New Books in Eastern European Studies

Marshall Poe

Interviews with Scholars of Eastern Europe about their New Books Support our show by becoming a premium member!

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Katarzyna (Kasia) Bartoszyńska is an assistant professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies at Ithaca College. Her research and teaching focuses on the novel form and the theories connected to it, combining a formalist investigation of textual mechanics with an interest in studies of gender, sexuality, race, and world literature. Prof. Bartoszyńska is also active in Polish-English translation. She has translated several texts by Zygmunt Bauman, including Sketches in the Theory of Culture (Polity 2018), Of God and Man (Polity 2015), and Culture and Art (2021) and is currently completing a translation of a book about Bauman's work by Dariusz Brzeziński. In this interview, she discusses her new book Estranging the Novel: Poland, Ireland and Theories of World Literature (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2021), a comparative study of two national literatures that also makes a serious intervention into the history of the novel as a literary form. Estranging the Novel: Poland, Ireland, and Theories of World Literature (Johns Hopkins UP, 2021) offers a new way of thinking about the development of the novel as a genre. The work pushes against the standard narrative of the novel's rise on two fronts, arguing that the focus on Anglo-French fiction, on the one hand, and realism, on the other, gives us an overly narrow sense of the novel's potential, and skews our readings of fiction from "other" parts of the world. Bartoszyńska uses three close readings of pairs of books from Poland and Ireland, spanning the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries, to demonstrate how mainstream theories of the novel fail to engage their most innovative features, because they do not conform to emerging conventions of realist fiction. Examining the features of these works that have been seen as deviations from the novel's teleology, such as satire, interlaced tales, or the use of the supernatural, she presents them as efforts to theorize the potential of the form and investigates the novel's world-building powers. Aidan Beatty is a historian at the Honors College of the University of Pittsburgh Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Nov 26

26 min 54 sec

What motivated conscripted soldiers to fight in the Romanian Army during the Second World War? Why did they obey orders, take risks, and sometimes deliberately sacrifice their lives for the mission? What made soldiers murder, rape, and pillage, massacring Jews en masse during Operation Barbarossa? Grant Harward’s ground-breaking book Romania's Holy War: Soldiers, Motivation, and the Holocaust (Cornell UP, 2021) combines military history, social history, and histories of the Holocaust to offer a new interpretation of Romania’s role in the Second World War. In this interview he talks about his surprising discussions with veterans, his notion of “atrocity motivation” as an unexplored reason why soldiers commit horrific acts during wartime, the relative military effectiveness of the Romanian army, the role of the Orthodox Church, and the content of propaganda aimed at soldiers. As he explains, Harward’s research opens up whole new fields of research for military historians and others interested in the relationship of war to race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and violence. Roland Clark is a Senior Lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Liverpool, President of the Society for Romanian Studies, and a Senior Fellow with the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Nov 26

1 hr 19 min

In Jessie Barton Hronešová’s new book, The Struggle of Redress: Victim Capital in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), she explores pathways to redress for main groups of victims/survivors of the 1992-5 Bosnian war —families of missing persons, victims of torture, survivors of sexual violence, and victims suffering physical disabilities and harm. The author traces the history of redress-making for each of these groups and shows how differently they have been treated by Bosnian authorities at the state and subnational level. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, thousands of war victims have had to suffer re-traumatising ordeals in order to secure partial redress for their suffering during 1992–1995 and after. While some, such as victims of sexual violence, have been legally recognised and offered financial and service-based compensation, others, such as victims of torture, have been recognized only recently with a clear geographical limitation. The main aim of the book is to explore the politics behind recognizing victimhood and awarding redress in a country that has been divided by instrumentalized identity cleavages, widespread patronage and debilitating war legacies. Jessie Barton Hronešová is currently a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Global Fellow at UNC-Chapel Hill and Ca' Foscari University. Christian Axboe Nielsen is associate professor of history and human security at Aarhus University in Denmark. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Nov 24

1 hr

Snapshots of the Soul: Photo-Poetic Encounters in Modern Russian Culture (Cornell UP, 2021) considers how photography has shaped Russian poetry from the early twentieth century to the present day. Drawing on theories of the lyric and the elegy, the social history of technology, and little-known archival materials, Molly Thomasy Blasing offers close readings of poems by Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetaeva, Joseph Brodsky, and Bella Akhmadulina, as well as by the late and post-Soviet poets Andrei Sen-Sen'kov, Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, and Kirill Medvedev, to understand their fascination with the visual language, representational power, and metaphorical possibilities offered by the camera and the photographic image. Within the context of long-standing anxieties about the threat that visual media pose to literary culture, Blasing finds that these poets were attracted to the affinities and tensions that exist between the lyric or elegy and the snapshot. Snapshots of the Soul reveals that at the core of each poet's approach to writing the photograph is the urge to demonstrate the superior ability of poetic language to capture and convey human experience. Molly T. Blasing holds degrees in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Harvard University (AB, 2002) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (MA, 2006; PHD, 2014). After teaching at Florida State University, Wellesley College, and Oberlin College, she joined the faculty of the University of Kentucky as Assistant Professor of Russian Studies in 2014 and was promoted to Associate Professor in July 2021.  Steven Seegel is Professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Nov 23

54 min 18 sec

In the exhausted, repressive years that followed Napoleon's defeat in 1815, there was one cause that came to galvanize countless individuals across Europe and the United States: freedom for Greece. Mark Mazower's wonderful The Greek Revolution: 1821 and the Making of Modern Europe (Penguin, 2021) recreates one of the most compelling, unlikely and significant events in the story of modern Europe. In the face of near impossible odds, the people of the villages, valleys and islands of Greece rose up against Sultan Mahmud II and took on the might of the imperial Ottoman armed forces, its Turkish cavalrymen, Albanian foot soldiers and the fearsome Egyptians. Despite the most terrible disasters, they held on until military intervention by Russia, France and Britain finally secured the kingdom of Greece. Mazower brilliantly brings together the different strands of the story. He takes us into the minds of revolutionary conspirators and the terrors of besieged towns, the stories of itinerant priests, sailors and slaves, ambiguous heroes and defenceless women and children struggling to stay alive amid a conflict of extraordinary brutality. Ranging across the Eastern Mediterranean and far beyond, he explores the central place of the struggle in the making of Romanticism and a new kind of politics that had volunteers flocking from across Europe to die in support of the Greeks. A story of how statesmen came to terms with an even more powerful force than themselves - the force of nationalism - this is above all a book about how people decided to see their world differently and, at an often terrible cost to themselves and their families, changed history. Mark Mazower is the Ira D. Wallach Professor of History at Columbia University. He is the author of Governing the World, Hitler’s Empire and The Balkans: A Short History, winner of the Wolfson Prize for History, among other books. He lives in New York City. Thomas Kingston is currently a Huayu Enrichment Scholar, studying Mandarin Chinese at National Taiwan University, as he finds himself in post MPhil and pre PhD limbo. He holds an MA in Pacific Asian Studies from SOAS, University of London and an MPhil in Philosophy from Renmin University of China. His research interests focus on the political and intellectual histories of nationalism(s), imaginaries and colonialism in the East and Southeast Asian context.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Nov 16

