does
not have the experience of how quickly things can
go wrong. Relevant resistance against the kind of
populism and concentration of power embodied
by Andrej Babi has not yet been created.
It is safe to assume that in Slovakia Babi,
himself aSlovak, would never stand achance. It
is true that Slovak premier Fico is not the democracys greatest proponent, but he does not dare
to aspire to acquiring such asystematic conglomerate of business, politics and media, as he rightly
suspects that the Slovaks, after their experience
with Meiar, would not tolerate it and alarm bells
would be set off across the society.
Fico, for example, would never attempt to
acquire the ownership of media outlets even
though he is often in bitter conflict with journal-

ists and is in habit of suing them for libel. Itcan


even be said that during his government the
public radio and television have improved, even
though they are still very careful when dealing
with politics, but they are not amere amplified
extension of the government views.
In the Czech Republic, on the other hand, the
public Czech TV finds itself under an increased
pressure from president Zeman, and Mr. Babi,
who both criticize its news and reporting and
often muse in public about how expensive, ergo
wasteful it is, and that it would be best to scrap
the license fees altogether. The Czech TV, to its
credit, bravely bears the brunt of these attacks,
but the whole situation is sending aserious signal
that some elementary rules about the division
of power and democratic principles as awhole,
which have long seemed to be embedded safely
in the society, are suddenly in question.
It is hard to say how much of the Babi
phenomenon is intertwined with the passing
of Vclav Havel. Polls doshow, however, that Babi
has managed to attract many right-of-center
voters, some of them who used to be very close
to Havel, for example from the Schwarzenbergs
TOP 09. And it is also afact that since Havels
death there has not been any personality with
similar amount of authority to whom the Czechs
would listen.
For sure, Babi can make mistakes and his
popularity can dive. As far as his cult-building is
concerned, he has not made aserious blunder
yet. It is quite feasible then that one day, Babi
will pull out all the stops and the Czech society
shall find itself completely unable to withstand
him. If that comes to pass, there will be alesson
to be learnt: in Central Europe, no nation is
immune to acrisis of democracy, and each has
to fight its way through. One can only hope the
result will be a stronger, healthier and more
immune society. 

69

Euro, IFind You Very


Attractive. Yours, Lithuania.
Zygimantas Mauricas
Common currency should not be blamed
forthemisfortunes of some of the euro area
memberstates

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said that


Grexit would be the beginning of the end of
the eurozone. This statement sparked renewed
debates as to how the eurozone would look
like if Greecethe cradle of European civilizationwere to leave. Would it be just aremoval
of the weakest link of the chain or would it lead
to a domino effect resulting in the eventual
disintegration of the eurozone? However, it
is more often than not that those that shout
the loudest (undeservedly) attract much more
public attention. Indeed, Google search engine
returns more than 15 million mentions of the
word Grexitmore than the number of people
living in Greece.
If we move exactly 2,000 kilometers to the
north, we end up in silent forests of Lithuania
the country, which quietly entered the eurozone
in January 2015. No shoutingno publicity.
Yet,with three times lower pensions, two times
less sunshine hours and just as many lakes as
there are islands in Greece, Lithuania nevertheless could and should be considered as the role
model for any eurozone country (or at leastthe
German version of it). During his visit to Lithuania,
ECB President Mario Draghi rightly pointed out
the two key benefits the eurozone will receive

from Litentrance: First, Lithuania has shown


that adjustment is not only necessary, but also
possibleeven without currency devaluation;
second, Lithuanias decision to join the euro
area demonstrates that our common currency
is attractive.
Indeed, Lithuania achieved a spectacular
economic recovery after experiencing the largest
GDP contraction (-14.8% in 2009the highest in
the EU). Lithuanian GDP per capita (measured in
PPS) jumped from 57% of EU average in 2009 to
74% in 2014 and surpassed that of crisis-hit Greece
and recession-free Poland. Moreover, Lithuanian
budget deficit declined from 9.1% of GDP in 2009
to amere 0.7% in 2014, while debt stabilized at
around 40% of GDPwell below the threshold of
60%. Interestingly enough, Lithuania is among the
five eurozone countries (out of 19) that meet both
deficit and debt criteria outlined in the Stability
and Growth Pact. European Commission in its
latest Alert Mechanism Report (2015) included
Lithuania among the group of the ten EU countries that donot have excessive macroeconomic
imbalances. Even though these results were not
achieved without sacrifice (high emigration, longterm unemployment and punitive borrowing rates
that reached as much as 9.375% for a5-year EUR

71

500 million bond issued in mid-2009), Lithuania


definitely deserves to be called agood euro girl
and acase study to educate the bad euro boys,
such as Greece.

of ajourney towards the West, which started


in 1990 after Lithuania regained independence
from the Soviet Union and culminated in 2004
when Lithuania became the member of NATO
and the European Union.
Comparing the ongoing financial and
economic crisis in Russia and the resilient
eurozone economy makes the euro idea as
appealing as never before economically, while
an ongoing military conflict in Ukraine compels
us to remember the often forgotten European
virtuespeace, mutual trust and dialogue.
Regrettably, these benefits are often overlooked
by the Westerners, since they are used to living in
peace and prosperity for generations and some of
them simply take it for granted. Greece is agood
example of avictim of this sortit was not euro
per se, but the unrealistic expectations about the
euro that inevitably pushed the country into the
subsequent economic hardships (Lithuania did
most of these mistakes even without being in
the euro area).
In spite of this, Greeks went so far as to
elect ultra-left and anti-everything parties
to the parliament. But make no mistake there:
the Lithuanians know all too well that Eastern
model is not working as well as the Western
one. The difference between Lithuanian and
Russian GDP per capita figures may not be so
large (Lithuanian is amere 27% higher), but oil
with gas distort the statistics here. Better look
at Moldovaanother former USSR country with
no oil and gas resources, but plenty of remaining
pro-Soviet and pro-Eastern mentality. The difference in GDP per capita between Lithuania and
Moldova is 7 times (not percent!), although the
starting point was not much different. Frankly
speaking, Scandinavia looks like much better
ideaeven recession-hit Finland that does
not shout, complain, or break rules, and even
openly admits that Sick Finland is ready for
austerity medicine (A. Stubb, June 2015). After
all, Finlands GDP per capita is three times higher
than that of Lithuania.

What Can Eurozone Give to Lithuania?


To paraphrase the famous quote of John F.
Kennedy, Mr. Draghi could have also considered
asking not what Lithuania can dofor the eurozone, but what the eurozone can dofor Lithuania. The fact that Lithuania joins eurozone may
not mean that the common currency is attractiveit may just mean that all the other alternatives are uglier. So what makes euro so attractive for Lithuania and what lessons could be
learned for other perspective and existing eurozone countries?

It was not euro per


se, but the unrealistic
expectations about the
euro that inevitably
pushed the country
into the subsequent
economic hardships.
Lithuania did most of
these mistakes even
without being in the
euro area.
Lithuania is positioned on the tectonic
geopolitical shift between the West and the East.
Hence, first and foremost the euro is asymbol
of Lithuanian comeback journey to a free,
prosperous, tolerant and democratic Western
European civilization and away from the impoverished Post-Soviet Eastern European space. In this
respect, euro can be perceived as acontinuation

72

Switzerland Does Not Have Euro or Does It?


Another great benefit of euro adoption is
that it completely eliminated the risk of currency
devaluation, which, however small, was still
present even though Lithuania had long ago
(since 2002) pegged its currency to the euro.
Lithuania was particularly lucky in asense that
it joined the eurozone just before the devaluation and revaluation issues became ever more
acute in the East and in the West. In the East,
Russian ruble lost 25% of its value against the
euro in just one week, while in the West the
changes were even more extreme with Swiss
franc appreciating against the euro by as much
as 30% in just acouple of minutes. It is aperfect
illustration that independent monetary policies
are becoming not so independent in times of
economic and financial turbulence. The notorious example is Swiss central bank that moved
from being one of the most trusted into one of
the most distrusted once it messed up with Swiss
franc pegging & de-pegging from the euro and
lowering policy rate to -0.75%, which further
risks damaging the whole banking system.
Central banks of Sweden, Denmark and Czech
Republic also resorted to Swiss-type unconventional monetary policy methods in messing
with exchange rate regulation, negative interest
rates or both. For these countries, introduction
of the euro would probably be more economically rational than desperately trying to counterbalance negative spill-over effects from an
aggressive ECB QE policy. Keeping onto their
national currencies is becoming increasingly
expensive for them.
Another dissatisfaction with the euro was
its strength versus other major currencies that
negatively affected international competitiveness of eurozone exporters. However, with US
dollar and Chinese renminbi yuan strengthening
against the euro, it is exactly this currency that
starts to be blamed instead for the very same
reason by other major international competitors
(remember Switzerland). Lithuania was again

lucky enough in joining euro on the eve of the


largest QE program to date.
Only aCup of Coffee Got More Expensive
The lack of public support for the euro was
primarily related to euro-driven inflation fears.
However, experience of Estonia and Latvia, which
introduced euro in 2011 and 2014 respectively,
show that these fears were largely unjustified
and that public support for the euro increased
considerably just afew months after the adoption
of the euro. For example, four months before the
introduction of the euro as much as 34% of Estonian citizens were fearful of rapidly rising inflation,
whereas four months after the introduction the
proportion fell to amere 12%. Acouple of years
later the same story repeated in Latvia with the
proportion of Latvian citizens fearful of rapidly
rising inflation dropping from as much as 35%
four months prior to the euro adoption to amere
11% four months after. Not surprisingly, the same
story repeated in Lithuania: in July 2014 (i.e. just
after the announcement that Lithuania will join
euro in 2015) the proportion of citizens fearful of
rapid price increases jumped to 44% i.e. similar
to the levels seen in 2008 when actual inflation
was as high as 12% (!). Five months after the introduction of the euro, it is -0.1% deflation rather
than inflation bothering the consumers, while
citizens fearful of rapidly rising inflation fell to
amere 22% (it is common in Lithuania that around
one fifth of citizens tend to be fearful of virtually
everythingperhaps it comes from reading too
many headlines of yellow press). Only acup of
coffee, ahaircut and cinema tickets got abit more
expensive, but its peanuts compared to adoubledigit inflation levels in neighboring Belarus and
Russia or 1,400% (one thousand four hundred)
annual inflation rate experienced in Lithuania in
1992 after the collapse of Soviet Union.
Euro Is Not Ugly at All
Lithuanian accession to the eurozone will
be highly beneficial both to the eurozone and

73

Lithuania itself. The absence of currency exchange


costs and excess volatility facilitates free movement of goods, services, capital and labor within
the eurozone and helps better utilize the benefits of the huge eurozone market. Additionally,
Lithuania will get an opportunity to shape ECB
policies, which is agreat achievement for such
asmall country. And last but not least, all three

tion of the euro these countries manage to keep


one of the lowest public deficit rates in the whole
European Union. This again shows that euro
should not be blamed for the misfortunes of
some of the euro area member states. After all,
euro is just aunit of measureand just as the
distance between Paris and London does not
change whether you measure it in kilometers or
miles, the deficit does not improve whether you
measure it in euros or litas.

Perhaps the biggest


challenge for Lithuania
will be not to fall victim
of post-euro euphoria
and keep control of
public as well as private
sector debt levels.

Z YG I M A N TA S M AU R I C A S

is Chief Economist at Nordea Bank


Lithuania and Lecturer at ISM
University of Management and
Economics.
Photo: Nordea Bank

Baltic StatesLithuania, Latvia and Estonia


will together with Finland eventually enjoy
one common currency (Nordic euro), making
this region more integrated, more attractive
for foreign investors and less vulnerable to the
events in the East. The aforementioned reasons
in general and the latter in particular, in turn, may
encourage other Central European countries, like
Czech Republic, Poland or Romania to join the
eurozone. Finally, euro is also agood promotional
tool to increase international awareness. Lithuanian national symbol Vytis (armor-clad knight on
horseback holding asword and shield), which is
inscribed on the back of every Lithuanian euro
coin is conquering the wallets of citizens of the
whole euro area: from Portugal to Finland and
from Ireland to Cyprus. Euro is not so ugly after
all, at least less ugly than Russian ruble.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Lithuania
will be not to fall victim of post-euro euphoria
and keep control of public as well as private sector
debt levels. However, Estonian and Latvian examples are highly encouraging: even after introduc-

74

The Use of EU Funds


inPoland
Marek W. Kozak
The crisis in some EU countries is becoming achronic
problem, showing that European funds have been unable
to counter the crisis or remove its effects

Poland is arelatively large (over 38 million


inhabitants, not counting the two million
people who have emigrated) and underdeveloped member state. Nevertheless, as the only
EU country it has not been directly affected
by the crisis, and its rate of growth since 1990
belongs to the fastest in the Union. And since
2007 it is the largest net recipient of cohesion
policy funds. In the period 20072013, Poland
was granted EUR 67.284 billion (Convergence
44.377 billion, Cohesion Fund 22.176 billion and
European Territorial Cooperation 7.31 billion).
There was also EUR 20 billion on the Common
Agricultural Policy (which we are going to leave
aside for alack of space, although there are many
common problems here).
The use of EU funds may be analyzed in
two ways: quantitative and qualitative. The first
one (finance and products) should formally be
used only for the purposes of financial monitoring. The second one regards the quality of
the achieved results (goals). It is amore difficult approach, requiring expert knowledge (and
hence interdisciplinary teams). This method
is rarely used in practice, because it requires
complex and professional studies, which additionally may result in a negative assessment
(and these studies are commissioned by policy

managers). In addition, it so happens that the


earnings of the management have not been
based on progress in achieving the objectives.
Therefore, product indicators by far outweigh
indicators of outcome (or impact).
If the current system has been efficient (see
reports about cohesion No. 15), why did it not
prevent the crisis or help in overcoming it across
the Union?
Let us start by defining the features which
modern development should possess:
Strategic, long-term, oriented towards future
development needs;
Should create higher quality jobs and income;
Should comply with the current paradigm
and its factors in the post-industrial economy,
based on knowledge and information society;
Should be concentrated on asmall number
of goals and achieving them (not on product
indicators);
Should be integrated, coordinated in such
away as to achieve asynergy effect.

75

Is it like that?
According to areport on the state of implementation of cohesion policy programs 20072013
in Poland until July 6, 2015, 301,700 formally correct
applications were submitted with atotal value of
(national and EU funds) PLN 613.3 billion (EUR
147.4 billion).1 106,100 contracts were signed in
the amount of 410.5 million PLN (EUR 98.7 billion),
including PLN 288.4 million (EUR 69.3 billion) of EU
funds, which amounts to 102.7 percent of EU funds
for 20072013. Expenses considered as eligible
(in accordance with the requirements and regulations) amounted to PLN 342.8 billion (EUR 82.4
billion), and the EU co-financing was PLN 243.2
billion (EUR 58.5 billion). In terms of absorption
capacity, we are undoubtedly at the forefront of
the EU countries.
What effects did we achieve? According to
data on the website of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development Effects of European funds
(accessed June 12, 2015) the outcomes for the
period 20072013 were as follows: In the area of
labor and entrepreneurship, 413,200 jobs were
created and 30,900 enterprises and 258 business
environment institutions received support; R
& D and innovation: the number of supported
organizations and projects: 1,413 universities and
research units, 642 research centers, 2,955 innovative ideas; 3,722 technologies implemented;
information society: 55,806km of broadband
network, 214,000 of households received funding
for Internet access, 5,834 new services; transport: 11,500km of roads (from national to local),
1,633km of built or modernized railway lines,
2,633 purchased or upgraded municipal transport fleet vehicles; environmental protection: 499
sewage treatment plants (no information available
whether they were built or modernizedMWK),
24,200km of modernized or built sewerage system,
6,900km of built or upgraded water mains, 715
investments in renewable energy sources, 1,756
investments in energy efficiency. This presentation
describes the state at the end of April, based on
contracts signed rather than executed.

