The world in pieces119 articles
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Clifford Geertz predicted that the world would be characterized by ‘deep diversity’, ‘a sense of dispersion, of particularity, of complexity and of uncenteredness’ rather than unified world order, as stipulated by the then consensus.
In an age of identity politics and culture wars, Geertz’s insights sound even more powerful today than they did at the time. According to the American anthropologist, our task is ‘to penetrate the dazzle of the new heterogeneity’ and analyse the paradox that confronts us: the world is both more global and more divided than ever in human history. The sense that we find ourselves in ‘a scramble of differences in a field of connection’ is even more immediate, as is the realization that there is a multiplicity of alternative, sometimes conflicting and clashing, visions of the good.
This focal point, inspired by a lecture that Geertz delivered in 1995 at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, summarized in the institute’s magazine, will engage with these issues. It follows the launch of a research programme of the same name at the institute in January 2023, coordinated by Clemena Antonova.
The collection of essays is an extension of earlier focal points ‘Eurasia in Global Dialogue’ (2018-2023, led by Clemena Antonova) and ‘Russia in Global Dialogue’ (2012-2018, led by Tatiana Zhurzhenko). Further texts have been contributed by journals in the Eurozine network.
Thoughts and warnings from Russia’s first imperial collapse
The ‘decolonizing’ turn in historiography emphasises culture over politics, overlooking anti-imperialism’s frequent descent into authoritarian nationalism. So how can critical histories of the Russian empire account for nationalist deformations?
Capitalism is no longer a shining beacon: once influential countries are on the verge of becoming third-world economies; developing powers no longer aspire to the West’s visions of progress. Could a viable alternative, avoiding complete environmental devastation, be found in relinquishing fixations on the past and utopian ideals?
Ongoing discourse about a collective Belarusian identity since the 2020 protests tend to circle around nationalism. Those who oppose the regime and managed to escape are calling for horizontal societal structures, in solidarity with those imprisoned. Belarusian culture is more than language; it includes human rights, economic interests and everyday narratives.
During the Second World War, Pope Pius XII failed to recognize the plight of victims. Today, Russia’s Patriarch Kirill supports the Kremlin’s ‘special military operation’, denouncing liberal rights, especially those of LGBTQ+ communities, and, consequently, Ukraine’s majority Orthodox Christian community.
While Zelensky calls for Ukrainian civilians to flee eastern Donetsk, under ongoing attack from Russia’s military, Putin maintains that his forces are liberating the region. Propaganda that turns conflict into salvation denies the evidence of war crimes on frontlines. But what lies behind this denial? And how can it be overcome?
Penal colonies and mysterious deaths of political opponents are still part of Russia’s political machinations today. Remembrance and documentation are criminalized, as the case of Memorial shows. And yet, there is a lot to explore and memorialize – for instance, the thousands of people slaughtered in Sandarmokh forest, Karelia, during Stalin’s Great Terror.
The many names of Chernivtsi in Ukraine attest to the tumultuous military and political history of Europe, borne out in cultural and linguistic competition, conflict and compromise in literature, music and art. What traces of this past can still be seen in the city today?
Bulgaria’s reformist government gets tough on corruption
Kiril Petkov’s reformist government in Bulgaria has just clocked in four months in power. Amidst low vaccination coverage, Russian influence, and an ongoing war on corruption, there are few reasons to celebrate, aside from the fact there is a government at all.
Unlike their nineteenth-century precursors, anti-European intellectuals in Russia today are neither engaged in dialogue with the West, nor do they realize that their ideas about European decline are themselves derivative.
From being the literary darling of Bulgaria’s communist regime, Georgi Markov became its most vociferous critic. Yet his memory, in so far it exists at all, has been reduced to his spectacular assassination in London. On Markov’s work and the lives of the man behind it.
Anastasia Filippovna’s ‘Portrait of Christ’
If Jesus is portrayed as fully human, can his divinity be rescued from the manifestation of what is visibly ‘all-too-human’? Christ’s depiction in Dostoevsky’s novel ‘The Idiot’ creates layered religious, historiographical and artistic readings.
For three decades, Memorial has delivered the facts that have enabled Russians to seek the truth about the Soviet past. Without its research, international accounts of the GULAG would also have been impossible. The attempt to close the NGO is the latest move in the Putin regime’s attempt to monopolize history.
Italy’s enthusiasm for Chinese investment has recently cooled, as transatlanticism, security risks and domestic resentment become decisive factors. The Italian change of heart is shared by the EU, which is finally developing a coordinated and values-based response to Chinese economic activity in the bloc.
Vaccine nationalism and Cold War tropes abound
Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine could be one of the most effective jabs available. Yet, its media coverage in the West has revived Cold War stereotypes. Vladimir Putin has also triggered suspicions. Nevertheless, the medical legacy from the Soviet era has prepared researchers precisely for such emergencies.
Russia and Turkey have moved from confrontation to cooperation. But their shared interests have had deleterious consequences for the Kurds in Syria and Crimean Tatars in Ukraine. Tensions continue in Nagorno-Karabakh and Libya. And their support for right-wing authoritarianism in the Western Balkans is undermining liberal democratic values.