Interview with Andrei Soldatov

Andrei Soldatov is a Russian investigative journalist, co-founder and editor of, a watchdog of the Russian secret services’ activities. He has covered security services and terrorism issues since 1999. With Irina Borogan he is co-author of The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB and The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries. He will be in Chicago this upcoming November to participate in the ASEEES Annual Conference and the Chicago Humanities Festival. In these various presentations he will be discussing what he describes as “a strange phenomenon about the Russian Internet: there are very few countries in the world where the local Internet companies dominate, and Russia, with its recent totalitarian past, is one of them. We have Yandex, the Russian Google, Mail.Ru, the local Gmail, and Kaspersky, to name but a few. Yet when the Kremlin started its offensive against internet freedoms, we’ve seen very little resistance from these companies. Moreover, some of the companies were happy to lend a hand to the Kremlin when it needed their help. The Soviet legacy is clearly part of the reason.” Continue reading

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Central European University Under Attack:  In Victor Orbán’s Hungary, illiberal politics cannot tolerate liberal minds.

This post originally appear in The Nation. You can see the original post here

 by John Connelly

On April 4, Hungary’s Parliament passed amendments to an existing higher-education law that were intended to force the closing of Central European University in Budapest, an institution created in 1991 to restore and revitalize an intellectual life that had been ravaged by decades of fascist and communist rule. Since then, CEU has expanded and evolved, becoming one of the most international and diverse universities in the world, with some 1,440 students from 108 countries enrolled in graduate programs under 12 humanities and social-science faculties. The amended law is a grave threat to CEU because it makes two demands that the university cannot fulfill: It must ground its existence in a bilateral treaty between Hungary and the United States; and it must open a campus in New York State, where it is also accredited. Otherwise, CEU must cease taking new students in the fall of 2018. The law was signed by the Hungarian president on April 10.

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Support for Central European University. Directors of Regional Centers and CEERES Faculty speak out


April 24, 2017


Dear European Parliament, European Commission and Government of Hungary:

We write to you as the Directors of Centers for East European, Russian and Eurasian Studies across the United States, in Germany and in the United Kingdom.  As scholars and experts on the region, we forcefully protest the recent amendments to the Hungarian National Higher Education Act that pose an existential threat to the Central European University in Budapest. These actions threaten academic freedom across the region and in Europe as a whole. Continue reading

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Mobilizing Gender: Secularism, Nation and Remaking Europe

by Jennifer Cole and Susan Gal

From left to right: Jennifer Cole, Éric Fassin, Agnieszka Graff, Susan Gal, and Sarah Green.

The conference on March 31st examined the entanglement of gender, nation, sexualities and secularism in Europe, East and West: Why and how have these issues become sharply visible in the last several years, in eastern Europe (as was clear in 1989), and now in the west as well?

Four trends underscore this phenomenon. First, there has been a mobilization of “women’s rights” talk (closely connected to “human rights”) often used to discipline – or promote – religious beliefs and practices. Second, we see the use of homophobic discourse to stigmatize liberal states, politicians and policies. Third, state efforts to manage immigration hinge on attitudes about gender and sexuality. Claims about national religious (Christian) and/or secular heritages of Europe highlight the supposed contrast to attitudes about gender and sex of migrants. Fourth, abortion debates (e.g. in Poland as well as Ireland) reveal tensions between national Christian heritages and a Europe-wide commitment to secularism and liberalism. Continue reading

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Reflecting on “Mobilizing Gender: Secularism, Nation and Remaking Europe”

by Zoe Berman

Over the last several years, the entanglement of gender, nation, and secularism has become sharply visible in Europe. From the 2010 “Cologne Attacks,” in Germany, when roving bands of young men (many who were said to be either foreign nationals or refugees) sexually assaulted and robbed young women during New Year’s festivities, to the rise in anti-LGBTQ, misogynist, and xenophobic legislation across the continent, to the precipitous decision last week in the Hungarian Parliament to outlaw the continued operation of the Central European University, a crucial hub for gender studies instruction and research, a diversity of issues across the continent have sparked conversations around gender that continue to reverberate in the international political arena.  On Friday, March 31, 2017, scholars from across disciplines gathered to discuss such emergent gendered global linkages at a one day mini-conference, entitled Mobilizing Gender: Secularism, Nation and Remaking Europe, hosted by the University of Chicago. The conference featured scholars from Europe and the United States who drew from both the humanities and the social sciences to probe the day’s themes of gender, sexuality, nationalism, and secularism.  Continue reading