76

It is clear that the vast majority of the information cited above regards the number of contracts
signed or organizations supported. It does not
regard the effects, perhaps with the exception
of the 413,200 jobs created (but it is not applicable, for it describes promises from contracts
rather than facts). On this basis, it is difficult to
talk about results.
It seems that this is due to several reasons.
First, not many members of the public have
noticed that in afew very eventful years we have
moved from the era of industrial economy to

The few existing


analyses of coordination
of projects at regional
and local level
have proved that
coordination is almost
non-existent. Low social
capital translates into
lack of cooperation
between institutions.
post-industrial one (where the causative agent of
development is no longer infrastructure, but soft
factors such as cultureand Idonot mean only
the so-called high culture, but the quality of institutions, the quality of the business environment,
R&D and innovation, competitiveness, urbanization and metropolitanization, networks and
flows, talent, tolerance and technology). Theold
solutions no longer correspond to contemporary
problems, and yet investments in infrastructure
are still preferred.
The belief in the pro-development role of
infrastructure also follows from the pressure of
media and politicians, preferring spectacular

events. Inauguration of any piece of technical


infrastructure can be filmed and photographed,
it attracts many viewers and VIPs. Moreover,
infrastructure is usually an expensive but
simple undertaking, which makes spending the
resources easier.
Cohesion policy in Poland until 2014 pursued
many goals and priorities. There is an impression
that those responsible want to satisfy the needs
(not always development needs) of all important
social and professional groups. The only simple
way of summing up the diverse goals and priorities is presenting the effects in the financial/
product form. Everyone can understand what
proportion of cohesion policy funds we have
spent. And this is where the interest of politicians,
media and public opinion usually ends. Forthey
wrongly assume that every penny spent at home
and serving mostly the grassroots needs is
fostering development. As aresult also managers
of the projects (from Brussels to the implementing organizations) pay more attention to
expenditure than to effects. Also evaluations
focus mostly on removing barriers to spending
money. Themanagers have become hostages
of the beneficiaries: they will be successful only
when they spend the funds, and in order to
achieve that, they must spend them in accordance
with the needs of the beneficiaries.
And this is how we arrived at the common
(because useful) phenomenon of lock-in,
that is being mentally trapped in old thinking,
assuming anumber of similar forms: cultural
regression (Hryniewicz 2), anchoring (Zaucha
et al.3) or replacement of purposes (Merton4,
Opolski and Modzelewski5) and the mechanism
of informal mutual arrangements. Replacement of purposes means replacing complex
and difficult undertakings with ones which are
easier to execute. So instead of learning how
much innovation has increased thanks to EU
spending, we only learn how many projects were
supported and how much money was spent
(most of it in the public sector and universities,

and channeled into infrastructure, while the


number of innovations developed by Polish
businesses has significantly decreased recently).
Revitalization, isdespite aclear ministerial
definitioncommonly reduced to repairs,
construction or modernization of sidewalks,
squares, renovation of individual buildings, less
often groups of buildings, and even places quite
incompatible with revitalization, such as parks
and cemeteries, because people donot live or
work there. Instead of developing tourist products, we have numerous renovations of buildings
generally inaccessible to tourists (for example
town halls). Similarly, expenditures in culture
are mostly spent on buildings. Roads are built
in an uncoordinated way (apart from motorways
and expressways, but even here you have to
wonder why construction is fastest in forested
areas, where the need for them is small, and not
around big cities, where they are most needed).
The few existing analyses of coordination of
projects at regional and local level have proved
that coordination is almost non-existent. Low
social capital translates into lack of cooperation
between institutions.
The lock-in phenomenon generally pervades
all areas of intervention, especially when funding
something is prohibited (hence, for example,
renovations instead of revitalizationthe
Union doesnt provide funds for renovations).
It is enough that the providers of financing turn
ablind eye. And this is why the reports (starting
from the central ones) focus on finances and
products rather than effects. All this is regardless
of which party is in power.
What Examples of Effects Can Be Given?
The national income has grown significantly, in some part thanks to the cohesion
policy, although up to 2012, ministry claimed
that supply effects had not appeared yet. So we
were efficiently spending on quality of life and
infrastructurethey are related to each other
rather than building amodern economy.

77

Despite ahigher rate of GDP growth, we are


still among the four or five most underdeveloped
EU states. In terms of such an important factor as
innovativeness, we are four or five places up from
the bottom of the EU rankings. Examples could
be multipliedsuch as construction of environmental protection infrastructure in areas of
Eastern Poland with rapidly shrinking population.
We are achieving great progress (mostly
quantitative) in the quality of human capital, but
Polish youth is lagging behind in problem-solving
tests. Human capital, the foundation of cooperation, still does not look good.
And finally, the last example of effects of
development policy, this time Polish rather than
European. Despite considerable European and
Polish investment in many spheres of life, more
than 2 million Poles have emigrated. Why?
Inmy opinion, the reason is that we have been
persistently spending EU and Polish funds on
infrastructure, not coordinating development
projects, for example not relating infrastructure projects with economic ones, and not
connecting economic projects with education.
People entering the labor market and the unemployed need above all relatively stable jobs and
income, and only then they care for quality of life

(new sidewalks). It is still difficult to speak about


strategic management. These are the obvious
guidelines for Polish development policy in
20142020.

M A R E K W. K O Z A K

University of Warsaw: Centre for


European Regional and Local
Studies EUROREG.
Photo: Archive Marek W. Kozak

1 Unless otherwise stated, the value of the euro in the article was calculated on the basis of Table No. 107/A/NBP/2015 dated June 5, 2015,
when 1 EUR = 4,16 PLN.
2 Hryniewicz J.T., 2004, Polityczny i kulturowy kontekst rozwoju gospodarczego (Political and cultural context of the economic
development), Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Scholar
3 Zaucha J. & Cioek D. Brodzicki T. & Gazek E., 2014, Wraliwo polskich regionw na wyzwania gospodarki globalnej (Vulnerability
of Polish regions to global economy challenges), [in:] Gawlikowska-Hueckel K., Szlachta J. (red.), Wraliwo polskich regionw
nawyzwania wspczesnej gospodarki. Implikacje dla polityki rozwoju regionalnego, Warszawa: Oficyna a Wolters Kluver business.
4 R.K. Merton, 1998, entry succession of goals, [in:] International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, vol. 11 (Sills D.L., editor),
TheMacMillan Co & The Free Press
5 Opolski K. & Modzelewski P.,2011, The use of evaluation in the process of designing a strategy, [in:] A. Haber, M. Szaaj (eds),
Evaluation at strategic level of governance, Warszawa: Ministry of Regional Development and Polish Agency for Enterprise
Development.

78

Waiting for the Impact


Robert Schuster
The biggest economy of the E.U. is still growing, but lags
behind in investment. That might not pay off in the future.

The German economy is usually considered


as the engine of the whole of the E.U. Its leading
position is not only tied with the GDP growth.
The German economic model as such seemed to
be inspirational, especially in the situation when
many states were looking for ways to overcome
the consequences of the 20082009 economic
crisis or to prevent it from happening again.
The German model of market economy with
astrong social corrective, the so-called socially
responsible market economy appeared to be
the way to go.
But nothing lasts forever and clouds have
begun to gather even above the German
economy. While in the last quarters it has grown
by afeeble one percent, the German role of the
E.U. engine has been taken over by othersfor
example by the British, whose growth this year
is being estimated at 2.5%.
The main reason why the economy of the
biggest member of the E.U. is losing steam is
the lack of investment. Germany likes to rely
on its export but to keep the growth going it is
necessary to develop production capacities and
bring in new technologiesin short, to invest.
But investments are something that Germany is
lackingboth the private sector and the state
are guilty in this case. In the last fifteen years
the share of investments on GDP has fallen from
20% to 17%. Germany essentially lives off the
investment made in the past.

Opinion polls, e.g. by Allensbach agency,


have begun to report agrowing disillusionment
of the German publicabout two thirds of the
people polledwith the state of infrastructure.
Compared to 2013, the level of dissatisfaction
with the amount of spending on roads and
bridges has grown by 10%.
Inadequate spending on infrastructure was
already criticized by arenowned DIW institute
(Deutsches Institut fr Wirtschaftsforschung) two
years ago. Its conclusion was that yearly investment
fell short of 4 billion. The state development bank
KfW estimates the amount of investment lacking
in municipalities at around 118 billion.
Low spending on infrastructure goes hand
in hand with the decrease of investment capital,
which in turn may lead to decreased productivity
and apotential loss of jobs as it might get cheaper
to manufacture abroad.
However, the tide might be turning. In2017,
the federal government has increased the funding
of transport infrastructure projects from 11
billion to 13 billion. The broadband Internet
is set to receive 1.1 billion more. Yet not all
might suddenly become rosy. Due to the cuts
in recent years, many municipalities have had
their capacities for zoning and construction
authorities reduced.
Aslightly paradoxical situation may thus arise;
having sufficient funds but alack of qualified
overseers.

79

Away with Nuclear Power


The energy transition from nuclear to alternative sources of energy is thought to require
550 billion leading up to year 2050, which is
15 billion ayear. These funds are mainly aimed
at development of grid network so that it could
handle transfer of electricity generated in windmills by the North Sea to the south of Germany
where the main centers of German industry are
located.

Other factors preventing companies from


investment are: expensive workforce, high taxes,
rising energy costs and very rigid employment
laws.
Contentious Measures in Social Sphere
The state tends to make life difficult for businesses with further measures pushed through by
asmaller coalition partner, the Social Democrats
(SPD). One of these measures is an early retirement reform, when one is entitled to afull pension
after 45 years of work, at 63 years of age. Experts
find this in acomplete contradiction with efforts
to modernize the pension system, notably with
regards to increased life expectation.
Another such step is the new minimum
wage of 8.5 per hour, which came into effect
in January 2015. For the social democrats it
was their precondition of entering into coalition government led by Christian Democrats
(CDU). There are many conflicting views about
how it will affect employment. Up to now, the
minimum wage had been established only in
certain sectors, e.g. construction. Critics warn
of its gradual increase and of up to 200,000 job
losses per year.
The costs of enforcing the new minimum
wage rules are estimated at about 80 million
ayear. Most of it are allocated to customs agencies
whose increased staff will be tasked with overseeing the compliance. Employers are obliged
to keep precise records of work hours and the
minimum wage paid. It might have negative
impact on employment for people with minimum
or no qualification.
The exceptions to the rule pose the problem
exempt are to be pensioners, students, employees
with less than 450 amonth and the unemployed
with side jobs.
At the same time there are two existing ambitious projects that could become sources of new
investment: energy transition (Energiewende)
to alternative sources of energy and then the so
called digitalization of economy.

80

There are two existing


ambitious projects that
could become sources
of new investment:
energy transition
(Energiewende) to
alternative sources of
energy and then the so
called digitalization of
economy.

Energy transition will also require an increased


investment from private sector. Itsestimated
volume during the next ten years is about 30
billion ayear. The sums pledged by the state
and the private sector look impressive only at
first glance. Not only is there the question for
investors of return on investment and the price of
thus generated electricity, but the whole agenda
is being met by growing skepticism from the
general public as well.
Some of the projects are still quite futuristic
and only few people can picture something
tangible. That also applies to technologies that
could store excess energy generated during
peak production hours in solar and wind power
stations when weather is favorable.

Other key investments are far more clear-cut.


That applies to increasing the capacity of high
voltage transfer grid. The issue of new power lines
seems to be the biggest liability of the energy
transition, as people in the areas of the planned
construction have raised protests. The nature of
the growing dissatisfaction can be dismissed as an
example of not in my backyard attitude. Nevertheless, if joined by local and regional politicians,
aserious deadlock may appear that could put the
whole concept of energy transition in jeopardy.
Take the increasingly vocal opposition in Bavaria,
for example, which is the key state in the future
transfer of energy from the north to the south.

by 2018. The estimated costs are about 20 billion.


While metropolitan areas are covered, much of
the countryside is still off the optical grid.
Another, this time typically German issue
we might say, arises. Broadband connection
by definition allows transfers of huge amounts
of datahow will they be protected against
apotential misuse? Will not super-fast Internet
and two machines communicating with each
other across the whole of Germany mean the
final arrival of the Orwellian Big Brother?
So, as far as the experiences with the building
of the infrastructure for energy transition show,
there are competing tendencies that may either
speed or slow down the Germans and their
economy. The current and next political representations thus face abig challenge in overcoming
these tensions.
Should they fail, the country will once again,
just like after the reunification, become the sick
man of Europe. To their ownand other Europeansdetriment.

Digitalization of the Economy


Another huge topic in Germany is the digitalization of economy, which has become to
be known as Industry 4.0. Internet of things,
the interconnection of machines and technologies will enable remote control via the Internet.
Thegoal is not only increased effectiveness and
productivity, but also better management of
human resources.
When examined more closely, it might seem
a bit far-off in a country, where the substantial percentage of companies, mainly small
to mid-sized, prefer to communicate with the
outside world via fax machines. Thanks to digitalization, the expected increase in productivity
may be up by 20%. To achieve that goal, about
half of machinery equipment has to be renewed.
Even though we can hear about the next
industrial revolution everywhere in Germany,
there is another issue on the horizon. Only 15%
of all investment into research and development
is allocated to the digitalization. To the same
end the U.S., in comparison, invests 29% of its
R&D funds.
The most pressing issue in this context for
the Germans is the investment into broadband.
When it comes to optical cable network, Germany
is on the tail of the E.U. The government manifesto
promises 50 MB/s connection to every household

ROBERT SCHUSTER

Managing Editor
Aspen Review Central Europe
Photo: Kamila Schusterov

81

Russias Economy:
AChanging Trend

Vladislav Inozemtsev

The country now enters a kind of a Brezhnev-era


stagnation, where the non-development may even
beportrayed as the much-wanted stability

Consolidating its firm position as the most


outspoken adversary of the Western values and
principles among countries that may be counted as
European, Vladimir Putins Russia now enters aquite
challenging period. Being guaranteed against all
kind of aggression from abroad both by its nuclear
arsenals and its large conventional armed forces,
with a regime that enjoys tremendous rate of
support at home due to its adventurous foreign
policy and its skillful propaganda, the country still
remains vulnerable to many economic factors. Inthe
first quarter of 2015, the economy contracted by
2.2 percent, the real wages fell 8.3 percent short
of the figures for the same period of 2014, and
the overall volume of exports was down by 36.3
percent.1 And economistsboth Russian and internationaldo not see any perspective for substantial
improvement in the rest of the year, some predict
the recession to continue well into 2016, if not into
2017. Reflecting on these perspectives, one should
first and foremost address three main questions.

generated steady improvement in peoples life due


to three obvious reasons.
Firstly, there were the high oil pricesand
not only high, but also rising. If one recalls that
in 1999, Russias oil output amounted to 304.8
million tons, while its average price stood at $19.97/
bbl, one may (by subtracting the total value of oil
pumped in 1999 from oil revenues of any consecutive year) get the actual size of Russias windfall
oil earnings. For the time from 2000 to 2003, they
totaled $133.7b, or $33.5b ayear; for the period
from 2005 to 2008 they went up to $894.4b, or
$223.6b in annual terms, while for the first part of
Mr. Putins third official term as president, that is
from 2011 to 2013, they have reached $1.3trn, or
$394.0 billion per year.2 For the period between
2008 and 2010 were the prices considerably lower
than both the peak figures for the first half of 2008
and the average for 20112013, and it caused an
acute crisis in 20092010. The current downturn
also develops alongside the sliding oil prices that
hit local lows at $43.8/bbl in December 2014, and
even though they rose to $6567/bbl in June 2015,
the economy clearly feels the pressurefirst,
because the oil in Russia is priced on the base of
the six months moving average, which means that

Why Has It Happened?


The crisis that began in late 2014 was easy to
predict in its every element. During recent years
Russias economy showed impressive growth and

82

right now Russian oil companies are paid for their


produce at around $5255/bbl, and, secondly, the
oil revenues have acritical importance for all other
branches of the economy being the primary source
of budget proceedings. Some rough estimates will
put the loss of oil revenues at around $110130b in
the whole 2015, which equals to 8 percent of the
countrys GDP. In any case, this is aheavy blow to
Russias prosperity.
Secondly, in its most successful years the
economy used to rely on agreat amount of foreign
investmentbut, contrary to the major part of
the emerging markets, the money had arrived in
Russia not as FDI, but rather in aform of commercial
loans. The explanation is quite simple, and deals
with the state control over countrys economy:
since the oil, gas, and energy sector was closed for
foreigners, there were no infrastructural concessions proposed, and the major sectors of the
economy that strongly depend on the budget
outlays were controlled by Putins personal friends,
so there was actually neither enough room for
direct investment, nor the feeling it may be secure
in such asurrounding. Therefore the Western financial institutions preferred to provide loans to both
Russian banks and corporationsand there was
abig demand for them, since the ruble appeared
stable and the interest rates on the global markets
were from three to four times lower than on Russian
domestic market. Because on this, the overall debt
of Russian private companies (both in banking
and corporate sectors) rose from $34.2b back in
early 2002 to $175.1b in 2006 and to astaggering
$653.8b by the beginning of 2014.3 By the beginning of 2014, the Russian companies owed more
money to the Western than to domestic lenders
($678b vs. RUB 18.8trln).4 The closure of the international markets after the annexation of Crimea
in March 2014 caused acredit crunch where the
Russian companies were due to repay around
$160b in debts from that time to May 2015that
amounts, if annualized, to 5.56 percent of GDP,
which caused another strong blow to countrys
economic performance.