52 min 43 sec

Contemporary Ukrainian and Baltic Art (Ibidem Press, 2021) focuses on political and social expressions in contemporary art of Ukraine, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia. It explores the transformations that art in Ukraine and the Baltic states has undergone since their independence in 1991, discussing how the conflicts and challenges of the last three decades have impacted the reconsideration of identity and fostered resistance of culture against economic and political crises. It analyzes connections between the past and the present as seen by the artists in these countries and looks at their visions of the future. Contemporary Ukrainian art portrays various perspectives, addressing issues from controversial historical topics to the present military conflict in the East of the country. Baltic art speaks out against the erasure of past historical traumas and analyzes the pertinence of its cultural scene to the European community. The contributions in this collection open a discussion of whether there is a single paradigm that describes the contemporary processes of art production in Ukraine and the Baltic countries. With contributions by Ieva Astahovska, Svitlana Biedarieva, Kateryna Botanova, Olena Martynyuk, Vytautas Michelkevičius, Lina Michelkeviče, Margaret Tali, and Jessica Zychowicz. Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed is a PhD candidate in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures, Indiana University Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Nov 16

43 min 35 sec

Karla Huebner’s Magnetic Woman: Toyen and the Surrealist Erotic (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020) follows the life and career Czech artist Toyen (Marie Čermínová, 1902-1980). Toyen’s career spans the twentieth century, from the cultural flux of interwar Prague to postwar France. Huebner traces the growth, divergence, and fluidity of Czech as well as international avant-gardes. Eroticism, Huebner argues, centered Toyen’s life, settings, and art. Toyen’s ambiguous gender equally found its own place in the predominantly male Czech Devětsil group, lesbian milieus of interwar Paris, and André Breton’s postwar Surrealist network. So too did Toyen’s work in erotic drawings, book commissions, collage, and oil paintings, all generously represented in this monograph. Magnetic Woman hence unites art history with cultural and intellectual history. Huebner analyzes Toyen’s artistic collaborations and friendships with figures as diverse as Jindřich Štyrský, Karel Teige, and Philippe Soupault. She traces Toyen’s wide reading of European classics, contemporary writing, and psychological and sexual literature of the day. Huebner anchors Toyen’s artwork in these contexts throughout the monograph while showcasing its inherent originality and formal innovations. Magnetic Woman: Toyen and the Surrealist Erotic furnishes readers with both a fascinating biography of the artist and a map of the entangled histories of the Czech and French avant-gardes. Huebner’s work will interest scholars of interwar European history, of European sexuality and gender, art history, and international history alike, and the heavily illustrated monograph will intrigue scholars, general readers, and artists in equal measure. John Raimo is a PhD. Candidate in History at NYU finishing up my dissertation (on postwar publishing houses) this summer in European history. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Nov 16

1 hr 7 min

In Art Work: Invisible Labour and the Legacy of Yugoslav Socialism (U Toronto Press, 2021), Katja Praznik counters the Western understanding of art – as a passion for self-expression and an activity done out of love – and instead builds a case for understanding art as a form of invisible labour. Focusing on the experiences of art workers and the history of labour regulation in the arts in socialist Yugoslavia, Praznik unpacks the contradiction at the heart of artistic production, and shines a light on how the economic reality of creative work has often been obscured by the mystification of artistic endeavour. Drawing on Marxist-feminist analysis, the book demonstrates the value of recognising that artistic labour is ultimately a category of work. In this way, Praznik offers a strategic framework for enhancing our understanding of the struggle for equity in the world of institutionalised art production. Katja Praznik is Associate Professor within the Arts Management Program at the University at Buffalo. Iva Glisic is a historian and art historian specialising in modern Russia and the Balkans. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Nov 11

56 min 3 sec

When East Germany collapsed in 1989-1990, outside observers were shocked to learn the extent of environmental devastation that existed there. The communist dictatorship, however, had sought to confront environmental issues since at least the 1960s. Through an analysis of official and oppositional sources, Saving Nature Under Socialism: Transnational Environmentalism in East Germany, 1968-1990 (Cambridge UP, 2021) complicates attitudes toward the environment in East Germany by tracing both domestic and transnational engagement with nature and pollution. The communist dictatorship limited opportunities for protest, so officials and activists looked abroad to countries such as Poland and West Germany for inspiration and support. Julia Ault outlines the evolution of environmental policy and protest in East Germany and shows how East Germans responded to local degradation as well as to an international moment of environmental reckoning in the 1970s and 1980s. The example of East Germany thus challenges and broadens our understanding of the 'greening' of post-war Europe, and illuminates a larger, central European understanding of connection across the Iron Curtain. Julie Ault is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Utah. She completed her PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015 before joining the faculty at Utah. She is currently a faculty fellow at the University of Utah’s Tanner Humanities Center with the goal of developing her second book project, tentatively entitled Solidarity & Socialist Riches: East German Diplomacy, Environment & Technology, 1949-1989. Her research interests include the environment, transnational networks, social movements, socialism, and the Cold War. Leslie Waters is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Texas at El Paso and author of Borders on the Move: Territorial Change and Ethnic Cleansing in the Hungarian-Slovak Borderlands, 1938-1948 (University of Rochester, 2020). Email her at or tweet to @leslieh2Os. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Nov 9

50 min 59 sec

Yuri Kostenko’s Ukraine’s Nuclear Disarmament: A History (Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, 2020) is a meticulous account of how the Ukrainian government made a decision in the 1990s to give up the nuclear status. The book includes unique documents from the private archive, which Yuri Kostenko shares with the readers. Ukraine’s Nuclear Disarmament provides not only an account of nuclear weapons elimination in Ukraine, but also offers a broader picture of the political environment in which Ukraine found itself after the fall of the USSR. What political players participated in the construction of the newly formed independent state? What challenges did the country face? In addition to this retrospective approach, the book also provides insights into the present moment, particularly in terms of the ongoing armed conflict initiated by Russia in 2014. Yuri Kostenko mentions that the occupation of the Crimea and the subsequent Russian military aggression against Ukraine were not a surprise to him. The book engages with the consequences of the nuclear disarmament and prompts the readers to draw parallels between the decisions that were made in the 1990s and the current international position that was created for Ukraine.  Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed is a PhD candidate in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures, Indiana University. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Nov 9

