Ivan Krastev

Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Permanent Fellow at the Institute for Human Science, Vienna, and a New York Times contributing writer. Together with Stephen Holmes, author of The Light that Failed: How the West Won the Cold War and Lost the Peace (Allen Lane, 2019).

Articles

Cover for: ‘The future was next to you’

‘The future was next to you’

An interview with Ivan Krastev on ’89 and the end of liberal hegemony

Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes argue that illiberalism in central eastern Europe today is part of a global contestation of western liberal hegemony. In an interview with Eurozine, Krastev elaborates on this thesis, discussing what happened to the hopes of ’89, why dissidence cannot be equated with anti-capitalism or even liberalism, and why explaining the new authoritarianism as a backlash against the ‘imitation imperative’ is not to trivialize its ideological substance.

Cover for: Explaining eastern Europe

Explaining eastern Europe

Imitation and its discontents

For countries emerging from communism, the post-1989 imperative to ‘be like the West’ has generated discontent and even a ‘return of the repressed’, as the region feels old nationalist stirrings and new demographic pressures. The origins of illiberalism in central and eastern Europe are emotional and pre-ideological, rooted in rebellion at the humiliations that accompany a project requiring acknowledgment of a foreign culture as superior to one’s own.

Cover for: Utopian dreams beyond the border

If the financial crisis divided the EU between creditors and debtors, opening a gap between North and South, the refugee crisis re-opened the gap between East and West. What we witness today, writes Ivan Krastev, is not what Brussels describes as a lack of solidarity, but a clash of solidarities: national, ethnic and religious solidarity chafing against our obligations as human beings.

History is replete with examples of how the political logic of disintegration sets in. But is the European Union next in line? You can be sure that it is, writes Ivan Krastev, so long as the European project remains a haven for elites over which people have no control.

illustration by Anna krzton

Both parties in the debate surrounding France’s ban on wearing a full-face veil in public appeal to European values. It is this, writes Ivan Krastev, that makes the discussion between Martha Nussbaum and Alain Finkielkraut on the nature of tolerance so relevant.

Cover for: The global politics of protest

The new wave of revolutionary politics, from the Arab Spring to the Turkish Summer, is an insurgence against representative democracy that offer no alternatives, writes Ivan Krastev in a new book. Is protest really a better instrument than elections for keeping elites accountable?

Almost overnight, Ukraine ceased to be a “kingdom in the middle”. Now there are only three options left, writes Ivan Krastev: sign the agreement with the EU, as the majority of Ukrainians want; join Putin’s Eurasia, as the endangered political elite desire; or go bankrupt.

The Great Hall Of The People in Beijing, China at night

Power rotation, listening to the people, tolerance of dissent, recruitment of elites and experimentation: the truth is that, in all of these respects, China is more democratic than Russia. And China’s decision making is undoubtedly superior too, argues Ivan Krastev.

Cover for: The transparency delusion

Disillusionment with democracy founded on mistrust of business and political elites has prompted a popular obsession with transparency. But the management of mistrust cannot remedy voters’ loss of power and may spell the end for democratic reform.

Cover for: The European dis-Union

The European dis-Union

Lessons from the Soviet collapse

Too big to fail? Too crisis-hardened to go under? The collapse of the Soviet Union has something to teach Europe’s politicians if another leap from the unthinkable to the inevitable is to be avoided in the case of the EU, argues Ivan Krastev.

Cover for: The sense of an ending

Blatantly rigged elections are the easiest way for the Putin regime to mimic the authoritarian power it does not possess. December’s protests destroyed Putin’s reputation of being in control; even genuinely competitive elections would be unable to restore his legitimacy.

Democratic deficit, enlargement fatigue and ever more rescue funds: is there still a future for a common Europe? In a discussion in Eurozine’s series “Europe talks to Europe”, prominent intellectuals and opinion makers from western and eastern Europe diagnosed causes for the current malaise of the EU.

Gleb Pavlovsky, the Ukrainian-born former dissident turned “political technologist”, abruptly fell out with the Kremlin in April, reportedly over “indiscreet comments” made about the 2012 presidential elections. In interview with Transit a short while before, Pavlovsky gave a revealing inside view of the workings of political power in the former Soviet Union and in post-Soviet Russia.

Russia’s authoritarian regime owes its tenacity to the reversal of two central communist precepts, writes Ivan Krastev. First, its abandonment of the ideology of public interest prevents it being measured against its own standards. Second, its policy of open borders diffuses protest potential from a dissatisfied middle class.

How should the West react to Russia’s unrestrained pursuit of national interest? A policy of engagement defined as a focus on national interest, and a radical turn from value-based foreign policy to nineteenth century Realpolitik, is not a workable option for relations between Russia and the West, argues Ivan Krastev.

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