Thirdly, the investment climate in the country


aggravated all the time from 2012, when Mr. Putin
announced his May Decrees, demanding ahuge
hike in social spending, pension financing and
allocations for the development of the military.
This caused the rise of taxes and all the states law
enforcing agencies were put to work for increasing
the amount of taxes collected. As aresult, e.g.,
an entrepreneur who paid his worker a salary
of 900,000 rubles ayear (RUB 75,000 or 1,200
amonth), was due to channel into social security
funds 100,800 rubles annually in 2009, but in 2014
the amount stood already at 216,100an increase
of 95 percent in just several years.5 Between 2012
and 2014 around 20 new taxes and duties were
introducedand the money collected was used
for the most unproductive purposes, mainly on the
rising expenditures on domestic security and on
the military (the federal outlays for the purposes
indicated in the budget as national defense and
providing security increased from circa RUB 1.88
trln in 2008 to RUB 5.17 trln. in 2015 budgeti.e.
by 2.75 times). Of course, one may hardly expect
any acceleration in economic growth if the business
community is seen only as the source of money for
the government, which can be used for its military
adventures and for the further oppression of the
opposition politicians. As the result, Russia experienced amassive flight of both capital and people
(capital flight increased from $34.4b in 2010 to
$151.5b in 2014, and the number of emigrants
leaving for apermanent settling abroadfrom
36.8 thousand in 2011 to 305 thousand in 2014).
Therefore one may say that the crisis was
inevitable: being caused by Russian leaderships
irresponsible economic policy, it aggravated due
to the falling oil prices, and became extremely
acute because of financial sanctions imposed
on the country after its aggression on Ukraine.
Saying this, I would underline the point that
the sanctions actually came as an additional
shockthe crisis would happen even without
them. The current crisis in Russia is caused by
the reliance on the oil economy combined with

83

the constantly present desire to waste the oil


revenues on security at atime when no one is
actually threatening Russia.

$20b in current dollars, or more than 10 per cent


of the New Deals funding) into just 6 projects, of
which for example the highway from Moscow to
St Petersburg has now been under construction
for more than 20 years and may well become the
most expensive road ever build. As arespected
Russian economist and politician Valery Zybov
insists, current Russian investment policy aims on
redistributing money from profitable private businesses into amoney-losing public ones, so he calls
the whole phenomena asurrogate investment
system,6 and Ifully agree with such adefinition.
Therefore the main lever of overcoming the crisis
appears to be of little use in contemporary Russia.
The second point is that the government these
days clearly decided to prefer social spending to
investmentsand this move might be considered reasonable if being introduced anywhere
except in Russia. Since the everyday spending of
an average Russian household is dedicated by
40 percent or more to buying food and by 2530
percent to acquiring everyday clothes and cheap
home appliances and gadgets, one must realize
that up to two thirds of all these goods have been
imported. Therefore the multiplying effect of this
kind of spending seems to be rather limited, and
they are unable to push the countrys domestic
growth. At the same time all this doesnt help to
accelerate the productive investment and therefore
to lay down some foundation for along-lasting
economic development.
This very fact may also be explained when one
assesses the overall logic of the current Russian
leadership. It simply is obsessed by the short-term
goalsand all these somehow are aimed on the
preservation of its own powersto be aware of
long-term challenges. The attempt at modernizing
the countrys economy therefore failed because
modernization is adramatic and expensive effort
that cannot pay off in the nearest future, and the
government seems to be preoccupied only with
todays troubles. Once again, there is little hope
the crisis may be fought with some conventional
measures.

May It Be Reversed?
Every time acountry faces an economic crisis,
its government tries to step in for softening the
impact of the market forcesbut in Russian case
it seems terribly difficult due to both the economic
structure and the ideological approaches of the
countrys leadership.
One major challenge comes from the nature
of Russian economy on the micro-level. As one
knows, in the times of crisis the governments prefer
to ease taxes and to soften the financial policy in
order to provide more money to the businesses to
encourage then to invest, to lower prices and therefore to counter the shrinking consumer demand.
This strategy actually worked well from the beginning of the 1930sbut few may understand why
it is not working in Russia these days. The answer,
however, is rather simple. To make sure money will
work one must possess ahealthy private sectorif
its in place, the government orders will create more
production and jobs. This was the case of the New
Deal policies that were so successful in fighting the
Great Depression: back then the American government spent $4.2b (that corresponds to $190b in
current US dollars) for accomplishing 34 thousand
different projectsroads, dams, bridges, airfields,
schools and hospitals) which were all build in less
than eight years by private construction companies and at the lowest possible costs. Russia these
days is simply incapable of replicating thison the
one hand, the government declines to grant the
contracts on the competitive basis to the most able
companies, on the other hand, there are actually
too few contractors who can dothe job since the
economy is too strongly controlled by the state.
Therefore the money disbursed only enriches
the loyal entrepreneurs, boosts corruption and
pushes up construction costs while not producing
meaningful results. Up to this day, the Russian
government channeled RUB 930 billion (around

84

Looking on what the Russian government had


done so far, one should compare its moves to what
it did six years ago, during the 20082009 crisis.
Such acomparison will tell everybody that the
strategy consists in just surviving the downward
spill of the crisis while hoping for the recovering
of oil prices and for the sanctions being lifted.
Asimple analysis of the rhetoric of the high-ranked
Russian officials between July 2014 and May 2015
makes it clear that they are living in an illusionary
world relying on the chance the crisis will not last
long.7 This strategy was quite successful during
the previous downturn, proving that the policy of
piling up the reserve funds proposed and realized
by the then Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin was
aright one, and should be pursued now as well.
All of the above may drive us to aconclusion
that Russian leaders are now trying to cope not
with the economic crisis as such, but rather with
its possible socio-political consequences. They
believe the real trouble with the economy is not as
disturbing as the prospective social unrest that may
unveil if the middle class together with the elderly
truly feel their living conditions worsening. Therefore the government now claws between the interests of the people and the desires of bureaucracy,
who both wish more immediate spendingeither
on salaries and pensions, or on huge and ineffective
projects. Both lines of spending donot imply any
growing freedom of the private business or any real
investment into the productive sphere that may
produce returns, even into adistant future. Thus,
Ibelieve, the absolute reluctance to reform and the
negligent ineffectiveness of budget spending will
both guarantee that the crisis will endure.

alot from atraditional one that many countries


(Russia included) faced in the past. In most cases
the crises came after asharp boom, and therefore
they had achance to evolve in aV-shape term, since
even at the bottom point people remember the lost
prosperity and are living with the hope it will soon
return. In Russia such crises were recorded both in
1998 and 2008. The 1998 collapse happened after
the economy showed first signs of revival in 1997
(1.4 percent of GDP growth) after eight years of
continuous slump (as huge as 9.4 percent ayear on
average in 19921996). The stock indexes peaked
in 1997 at the heights unseen up to 2003, and the
country placed its first Eurobond issues since the
Soviet Unions collapse. In 2008 the situation was
similarthe slump was preceded by aprolonged
boom (the growth rates in five years prior to it
stood at 7.5 percent per annum) and the RTS stock
index reached 2,487 points (these days staying at
around 950). Therefore both crises were believed
to demonstrate just some market excesses, leaving
hope for areturn to business as usual.
Contrary to that, the 2014 crisis developed
steadily, with no signs of leaving the previous one
behind. The growth rates decreased step by step
since Putins return to the Kremlinfrom a4.9
percent on an annual basis in the Q1 2012 to 3.4
percent for the whole year, and then to 1.3 percent
in 2013 and amere 0.6 percent in 2014. Seven years
after the stock market peaks of 2008 the RTS index
is traded at 62 percent below its record level while
seven years after the 1998 collapse it stood 75
percent up if compared to 1997 figures. Not long
ago the Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev famously
said that we not so much entered anew crisis than
got into another downward trend of the previous
one, from which Russia actually never recovered.8
Iam talking about this in minute details to prove
that the new crisis takes an L-shaped curve and is
now assumed as asomething normalso both
the citizens and the business community become
more and more accustomed to it. And the more
normal is the situation considered, the less active
the attempts to change it will appear; so, Ibelieve,

How Is the New Trend Sustained?


Here we come to the last big question of
whether the new downward slide in the Russian
economy will develop into stable trend, will it
endanger the regime and, finally, what the logic
of its progress may be.
My answer on the first point is adefinitive
yesfirst of all because the current crisis differs

85

Russia now enters akind of aBrezhnev-era stagnation, where the non-development may even be
portrayed as the much-wanted stability President
Putin proclaims as both his major goal and his
greatest achievement.
So the normality of crisis may become the first
reason it will not be dealt with seriously. Butthe
second reason looks much more important and
much more challenging. Since both crises of 2008
and 2014 erupted at the time of downturn in the
oil market and at the time of political quarrels
between Russia and the West (in the first case it
was alocal war in Georgia, in the secondthe
conflict in Ukraine), the ruling elite in Moscow is
trying (and will continue to try) to attribute the
economic problems to the external factors (so,
either to international financial crisis of 2008 or to
the hostile Western actions of 2014). The second
case is even more beneficial for the government
since it presupposes akind of aggression that the
West undertook against Russia (even if it looks
crazy, what the ordinary Russian dweller hears
these days is particularly this very formula). Ifone
believes that the crisis is due to the Wests attempt
to counter Russias rise from its knees and is artificially orchestrated to make Russia keep low profile,
the natural feeling will be to support ones government and to put all the thoughts about economic
hardships aside. Therefore, Iwould argue that while
the economic crisis that begun in Russia in 2014 will
definitely turn into along and chronic one, it will
not undermine Putins popularity and produce any
significant political challenges to the regime. The
Russians understand quite well that their leaders
are not to be blamed for the falling oil prices, and
at the same their national pride will not allow them
to criticize the president in atime which is largely
considered to be atime of war that the whole world
quite suddenlyand for sure without any rational
causedeclared on the Russian Federation.
Iwill reiterate: this may be the only one point
where Idoagree with the Russian traditionalist
thinkers saying that Russia is not Europe. Russia
actually is not Europe because here the worsening

86

economic conditions in ahostile international


surroundings donot count as the grounds for
opposing the current government and calling in
favor of long-needed reformsand no one should
hope they would.9 Therefore the president may not
preoccupy himself too much with the economy
and because of this the crisis will go on.
The last point touches on aforecast of the
nearest economic dynamics. Even while many
government officials insist Russian economy may
return to growth in the early 2016, Iwould strongly
disagree with such ahypothesis.
The first blow of the crisis in the late 2014
brought the ruble down from around 35 to 6770
to the US dollar, led to the collapse of the stock
market, and provoked asizeable disinvestment in
major sectors of the economy. At the same time,
however, it caused asharp increase of demand for
any durables, being seen as agood investment
opportunity in hard times. After the first shock
the ruble rebounded to 5055 to the US dollar,
and the inflation, which was projected in January
to reach at least 2225 percent for the whole year
of 2015, levelled off. The result appeared rather
contradictory: the government cut the panic while
strengthening the ruble, but it undermined its own
revenue base since the cheaper the ruble is, the
more rubles are channeled into the state coffers
from the oil custom duties denominated in US
dollars. Therefore the Q1 brought an enormous
fiscal deficit at around 812b rubles, or 4.9 percent
of GDP. The regional budgets are all in huge debts,
up to 34 percent of their revenues on average.
The Novgorod region in North-West of Russia
actually defaulted on its debt in early June, to be
followed by many others. Both the government
and business are now trying to economize, and the
citizens try to cut their spending. Therefore beginning from May 2015, the indicators of economic
expectations look much worse than the current
ones. Being faced with tough times, the people cut
their spending much faster than their disposable
incomes contract. Since the banking system is in
big trouble (32 banks were declared bankrupt

since the beginning of 2015), the middle class


will not turn their forced savings into any kind of
investment. Iwill say that after four to six months of
acomparative stabilization, the economy will feel
the effects of the new wave of shrinking public and
private spendingand this will be seen from July
and August. Then the government will respond by
increasing spending and lowering the ruble, unfortunately both processes will appear too gradual to
produce any feasible results. One may remember
that in 1998 it was afive-fold devaluation of the
ruble that resulted (alongside with increasing oil
price) in along economic boombut today the
government cannot afford such amaneuver. Therefore the economy will go along way from bad to
worse (e.g. from zero growth to anew downturn
period), which, Ithink, may continue up to 2018.
The rebound in oil prices to more than $100/bbl
remains doubtful, the lifting of sanctions is simply
out of question, and the governments reserves
will not become bigger.
Iwould argue that under such conditions the
government will become focused on social
spending, since it desperately needs akind of
popular support for the parliamentary elections
(which are already put three months ahead of
schedule on September 2016) and the presidential

ones due in 2018 (these for sure will not be called


earlier, since it would shorten Putins legal stay in
the Kremlin). Therefore no liberal changes may be
expectedand the logic of propaganda will also
force the Russian leadership to deliver either new
advances in Ukraine or sudden successes of the
Eurasian Union, both eventually being very costly.
So there will be no money left for the genuine
economic development, and therefore every new
crisis in Russia from today onwards will develop
before it has overcome the previous one. This crisis
may see slow recession that by 2018 will deprive
Russia of at least 10 percent of its current GDP,
bringing the countrys economy back to its 2005
2006 levels. Whether President Putin wanted it or
not, with his return to the Kremlin in 2012 has
Russia definitively entered alost decade that its
people will remember for long.

V L A D I S L AV
INOZEMTSEV

is aBerthold-Beitz Fellow with the


DGAP in Berlin and non-resident
Senior Associate with the Center for
Strategic and International Studies
inWashington.
Photo: Archive Vladislav Inozemtsev

1 See: I 2015 , :
, 2015, cc. 3, 4, 37 (On the current economic situation in the Russian Federation in the 1st quarter of 2015,
Moscow, The Ministry for economic development, 2015, pp. 3, 4, 37 [in Russian]).
2 Calculated by the author, see: , . : , 2014, 16 , . 67
(Inozemtsev, Vladislav. How the oil has transformed Russia in: Vedomosti, 2014, December 16, pp. 67 [in Russian]).
3 See: http://www.kaig.ru/rf/debtgdp.pdf, site retrieved June 9, 2015.
4 See: e, . : : , 2014, 1 , . 5
(Inozemtsev, Vladislav. The presentiment of default: what may be done with the corporate debts in: RBC, 2014, December 1, p.5 [in Russian]).
5 See: , . : , 2015, 29 , . 7
(Prokhorov, Mikhail. Five observations and ideas for the upcoming crisis in Kommersant, 2015, January 29, p.7 [in Russian]).
6 See: , . e, . : , 2015, 3,
. 7686 (Zubov, Valery M. and Inozemtsev, Vladislav. The surrogate investment system in: Problems of Economics, 2015, No 3, pp.
7686 [in Russian]).
7 See: e, . : , 2015, 9 , . 3 (Inozemtsev, Vladislav.
Will we live under Brezhnevs rules in: Moskovskij Komsomolets, 2015, June 9, p.3 [in Russian]).
8 See: (Dmitry Medvedev answers to the questions of
the journalists of five TV-channels [in Russian]: (http://www.rg.ru/2014/12/10/tv.html), site retrieved June 14, 2015.
9 For more detail on this see: Ioulia Joutchkova & Vladislav Inozemtsev. La logique non conomique de Vladimir Poutine : Politique
etrangere [Paris], 2015, No 2, pp. 3951.