27 min 34 sec

Long before Kabbalah books lined multiple books shelves in bookstores, Jewish educators in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, thought of copious ways of making Kabbalah more accessible for readers who were not acquainted with this lore. The book, Kabbalah in Print: The Study and Popularization of Jewish Mysticism in Early Modernity (SUNY Press, 2020), introduces the reader to an early seventeenth-century rabbi, Yissachar Baer, who lived and worked in Prague. Each of his four works seeks to illuminate a different facet of the Zohar (Book of Splendour), the medieval classic of kabbalistic speculation. His goal was to simplify the language of the Zohar as well as to assemble its halakhic teachings so Jews could enrich their daily observance of the commandments with the corresponding mystical explanation. He also wrote a short introduction to the study of Kabbalah and organized brief excerpts of the Zohar into an anthology. His works were important mediators of the Zohar and Kabbalah to Jewish and Christian readers alike. Andrea Gondos is an Emmy Noether post-doctoral fellow at Freie Universität (Berlin) where her current research centers on women's health and healing as discussed in early modern Jewish recipe books of magic and practical Kabbalah Her next book project will examine how the female body and its reproductive powers constituted a unique epistemological space for ba’alei shem (Jewish wonder-working healers) where knowledge concerning creation and regeneration could be accessed and controlled. Prior to joining the Emmy Noether research group, she held post-doctoral positions at Tel Aviv University and at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She was also a fellow at the Katz Centre of Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Yakir Englander is the National Director of Leadership programs at the Israeli-American Council. He also teaches at the AJR. He can be reached at: Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Nov 4

49 min 6 sec

Jan Rybak's Everyday Zionism in East-Central Europe: Nation-Building in War and Revolution, 1914-1920 (Oxford UP, 2021) examines Zionist activism in East-Central Europe during the years of war, occupation, revolution, the collapse of empires, and the formation of nation states in the years 1914 to 1920. Against the backdrop of the Great War—its brutal aftermath and consequent violence—the day-to-day encounters between Zionist activists and the Jewish communities in the region gave the movement credibility, allowed it to win support and to establish itself as a leading force in Jewish political and social life for decades to come. Through activists' efforts, Zionism came to mean something new: rather than being concerned with debates over Jewish nationhood and pioneering efforts in Palestine, it came to be about aiding starving populations, organizing soup-kitchens, establishing orphanages, schools, kindergartens, and hospitals, negotiating with the authorities, and leading self-defence against pogroms. Through this engagement Zionism evolved into a mass movement that attracted and inspired tens of thousands of Jews throughout the region. Everyday Zionism approaches the major European events of the period from the dual perspectives of Jewish communities and the Zionist activists on the ground, demonstrating how war, revolution, empire, and nation held very different meanings for people, depending on their local circumstances. Based on extensive archival research, the study shows how during the war and its aftermath East-Central Europe saw a large-scale nation-building project by Zionist activists who fought for and led their communities to shape for them a national future. Avery Weinman is a PhD student in History at the University of California, Los Angeles. She researches Jewish history in the modern Middle East and North Africa, with emphasis on Sephardi and Mizrahi radicals in British Mandatory Palestine. She can be reached at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Nov 2

1 hr 18 min

The Tanya, a hugely influential 18thcentury work of Hasidic philosophy and spirituality, is at the foundation of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, indeed, written by the movement’s founder, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812). Join us as we discuss volume 3 of The Steinsaltz Tanya, featuring the late Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz’s translation and commentary of two self-contained sections of the Tanya: Sha’ar HaYihud VeHa’emuna or ‘The Gate of Unity and Faith,’ and Iggeret HaTeshuvaor or ‘Letter on Repentance.’ Rabbi Meni Even-Israel serves as the Executive Director of the Steinsaltz Center, which oversees the teachings and publications of Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, and has recently put out the app, Steinsaltz Daily Study. Michael Morales is Professor of Biblical Studies at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and the author of The Tabernacle Pre-Figured: Cosmic Mountain Ideology in Genesis and Exodus (Peeters, 2012), Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?: A Biblical Theology of Leviticus (IVP Academic, 2015), and Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption (IVP Academic, 2020). He can be reached at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Oct 27

41 min 5 sec

Serhii Plokhy’s The Frontline: Essays on Ukraine’s Past and Present (Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, 2021) includes discussions that focus on the major milestones of the history of Ukraine, ranging from the first ancient mentionings of the territory to the recent Russian military aggression against Ukraine. The book offers a concise and comprehensible commentary on the most contested and controversial issues, including the legacy of Kyivan Rus’, the Pereiaslav Agreement, historical and political representations of Ivan Mazepa, the formation and the collapse of the USSR, the Chornobyl disaster, and the 2014 Russo-Ukrainian war, to name but a few. Providing thoroughly researched materials, the essays are important contributions that enrich and detail the study of Ukraine; additionally, the book inscribes Ukraine into a broader, global historical and political context. In this regard, The Frontline is an invitation to think about Ukraine not only as a territory whose history was overshadowed for a long time by the overbearing presence of Russia, but also as a historical and political unit that participated in and propelled a number of changes that led to major geopolitical shifts that eventually entailed the transformation of how the region was perceived and understood at the local and global levels. Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed is a PhD candidate in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures, Indiana University. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Oct 27

51 min 54 sec

Following the Treaty of Versailles, European nation-states were faced with the challenge of instilling national loyalty in their new borderlands, in which fellow citizens often differed dramatically from one another along religious, linguistic, cultural, or ethnic lines. Peripheries at the Centre: Borderland Schooling in Interwar Europe (Berghahn Books, 2021) compares the experiences of schooling in Upper Silesia in Poland and Eupen, Sankt Vith, and Malmedy in Belgium — border regions detached from the German Empire after the First World War. It demonstrates how newly configured countries envisioned borderland schools and language learning as tools for realizing the imagined peaceful Europe that underscored the political geography of the interwar period. Jill Massino is a scholar of modern Eastern Europe with a focus on Romania, gender, and everyday life. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Oct 27

58 min 36 sec

Dr. Emily Greble, Associate Professor of History at Vanderbilt University, is the author of Muslims and the Making of Modern Europe (Oxford University Press, 2021). Focusing on the Muslim inhabitants of the Austro-Hungarian Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and later Yugoslavia, as they repeatedly adjusted to shifting borders and modern state building projects between the 1870s and the 1940s, Dr. Greble shows how Ottoman political, legal, economic, and social legacies shaped post Ottoman successor states, and how ordinary Balkan Muslims understood, negotiated, and reworked the rapidly changing ideological landscapes into which the late nineteenth century had thrown them. The book forcefully argues that modern European constructs of law, national minority, and public education developed in a distinct Christian context. By recovering the Balkan Muslims’ struggle to define the role of Islam in their new, nationalizing states and societies, the book sheds new light on the historical dynamics of modern citizenship and multiculturalism, but also illuminates Muslims’ oft overlooked agency in the making of modern Europe. Vladislav Lilic is a doctoral candidate in Modern European History at Vanderbilt University. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Oct 25

53 min 8 sec

Apocalypse Then: The First Crusade is based on an in-depth filmed conversation between Howard Burton and Jay Rubenstein, Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Premodern World at the University of Southern California, and provides us with fascinating insights into medieval society. How did the First Crusade happen? What could have suddenly caused tens of thousands of knights, commoners and even nuns at the end of the 11th century to leave their normal lives behind and trek thousands of miles across hostile territory in an unprecedented vicious and bloody quest to wrest Jerusalem from its occupying powers? Jay Rubenstein, historian of the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual worlds of Europe in the Middle Ages, carefully explores those questions based on his extensive research while discussing the Apocalypse: the crusaders’ sincere belief that the end of the world was approaching and their opportunity to participate in the last stage of the divine plan. Howard Burton is the founder of the Ideas Roadshow, Ideas on Film and host of the Ideas Roadshow Podcast. He can be reached at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Oct 22

