Death by stalemate: how terminal splits down the middle of electorates favour authoritarian interference; why democratising the ‘biosphere’ is not about conservationism; and François Fejtő’s thought before and after communism.
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What would you take with you, time permitting, if forced to flee your home? Keepsakes – once sent across distance by migrant family members, documenting key moments of life, and even death – gain new significance when returning is no longer an option.
Born into a cosmopolitan Jewish family, Ferenc Fejtő lived a turbulent youth as a Marxist and social democrat in Horthy’s Hungary. Having fled just before the fascist rise to power, he led a more comfortable life as a journalist and historian of eastern Europe in Paris, remaining within the left even after his disillusionment with communism.
Bulgaria will go to the polls on 2 April for the fifth time in two years, without there being any prospects of a resolution to the stalemate between liberal and pro-Russian forces. Caught in permanent election mode, the country is becoming increasingly isolated from Europe, while authoritarian influences gain ground.
A reply to James Miller
A reductionist definition of democracy as ‘people power’ fails to grasp democracy’s political evolution as guarantee against tyranny. Giving a voice to the biosphere extends this principle and is not to negate democracy’s own conditions.
North Macedonia’s choice to support Ukraine has exposed it to intensified hybrid attacks. But internal divisions and festering disputes with neighbouring Bulgaria create a fertile ground for Russian interference, feeding existing resentment and a sense of encirclement.
Held hostage to the Russian veto, the UN has gradually abandoned the Syrian population. Russia’s war in Ukraine worsens the situation still, but also offers hope for democratic forces in Syria that their tormentors will one day be brought to justice.
The war crimes charges brought by the ICC against Putin are a breakthrough. But built-in safeguards of national interest, combined with an incomplete patchwork of mechanisms and jurisdictions, mean a long way ahead before Russia is prosecuted under international law for the crime of aggression.
Sexual violence is being used systematically by the Russian military in Ukraine to achieve the political goals of the Russian leadership, and is not just the result of ‘indiscipline’ or abuse of power.
Well-intentioned appeals from the collective West to encourage cultural dialogue between victim and aggressor reflect existing power structures. Reconciliation, Kateryna Botanova explains, cannot be imposed from outside.
Old age and loneliness in the Romanian countryside
In a rural village in northwestern Romania, church bells ring ever more rarely and memories are the only refuge from loneliness. The few inhabitants are the last witnesses of a dying way of life, but their stories and experience reveal something universal.
Ever since the French Revolution, all modern regimes that have claimed to be democracies have rested on some form of people power. Can we really be so sure of the principle that divides the democratic ‘us’ from populist ‘them’?
The responsibility for family and home, often while holding down a job, is still largely considered women’s work. When crises strike and recession looms, those in precarious jobs tend to suffer the most. In Italy, the burden of economic fallout has fallen on female shoulders. But women’s acumen is behind a turnaround.
Britain’s royal family seeks to preserve the myth of the ‘neutral monarchy’ by blocking access to the archives. But as historians of the Commonwealth further investigate Britain’s colonial past, Buckingham Palace will not be able to maintain its tight control of the historical narrative.
On the interventions of Gáspár Miklós Tamás
An anarchist philosopher turned right-leaning libertarian and anti-capitalist critic of the illiberal order, Gáspár Miklós Tamás (1948–2023) embodied what east European thinkers have tended to be best at: making paradoxes intelligible.
Voters have always overlooked breaches of democratic principle as long as they are getting what they want. This mattered less when politicians held each other in check. But with the tribalisation of public debate, democratic gatekeeping breaks down.