87

MARTIN EHL

Arms Manufacturers
AreComing Back into Fashion

RA Company, the manufacturer of the


renowned passive surveillance radars
that can track even the so-called stealth
planes, has in the last year turned in the best
financial performance of the last twenty years.
And there has been no let-up in demand. ERA is
not an exception to the rule. The Czech Association of Defense Industry estimates that exports
were worth arecord 11.8 billion CZK last year.
Thegrowth in the defense sector has been steady
over the last three years and its todays volume
is four times what it was ten years ago; over the
last four years there has been increase of more
than 100%.
The Czech arms manufacturers have proved
to be increasingly competitive and, at the same
time, the world affairs have been getting more
and more complex. Nevertheless, the majority
of countries where the Czech exporters have
success with upgraded weaponry are peaceful.
At least according to the interview given for the
online server iHNed.cz. The common complaint
appears to be the lack of interest from the Czech
Army and the corresponding lack of references.
On the other hand, Polish manufacturers
can only dream about the export success of
their Czech colleagues. The majority of their
production is procured by the state and Poland
is also trying to attract modern technologies
by declaring a ten-year program of massive
upgrades and rearmament of the Polish Army.
Foreign investors are not always happy with the

88

MARTIN EHL

is the head foreign editor of the Czech daily


Hospodsk noviny.
Photo: Archive Hospodsk noviny

way they are treated though. Two major helicopter manufacturers, Sikorski and AgustaWestland, have invested huge sums into purchases
of two traditional Polish manufacturers only to
lose in the tender for the supply of multipurpose machines. The third participant, Airbus, won
notwithstanding the fact that it had barely started
building its assembly line in d.
The flagship company of the Polish arms
industry, the newly created PGZ holding, which
brings together the most important state-controlled companies in the defense sector, is para-

lyzed by waiting for the results of the autumn


parliamentary elections. They can bring about
sweeping changes in the management of the
state-run companies, and not only in the defense
industry.
Defense industry is, on the principle,
abusiness connected with the state. Different
approaches chosen in the Czech Republic and
Poland manifest well what the risks are in the
sector that has entered agrowth period, given
current geopolitical tensions.
The issue is not only whether the firms are
state-owned or private, export or domestically
oriented.
The Czech companies, privatized or built up
from scratch after the collapse of the socialist
arms manufacturing at the beginning of the
1990s, have learnt how to rely on themselves
and their own capabilities.
The Polish approach relies more on polonization i.e. an effort to master or participate in
development of new technologies. The proposal
to participate in development of the new generation of the Raytheons Patriot missiles is most
likely only wishful thinking. The U.S. officials have
indicated something of the sort but the deal
announced in spring mentions only the import of
the U.S. made missiles. Polonization also appears
to be complicated in the case of Leopard 2A4
tanks, since managers of the newly formed PGZ
have to negotiate with a number of German
companies that participate in its production. Also,
the armored carrier Rosomak built on licensed
platform of the Finnish company Patria is yet to
succeed on export markets.
The most interesting tender is the competition for asupply of drones in which the established players from the U.S. and Israel face astiff
challenge from aprivate Polish firm WB Electronics, one of the few examples of success of
the Polish private manufacturing.
Defense contractorsnot unlike farmersdo
tend to complain alot about the way the state
treats them: misunderstandings, favoritism, or

unfair (understand better funded) Western


competition feature high on the list. This industry
is highly regulated; good relations with politicians
are necessary for business at home, for export
the red tape is overwhelming. Take the tender
for pistols worth 34 million EUR in Slovakia. InMay
2015, the biggest domestic private manufacturer
Grand Power accused the Ministry of Interior of
tailoring the deal for esk Zbrojovka (CZ) along
with Austrian Glock, when Robert Kalik, Slovak
Minister of Interior, declared the two companies
as the likely winners even before the tender was
officially announced.

Different approaches
chosen in the Czech
Republic and Poland
manifest well what
the risks are in the
sector that has entered
agrowth period, given
current geopolitical
tensions.
Here it is important to distinguish between
two things: domestic state contracts and the
quality of machinery production, and of its
specific segmentarms manufacturing. Aswith
its experience in car manufacturing, the Central
Europe has atradition in arms production as
well. This tradition is the strongest in the Czech
Republic, but Slovakia does not lag behind
too much. Take the case of Grand Power, the
company of Jaroslav Kuracina, who is successful
with his own original pistol design abroad,
but not at home. It bears the evidence of the
potential in arms manufacturing. The Czech
way of privatization then appears to be as the
better way forward; as the old socialist weapon

89

manufacturing sector was destroyed, it forced


the producers to face the world competition
and to get rid of the dependency on the decision-making of domestic politicians.
The Polish colleagues have not severed their
umbilical cord with the state and its politicians.
Not only dothey depend on the contracts with
the Polish army, but on the preferences of the
current government as well. It took six long years
to consolidate domestic industry and to carry out
the idea of the PGZ foundation. What is more, it
is not even certain that this colossus with workforce numbering in tens of thousands survives
the next government.
Different history and approach of the Czech
and Polish defense contractors is also the reason
why it is difficult to bring to life any common
defense projects of the Visegrad quartet. Another
cause, described by the 2012 expert commission DAV4 report, is the fact that Slovakia and
Hungary tended to use the joint tenders to
strengthen their own domestic defense industrial

90

base, which is less competitive than Czech and


Polish. But as the last DAV4 April report suggests,
the cooperation across the defense industries
would only be possible if it were seen through
by politicians. Tomasz Siemoniak, Polish Deputy
Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, is of the
same opinion. The companies themselves, due to
the different strategies illustrated by the CzechPolish dichotomy, will not rush into any deep
cooperation and will join forces ad hoc when
the individual projects suit them.
In other words, arms industry in the Central
Europe has adecent perspective, but only separately in each country and not as adeeply integrated sector. And because only Poland has alarge
and long-term program of military upgrade, it is
bound to become amagnet for defense contractors. The close relationship between the state
and its domestic weapon makers will make the
entry for foreign competitors difficult, unless
they have the sophisticated technologies that
Warsaw covets. 

Aleksander Kaczorowski

Stalins Laughter
Milan Kundera,
TheFestivalofInsignificance.
Translated by Linda Asher,
Harper2015.
In Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev you can find
astory of how Stalin once boasted about his
hunting feats among his associates. He went
hunting and saw 24 partridges in a tree. He
decided to shoot them all, but as bad luck would
have it, he had only 12 rounds of ammunition.
Sohe killed half of the birds, went home for spare
bullets, returned under the tree in afew hours
and massacred the remaining dozen.
Khrushchev and other men did not quite
know how to react to this unlikely story. Only
in the restrooms Khrushchev reportedly howled
with rage: He lied, he lied! His companions,
washing their hands in the sink, were spitting
with contempt. It didnt even occur to any of
them that the host was simply joking. For no one
around knew any more what ajoke was,this
is how aprotagonist of Milan Kunderas most
recent mini-novel comments on this strange
story.
The Festival of Irrelevance is ahundred pages
long meditation on Stalins anecdote, quoted
above. The Soviet leader is joking, but none of
his listeners can appreciate the joke. Kalinin (the
guy who gave his name to Kaliningrad) is only
thinking about making it to the toilet in time (for
he has chronic incontinence problems). Stalin
knows about itStalin knows everythingso
deliberately, as ahoax, he is prolonging his story.
So successfully, that the unfortunate Kalinin wets
his pants.

Kundera has always had a penchant for


scatological humor. Satisfying (or the inability
to satisfy in the right place and time) physiological needs plays an important role in many of
his works. In the Unbearable Lightness of Being
Stalins son, a prisoner of war, flings himself
against high-voltage wires unable to bear humiliating remarks of British officers, outraged by the
low level of personal hygiene exhibited by their
comrade in captivity. The female protagonist of
The Joke swallows alaxative by mistake while
attempting asuicide. Awriters female friend
(Encounter) gets diarrhea when she learns about
the discovery of the communist secret police
that she let him sign his horoscopes, written to
earn him aliving, with her name (and he gets an
erection, listening to the noise of flushing water
from behind the bathroom door). Yes, Kundera
will never surprise us anymore. Butwe should
note that his last book is downright prudish.
(Except for the introductory meditation on
female buttocksattractive, for promising the
shortest way to the goal, agoal made all the
more enticing by its duality.)
Kunderas book is iconoclastic in another
respect. A few years ago the famous Russian
novelist Viktor Yerofeyev wrote the novel The
Good Stalin. Its protagonist was the authors
father, a Russian diplomat and in his youth
Stalins personal interpreter. Despite the title, it
was not an apology of the Kremlin highlander,

92

but a(successful) attempt at making areckoning


with the world in which Stalin was God.
Milan Kundera (born 1929) is an epigone
of that world, one of its last living witnesses.
Andthere is something moving in the fact that in
the book, which perhaps is his farewell to readers,
he humanizes the God of his youth. In the novels
finale Stalin, in hunting guise, is chasing Kalinin
with ashotgun. And sprays him with buckshot in
front of surprised walkers in Parisian Luxembourg
Gardens. Pissing in the most famous French park
is strictly prohibited! exclaims Stalin. And bursts
out laughing, and the laughter is so merry, so
free, so contagious, so innocent, so plebeian, so
fraternal, that everyone around also begins to
laugh with relief.
The crowd, witnesses of the writers phantasmagoria, take the man-eater and his minion for
unemployed actors moonlighting as performance
artists. Both these guys are brilliant, says the
protagonist, Unemployed []. They want to
be active. The same fate, unemployment, befell
his friend Caliban. This actor, moonlighting as
awaiter at parties, once invented anon-existent language for ajoke and since that time he
pretends that he doesnt know asingle word
in French. But his artificial language does not
impress anyone. Caliban, just like Stalin, is an
actor without audience, aprisoner of ajoke
which no one recognized as such. Therefore he
must willy-nilly pretend to be aforeigner, for
otherwise he would be exposed as afraud.
The only exorcism which would allow him
to reject and definitively bury his false identity
could be the merry, free, contagious, innocent,
plebeian, fraternal laughter of Stalin. In the last
scene the Generalissimo and his lackey with
apointed beard (Kalinin), like Jacques the Fatalist
and his master (not those from Diderots novel,
but from its stage version, written by Kundera
after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia),
climb into acarriage, for the last time greet the
audience, which is thrilled and waving hands,
while achildren choir is singing Marseillaise.

Then they slowly drift away through the streets


of Paristo nowhere. For the end of ideology
and utopia is also afestival of irrelevance, when
all choices turned out to be equally barren and
all roads purposeless.
In aworld where people no longer know what
ajoke is, they also dont know what deserves to
be regarded as serious. Caliban does not know
who Khrushchev was (although perhaps he is
only joking, because only afew pages earlier he
reacted with surprise at the sight of the former
Secretary-Generals Memoirs on the table in the
apartment of his friend Alainif he really did
not know who Khrushchev was, he would not
have been surprised). And Alains girl, Madeleine,
maybe once heard something about Stalin.
All this no longer has any meaning. The era
of jokes was replaced by the era of irrelevance.
The past is speaking alanguage that nobody
understands. The language of Caliban. This is an
interesting theme of the novelsuch an artificial
language, with an elaborate grammar and extensive vocabulary, was invented in the late Khrushchev era by astudent of the Prague Polytechnic
Ivan Havel, who called it ptydepe. This language
was used in ablockbuster theatre play Announcement (1965) by his brother Vclav, later to become
adissident and president. Kundera appreciated
this play, he regarded it as the most mature work
of his younger colleague. These plays showed
aworld were words have no meaning, or have
adifferent meaning than they seem to have, or
they have become aveil behind which reality
disappeared, he wrote in 1979. By then Havel was
already in prison, and Kundera had emigrated to
France. Both Havels heroic stance and Kunderas
migr writings had the same sourcethe desire
to recover the meaning and sense of our own
existence. Paradoxically, it was also the source
of their sense of humor.
So the main hero of Kunderas last novel probably is Meaning, wandering around the world like
Voltaires Candide; Meaning for which you can die
and kill. In the life of the novels characters (who,

93

by the way, are aware that they are only Kunderas invention) nothing has meaning. Toget an
ersatz meaning, one of them untruthfully tells the
people around him that he suffers from an incurable disease. Another is immersed in agonizing
ruminations about his mother, who abandoned
him when he was achild (this part of the novel
was published by Kundera afew weeks ago in
the form of ashort story called The Apologiser
in the New Yorker).
All this in vain. In their world the only way
to overcome the everyday routine are (like in
pagan Greece) weekend orgies (this genuine
festival of irrelevance for the societies of Western
civilization).
According to Kundera the symbol of this
world and of this change is the fashion, started
in the beginning of our millennium, for walking
around with an exposed nave. Youll recognize
the beloved buttocks among hundreds of others.
But it is impossible to identify the women you
love by their navels. All navels are similar, says
one of the characters. Under this sign we are
all, without exception, soldiers of sex and every
single one of us is contemplating not abeloved
woman, but asmall hole in the belly [], which
says nothing about the woman possessing it, it
says something about which this woman is not.
This something is of course, the fetus. Kunderas characters are in mortal fear of reproduction,
generally they donot have children, and if they
do, they are bad parents or they abandon their
offspring. Okay, but what does it have to dowith
Stalin? Well, the dissidents in the Soviet Union and
other Communist Bloc countries discovered that
self-sacrifice was away of rescuing ones individuality. They rotted in gulags and prisons, they often
paid for their behavior with their lives, but they
definitely endowed these lives with ameaning.
Kunderas characters perceive such an attitude as
an illusion, which Havel interpreted as an expression of Kunderas personal discouragement with
communism. Kundera consistently rejected the
role of adissident, seeing it as athreat of ultimate

politicization of his existence (by the way, another


great Czech writer, Bohumil Hrabal, was of the
same opinion).
Frankly speaking, Havel had no other biography
than the political and intellectual one. Kundera
preferred not to have any biography at all. Rejecting
all commitments, both in public life (for example
politics), and in private life (for example starting
afamily), although tempting, is nothing other than
an expression of the loss of faith in any ontological
order, Platonic, Christian or Communist (also in
the Westafter all, agrandfather of one of the
characters wrote praises of Stalin in Paris).
From this point of view Kunderas most recent
book may be seen as belonging to the genre of
literature settling accounts with the Communist
past, just like his earlierbestnovels. 

94

ALEKSANDER KACZOROWSKI

Editor in Chief of Aspen Review

Benjamin Cunningham

Whats Old Is New


Aviezer Tucker, The Legacies of
Totalitarianism: ATheoretical
Framework, Cambridge University
Press, 2015.
Better known for being misquoted on the
likelihood of history repeating itself, philosopher George Santayana also noted that chaos is
aname for any order that produces confusion in
our minds. Such reasoning has seen the word and
its assorted derivationschaotic, chaotically
deployed as avague catch-all term to describe
the atmosphere in post-1989 Central and Eastern
Europe. If Aviezer Tucker is to be believed that
this era was not some period of anarchy, but
rather representative of adefinite, distinct order,
we have yet to begin thinking seriously about:
post-totalitarianism.
Totalitarianismdistinct from authoritarianism in that the scope of atrocities is wider, the
rulers are seeking to transform society and culture
with coercion and the reduction of everything to
politicswas auniquely horrible innovation of
the 20th century, making its successor, post-totalitarianism, equally original. Even if you disagree
with Tuckers eventual conclusions, the forthcoming The Legacies of Totalitarianism goes along
way to dispel the conventional, often unspoken
and always flawed, thinking that the countries
of Central and Eastern Europe are mere facsimiles of the West that have fallen behind on the
continuum of historical progress.
Definitions are important here and Tucker is
quick to distinguish between various totalitarianisms. Though he touches on the Nazis and fascist
Italy, his thinking is primarily trained on Central

and Eastern Europe, where totalitarianism lasted


some 50 years and has receded since. Tucker
divides that period into two phases, the revolutionary stagewhere true believers sought to
upend the old order with violence and terror
and late totalitarianismathoroughly conservative mindset bent on maintaining the existing
system by exploiting opportunism.
Post-totalitarianism, as one might guess, is
what came next, and Tucker seeks to construct
acommon framework of characteristics inherent
in such societies. While there is apartial replacement of the elites from the late totalitarian era
(especially in media and politics), late totalitarian
elite also transform their former political power
into personal wealth. Victims of totalitarianism are
poorly compensated while perpetrators hardly
punished, and the government exercises weak
control over the state bureaucracy. Corruption
thrives, the rule of law suffers, and the still-nascent
civil society is mangled in the process.
The importance of this book comes amid
adearth of original, big picture theorizing about
this period. Francis Fukayamas The End of History
was aphilosophy of history that filled aspace
vacated by theory and philosophy during this
unique time. Elsewhere, ideological combatants
re-appropriated arguments from the past
criticisms of socialist economies by Austrian
school economists from the early 20th century,
or attempts to distinguish social democracy from

95

purer Marxism that had already codified as far


back as the 1930sas ameans of reacting to
and explaining the changes.
With the benefit of afew decades hindsight,
Tuckers work moves to begin filling this chasm
in political thought. There are some explanations
for this gap in thinking about post-totalitarianism
and chief among them is the very real intellectual
divide caused by the Iron Curtain. What makes
Tony Judts epic Postwar so very epic, is that it
still remains among the few globally accessible
texts that analyze Eastern and Western Europe (in
the old sense of the terms) on an equal footing.
Amore common dynamic is the one that emerges
from The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century
Political Thought, published in 2003. That book
includes one Central European thinker, Georg
Lukcs, and categorizes him under Western
Marxism. More pervasively, as Tucker points
out, Western academics were unlikely to have
seriously dealt with the writings of dissidents like
Vclav Havel and Adam Michnik, and censorship
prevented thinkers from the post-communist
world from keeping abreast of international
trends in political philosophy. After 1989, it was
difficult for both sides to catch up with the other
and the resulting dialogue saw people talking
past one another.
Tucker begins the book by arguing that the
shift from late-totalitarianism to post-totalitarianism really amounts to the late-totalitarian elites
adjusting rights to their interestswhich is most
clearly manifested in their rapid acquisition of
private property. Athree-chapter mini-opus on
justice, with an emphasis what Tucker calls rough
justice, paves the way to apayoff with what he
terms the new politics of property rights. Inbrief,
Tucker argues that justice is rare, and comprised
of both depth and scope. The more commonly
accepted justice is, the broader its scope and the
shallower, or less invasive, its nature. Post-totalitarian justice required action that was both wideranging and deep. Furthermore, the lack of precision instruments made it inaccurate. The noxious

combination of expansiveness, intrusiveness and


lack of precision results in rough justice. All this
leads to afascinating discussion about various
visions for property rights based on historical
and consequential theories as perceived by both
conservative and radical thinkers. This deliberation is worth the price of admission on its own.
Though the good far outweighs the bad,
breaking new groundwhich this book doesis
also fraught with risk and there are afew misses.
Achapter on the totalitarianism of todays higher