1 hr 51 min

In Foresters, Borders, and Bark Beetles: The Future of Europe’s Last Primeval Forest (Indiana University Press, 2020), Eunice Blavascunas provides an intimate ethnographic account of Białowieża, Europe's last primeval forest. At Poland’s easternmost border with Belarus, the deep past of ancient oaks, woodland bison, and thousands of species of insects and fungi collides with authoritarian and communist histories. Foresters, biologists, environmentalists, and locals project the ancient Białowieża Forest as a series of competing icons in struggles over memory, land, and economy, which are also struggles about whether to log or preserve the woodland; whether and how to celebrate the mixed ethnic Polish/Belarusian peasant past; and whether to align this eastern outpost with ultra-right Polish politics, neighboring Belarus, or the European Union. Drawing on more than twenty years of research, Blavascunas untangles complex conflicts between protection and use by examining which forest pasts are celebrated, which fester, and which have been altered in the tumultuous decades following the collapse of communism. Piotr H. Kosicki is Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author of Catholics on the Barricades (Yale, 2018) and editor, among others, of Political Exile in the Global Twentieth Century (with Wolfram Kaiser). Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Oct 20

56 min 6 sec

Dr. Leonidas Mylonakis (PhD in History from the University of California, San Diego) is the author of Piracy in the Eastern Mediterranean: Maritime Marauders in the Greek and Ottoman Aegean (Bloomsbury, 2021). This captivating book is based on rich sets of Ottoman, Greek, and other archival sources. Dr. Mylonakis shows that far from ending with the introduction of European powers to the region around the year 1830, Aegean piracy continued unabated into the twentieth century. The book considers how changes in global economic patterns, imperial power struggles, ecological phenomena, shifting maritime trade routes, revisions in international maritime law can explain the fluctuations in violence at sea. Finally, Dr. Mylonakis concludes that pirates' place in state-building processes changed only around 1900, as modern states reevaluated the role of irregular warfare. Vladislav Lilic is a doctoral candidate in Modern European History at Vanderbilt University. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Oct 20

32 min 14 sec

In his new book International Courts and Mass atrocity: Narratives of War and Justice in Croatia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019) Ivor Sokolić explores the effects of international and national transitional justice in Croatia, and in particular the consequences of the work of the United Nations’ International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the ICTY. Sokolić casts a critical analytical gaze on how and why universal human rights norms become distorted or undermined when they are filtered through national and local perceptions and narratives. Based on extensive research involving focus groups in Croatia, Sokolić’s book marks an innovative approach to exploring the limitations of transitional justice and reconciliation in a post-conflict environment. Ivor Sokolić is a lecturer in politics and international relations at the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom. Christian Axboe Nielsen is associate professor of history and human security at Aarhus University in Denmark. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Oct 15

1 hr 2 min

Between 1940 and 1946, thousands of Jewish refugees from Poland lived and toiled in the harsh Soviet interior. They endured hard labor, bitter cold, and extreme deprivation. But out of reach of the Nazis, they escaped the fate of millions of their coreligionists in the Holocaust. In Survival on the Margins: Polish Jewish Refugees in the Wartime Soviet Union (Harvard University Press, 2020), Eliyana Adler provides the first comprehensive account in English of their experiences. Eliyana Adler is Associate Professor of History and Jewish Studies at Pennsylvania State University. Schneur Zalman Newfield is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York, and the author of Degrees of Separation: Identity Formation While Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism (Temple University Press, 2020). Visit him online at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Oct 14

1 hr

Democratic Lessons: What the Greeks Can Teach Us is based on an in-depth filmed conversation between Howard Burton and Josiah Ober, Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Professor in Honor of Constantine Mitsotakis Professor of Political Science and Classics at Stanford University. This extensive conversation includes topics such as the serendipitous factors that led him to study the classical world, the insights that examining rhetoric provide about ancient Athenian society, and how social media might help us fruitfully recreate aspects of the past. Prof. Ober discusses his insights that the ancient Athenians didn’t just happen to stumble upon the idea of democracy—they somehow managed to make it work in practice for the better part of 200 years, all the while facing many of the same divisive societal pressures that we are currently grappling with. Howard Burton is the founder of the Ideas Roadshow, Ideas on Film and host of the Ideas Roadshow Podcast. He can be reached at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Oct 14

2 hr 5 min

The image of the Ottoman Turks and their interaction with the Christian West, has undergone many changes in the past: from William Gladstone's famous comment that: “[The Turks] one and all, bag and baggage, shall, I hope, clear out from the province they have desolated and profaned.” To the more recent revisionist views of the 'cultural exchange' school, who de-emphasize the military conquest, endemic violence and proto-ethnic cleansing that were in fact part and parcel of Ottoman rule in the Balkans and elsewhere. And, instead emphasize cultural interaction between the Christian West and the Muslim East.  In his new book The Last Muslim Conquest: The Ottoman Empire and Its Wars in Europe (Princeton UP, 2021), Ottoman specialist, Professor Gabor Agoston, of Georgetown University, goes beyond both of the above schools, in a post-revisionist treatment which while not ignoring some aspects of the 'cultural exchange' school, retains the correct emphasize on Ottoman Turk policies of military conquest, violence and expansionism in the Balkans and elsewhere. In a treatment which depends upon rich stream of research in Ottoman Turkish archives as well as elsewhere, Professor Agoston provides the reader with an in depth analysis of the military structure that made the Ottoman Turks one of the great, military and imperial powers of the 16th and 17th centuries. And why that power's failure to adapt, eventually resulted in its long decline and eventual fall. In short, Professor Agoston's treatment is a splendid work, aimed at both the academic and the lay educated audience. A sheet delight to read. Charles Coutinho Ph. D. of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written for Chatham House’s International Affairs, the Institute of Historical Research's Reviews in History and the University of Rouen's online periodical Cercles. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Oct 13

2 hr 25 min

One quarter of all Holocaust victims lived on the territory that now forms Ukraine, yet the Holocaust there has not received due attention. John-Paul Himka's Ukrainian Nationalists and the Holocaust: OUN and UPA's Participation in the Destruction of Ukrainian Jewry, 1941-1944 (Ibidem Press, 2021) delineates the participation of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and its armed force, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (Ukrainska povstanska armiia--UPA), in the destruction of the Jewish population of Ukraine under German occupation in 1941-44. The extent of OUN's and UPA's culpability in the Holocaust has been a controversial issue in Ukraine and within the Ukrainian diaspora as well as in Jewish communities and Israel. Occasionally, the controversy has broken into the press of North America, the EU, and Israel. Triangulating sources from Jewish survivors, Soviet investigations, German documentation, documents produced by OUN itself, and memoirs of OUN activists, it has been possible to establish that: OUN militias were key actors in the anti-Jewish violence of summer 1941; OUN recruited for and infiltrated police formations that provided indispensable manpower for the Germans' mobile killing units; and in 1943, thousands of these policemen deserted from German service to join the OUN-led nationalist insurgency, during which UPA killed Jews who had managed to survive the major liquidations of 1942. Steven Seegel is Professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Oct 12