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Rights Research in Central Asia: Challenges, Insights

by Mihra Rittmann

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is an independent, nonprofit, nongovernmental human rights organization that investigates human rights abuse in over 90 countries worldwide. Human Rights Watch carries out in-depth research to get the facts. We expose information of abuse in our various written and social media products and make policy recommendations about how governments can – and should – change behavior. Ultimately, our purpose is to bring about positive change.

Human Rights Watch researchers face a range of difficulties covering human rights abuses in the countries where we work. In Central Asia, a region Human Rights Watch has covered for over 20 years, and where I’ve worked for about nine, there are three key challenges that stand out.

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CEERES of Voices Interview with Max Bergholz

On February 17, 2017 the Seminary Co-op Bookstore and the Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies held the second event in CEERES of Voices, an author-centered series of readings and conversations on books from or about Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, Central Eurasia, and the Caucasus. The series continued with a discussion of Violence As A Generative Force: Identity, Nationalism, and Memory in a Balkan Community with Max Bergholz and Victor Friedman. Continue reading

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Archives in Bosnia in Minutes and Hours

by Max Bergholz 

This piece was originally published with the same title in Sage House News: The Cornell University Press Blog. The original post can be found here.

The town of Kulen Vakuf, site of mass killings in 1941

“You have fifteen minutes to look around. After that I’m going for coffee with my colleagues, and besides, God save me if someone found out I let a foreigner down here!” These words—spoken to me on a September afternoon in 2006 by an archivist in Bosnia-Herzegovina—marked the moment my book began.

I was in one of the archive’s basement storage depots. Many of the light bulbs were burned out, while a handful of others flickered. The impatient archivist handed me a flashlight, and pointed me down a dark set of shelves. “I think what you’re looking for might be down there,” she yelled just before exiting the depot. I stood in silence for a moment, and then switched on the flashlight. After ten minutes of straining to read the handwriting on filthy, uncatalogued stacks of blue folders, my eyes froze on these words: “Sites of Mass Executions.” Continue reading

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Sex, AIDS, and the Dystopic Impulse: The Affective Politics of Racialized Displacements

by Michaela Appeltova

On February 2, Kateřina Kolářová, Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies in the
Department of Gender Studies at Charles University in Prague, presented a theoretically dense, analytically layered, and thought-provoking excerpt from her manuscript on the intersections of disability, race, sexuality, and post-socialism in the Czech Republic. The event was sponsored by the Disability Studies Reading Group, Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies, and Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality.    Continue reading

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This is what the gradual erosion of rule of law looks like in Poland

by Monika Nalepa

First published in The Monkey Cage at The Washington Post on January 23, 2017 under the title This is what the gradual erosion of rule of law looks like in Poland.

From Dec. 16 to Jan. 11, 10 members of parliament occupied the plenary hall of the Polish parliament (called the Sejm). The unprecedented blockade began with a protest against the right-wing ruling party’s ban on allowing the news media in the building. It continued as a way to object to what many have seen as an uncertain fate for the rule of law in Poland — including plans for a far-reaching reconstruction of the court system that could endanger the nation’s hold on democracy.

Until recently, Poland and Hungary were seen as examples of successful transitions to democracy. Each emerged from behind the Iron Curtain after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1989. Each is now ruled by a right-wing party that is steadily shaving away those new democratic institutions and norms — and which is explaining its crackdown in part by pointing to past failures to fully clean house after communism. Continue reading

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