96

What makes Tony


Judts epic Postwar so
very epic, is that it still
remains among the few
globally accessible texts
that analyze Eastern and
Western Europe (in the
old sense of the terms)
on an equal footing.
education is interesting, but also feels alittle
peripheral. Those more firmly rooted in academia,
many of whom will no doubt read this book,
might feel otherwise. However, to this reader
it is as exciting as, well, listening to a friend
gripe about the internal machinations of their
workplace. Also, though Tucker correctly blames
the gap between (again, in the old sense of the
terms) Eastern and Western European thinkers
of the late 20th and early 21st century for the
scant theorizing on post-totalitarianism, there
are some intellectuals who had or have afoot in
both worlds. Though Ernest Gellner, whom Tucker
knew well, makes abrief appearance, neither
Vclav Blohradsk nor Leszek Koakowski (for
example) are mentioned in the book.
Tucker does deliver an eloquent Koakowskian

censuring to some people you might have heard


ofHabermas, Derrida and iekin a blistering chapter titled Short Circuiting Reason.
This is meant to trace the continuation of totalitarian thinking in the present, and the chapter
comprises the rawest philosophizing in the book,
which also dabbles in ethics, law, sociology and
the like. Make sure your library card is up to date
when you take on this section with references
to abevy of the new classics by the aforementioned Judt and Fukayama, Sheldon Wolin, Andr
Glucksmann, Jan Patoka and Hannah Arendt,
blended with the old mastersPlato, Rousseau,
Heidegger and Kierkegaardalong with acameo
by Reaganite neo-con Jeanne Kirkpatrick. Her
presence is bound to harm the books sales in
Central America, which is still bleeding from
Kilpatricks ideological folly.
Tucker contends there are two major legacies of totalitarian thinking; the assault on
language as away of representing and referring to the world and subversion of reason
through the systematic and repetitive use of
logical fallacies. He traces these to the late-totalitarian period when true believers were no
more, but Marxist and Leninist slogans were
nevertheless in widespread use in the form
of decontextualized quotations. In short, the
words ceased to have meaning. The affiliated
gap between ideology and reality, he argues,
was even more extreme for Western totalitarian
thinkers, as, rather than experiencing real totalitarianism, they imagined itand then, out of
necessity, resorted to more extreme attacks on
language to make up the difference. Though
specific in its target, this comes across as arationalist critique of post-modernism, and Tucker
seeks to draw attention to the nefariousness
and general absurdity of anything where up
can be made to be down and down up. In his
accounting, though asort of full-on post-totalitarianism is unique to the places and people
persecuted by all-encompassing regimes, fellow
travelers nonetheless continue to be born and

bred among us. If the war for hearts is over, the


fight for minds is still very much on. History has
not ended, or as the unconsciously totalitarian
William Faulkner put it the past is never dead,
it isnt even past.
Wittgenstein once noted that it would be
possible for a serious philosophical work to
consist entirely of jokes, and while Tucker stops
short of that, bolts of humor brighten what is an
otherwise dense (in agood way) text. Democratization, unlike puberty, can be and was reversed,
Tucker writesthough both, he might agree, are
best realized expeditiously. Later he jests about
some of the benefits of post-totalitarian living:
To paraphrase Heidegger, only dissidents can
save us now. This will be the one truly positive
legacy of totalitarianism (maybe together with
public transportation). Though they rarely doso,
Prague residents might dowell to toast Gottwald
or Novotn on their next night tram home from
the hospoda.
As anightcap, Tucker calls for aresurgence of
dissidence and dissidents in todays non-totalitarian society. He draws aparallel between two
landmark years1848 and 1968where grand
philosophical systems (and idealism) collapsed,
spurring acascade of events that eventually led
to acatastrophe. Much like in the days before the
First World War, Tucker argues, the abandonment
of truth and morality in the dissident project
has left avoid that has been filled by atechnocratic elite that not only helped march the world
into the 2008 financial collapse, but continues
to impede civil society today under the guise of
management-driven economic growth.
In post-totalitarian Central Europe the failure
of liberal constitutions to take hold along with
global recession opened aspace that illiberal politics sought to fill. Tough the times of post-1989
had apurpose, after 2008 they did not. When
the pie began to shrink for no apparent reason
and with no hope for future growth, this tolerance
declined, and various demagogues and crooks
could enter politics with asingle promise, to fight

97

corruption, Tucker writes. Readers of this journal


might recognize such patterns, to agreater or
lesser degree, in people named Orbn, Fico, Babi
and Kaczyski. In Tuckers estimation the only way
to push back is via dissidents (including perhaps
your everyday greengrocer) who resist if not
stop the trend and set apersonal example for
others to follow.
There are things to quibble about in this
ambitious book, and one suspects that it is
the quibbling-to-come that Tucker most looks
forward to. Not all the chapters will appeal equally
to all readers (at least they did not to this one)
but it makes it more than convenient that most
of them can stand on their own. Taken as awhole,

there is aprogression, and in making acase for


the emphasis on integrity in affairs of state, the
book concludes as close to truism as there is.
Politics is far too important to be left to the
politicians. Whether ordered by totalitarians,
post-totalitarians or the standard thieving, lying
egotists of todays mature democracies, the powerless possess potential power in any era. 

98

BENJAMIN CUNNINGHAM

is aPrague-based writer and journalist. He is afrequent


contributor to The Economist, Politico, The Christian
Science Monitor and Body.

Patrycja Pustkowiak

ARecipe for Religion


Lawrence Wright, Droga
dowyzwolenia. Scjentologia,
Hollywood ipuapki wiary,
Czarne2015
of this mysterious Church. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief certainly
belongs to the best non-fiction works published
in Poland this year. Wright looks at the Church of
Scientology with more perspicacity than other
authors who have written on this subject. Onthe
basis of vast archival materials and more than
two hundred interviews with current and former
members of the organization, he presents the
remarkable biographies of its two headsthe
founder L. Ron Hubbard and his successor David
Miscavige. But above all he attempts to fathom
the essence of this controversial institution,
protected by the American Constitution.
Creating your own religion is not such
asimple matter. One of the numerous talents the
founder should possess is the ability to explain
the contradictions or absurdities of the doctrine
and turning them to his advantage. This certainly
characterized Ron L. Hubbard. On hearing such
words: Well, plenty of people would like me to
hover in the sky somewhere above New York just
to bring the world to its knees. But if Idid that,
many people would feel overwhelmedand
Iam not here to overwhelm anyone, you would
not have any doubts that this man could sell any
idea, including the idea of salvation.
L. Ron Hubbard really was aremarkable figure.
To understand his phenomenon, however, you
have to understand America of the 1940s and
1950s. This was an America immersed in spiritual

Iwould like to establish areligion. This is where


the real money is. In the 1940s such aremark was
reportedly made on several occasions by L. Ron
Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology.
However incredible it sounds, he succeeded.
Theproduct of his fantasies (as well as of smart
practical sense) now has crowds of followers around
the world, with plenty of celebrities in its ranks,
including Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley
and the musician Chick Corea, and its assets are
counted in millions of dollars. But it is also famed
for something else: accusations of defrauding its
members, intimidation, physical and psychological
abuse, and even causing death; in other words, it is
accused of all that is characteristic for afull-blown
cult. So what is this thriving religious group? What
is the secret of its magic attraction, which would
seem to go against common sense? How could
one man, asecond rate science-fiction writer, find
arecipe for embodying the fundamental dreams
and aspirations of Western man, offering him
something which the German philosopher Peter
Sloterdijk calls the essence of religion? And how
is it thatin spite of repeated scandals capable of
ruining much older religionsthis religion is still
so successful almost 25 years after the death of its
charismatic founder?
These questions, and others, occurred to
the American journalist from The New Yorker,
Lawrence Wright, when he started to work on
his monumental analysis of the phenomenon

99

crisis, recovering from the shock administered by


the war to the entire world, disaffected with science
that led to the construction of civilization-threatening bombs, looking for ways of coping with difficult emotions and craving spiritual development,
but at the same time skeptical of the emergent
psychoanalysis, perceived as atime-consuming
and costly fashion imported from Europe (and
promoted by Jews), and also increasingly afraid
of psychiatry, which declared that the path to
mental health led through very invasive medical
procedures such as the notorious lobotomy.
Such asocial and mental landscape begs
for aprophet, someone who will pass over all
the shallows lurking for people craving spiritual
liberation, and proclaim anew, resistant truth,
capable of rebuilding the individual and social
system of values.
That someone was L. Ron Hubbard.
Thered-haired future messiah was thirty-four
in 1945, when (with the help of his friend Jack
Parsons, rocket fuel specialist), using magical
rituals, sexual orgies, works of the English scandal-monger Alister Crowley and above all his own
unrestrained imagination, he began working
on creating anew religion. Five years later he
published the famous Dianetics: The Modern
Science of Mental Health, which he himself
regarded as nothing less than ascientific work
of the highest caliber, explaining the mysteries
of the human mind. It turned out that millions
of people had been waiting to explore these
mysteriesthe book was rapidly climbing the
bestseller lists. Perhaps the secret of its popularity
was that despite using technological jargon and
ahodgepodge of psychoanalytical conceptions, it
in fact proclaimed asimple truth which everybody
had been waiting for: you can achieve power
and peace, for everything is in your own hands.
The clearly formulated message of the book
was: it is enough if you buy the costly package
of the auditing sessions. In the Scientological
jargon, auditing is asomewhat bizarre psychotherapy session.

Hubbard quickly realized that such treatment of society was not quite what he had
meant, because once the patient was cured, the
source of revenue would vanish. And as areligious
leader he could not only enjoy tax privileges, but
also offer aproduct for which there is always
ademand: salvation.
Psychotherapy focuses on the past and the
functions of the brain, while we are more interested in human immersion in the presentso it
is rather areligion, and not ascience of the mind,
he concluded. It is difficult to believe that transforming his specious cosmological theories into
acoherent system of beliefs went so smoothly and
brought him so many followers. In fact, Hubbard
only saw through our desires, embarrassing, but
common. Which one of us would not want to be
an operating thetan, that is someone who is able
to control reality and function without physical
support and help? Which one of us would not
want to combine business with pleasure, that is
to meet Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and at the
same time be guaranteed to achieve salvation
after death? Scientology really means putting
such very simple truths into an unusual wrapping.
The promise to acquire the skills of
controlling yourself, and in a while also the
entire world (Scientology promises its followers
the acquisition of miraculous abilities, such as
influencing the thoughts and actions of other
peopleas the famous motto has it, Scientology makes the capable more capable),
was combined by Hubbard with the modern
madness, that is the celebrity culture and aspirations of ordinary mortals to it. Thus, Scientology
is divided into three levels: between the first
level, composed of ordinary people recruited
in the street, and the third level of the clergy,
the so-called Sea Organization (Sea Org), there
is also an intermediate levelasmall number
of famous followers. They work on their spiritual development, as well as on techniques
allowing them to successfully invade Hollywood,
in special Celebrity Centers in Los Angeles and

100

From Going Clear one can draw aconclusion about


the abolishment of religion as suchapessimistic conclusion for all people adhering to some
coherent system of beliefs. In his book You Must
Change Your Life the German philosopher Peter
Sloterdijk writes: Is religion such abig deal, if the
guys from the neighborhood can found it? This
question hovers above the pages of Wrights book
like the promise of salvation over the members
of the Church.
Despite the growing abuses in the Church,
of which more and more is heard, and which
could in fact be described as violating labor
law or even as human trafficking, there is still
no shortage of people wanting to join its ranks
and sign acontract for abillion years. Wright
attempts to get to the bottom of what constitutes
its irresistible charm and makes so many people
opt for loyalty to this institution, in defiance of
common sensenamely that we are dealing with
an institution defrauding its members. Ineffect,
he creates aportrait of the contemporary Western
man, easily seduced by psychotherapeutic
language, wanting to exorcise the dark side of
himself, narcissistic and dreaming about divine
control over every aspect of life.
Perhaps, last but not least, this excellent book
will prove capable of cooling down such aspirations just abit? We may hope that besides literary
value it has acertain practical advantage. Maybe
after reading this book, we will think twice before
we decide to trust anice individual who accosts
us in the underground or asupermarket and asks
us to participate in afree stress test or to fill out
a personality test, and then announces with
apersuasive voice that he has asolution to all
the problems bothering us. 

other places important for the entertainment


industry. Mere mortals are tempted with the
prospect of meeting them during joint sessions
(which in practice happens only to generous
donors of the Church).
The recipe for successful religionas
Hubbard was well awarealso assumed the
presence of a mystery that could be graded,
allowing the followers to climb the successive
steps towards enlightenment. And he offered it
to them too. As the content of these initiations
is top secret, we have to rely on the words of the
director Paul Haggis, alongtime scientologist
who went through all of them. When he achieved
ahigh level of initiation OT III and received secret
materials handwritten by Hubbard, his reaction
was: This is madness.
But there was amethod to this madnessanew
religion known as the Church of Scientology was
registered in California on February 18, 1954.
Today, after the death of its founder, who died
in 1986 (using the language of Scientology, we
should say that he moved to ahigher OT level,
totally external to the body), the Church is still
doing very well under the guidance of its new
leaderthe sociopathic David Miscavige. He led
the institution into the new millennium, brilliantly
managing the repeated crises and scandals which
threatened its cohesiveness.
Wrights fascinating book, the gist of which
is presented here, goes much beyond simple
investigative journalism. It is in fact areflection on
the mysterious process of adopting faith. As the
author himself stresses, very few believers experience asudden, profound revelation. Arriving
at faith usually is aprocess of opening oneself
to beliefs which once may have seemed unacceptable, regardless of whether the question
concerns the cosmic tyrant Xenu once ruling over
an intergalactic empire, or Immaculate Conception. Tracing this process seems to be a very
important task in the era of fundamentalisms
and the rise of various social movementsboth
constructive and destructive. But that is not all.

PAT R YC J A P U S T K O W I A K

is aliterary journalist and reviewer, author of the novel


Night Animals (2013), nominated for the most important
Polish literary award NIKE.

101

Surrealism Rules Eternal


Jakub Majmurek
In Central Europe, every realism must be to some extent
surrealist. This is why surrealism in its most interesting
embodiments was alanguage in which artists struggled
with the traumatic history of the region

Surrealism, as we know, is aFrench invention.


It was born in Paris in the 1920s and like all avantgarde movements it was full of revolutionary
energies targeted at the social, economic and
cultural order of the bourgeois world. At the same
time, to alarger extent than any other avant-garde
(perhaps with the exception of expressionism),
it remained mired in the past. It was fascinated
with its artefacts: old factory buildings, industrial
objects, mannequins, dusty prints, folk traditions,
esoteric spirituality, astrology and alchemy, gothic
literature and penny novels.
In its program of rebellion against the iron
cage of modernity, against the constraints
imposed by modernity on free artistic, creative
and erotic expression, surrealism was strongly
indebted to the tradition of broadly conceived
European Romanticism. Just like the utopian
Romantic visions, the utopias of surrealism were
permeated with melancholy, doubt and nihilistic
resignation.
Perhaps this combination of revolutionary
utopian energies and fascinations with the
artefacts of the past, optimism of the liberated
imagination and anihilistic, disenchanted look
at reality, is the source of the movements popularity in Central and Eastern Europe. Since the
1930s it has been a language which intellectuals from the region (visual artists, writers, film-

makers, critics) use to speak about its history and


about their place in Europe. According to Piotr
Piotrowski, especially during the interregnum
between World War II and the establishment of
socialist realism, surrealism became auniversal
language of the regions visual arts, expressing the
emotions of local intellectual elites observing the
collapse of the old order, the drawing of the Iron
Curtain, and trying to imagine autopia somewhat
different than the one installed with the help of
Soviet tanks.1
Stalinism survived the surrealist episode
in this part of the world, pushing surrealism in
literature and visual arts underground. But in
the era of post-Stalinist liberalization it returned
with avengeance in another mediumcinema,
where its impact resonates to this day.