57 min 8 sec

Between 1918 and 1921, over a hundred thousand Jews were murdered in Ukraine by peasants, townsmen, and soldiers who blamed the Jews for the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. In hundreds of separate incidents, ordinary people robbed their Jewish neighbors with impunity, burned down their houses, ripped apart their Torah scrolls, sexually assaulted them, and killed them. Largely forgotten today, these pogroms—ethnic riots—dominated headlines and international affairs in their time. Aid workers warned that six million Jews were in danger of complete extermination. Twenty years later, these dire predictions would come true. Drawing upon long-neglected archival materials, including thousands of newly discovered witness testimonies, trial records, and official orders, acclaimed historian Jeffrey Veidlinger shows for the first time how this wave of genocidal violence created the conditions for the Holocaust. Through stories of survivors, perpetrators, aid workers, and governmental officials, he explains how so many different groups of people came to the same conclusion: that killing Jews was an acceptable response to their various problems. In riveting prose, In the Midst of Civilized Europe: The Pogroms of 1918-1921 and the Onset of the Holocaust (Metropolitan Books, 2021) repositions the pogroms as a defining moment of the twentieth century. Jeffrey Veidlinger is Joseph Brodsky Collegiate Professor of History and Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. He is author of the award-winning books, In the Shadow of the Shtetl: Small-Town Jewish Life in Soviet Ukraine, The Moscow State Yiddish Theater: Jewish Culture on the Soviet Stage, and Jewish Public Culture in the Late Russian Empire. He is the chair of the Academic Advisory Council of the Center for Jewish History, a member of the Executive Committee of the American Academy for Jewish Research, a member of the Academic Committee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and a former vice-president of the Association for Jewish Studies. Leslie Waters is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Texas at El Paso and author of Borders on the Move: Territorial Change and Ethnic Cleansing in the Hungarian-Slovak Borderlands, 1938-1948 (University of Rochester, 2020). Email her at or tweet to @leslieh2Os. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Oct 12

50 min 38 sec

In Labour, Mobility and Informal Practices in Russia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe (Routledge, 2021), Dr. Turaeva and Dr. Urinboyev have brought together a number of studies which explore the daily survival strategies of people within the context of failed states, flourishing informal economies, legal uncertainty, increased mobility, and globalization. As they show, many people who are forced by the circumstances to be innovative and transnational, have found their niches outside formal processes and structures. The book provides a thorough theoretical introduction to the link between labour mobility and informality and comprises convincing case studies from a wide range of post-socialist countries. Overall, it highlights the importance of trust, transnational networks, and digital technologies in settings where the rules governing economic and social activities of mobile workers are often unclear and flexible. Finally, the book shows how many of the processes surrounding labor, mobility, and informality in Russia and Central Asia shared similarities with broader global trends. Nicholas Seay is a PhD student at Ohio State University. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Oct 11

50 min 10 sec

This book is the story of one death among many in the war in eastern Ukraine. Its author is a historian of war whose brother was killed at the frontline in 2017 while serving in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Olesya Khromeychuk takes the point of view of a civilian and a woman, perspectives that tend to be neglected in war narratives, and focuses on the stories that play out far away from the warzone. Through a combination of personal memoir and essay, Khromeychuk attempts to help her readers understand the private experience of this still ongoing but almost forgotten war in the heart of Europe and the private experience of war as such. A Loss: The Story of a Dead Soldier Told by His Sister (Ibidem, 2021) will resonate with anyone battling with grief and the shock of the sudden loss of a loved one. Dr. Olesya Khromeychuk is a historian and writer. She received her PhD in History from University College London. She has taught the history of East-Central Europe at the University of Cambridge, University College London, the University of East Anglia, and King’s College London. She is author of A Loss. The Story of a Dead Soldier Told by His Sister (Stuttgart: ibidem, forthcoming) and ‘Undetermined’ Ukrainians. Post-War Narratives of the Waffen SS ‘Galicia’ Division (Peter Lang, 2013). She is currently the Director of the Ukrainian Institute London. Steven Seegel is Professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Oct 6

57 min 59 sec

Patrice M. Dabrowski's book The Carpathians: Discovering the Highlands of Poland and Ukraine (Northern Illinois UP, 2021) tells story of how the Tatras, Eastern Carpathians, and Bieszczady Mountains went from being terra incognita to becoming the popular tourist destinations they are today. It is a story of the encounter of Polish and Ukrainian lowlanders with the wild, sublime highlands and with the indigenous highlanders--Górale, Hutsuls, Boikos, and Lemkos--and how these peoples were incorporated into a national narrative as the territories were transformed into a native/national landscape. The set of microhistories in this book occur from about 1860 to 1980, a time in which nations and states concerned themselves with the frontier at the edge. Discoverers not only became enthralled with what were perceived as their own highlands but also availed themselves of the mountains as places to work out answers to the burning questions of the day. Each discovery led to a surge in mountain tourism and interest in the mountains and their indigenous highlanders. Although these mountains, essentially a continuation of the Alps, are Central and Eastern Europe's most prominent physical feature, politically they are peripheral. The Carpathians is the first book to deal with the northern slopes in such a way, showing how these discoveries had a direct impact on the various nation-building, state-building, and modernization projects. Dabrowski's history incorporates a unique blend of environmental history, borderlands studies, and the history of tourism and leisure. Patrice M. Dabrowski has taught and worked at Harvard, Brown, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and the University of Vienna. She is currently an associate of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, an affiliate of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, a member of the Board of Directors of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America (PIASA), and editor of H-Poland. Dr. Dabrowski is the author of three books: Commemorations and the Shaping of Modern Poland (2004), Poland: The First Thousand Years (2014; paperback edition, 2016), and The Carpathians: Discovering the Highlands of Poland and Ukraine (release date: October 15, 2021). In 2014 she was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. Steven Seegel is Professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Oct 1

52 min 11 sec

Byzantium: Beyond the Cliché is based on an in-depth filmed conversation between Howard Burton and Maria Mavroudi, Professor of History at UC Berkeley. Maria Mavroudi specializes in the study of the Byzantine Empire and this wide-ranging conversation explores her extensive research on the Byzantine Empire and how it has repeatedly been undervalued by historians despite its having been a military and cultural powerhouse for more than a millennium. Howard Burton is the founder of the Ideas Roadshow, Ideas on Film and host of the Ideas Roadshow Podcast. He can be reached at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Oct 1