102

In the Shadow of Stalin


Let us go back to the beginning. In the case
of the history of Central European surrealism
this beginning is Prague. It was in the 1930s
in the Bohemia region that the first surrealist
avant-garde was born. Czech surrealist manifesto was signed in 1934 by a group headed
by the poet Vtzslav Nezval. It included the
painter and poet Jindich tyrsk, psychoanalyst
Bohuslav Brouk, critic Karel Teige, and painter
Toyen (Marie ermnov). Their manifesto was

announced ten years later than the French one,


but by then they all had been long active on the
Czech artistic scene. In the 1920s they formed the
group Devtsil. Under its aegis Teige and Nezval
formulated the foundations of the program of
Poeticism, a literary current which, as Nezval
wrote, did not want to invent new worlds, but
to order the human world in such away that it
would be aliving poem.2

to the same goal and following similar, although


separate paths.
At an early stage, Czech surrealists sent
aletter to the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, where they wrote as follows: We consider
it our duty to inform you that [] we founded
asurrealist group, which sets before itself the
task of exploring and developing human expression in the most versatile and revolutionary way,
following the precepts of dialectical materialism.4
The authors of the letter invoked the freedom of
artistic expression, alleging that the necessity of
this freedom was contained in Stalins speech at
the 17th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party.
And it was the attitude to Stalinism which later
put members of the group at odds with each
other and led to its disintegration.
In 1935, French surrealists led by Andr
Breton and Paul Eluard visited Prague. Breton
gave aspeech, which diagnosed aprofound crisis
of Europe in the shadow of Fascism. AsLenka
Bydovsk points out, an equally pessimistic diagnosis was presented (surrealistically enough) in
the same year in Prague in alecture of Edmund
Husserl, and that similar sentiments were
echoed by Rudolf Carnap, then working at the
German University in Praguelogical positivism,
phenomenology and surrealism met in one place
and time in their diagnosis of the crisis of Europe.5
The surrealists addressed their hopes for
resolving the crisis in one directionto the East.
Eluard wrote from Prague to his ex-wife Gala:
Ithink that Prague is our gateway to Moscow.6
But Moscows interest in surrealism was constantly
waning, due to its cultural policy of withdrawing
from all avant-garde movements for the sake of
Socialist Realism. In 1934, Nezval was invited to
the Congress of Soviet Writers and came back
much irritated, because his ideas were ignored
and he came against blunt dogmatism.
Yet it was Nezval who remained loyal to
Moscow to the very end, which was the cause
of discord first with Breton, and then with the rest
of the surrealists. The Moscow trials of 1938 mark

The combination
of revolutionary
utopian energies
and fascinations with
the artefacts of the
past, optimism of the
liberated imagination
and anihilistic,
disenchanted look at
reality, is the source
of the movements
popularity in Central
and Eastern Europe.
Toyen and tyrsk were members of
a painting movement called Artificialism, its
manifesto proclaiming adesire for poetry which
would fill the gaps between forms of reality
and [] liberate reality from itself.3 The program
of looking for poetry in everyday things and of
implementing apolitic utopia in reality bring
both these currents close to surrealism. The same
can be said about the interests of Devtsilfolklore, astrology, eroticism and leftist politics. This
allows us to look at the adoption of the surrealist
cause by the Czechs not as an act of imitation,
but as an encounter of two movements aspiring

103

the watershed here. Breton and the majority of


surrealists condemned the bloody Stalinist spectacle, Nezval in turn responded by dissolving the
Czech group and his conflict with Paris came to
ahead. After the war he became the court poet of
the new regime, writing odes celebrating Stalin.
The rest of the group were unable to adapt to the
reality of Stalinist Czechoslovakia. Toyen choose
exile in Paris. Karel Teige died of aheart attack in
1951, mentally exhausted by the press campaign
against him, accusing him of Trotskyism and
bourgeois degeneration.
Rediscovery
The 1960s thaw in Czechoslovakia involved
opening of the culture to forgotten traditions of domestic and European avant-garde.
The s urrealist tradition was most unequivocally adopted by Jan vankmajer, who started
his career in the 1960s (and is still active).7 He
speaks about himself as asurrealist and an heir
of the Rudolfine Renaissanceaperiod under
the reign of RudolfII (15761612) when Prague
was the center of European mannerism and
alchemist and occult explorations. vankmajer
celebrates this Prague and reaches for writings
of authors especially important for surrealists
Sade, Poe, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Lewis Carroll and
Horace Walpole.
Two diametrically different visions of the
world can be seen in his films. On the one hand
we have apessimistic vision of the world as an
arena of constant struggle, a(literal) devouring
of the weaker by the stronger. This vision makes
the most powerful impression in Jabberwocky
inspired by Carroll (1971), where anursery turns
into ascene of fight and cannibalism among
toys animated by apuppeteer. The other pole is
alibertine affirmation of imagination, freedom
and sexuality freed from the principle of biological reproduction. It finds its fullest expression in
the Conspirators of Pleasure (1996), aportrait of
agroup of Prague men and women, each enjoying
his or her own idiosyncratic perversion.

Asimilar libertarian and libertine spirit permeates the film by Jaromil Jire called Valerie and Her
Week of Wonders (1970). It is an adaptation of
Nezvals 1932 novel, atribute to gothic novel and
penny romances. In fabulous settings we observe
the story of agirl exploring her femininity, her
fantasies revolving around the theme of family,
kinship and sexuality. In adreamlike way the
characters fade into other people, successive
masks drop away and palimpsests of identity are
revealed. The whole work praises the infantile,
the sensual, the erotic, the irrational. The villains
of the story are figures representing parental,
religious and economic power.
According to Jonathan L. Owen, the film is not
only an attempt at reviving the forgotten avantgarde tradition, but also at taking up adiscussion
with the utopian ideas of the moral revolution
of the 1960s.8 Both these things were not well
received in Prague two years after the invasion
of the Warsaw Pact forces. The critics violently
attacked Jire, but were careful not to blame
Nezval for this filmfor Nezval, although dead
by then, was still part of the official canon.
Asimilar eruption of anarchic content and
surrealist imagination is offered by Daisies (1966)
by Vra Chytilov, afilm articulating the other
utopian ideals of the decade: the feminist ones.
This portrait of two women who are liberated
from the reality principle and enter the screen
as adestructive and at the same time liberating
force, is still invoked by feminists and cinema
historians in the region.
Daisies were adversely received in the 1960s
by the still living veterans of surrealism, who
charged the film with superficial use of surrealist stereotypes and of decorative cynicism.9
The veterans of surrealism looked much more
favorably at the films of the Czech New Wave
artists such as Ivan Passer, Milo Forman and Ji
Menzel. Alison Frank argues10 that these films,
although seemingly realist, are akin to surrealism in their fascination with the poetry hidden
in everyday life, in the ambiguity of everyday

104

objects. The focus on the object (especially an


old one, no longer in everyday use) as something
whichas Nezval wrote in his essay on Murnaus
films can touch the past and dreams,11 brings
the surrealists and the New Wave filmmakers
together. One of the main literary champions of
the Czech New Wave is Bohumil Hrabal, whose
writings are analyzed in the context of surrealist
inspirations.

His films, in which he cast his wife Ligia Branice,


exude adark sensuality. Borowczyk explores the
tangle of desire and faith, lust and prohibition,
he preaches his sexually libertine gospel. Andhe
falls into apeculiar trapthere is less and less
room for artistic eroticism in global cinema. He
receives increasingly less money for his films and
he is less and less seriously treated by the critics.
From an artist celebrated for AStory of Sin (1975) in
Cannes he turned into adirector who can be hired
to make erotic trash like Emmanuelle 5 (1987).
AStory of Sin is the only actors movie by
Borowczyk filmed in Poland, the rest was made in
France. You could venture aclaim that surrealism
is the default aesthetic code of Polish cinema in
exile. You can also see it in the films by Jerzy Skolimowski and Roman Polaski made in the West.
Both artists donot reach for props, scenery
and plot lines which we would intuitively associate with surrealismperhaps with the exception of The Tenant (1976). In their films the extraordinary is emanating from everyday reality, in
which it is enough to adjust certain elements
to endow it with an uncanny quality. Cast into
this uncanny reality are the figures of outsiders,
lost in the Western middle-class reality, such as
Trelkowski from The Tenant, Crossley13 from The
Shout (1978) or Nowak from Moonlighting (1982).
But the most interesting in the region, from the
point of view of surrealism and the political situation, are films by Andrzej uawski and Piotr
Szulkin. In the works of these artists you can see
an attempt at re-evaluating and transcending the
surrealist fantasy about an absolute autonomy of
the self or about emancipation through dreams
and art.
In Golem (1979), Szulkin tells the story of
Pernat, an engraver living in aruined building
in aworld of indefinable temporal and geographic
coordinates. To his horror, Pernat discovers that
perhaps he is an artificial human, aproduct of an
experiment which replaced the real Pernat. How
can we become liberated through imagination,
when we discover that our most intimate desires

Cinemas Third Continent


The surrealist movement was also alive in
Polish cinema. As the authors of the book Dzieje
grzechu propose, perhaps we should consider it
as the third major current of Polish cinema, next
to the Polish School and the Cinema of Moral
Anxiety.12 Moreover, you can find its traces in
the Polish School, for example the famous scene
with aPolish cavalryman striking the barrel of
aGerman tank with his swordBreton would
love this image.
Animated film remains an important part of
this continent. In the work of such artists as Walerian Borowczyk, Jan Lenica, Daniel Szczechura or
Jzef Antonisz, we find asurrealist passion for the
absurd, nonsense, poetics of the dream, anarchic
humor and aradical libertarian message. Perhaps
animationusing such techniques as collage,
bringing dead objects to lifeis amedium particularly predestined for surrealist aesthetics.
As far as cinema with actors is concerned,
Wojciech Jerzy Has is the director most often
invoked in the context of surrealism. In his films
made with Lidia and Jerzy Skarzyskis, ascenographer and costume maker, he created fantastic,
unreal, fairy-tale worlds set in an indefinite past.
He plunged his characters in them, placing them
in the labyrinths of dreamlike narratives nestled
in each other, for example in The Saragossa Manuscript (1964).
But Has is not the only surrealist in Polish
cinema. Walerian Borowczyk is equally faithful
to surrealist aesthetics in his films. He is the
boldest explorer of eroticism in Polish cinema.

105

are perhaps not our own, but they were injected


in us? asks Szulkin.
In The Devil (1972), uawski reviews the Polish
Romantic imagery. The protagonist Jakub, like Gustaw-Konrad from Mickiewiczs epic poem, undergoes ametamorphosis in amonastery. He turns into
an avenger with arazor, wandering in adistorted
dreamlike reality (as if taken from anightmare or
acheap horror novel) and metes out justice for the
enemies of Poland. But these fantasies about the
absolute sovereignty of the self, standing above
the law and society, brutally collide with the reality
principle. The devil does not offer to Jakub any liberating Faustian pacthe is amanipulative Prussian
provocateur, asecret police agent.
The authorities perceived in the movie an all
too clear allegory of March 1968, and shelved
it for many years. It is interesting to juxtapose
uawskis film with similarly bitter allegories
of the Slovakian director Juraj Jakubisko, especially with his feature-length debut Deserters
and Pilgrims (1968). This allegorical film presents
three survivors from three warsthree global
disasters: the First and Second World War and
the future nuclear war. In the last episode one
of the characters is Death wandering around
apost-radiation landscape. The landscape overwhelms it, and finally Death comes to the conclusion that people are fully capable of destroying

themselves and that they donot need him any


longer. In this way the fantasy about overcoming
the reality principle and death, articulated by
surrealist poetry and other avant-gardes (as
well as by some marginal political movements
of the 20th century), finds here its bitter, ironic
and perverse fulfilment.
In its most interesting forms surrealism in our
region has never been aset of aesthetic tropes
such as keys in heads, liquid clocks and flaming
giraffes. In its most interesting embodiments it
was alanguage in which artists struggled with
the traumatic history of the region. In this role it
still remains attractive, as evidenced by such films
as Hukkle by Gyrgy Plfi, asurreal metaphor
which is perhaps the best film about the post-communist transition. Writing about magical realism,
Frederic Jameson once argued that in the context
of such acomplex reality as Latin America, both
modern and backward at the same time, every
genuine realism must be magical realism. Perhaps
in Central Europe every realism must be to some
extent surrealistic. 

JAKUB MAJMUREK

is afilm critic and journalist.

1 See Piotr Piotrowski, Awangarda w cieniu Jaty: Sztuka w Europie rodkowo-Wschodniej w latach 19451989, Rebis, Pozna 2005, pp. 5152.
2 Quoted in: Leszek Engelking, Surrealizm, underground, postmodernizm: Szkice oliteraturze czeskiej, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu
dzkiego, d 2001, pp. 1011.
3 Quoted in: ibid., p.18.
4 Quoted in: ibid., p.10.
5 Lenka Bydovsk, Against the Current: The Story of Surrealist Group of Czechoslovakia, Papers of Surrealism, Issue 1/Winter 2003, p.7.
6 Quoted in: Leszek Engelking, Surrealizm, underground, postmodernizm, op. cit., p.23.
7 Iwrite more extensively about his artistic work in: Jakub Majmurek, Spiskowcy rozkoszy, Dziennik Opinii, http://www.
krytykapolityczna.pl/artykuly/film/20121218/spiskowcy-rozkoszy.
8 Jonathan L. Owen, Avant-Garde to New Wave: Czechoslovak Cinema, Surrealism and the Sixties, Berghan Books, Oxford 2011, p.161.
9 Alison Frank, Czech Surrealism and Czech New Wave Realism: The Importance of Objects, Kinema: ajournal for film and audiovisual
media, http://www.kinema.uwaterloo.ca/article.php?id=494&feature, p.3 (page numbers as in the printout).
10 Ibid.
11 Quoted in: Jonathan L. Owen, Avant-Garde to New Wave, op. cit., p.162.
12 See Kuba Mikurda, Kamila Wielebska (eds), Dzieje grzechu. Surrealizm w kinie polskim, Ha!Art, Krakw 2010.
13 About Crossley as ametaphorical figure of the Other and its connections with Eastern Europe Iwrite more in: Jakub Majmurek, Crossley,
Nasz brat, in: Skolimowski. Przewodnik Krytyki Politycznej, Wydawnictwo Krytyki Politycznej, Warszawa 2010.

106

Tomasz Stawiszyski

A Philosophical
Marshmallow
Walter Mischel, Test Marshmallow.
O poytkach pyncych
zsamokontroli, trans. Agnieszka
Nowak, Smak Sowa, Sopot 2015

it was external conditioning, for the advocates


of biological determinism it was the genes, for
Leon Festinger it was the mechanism of reducing
cognitive dissonance, while for Walter Mischel it
was self-control. His book The Marshmallow Test:
Mastering Self-Control, published in English in
2014, is on the one hand an attempt at acomprehensive summary of all studies in this field across
the last few decades, and on the other hand it
iswhich proved to be slightly more problematican attempt at placing these studies in the
contemporary Western cultural context.
Mischel, an American psychologist, professor
at Columbia University, has left apermanent mark
on the history of contemporary scholarship with
aseemingly insignificant experiment conducted
in the 1960s with agroup of his Ph.D.students.
The idea was simple, but also, as it turned out,
truly brilliant in its simplicity. Mischel, motivated,
as he himself explains, by his frustration resulting
from his own numerous weaknesses, including
an advanced nicotine addiction (he was athreepackets-a-day smoker) and afondness for sweets,
decided to take up astudy of mechanisms of
refraining from immediate satisfaction of various
more or less destructive desires. And to get to
the heart of the matterto the largest possible
extent avoiding any cultural influences and effects
of conscious training of willpowerhe chose
five-year-olds attending the university kindergarten as his experimental group. Then he only
had to find asufficiently intense object of desire.
Andbecause, as Mischel repeatedly said, in those

1.
Although the affinities between alchemy and
contemporary academic psychology donot go as
far as Carl Gustav Jung dreamed more than half
acentury ago, you can still find unmistakable
similarities between the two disciplines. And
Idonot mean acertain vagueness and arbitrariness of psychological theories and interpretations or their relentless volatilitythe history
of psychology is, after all, ahistory of beliefs
constantly abolishing each other, and so far none
of them has managed to find apermanent place
in this very demanding market of ideas. What
Imean is the search for the philosophical stone,
that isto use psychological terminologysuch
auniversal principle describing (or determining)
the functioning of the human mind so well, that
its discovery would provide akey for comprehensive understanding of all (or at least most)
processes in the human psyche. Of course, you
cant exclude the possibility that such aprinciple
will eventually be identifiedbut for the time
being the search is going on and the catalogue
of potential ultimate solutions is constantly
swelling. Thus, to mention afew 20th century
examples, sexually defined libido was the philosophical stone for Sigmund Freud, for Jung it was
collective unconsciousness, for the behaviorists

107

years all kids loved the marshmallows, he did


not have to ponder very long on his selection.
The structure of the experiment involved
testing the ability to delay gratificationwhich is,
according to Sigmund Freud, the basic marker of
psychological maturity. In the process of socialization, Freud argued, we gradually learn to control
our impulses, so it is one of the most important
social skills defining our mental health. Mischel
and his associates presented the children with the
following choice: you can eat one marshmallow
now, or wait for half an hour and eat two marshmallows. Although the calculation seems obvious
enough, asignificant proportion of the children
could not resist immediate satisfying of their
temptation, despite the fact that amuch more
satisfying reward was on the horizon. Andthe
ones who could control their drive engaged in
all kinds of mental and physical tricks helping
them to survive this ordeal.
Conclusions that Mischel drew from his
experiment mostly regarded techniques facilitating self-control, especially those involving the
change of mental representations of the desired
object and diverting attention from the prize.
But, as it often happens, it soon turned out that
the creators of the marshmallow test identified
asignificant predictor of how agiven individual,
capable of self-control or not, would be able to
cope with various situations in the future.