2 hr 26 min

"One of the most enduring myths of history writing about Europe in the 20th century is that the century can be neatly divided into a tale of two halves, with the first half made up of episodes of war, revolution and mass violence while the second is a tale of relative peace and prosperity”. In Ruin and Renewal: Civilising Europe After the Second World War (Basic Books, 2021), Paul Betts challenges this two-halves historical narrative. This modern political history of the use of the concept of “civilisation" confronts the self-image of the European Union with lessons for core debates about democracy and the rule of law today. Paul Betts is a professor of European history at Saint Antony's College, Oxford, whose work centres on modern cultural history with a special focus on 20th century Germany. His Within Walls: Private Life in the German Democratic Republic (OUP Oxford, 2010) received the Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History awarded by the Wiener Library. *The author's own book recommendations are: Project Europe: A History by Kiran Klaus Patel (Cambridge University Press, 2020) and Free: Coming of Age at the End of History by Lea Ypi (Allen Lane, 2021). Tim Gwynn Jones is an economic and political-risk analyst at Medley advisors (a division of Energy Aspects). Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Sep 30

45 min 48 sec

How does emigration affect those left behind? The fall of Yugoslavia in the 1990s led citizens to look for a better, more stable life elsewhere. For the older generations, however, this wasn't an option. In this powerful and moving work, Ivana Bajic-Hajdukovic reveals the impact that waves of emigration from Serbia had on family relationships and, in particular, on elderly mothers who stayed. With nowhere to go, and any savings given to their children to help establish new lives, these seniors faced the crumbling country, waves of refugees from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, NATO bombing, the failing economy, and the trial and ouster of Slobodan Milosevic. Can You Run Away from Sorrow?: Mothers Left Behind in 1990s Belgrade (Indiana UP, 2020) poignantly depicts the intimacy of family relationships sustained through these turbulent times in Serbia and through the next generation's search for a new life. Bajic-Hajdukovic explores transformations in family intimacy during everyday life practices-in people's homes, in their food and cooking practices, in their childcare, and even in remittances and the exchange of gifts. "Can You Run Away from Sorrow?" illustrates not only the tremendous sacrifice of parents, but also their profound sense of loss-of their families, their country, their stability and dignity, and most importantly, of their own identity and hope for what they thought their future would be. Anna Domdey, M.A., studied Cultural Anthropology and Gender Studies at the University of Goettingen and is currently doing professional training in the field of museology, but she still likes to engage with compelling anthropological research. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Sep 29

1 hr

Despite Britain's entering the 20th century as the dominant world power, its public discourses were imbued with cultural pessimism and rising social anxiety. Samuel Foster is a Visiting Academic at the University of East Anglia. His first monograph, Yugoslavia in the British Imagination: Peace, War and Peasants before Tito (Bloomsbury, 2021), explores how this changing domestic climate shaped perceptions of other cultures, and Britain's relationship to them, focusing on those Balkan territories that formed the first Yugoslavia from 1918 to 1941. The book examines these connections and demonstrates how the popular image of the region's peasantry evolved from that of foreign 'Other' to historical victim - suffering at the hand of modernity's worst excesses and symbolizing Britain's perceived decline. This coincided with an emerging moralistic sense of British identity that manifested itself during the First World War. Consequently, Yugoslavia was legitimized as the solution to peasant victimization and, as Foster's nuanced analysis reveals, enabled Britain's imagined (and self-promoted) revival as civilization's moral arbiter. Drawing on a range of previously unexplored archival sources, this compelling transnational analysis is an important contribution to the study of British social history and the nature of statehood in the modern Balkans. Vladislav Lilic is a doctoral candidate in Modern European History at Vanderbilt University. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Sep 27

50 min 59 sec

The Tashkent-born Russian-American literary critic, editor, essayist, and journalist Vladislav Davidzon has been covering post-Soviet Ukraine for the past ten years, a tumultuous time for that country and the surrounding world. The 2014 “Revolution of Dignity” heralded a tremendous transformation of Ukrainian politics and society that has continued to ripple and reverberate throughout the world. These unprecedented events also wrought a remarkable cultural revolution in Ukraine itself. In late 2015, a year and a half after the 2014 Revolution swept away the presidency of the Moscow-leaning kleptocratic President Viktor Yanukovich, Davidzon and his wife founded a literary journal, The Odessa Review, focusing on newly emergent trends in film, literature, painting, design, and fashion. The journal became an East European cultural institution, publishing outstanding writers in the region and beyond. From his vantage point as a journalist and editor, Davidzon came to observe events and know many of the leading figures in Ukrainian politics and culture, and to write about them for a Western audience. Davidzon later found himself in the center of world events as he became a United States government witness in the Ukraine scandal that shook the presidency of Donald Trump. From Odessa with Love: Political and Literary Essays in Post-Soviet Ukraine (Academica Press, 2020) tells the real story of what happened in Ukraine from the keen and resilient perspective of an observer at its center Steven Seegel is Professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Sep 27

54 min 46 sec

Mark Baker is an American journalist and travel writer. In the 1980s, he lived in Vienna and reported on the former Eastern bloc for Business International and The Economist Group. In 1991, he moved to Prague, where he worked as an editor for The Prague Post and co-founded The Globe Bookstore & Coffeehouse. He’s written 30 travel guidebooks for publishers like Lonely Planet and Fodor's on countries in Central and Eastern Europe, including the Czech Republic. Čas Proměn (Time of Changes) is his first book of historical nonfiction. Find more about Mark at his website. Steven Seegel is Professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Sep 24

53 min 19 sec

Today we are joined by Petr Roubal, Senior Researcher at the Institute of Contemporary History in the Czech Academy of Sciences, and author of Spartakiads: The Politics of Physical Culture in Communist Czechoslovakia (Karolinum Press/Institute of Contemporary History, 2019). In our conversation, we discussed the genealogy of the Spartakiad gymnastics movement, the use of the Spartakiad during the Communist period and how those uses changed over time, and the reception of the Spartakiad by the Czech public. In Spartakiads, Roubal argues that the Spartakiad can be seen as more than a communist ritual. It was also as a particular Czech nationalist celebration whose popularity made it a central feature of Czech society across the 20th century that resisted postwar Sovietization and subsequently became a costly endeavour for the socialist state. He shows that the Spartakiad was not a sui generis development, but built upon the popular pre-war Sokol movement, one of the key institutions of Czech nationalism before the First World War. When the Communists took power, they had to deal with the popularity of the Sokol movement and its Slets. They attempted to introduce state socialist values into the gymnastics rituals, but their symbolic aims changed over time, especially after the Prague Spring and Normalization. The 1970 Spartakiad was the only time that the socialist state cancelled a Slet. These festivals cost the state immensely in terms of money and time. Hundreds of thousands of participants and spectators needed to be accommodated, fed, and transported from villages, and towns across the country to Prague every five years. Yet, the benefits of the Spartakiad were far from clear and elites and the popular class resisted, adopted, adapted, and celebrated the Spartakiad. Indeed, the Spartakiad’s influence in Czech society and on the socialist state defy simple analysis and Roubal does not hesitate to bring the theories of Foucault, Bakhtin, and other critical theorists to help unpack the power of the movement. Spartakiads: The Politics of Physical Culture in Communist Czechoslovakia is a rich analysis (and a fun read) about postwar socialist Czech society that will be of interest broadly, but especially to scholars of popular culture in postwar Europe and sports historians. Keith Rathbone is a senior lecturer at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. He researches twentieth-century French social and cultural history. His book, entitled Sport and physical culture in Occupied France: Authoritarianism, agency, and everyday life, (Manchester University Press, 2022) examines physical education and sports in order to better understand civic life under the dual authoritarian systems of the German Occupation and the Vichy Regime. If you have a title to suggest for this podcast, please contact him at and follow him at @keithrathbone on twitter. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Sep 23

1 hr 4 min

Among Eastern Europe’s postwar socialist states, Yugoslavia was unique in allowing its citizens to seek work abroad in Western Europe’s liberal democracies. Brigitte Le Normand's book Citizens Without Borders: Yugoslavia and Its Migrant Workers in Western Europe (U Toronto Press, 2021) charts the evolution of the relationship between Yugoslavia and its labour migrants who left to work in Western Europe in the 1960s and 1970s. It examines how migrants were perceived by policy-makers and social scientists and how they were portrayed in popular culture, including radio, newspapers, and cinema. Created to nurture ties with migrants and their children, state cultural, educational, and informational programs were a way of continuing to govern across international borders. These programs relied heavily on the promotion of the idea of homeland. Le Normand examines the many ways in which migrants responded to these efforts and how they perceived their own relationship to the homeland, based on their migration experiences. Citizens without Borders shows how, in their efforts to win over migrant workers, the different levels of government – federal, republic, and local – promoted sometimes widely divergent notions of belonging, grounded in different concepts of "home." Jill Massino is a scholar of modern Eastern Europe with a focus on Romania, gender, and everyday life. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Sep 10

1 hr 26 min

When considering pivotal years in Russian history, one naturally thinks of 1861 (the Serf Emancipation), the 1905 Revolution, or the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Dr. Paul Werth’s 1837: Russia's Quiet Revolution (Oxford UP, 2021), invites us to reconsider that list of revolutionary years. Werth’s wide-ranging discussion analyzes such subjects as Pushkin’s death and Petr Chadaaev’s criticism of Russia’s past, to the Khiva campaign in which the Russian’s learned all they ever wanted to know about camels, but were afraid to ask. By the end of this engaging narrative, the reader comes to realize that post-1837 Russia was clearly on track (literally, in the case of the new railways) to become a different sort of place than it had been before. The era of Nicholas I has, with some justification, been portrayed as a stagnant, stultifying period. Werth’s book, however, demonstrates that the events of 1837, from the heir’s cross-country trip to the burning of the Winter Palace, did in fact add up to a “Quiet Revolution.” Aaron Weinacht is Professor of History at the University of Montana Western, in Dillon, MT. He teaches courses on Russian and Soviet History, World History, and Philosophy of History. His research interests include the sociological theorist Philip Rieff and the influence of Russian nihilism on American libertarianism. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Sep 7

1 hr 5 min

Over the past decade, Poland and Hungary have become laboratories for a new kind of government: proto-authoritarian regimes that still have regular elections, vibrant oppositions and are externally constrained by EU law and potential loss of fiscal transfers. Viktor Orbán, Hungary's prime minister since 2010, especially has generated a comprehensive academic literature attempting to understand the special nature of his regime. Two earlier podcasts with András Körösényi and Gábor Scheiring about their efforts to classify Orbánism can be found in the NBN library and a conversation Lasse Skytt about his new edition of Orbanland (New Europe Books, 2021) is coming soon. In their new book - Illiberal Constitutionalism in Poland and Hungary: The Deterioration of Democracy, Misuse of Human Rights and Abuse of the Rule of Law (Routledge, 2021) - Professors Drinóczi and Bień-Kacała redefine the models of government practised by Orbán and Jarosław Kaczyński. By examining Polish and Hungarian history, identity, and political and legal systems, as well as the influence of European rule of law, they alight on what they believe is a new political phenomenon: illiberal constitutionalism. Agnieszka Bień-Kacała (a Pole) teaches law at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń and Tímea Drinóczi (a Hungarian) teaches law at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil. *The authors' own book recommendations are Poland's Constitutional Breakdown by Wojciech Sadurski (OUP Oxford, 2019) and Democratic Decline in Hungary Law and Society in an Illiberal Democracy by András László Pap (Routledge, 2017). Tim Gwynn Jones is an economic and political-risk analyst at Medley advisors (a division of Energy Aspects). Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Sep 3

40 min 5 sec

The fall of the Berlin Wall is typically understood as the culmination of political-economic trends that fatally weakened the East German state. Meanwhile, comparatively little attention has been paid to the cultural dimension of these dramatic events, particularly the role played by Western mass media and consumer culture. With a focus on the 1970s and 1980s, Don't Need No Thought Control: Western Culture in East Germany and the Fall of the Berlin Wall (Berghahn Books, 2020) explores the dynamic interplay of popular unrest, intensifying economic crises, and cultural policies under Erich Honecker. It shows how the widespread influence of (and public demands for) Western cultural products forced GDR leaders into a series of grudging accommodations that undermined state power to a hitherto underappreciated extent. Jill Massino is a scholar of modern Eastern Europe with a focus on Romania, gender, and everyday life. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Sep 2

1 hr 31 min

From the moment that Tsars as well as hierarchs realized that having their subjects go to confession could make them better citizens as well as better Christians, the sacrament of penance in the Russian empire became a political tool, a devotional exercise, a means of education, and a literary genre. It defined who was Orthodox, and who was 'other.' First encouraging Russian subjects to participate in confession to improve them and to integrate them into a reforming Church and State, authorities then turned to confession to integrate converts of other nationalities. But the sacrament was not only something that state and religious authorities sought to impose on an unwilling populace. Confession could provide an opportunity for carefully crafted complaint. What state and church authorities initially imagined as a way of controlling an unruly population could be used by the same population as a way of telling their own story, or simply getting time off to attend to their inner lives. Nadieszda Kizenko's book Good for the Souls: A History of Confession in the Russian Empire (Oxford UP, 2021) brings Russia into the rich scholarly and popular literature on confession, penance, discipline, and gender in the modern world, and in doing so opens a key window onto church, state, and society. It draws on state laws, Synodal decrees, archives, manuscript repositories, clerical guides, sermons, saints' lives, works of literature, and visual depictions of the sacrament in those books and on church iconostases. Russia, Ukraine, and Orthodox Christianity emerge both as part of the European, transatlantic religious continuum-and, in crucial ways, distinct from it. Paul Werth is a professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Sep 1

55 min 19 sec

Christianity is a global religion. It's a fact that is too often missed or ignored in many books and conversations. In a world where Christianity is growing everywhere but in the West, the Understanding World Christianity series offers a fresh, readable orientation to Christianity around the world. Understanding World Christianity is organized geographically, by nation and region. Noted experts, in most cases native to the area of focus, present a balanced history of Christianity and a detailed discussion of the faith as it is lived today. Each volume addresses six key "intersections" of Christianity in a given context, including the historical, denominational, sociopolitical, geographical, biographical, and theological settings. Understanding World Christianity: Russia (Fortress Press, 2021) offers a compelling glimpse into the vibrant and complex picture of Christianity in the Russian context. It's an ideal introduction for students, mission leaders, and any others who wish to know how Christianity influences, and is influenced by, the Russian context. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Aug 25