It turned out that children who at an early


stage were able to delay gratification, fared much
better in later life, in secondary school and university. They got better marks, were much better
behaved, much more efficiently and successfully
achieved their long-term goals, were more flexible
in interpersonal situations, more successfully
maintained intimate relationships, at also, last
but not least, had alower body mass index (BMI).
Searching for the answers to the question
of this mysterious relation between self-control
and personal success, Mischel reaches both to

contemporary neuroscience, and to other giants


of empirical psychology, including experiments
by Martin Seligman, apioneer of the so-called
Positive Psychology, whose concept of learned
helplessness has become, by the way, the basis
for developing several invasive interrogation
techniques used by the CIA in the war on terror.
But while this part of his book, where he meticulously recounts how the activity of the brain at
the moment of making adecision about delaying
gratification was observed and registered with the
help of functional magnetic resonance imaging
(fMRI), is areliable lecture on the achievements
of aserious scientific discipline, the interpretations of this data in the context of such events
as the financial crisis are much more arbitrary.
ForMischel does not stop at asimple description,
akind of neuro-phenomenology often practiced
by researchers working in this multidisciplinary
field. The prefrontal cortex as a substrate of
advanced mental processesresponsible, among
other things, for morality and ability to inhibit
violent impulsesis for him aclearly insufficient
destination. So he looks for the solution to the
puzzle further afield.
First he recounts the fascinating argument
about the primacy of genes over education (or
vice versa) going on in psychology at least since
the days of Sigmund Freud. And thenwhen he
proves that in fact it is impossible to indicate the
primary factor here, for personality is acomplex
confluence of biology and environmenthe
strikes at acertain psychotherapeutic dogma in
an interesting way. Criticizing the psychotherapeutic tradition for inadequate and often harmful
diagnoses, he points outrelying on empirical
experimentsthat an excessively controlling
mother, an almost unanimously negative figure
in contemporary therapeutic currents, is in fact
conducive to developing the ability to take
adistant look at ourselves, necessary for efficient
and successful self-control. Moreover, another
therapeutic dogma, namely that the ability to
fully experience negative emotions is good for

108

2.

mental health and protects us from destructive


neuroticism, also does not find empirical confirmation. On the contrary, individuals who donot
focus on negative emotions cope much better
with everyday problems. All this leads Mischel
to ageneral praise of positive thinking, of the
ability of distracting attention from stressors, of
self-confidence, as well as to an apotheosis of
self-denial and pulling yourself together when
confronted with various difficulties. And here we
are only one step away from the (so popular in
America) psychology of success, where the main
model and hero is the self-made man ignoring
hardships, always happy, and enthusiastically
building his or her well-being in the teeth of unfavorable external circumstances. In Mischels book
we now and again find such figures, and he himself
points at them as examples proving the accuracy
of his conclusions. But amysterious scratch finally
appears on this pictureas it has to appear.

For Mischel attempts to interpret the crisis


exclusively in terms of some bad decisions taken
by self-controlling and optimistic individuals.
Under that interpretation, this combination of
individual micro-moves, individual cognitive
micro-errors, ultimately lead to agigantic crash,
but it was by no means the result of bad economic
policy or the system of values intensely promoted
by contemporary culture, where individual profit
achieved at any cost is put above all else.
Completely alien to Mischel is also the point of
view developed in Western humane studies at
least since the time of Karl Marx, for whom individual biography directly flows from class,

Individuals who scored


high in the marshmallow
test, when you look
at their professional
career in the really
broad context, have not
always proven capable
of adequately assessing
the situation.

3.
Individuals who scored high in the marshmallow test, when you look at their professional
career in the really broad context, for example
encompassing the huge financial crisis which hit
the United States afew years ago (and which is still
taking its toll), have not always proven capable of
adequately assessing the situation. On the contrary,
convinced of their infallibility (it is afeature of incorrigible optimists, adds Mischel with some fondness), were often unable to accurately predict the
potential negative consequences of their moves,
and aselfishly conceived profit, the basis of their
motivation, repeatedly proved to be apainfully
too narrow aperspective. And although Mischel,
hoping to understand the failure of the project
of optimism and self-control, makes an ample
use of the publications of such people as Daniel
Kahnemann, where the latter analyses anumber
of cognitive fallacies to which all brain users are
prone, this simple reduction of the complex web of
economic, social, and political factors to psychology
leads to adeeply disappointing result.

economic and cultural conditions, while various


ideologies, including various psychological
currents, are epiphenomena of specific axiological and political contexts, and therefore they not
so much describe reality, but rather (although of
course not always) work in the service of some
already existing, by no means objective description. This peculiar cognitive constraintvery
characteristic for American psychologyis an
important drawback of Mischels book, although
admittedly he is not an analyst of complex social
processes, but aneuroscientist. Nevertheless, his
position is significant, also in the sense that it is
not aware of its own political and ideological

109

affiliations, claiming to be an objective description of the world free from any illusions.
Equally interestingand also, in a sense,
a hostage of this liberal rationalizationis
Mischels attempt at maintaining a vision of
acohesive, self-directed actor. Although neuroscience to alarge extent confirms the suppositions
of Freud, regarded as one of the main destructors
of Cartesian notions of the mind, Mischel tries to
reconcile these two mutually exclusive concepts,
looking for such techniques of mental training
which would allow for asuccessful taming of the
obvious heterogeneity of our impulses, proclivities and sub-personalities. And so, he on the one
hand admits that self-control usually works selectively in agiven individual (he quotes many examples of well-known figures who led adouble life:
fully controlling themselves in one and surrendering to the wildest temptations in the other),
but on the other hand he constantly attempts to
rescue the homogeneity of the self, looking for

methods of training the ability to refrain from


immediate gratification, and therefore to recover
the unity long lost by the modern self.
So in some sense the marshmallow test
proved to be something more than amilestone
in the development of contemporary empirical
psychology. For in terms of this testand in terms
of its various interpretationswe can read almost
all ideological arguments fundamental for latemodern human studies. Therefore we can fairly
say that the marshmallow test really is akind of
philosophical stone, but again, far from the sense
in which it was understood first by Renaissance
alchemists and then by Carl Gustav Jung. 

110

TO M A S Z S TAW I S Z Y S K I

is aphilosopher, essayist and literary critic, author


ofClashes with Freud. Myths, pitfalls and temptations
ofpsychotherapy (2013).

Wojciech Stanisawski

Oblivion and Photographs


Thomas Kizny, Gulag, with
Dominique Roynette, introduction:
Norman Davies, Sergei Kovalev,
and Nicolas Werth, Instytut Pamici
Narodowej, Fudacja Picture Doc,
Warsaw 2015
Setting Communism in its Stalinist variant
against Nazism is often thought to be controversial. Many historians and commentators regard
such aclaim as obvious, but for some researchers
and columnists it almost amounts to blasphemy.
Arguments surround even what seems to be absolutely indisputable: the scale and methods of
repression used by both regimes (although the
system of prison and slave labor camps created
by Soviet authorities, not quite accurately, but
commonly referred to as the Gulag, functioned
incomparably longer and claimed more victims
than the death camps and concentration camps
of the Third Reich).
Despite all that, the legitimacy of comparing
Auschwitz to Magadan and the Ukhta-Pechora
conglomerate to Dachau is repeatedly questioned. While not denying the existence of the
Gulag, many polemicists fear the demobilizing
or demoralizing impact of the information about
millions of victims on leftist sympathizers. Aclassic
example of such gauchiste paternalism is Jean
Paul-Sartre with his famous appeal: Donot crush
the hopes of workers from Billancourt with the
truth about the Gulag. Multitudes of journalists,
historians and lawyers scrutinized and questioned
the very existence of the Gulag, the number of
prisoners, its scale, severity of repressionand

they have never been called deniers, no bolt


has stricken them out of the blue. Attempts at
reaching the world with the truth about the existence of the system of destructive camps started
in the 1930s, with the publications of the first
reports from the escapees from the Solovetsky
Islands, but the breakthrough (which does not
mean success) came with the publication of Alexander Solzhenitsyns trilogy.
These arguments were excellently presented by
Dariusz Toczyk in his book Guag w oczach Zachodu
[The Gulag in the Eyes of the West] published
afew years ago. It is true that Gulagology has
its classics, faculties, recognized academic studies,
and even several scandals related to falsifying
sources or fame-seeking charlatans. But despite all
that, it has remained astrictly academic discipline,
aspecialization of ashrinking group of historians
of Russia under Communism, which no longer
stands achance to reach the headlines and collective consciousness.
To reach such a conclusion, it is enough
to page through afew albums from the category, popular among publishers, Photos that
Shook the World or The Icons of the Twentieth
Century. Next to the airship Hindenburg on fire,
the blissful Princess Diana and sailor and nurse
kissing in Times Square, they will certainly include

111

the poignant image showing emaciated inmates


of Auschwitz in striped uniforms staring at their
liberators through barbed wire. Soviet themes will
definitely include asmiling Gagarin, Khrushchev
at the UN pulpit and maybe agrim Stalin with
the short Yezhov at his side. But we will certainly
donot see piles of frozen bodies arranged like
tree trunks or dokhodiagas in torn quilted jackets,
pulling awheelbarrow up amuddy slope of the
future White Sea-Baltic Canal.
Achance to see the former picture will at best
be provided to us on the day when all post-Soviet
archives are opened to the last file; it is quite
rational to assume that it might happen only on
the Judgement Day, when we might be preoccupied with other, more urgent things. But the latter
photograph can already be seen todaythanks to
the determination of the people from the Russian
Memorial and the Polish photographer Tomasz
Kizny. As it turned out, not only manuscripts
donot burn (as Mikhail Bulgakov promised to
the world); also some copies managed to escape
from paper shredders and fire.
This is all the more remarkable if we bear in
mind that one of the most obvious reasons for
the disproportion of memory about the two
totalitarianisms is their different end and its
consequences. As we know, the end of the Soviet
Union was the result of degradation, implosion
and ultimately transformation of the political
and economic system. There was no mention of
any systematic bringing of Communist crimes to
justice or even systematic documenting of them
by the government, and the fate of the Gulag
Archipelago is the most striking example of that.
The work of Zuzanna Bogumi Pami Guagu
[The Memory of the Gulag] (Universitas, 2012)
published afew years ago leaves no doubt here: in
an area once proudly described by propaganda as
one sixth of the globe, the fingers of both hands
would more than suffice to count all the monuments commemorating the death of millions.
The largest and most famous of them, The Mask
of Pain, designed by the dissident sculptor from

the Khrushchev era, Ernst Neizvestny, landed in


Magadanafew blocks away from the bust of
the founder of the Magadan and Kolyma Gulag
network, Eduard Bierzin, erected through the
efforts of the city fathers.
The situation is no better with other instruments of enhancing memory. Millions of dead
people are commemorated with few small
monumentsusually put up by families or the
Memorial Association, modest self-made things,
created with similar resources (and with asimilar
aesthetic effect) as the toolsheds in the dachas...
Sturdy oak crosses (on todays Solovki, inclined
and rotten from the sea breeze) have been put
up only in the European part of Russia and in
Belarus. In the Chukotka-Arkhangelsk-Kazakh
steppes triangle, an area, where several hundred
most severe prison camps were located, is not
asingle place of memory which would name
the number of victims.
What about museums? Russia as astate has
not made the slightest effort to mount an exhibition, or even to make an inventory of or safeguard
the remaining barracks, skeletons of beds and
railway tracks leading to nowhere from sinking
into the permafrost, which is getting mushy in
the summer. In the late 1980s and early 1990s,
in afew western Siberian towns the Memorial
activists managed to put enough pressure on
the councilors to allocate some municipal funds
for building afence around the former prison
camp and sometimes to put up afew lamps and
employ ajanitor. Bare walls, located at best on
the outskirts of towns in post-industrial zones,
did not attract tour operators; and at the end
of the last century, when the political climate
changed, the authorities quietly withdrew from
maintaining them. The only place which at apinch
could be called amuseum of the Gulag, the
Perm-36 Centrein fact an expanded memorial
hall, in the recent years run only at the cost and
through the efforts of the Memorialwas closed
down in March 2015, this time on the express
orders of the provincial authorities.

112

Memory and oblivionsuch is the ultimate


posthumous split of the fate of Bergen-Belsen
and Ozerlag, Majdanek and Vorkuta, Dachau
and Salekhard. Almost as troubling is another
fact stemming from different ends of the two
totalitarianisms: photographs from German
concentration camps were usually made as an
element of post-war journalistic and prosecutorial documentation used in the courts of law.
If they originate from the period of the Third
Reich, they are instruments of cold, bookkeepers
reporting: adozen bowls, sixty wheelbarrows,
ten prisoners. Photos which survived the Soviet
gulags from the 1930s and 1940s were made in
order to proclaim the glory of education through
labor, the concept of creating the new man
developed by ateacher in the pay of the NKVD,
Anton Makarenka. Pictures made by professional
photographers were attached to reports sent by
wardens of particular camps to the authorities in
Moscowand in the liberal 1990s they were dug
out by Memorial activists either from ministerial
archives or, in afew cases, from trunks in attics.
Thomas Kizny published several hundred of them
in his albumjuxtaposing them with his own
photograms, to which Iwill return in awhile.
We are not quite ready for the impact of these
archival photographs. Knowing the results of
studies by researchers of Nazi concentration
camps, we are prepared for quite a lot: we
expect the sight of extremely emaciated bodies
of Muslims, perhaps an execution, perhaps
ahanged man, we definitely expect sights which
under the tacit agreement of publishers are not
to be found in popular books or high circulation
newspapers.
If we thought like that, we have the not
learned the lesson taught by Alain Besanon,
who in the 1970s spoke about the superreality
created by the Soviet system; he spoke about
the system being able to lie to itself, prodigally
and needlessly creating anarrative not so much
trivially propagandist, as showing the world as
it should be, that is unreal, imagined, different.

And this is how the world of the camps


looks like in the lens of Yakov Fomin, R. (full
name unknown) Erlich, a dozen anonymous
employees of Foto-Kino-Buro, appointed by the
Board of Construction of the White Sea Canal, and
even the pet of historians of the avant-garde,
the great Alexander Rodchenko, the father of
constructivism and no less talented photographer of White Sea-Baltic Canal locks, which he
framed from unusual angles. Smiling to us from
the photographic films and printed photos is
Maxim Gorky, avisitor to the Solovetsky Islands,
also smiling are members of the editing board
of Stiengazieta (composed of prisoners), labor
leaders from the Gulag, Nenets guarding other
prisoners and tannery workers, spending twelve
hours aday amidst the stench of leached leather.
Even Eduard Bierzin is smiling (for some discarded
photos were found in private collections): his big
bright eyes shine in the bearded face.
It would seem that the biggest impression
would be made by one of the few photographs
close to the popular notions about camp
pictures: in the photograph taken in 1943 in
Nizhny Tagil in the Sverdlovsk circuit, you can
literally count the ribs of prisoners reclining on
wooden bunks. The nodules of shoulders, elbows
and knees allow us to evaluate the extreme
emaciation of the hands, necks and legs of the
dokhodiagas. Photographs of so badly emaciated people can sometimes be seen, but very
rarely with the following caption: Patients in
the sanitary and prophylactic wards make use of
every sunny day. Only in the month of April 2886
persons were restored to work in the san-prof
wards and infirmaries. You need special qualifications to present agroup of dying prisoners as
convalescents or (as one of the inmates quoted
in the album recalls) to make adozen well-fed
Chekists pose in aSolovetsky infirmary. It turns
out, however, that other scenes may be more
moving.
As we discover, in the Gulag campsexcept
maybe for the last circle of hell, the goldmines and

113

uranium mines in Kolymathere were dozens


of theatres, on the one hand enhancing ceremonies and academies, on the other satisfying
the nostalgias and small ambitions of higher
ranking functionaries, whoas prisoner Grigory
Litynski recallshabitually go to the theatre
every evening like to arestaurant. They listen
to their favorite arias and return to the diner,
where they quench their thirst with champagne.
Performing on the stage were the best actors
from Moscow theatres, hunted by scouts in
halfway camps, rescued from the mines or treefelling, but escorted back to the barracks after
the performance.
What the audience saw on stage was agitprop
and, what asurprise, Gorkys The Lower Depths,
satirical couplets about the camp kitchen were
sung, while an illusionist and afemale contortionist presented their tricks during the interval.
But as luck would have it, the best photos in the
section Theatre in the Gulag illustrate several
vaudeville performances with the participation
of astarValentina Tokarska.
The first one is a close-up shot from the
operetta Mamzelle Nitouche by Herv (Florimond Rongere) from 1883. Mamzelle in ahat
with ostrich feathers, strong makeup and pearls
is courted by four gigolos. The make-up artist
had done abetter job with them than with her:
they look like four brothers in identical racing
jackets and top hats, with moustaches, blackened
eyebrows and slightly haughty, distant smiles
of lordlings from aParisian good family, who
went whoring.
The second framethis time it is acollective scenedocuments the final scene of the
operetta Violet of Montmartre by Imre Klmn.
Two pairs of soloists are surrounded by acrowd of
smiling soubrettes, harlequins, sailors, fairies and
Pierrots. The harsh light of the flash very clearly
shows the narrow ribbons of streamers, clouds
of powder, fancy haircuts of humanized faces of
cats in pointed hats and flanges, and finally the
satin of the raised curtain.

The caption under both photographs is


Vorkuta 1946. And that is when we begin
to imagine how life might have looked in the
Republic of Sal.

114

Thomas Kizny did agigantic work as adocumenter, reaching dozens of private and institutional collections to acquire, reproduce and
describe photographic films from several decades
ago. The second part of the challenge he was
faced with was even more daunting: how can you
supplement and visually comment on the scene
from Mamzelle Nitouche and dokhodiagas on
abier, when there is and probably will be no new
collection or testimony: the museum is gone, the
archives are closed again, the last witnesses are
reaching the end of their days?
The photographer chose perhaps the most
elementary move, considering that the human
mind has always been fascinated by parallelism:
we have all kinds of parallel lives and parallel
histories. Whenever possible, Kizny tried to stand
in the same place where the reporter from the
1930s had stood. And he did not aspire to have
aperfect frame like Marcin Dziedzic, one generation younger Polish photographer, who last year,
on the 70s anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising,
prepared several photomontages, very precisely
superimposing photographs of well-known
Warsaw streets from August 1944 and the summer
of 2014 (www.teraz44.pl). The documenter of the
Gulag allowed himself to move afew steps away,
to climb into atruck and helicopter.
First he looked at the faces. But not at the
faces of inmates from that time: only eye-sockets
and jaws remained of them. Alluding to the
poignant images of Solovki prisoners, the Gulag
mugshots (Viktor Fedorovich Khorodchinsky,
born in 1913, poet; arrested at the age of fifteen,
prisoner of Solovki camp in 19291931, one year
after his release again imprisoned in Solovki,
executed in 1937), Kizny photographs todays

inhabitants of Yermakov on the Yenisei, Magadan,


Medvezhyegorsk on the White Sea Canal. Inhabitants-cum-victims, for everybody is avictim, not
only Anastasia Timofeyevna Kalinina (aretired
mooring officer in the tenth lock. She was fifteen
when her family was deported from the Ukraine to
work on the construction of the White Sea Canal.
She spent all of her life in ahousing estate by the
ninth lock), but also Vitaly Petrovich Alexandrov,
head of the Board of the White Sea Canal in his
office with an impenetrable face: the top of his
large desk shines like asheet of ice.
Above all, however, Kizny tried to focus his
camera on what remains now. It is very difficult
to photograph nothingness; decay is only slightly
easier to photograph. We will find both in the
The Gulag album: in the Solovetsky monasteries
an icon of Christ and the facade of abuilding
(previously housing the Management Board of
Solovki Special Purpose Camp, situated in the
Gulf of Good Lucka more adequate name
could not be found!) are crumbling with the same
rustling of paint flakes. The immense ranges of
the Chersky Mountains are covered with snow,
year by year, while the few remnants of the mine
shafts, wagons and prison bars are corroding,
and thereby re-joining the unhurried cycle of the
world of minerals: the landscape, empty as far
as the eye can see, no longer contains anything
human. This is the choice available to the memory
of the Gulag: it rots or vanishes. It rots in anonymous, lichen-covered villages, among rubbish
dumps, scraps of tar paper, rotting woodor
vanishes together with the last brick building
crumbling into the waves of the North Pacific, with
the embankment swallowed by marshy tundra.
Photographing the last shreds of the
Gulag, Kizny is aware of the incredible memory

disparities between the Kolyma and Auschwitz.


Heknows that he is unable to overcome them:
he photographs places which COULD become
icons of the system, if history of the world took
adifferent path: apile of mens shoes mentioned
at the outset, cast iron beds on which, in order to
save space, three persons at the time were dying,
aswing overlooking the prisoners barracks, on
which Sopka, daughter of the camp commander
Captain Maleev, was playing.
But who knows, maybe the most impressive
is Kiznys photo-report from the Road of Death:
the Salekhard-Igarka Railway built for eight years
and abandoned as absolutely unviable afew
weeks after Stalins death. Engines and carriages,
half sunk in the mud loom in the lush tundra,
were in the 1950s carried from the cargo decks
of ships to the tracks on the shoulders of prisoners. Theembankments and stations completely
melted away in the mud: on photographs taken
from ahelicopter you can see the line of the
tracks by tracing aband of thinner vegetation.
But the barracks have been remarkably well
preserved: birds-eye-view photos show how
the slanted arctic light casts strange, oblique
shadows of leafless birch and aspen. This view
seems surprisingly familiar, but it takes amoment
for the memory to suggest aclue: this is similar
to photos of Siberian forests scythed by the fall
of the Tunguska meteorite. Tomasz Kizny did his
best to photograph adifferent disaster, which
was, however, equally cosmic in its scale. 

W O J C I E C H S TA N I S AW S K I

is historian of Russia and the Balkans, columnist of the


Rzeczpospolita daily.

115

Letters
In response to:
Revisionism and Resurrection from 4/2013 issue

To the Editors:

Peter Jukess review of my work of literary


nonfiction, Journey Into the Backwaters of the
Heart, titled Revisionism and Resurrection,
published in Aspen Review, opens with apersonal
attack, claiming that Ihave no conscience. The
review continues to read as adiatribe, culminating with aparticularly virulent attack on the
postwar Lithuanian resistance leader, Juozas
Luka, which is not based on any actual evidence.
Jukes discredits the body of my work based on
the claims he makes against Luka, who died
more than half acentury ago.
Jukes loses credibility from the very first
sentence of his review by writing the title of my
book incorrectly. He then reduces my four years
of work during the time Iwas aFulbright scholar,
researching and writing Journey into the Backwaters of the Heart, to random encounters. Jukes
claims that Ipresent peoples personal stories as
historical fact. This is not true. My goal was to write
down the stories of the voiceless, the disenfranchised, the victims of two foreign occupations,
the Soviet occupation of Lithuania, and the Nazi
occupation. Istate my intentions clearly. Idonot
claim to be ahistorian weaving historical theory
based on interviews conducted with people in their
twilight years on events that took place in their
youth. My work is ethnography and oral history.
Irecord the experiences of survivors, but donot
twist their words in order to reinterpret historical

events. By claiming that my book is not carefully


researched and written, Jukes is arrogantly dismissive of my work. He continues to take this polemic
tone throughout the review without offering any
concrete evidence or sources to back up his statements.
Jukes contends that Holocaust survivors, like
Paulina Zingerien, who have found peace and
reconciliation despite their suffering, and who
refuse to perceive themselves as victims, are Holocaust deniers. When Iinterview aperson, Idonot
have any preconceived ideas about what they
will say, or should say, in the interview. Certainly,
Idonot influence them to espouse aparticular
position. To insinuate that Ihad an agenda by
interviewing aHolocaust survivor who believes in
reconciliation based on her personal experience
is an attack on my honor and the honor of the
subjects of my interviews.
My intentions conducting interviews for
Journey into the Backwaters of the Heart were not
divisive, and certainly were not to twist facts
in order to deny the Holocaust, as Peter Jukes
boldly claims. It was my intention to present the
experiences of many different groups of people
in Lithuania who lived through both occupations,
and to open up the dialogue of anations shared
suffering. Jukes makes the deeply cynical claim:
But how accurate are the wider claims. How many
of these self-sustaining narratives have become
self-serving since independence? The people
interviewed in Journey into the Backwaters of the
Heart are not vocal activists in the Lithuanian

116

June 16, 2015

KGB that the real killer connected with the killing


of Jews in the Lietukis garage, the man with the
iron bar, was Algirdas Antanas Pavalkis, who was
an agent of Gestapo, codename Anton and also
an agent of the MGB, codename Petras.
Juozas Luka was known as one of the most
prominent post World War II resistance leaders in
Soviet occupied Lithuania. During the first occupation by the Soviet Union in 194041 he was astudent
of Architecture at the University of Vytautas the
Great in Kaunas. For his suspected underground
activity he was caught and imprisoned in April, 1941.
He and other political prisoners, just before Nazi
Germany invaded Lithuania, broke out of the prison
on July 24, 1941. Completely physically exhausted,
he was met at the prison by his brother Antanas and
Juozas classmate, who accompanied him to their
home in the village of Juodbudis where his worried
family was waiting for him. He never stepped into
the Lietukis garage, nor did he participate in any
other murderous incidents elsewhere. Soon after,
he joined the anti-German resistance.
After the return of the Soviet occupation of Lithuania in 1944, he joined the underground movement
against the Soviets, which later developed into the
armed resistance. In 1947 and 1948 he was sent by
the Lithuanian resistance movement to the West with
aspecial missionto let the free world know about
the existence of armed resistance forces in Lithuania
against the Soviet occupation, and about the cruel
life under the yoke of her oppressors. Imet him when
he was in the West, and we were married July 23,
1950. Soon after he accomplished his mission he was
parachuted back into Lithuania with the help of the
American CIA to rejoin the barely surviving ranks of
the Lithuanian freedom fighters. Upon his return he
was intensively pursued by the Soviets and finally was
lured into atrap and killed on September 4, 1951.
My mother, Konstancija Braeniene, and my twin
sister knew Juozas and his brothers as students living
in the neighborhood of our home as young men with
high morals, hardworking and studious. In 1943,
when the Kaunas ghetto was slated to be closed
and all the Jews were transferred to concentration

press. They are simple people living quiet lives


who rarely speak of their past, but who agreed
to speak with me and trusted me to tell their
stories accurately.
Jukes writes: Luka was undeniably an active
member of the Lithuanian Action Front, which
instigated pogroms and mass killings of Jews.
Jukes discredits the validity of my book based on
aclaim that the resistance leader Juozas Luka was
one of the instigators of the Lietukas Garage affair.
He does not provide any evidence to back his claim.
The following letter, written by the widow of Juozas
Luka, Nijole Brazenaite-Luksiene-Paronetto, to Mr.
Efraim Zuroff, Director of Simon Wiesenthal Center
in February 2008, which remains unanswered,
sheds some light on the accusations against Juozas
Luka that Jukes is referring to.
Recently, Iwas informed of the existence in
the web site of the Association of Lithuanian Jews
in Israel, along list of names listed as murderers
of Lithuanian Jews. To my horror and disbelief the
name of Juozas Luka, my late husband, who was
killed by the Soviets on September 4, 1951, was
present among others and described in the following
manner: Acruel sadist. At the right: (photograph of
aman standing with an iron bar in his hands and
several bodies lying on the ground). The murderer
as Hero of the Massacre of 68 innocent people at
the garage of Lietukis in Kaunas on June 27, 1941.
Atthe left: (photograph of Juozas Luka holding
arifle) eight* years later after participating in the
slaughter of thousands of Jews in Kaunas and
elsewhere. Was killed in 1951. (*Eight years later,
in 1949, Juozas Luka was in the West, and this
photograph was more likely taken approximately
five or six years later, not eight.) The man standing
with an iron bar in his hands has not even aremote
resemblance to the man pictured on the left. This is
an obvious case of mistaken identity. The real Juozas
Luka was totally different in appearance from the
man with the iron bar, and had nothing to dowith
the horrific acts of massacre at Lietukis garage nor
elsewhere. It is documented in the archives of the

117

camps by the German regime to be exterminated, my


mother and my brother Mindaugas Brazenas saved
two Jewish children: five-year old, Sarah Shilingovsky
(Capelovitch), and nine-year old, Alex Gringauz, and
kept them hidden in our home in Aleksotas. She also
helped Dina Baronaite-Steinberg and others, risking
her own life and that of her family members. Sarah
lives in Israel Alex in USA Dina died in Israel. Both
children later created happy families, and became
professionals with PhD degrees. We remained in
aclose and loving relationship. For unselfishly saving
the lives of these children and helping others my
mother was awarded the Yad Vashem Medal of the
Righteous Among the Nations and the Certificate of
Honor. Adescription of her deeds appeared in the
book HANDS BRINGING LIFE AND BREAD published
by the Jewish Museum of Gaon in Vilnius, 1997,
Vol.1, pages 1619. The President of the Republic of
Lithuania awarded her and her son Mindaugas the
Life Saviors Cross.
My late husband Juozas Luka, in this instance
is avictim of atotally unjust accusation based on
acomplete misidentification. What kind of reason
or purpose does it serve to accuse acompletely
innocent person who was killed by the communists
58 years ago and cannot raise himself from the dead
to defend himself? Iunderstand your determination to bring to justice everyone who was involved
in these horrific acts against humanity however,
Icannot accept that such an accusation is made
against the innocent persons who gave their lives
fighting for the freedom of Lithuania and cannot
defend themselves.
In the name of my mother and the motherin
law of Juozas Luka, who risked her own life and
that of her family by saving those innocent Jewish
children from extinction, and also helped other Jews
during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania, Idemand
that the name of my late husband Juozas Luka be
removed from your list.

from the Russian reinvasion before Luka was


smuggled back into Lithuania as part of aCIA
plan to discover Soviet plans for attack. If he had
read the chapter, he would have read that Luka
and Nijol met in Paris in 1949 after Luka broke
through the Soviet border to Poland, from there
making his way to the West. Clearly, Jukes is not
qualified to comment on Soviet history because
he writes that Luka wrote to Nijol from the
Soviet Union while conducting his CIA mission
there. This type of correspondence would simply
not have been possible at that time because of
stringent Soviet censorship.
In summary, Peter Jukess review of my work
is not based on research, evidence, or knowledge
of the region. It appears that Jukes has used Aspen
Review as his proverbial soap box to espouse
his agenda, which is not actually related to any
objective evaluation of my work. It is also noteworthy that since Jukess review was published in
Aspen Review it has been republished by Jukes in
anumber of Internet sites that espouse extreme
views.

LAIMA VINCE

has published three works of literary nonfiction and anovel.


Her play, The Interpreter, is currently in the repertoire of the
Vilnius Chamber Theatre in Vilnius, Lithuania. Currently
she is the Head of the English Department attheAmerican
International School in Hong Kong.

When referring to the chapter on Luka in


Journey into the Backwaters of the Heart, Jukes gets
his facts wrong. He writes: The couple escaped

118

Laima Vince Does Us Both


an Injustice
Peter Jukes

She does me an injustice by assuming Ihad


any agenda while reading her book which, as
Iexplained in the review, Ienjoyed as awork
of ethnography and oral history. It was only
after I finished the book that I did some fact
checking on some of its central figures. Iwas
frankly shocked and bewildered to discover
that Juozas Luka had been named by three
prominent British parliamentarians from all three
main political parties as aperpetrator of atrocities
during the Holocaust in 2011 (seehttp://www.
parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/2161).
As Ms Vinces response shows, she does herself
an injustice by claiming she has no interest in
historical facts, only personal reminiscence.
She must have been aware of the controversy
aroundLuka. Hiswidow,Nijole Brazenaite-Luksiene-Paronetto, is acentral figure in the book.

Sheclearly knew about the claims around the


pogrom at theLietukas Garage as her citation of
the letter above shows, and must have known
about this before she began writing. To exclude any
discussion of this fromBackwaters of the Heartis
either an oversight of mind-numbing ignorance,
or adeliberate attempt to erase history.
Others can now read the background
on Luka and make their own judgements.
Butimpugning my personal motives, or writing
retaliatory reviews of my books on Amazon.
comas Ms Vince has since done, is really not
appropriate to asubject so historically grave and
now politically important.
Peter Jukes
21 July 2015
London

119

No 3 | 2015

3 | 2015

Index: 287210

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EDUCATION

Thinking and Skills


Frank Furedi, Marcel Gauchet, Jan Sowa, Aviezer Tucker, Michael antovsk

History on Trial
An interview with Lev Gudkov

Ukraine: The First Postcolonial Revolution


Ilya Gerasimov
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POLITICS Divining Putins Intentions Valenta with Friedman Valenta | Simulated Democracy? Ditchev
ECONOMY Euro, I Find You Very Attractive. Yours, Lithuania. Mauricas | The Use of EU Funds in Poland Kozak
CULTURE Surrealism Rules Eternal Majmurek | Stalins Laughter Kaczorowski