56 min 3 sec

When we think about the process of European unification, our conversations inevitably ponder questions of economic cooperation and international politics. Salvatore Pappalardo offers a new and engaging perspective, arguing that the idea of European unity is also the product of a modern literary imagination. This book examines the idea of Europe in the modernist literature of primarily Robert Musil, Italo Svevo, and James Joyce (but also of Theodor Däubler and Srecko Kosovel), all authors who had a deep connection with the port city of Trieste. Writing after World War I, when the contested city joined Italy, these authors resisted the easy nostalgia of the postwar period, radically reimagining the origins of Europe in the Mediterranean culture of the Phoenicians, contrasting a 19th-century nationalist discourse that saw Europe as the heir of a Greek and Roman legacy. These writers saw the Adriatic city, a cosmopolitan bazaar under the Habsburg Empire, as a social laboratory of European integration. Salvatore Pappalardo's book Modernism in Trieste: The Habsburg Mediterranean and the Literary Invention of Europe, 1870-1945 (Bloomsbury, 2021) seeks to fill a critical gap in the extant scholarship, securing the literary history of Trieste within the context of current research on Habsburg and Austrian literature. Lea Greenberg is a scholar of German studies with a particular focus on German Jewish and Yiddish literature and culture; critical gender studies; multilingualism; and literature of the post-Yugoslav diaspora. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Aug 24

47 min 17 sec

Food writer Zuza Zak’s latest book, Amber & Rye: A Baltic Food Journey: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania (Allen & Unwin, 2021) is a remarkable exploration of one of Europe’s better-kept secrets: the food and culture of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, known collectively as the three “Baltic States.” But as “Amber & Rye” proves so ably, each of these countries has its own unique and distinct culinary roots and culture, and each country is currently experiencing a lively culinary renaissance, which makes “Amber & Rye” an especially timely and welcome addition to this season’s new cookbooks. Zak’s initial inspiration was her Lithuanian grandmother’s tales of her youth in Vilnius, and these memories launched Zak on a quest to discover the heart of the region through an examination of its food. The cuisines of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia are very much a reflection of their terrain and are shaped by the bracing climate of the Baltic sea. Fish — be it fresh, salted, or smoked— is a major player in each country’s cuisine, as are meat, grains, root vegetables, mushrooms, berries, and the region’s incomparable dairy products. With some influences from their near neighbors: Russia, Germany, Poland, and Scandinavia, the Baltic States’ cuisines remain magnificently their own — as Zak emphasizes throughout “Amber & Rye.” “Amber & Rye’s” adroit structure offers recipes from all three countries in chapters that cover breakfast, appetizers, soups, main courses, salads, desserts, and beverages and a delightful section on the region’s famous pickles, ferments, and preserves. In the approachable style and easy-to-follow recipes that made Zak’s first book, “Polska” such a success, the recipes of “Amber & Rye” showcase the building blocks of Baltic cuisine such as kama, hemp butter, and herring in fresh and engaging recipes, which are easy to replicate in an ordinary home kitchen. The recipes are sandwiched between insightful travel essays about the cities Zak visited on her Baltic odyssey, which offer keen insight into the individual history and culture of each place. The region’s rich history includes membership in the commercial powerhouse of the Middle Ages, the Hanseatic League, the era dominated by the crusading Teutonic Knights, and the strategic alliance between Lithuania and Poland, which made the region a major power broker in the sixteenth century. Zak also charts the more recent struggle of the three Baltic countries to preserve their unique heritage and traditions alive during the seventy years of Soviet rule, and the key role played by music, art, culture, and of course food in the ultimate success of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia reclaiming their heritage and enjoying the freedom to celebrate it today. The title, “Amber & Rye” is an apt choice. Rye is omnipresent in the Baltic countries — a tenacious, life-giving grain that is found in almost every meal. Amber, the ancient substance formed from the sap of conifer trees, is a potent symbol in each of the three counties: of energy, power, and the preservation of memory. In “Amber & Rye” Zuzu Zak has captured both the life force and the power of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia and made them available to readers through her delightful and compelling exploration of the cuisines, culture, and history of these three Baltic countries. Zuza Zak is a food writer based in London, where she is a Ph.D. student at University College London’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies. Zak’s debut cookbook, “Polska: New Polish Cooking,” was selected as one of the best cookbooks of 2016 on BBC Radio 4’s The Food Program. “Amber & Rye” is published in America by Interlink Publishing. Jennifer Eremeeva is an American expatriate writer who writes about travel, culture, cuisine and culinary history, Russian history, and Royal History, with bylines in Reuters, Fodor's, USTOA, LitHub, The Moscow Times, and Russian Life. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Aug 20

48 min 1 sec

The collapse of the Berlin Wall has come to represent the entry of an isolated region onto the global stage. On the contrary, this study argues that communist states had in fact long been shapers of an interconnecting world, with '1989' instead marking a choice by local elites about the form that globalisation should take. Published to coincide with the thirtieth anniversary of the 1989 revolutions, 1989: A Global History of Eastern Europe (Cambridge UP, 2019) draws on material from local archives to international institutions to explore the place of Eastern Europe in the emergence, since the 1970s, of a new world order that combined neoliberal economics and liberal democracy with increasingly bordered civilisational, racial and religious identities. An original and wide-ranging history, it explores the importance of the region's links to the West, East Asia, Africa, and Latin America in this global transformation, reclaiming the era's other visions such as socialist democracy or authoritarian modernisation which had been lost in triumphalist histories of market liberalism. Jill Massino is a scholar of modern Eastern Europe with a focus on Romania, gender, and everyday life. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Aug 16

1 hr 14 min

Margarita Balmaceda’s Russian Energy Chains: The Remaking of Technopolitics from Siberia to Ukraine to the European Union (Columbia University Press, 2021) is a meticulous exploration of a complex system of energy supplies involving Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union. While originating in Russia, energy supplies, as the author asserts, undergo changes and transformations when being delivered to various destinations. What do these changes inform about the nature of both energy resources and power? Offering an insightful framework in which the two concepts can be understood, Russian Energy Chains complicates the issue of energy supplies that are inextricable from the dynamics of power relations on the interstate level. In addition to acute commentaries on the current role and status of Russia in the energy market, Margarita Balmaceda offers references to various time periods to illustrate how politically and geographically entangled energy systems are. Russian Energy Chains provides a detailed account of the development of the energy power that Russia seems to both offer and usurp; the book guides the reader through the complexity of power relations that include Ukraine and the European Union and helps better understand the current debate about Nord Stream-2. On a larger level, Margarita Balmaceda invites the discussion of the future of the energy market in terms of domestic and international policies. Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed is a PhD candidate in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures, Indiana University Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Aug 13

44 min 55 sec

Volodymyr Vynnychenko is one of the most ambiguous and controversial Ukrainian writers of the twentieth century. In an intricate and highly entangled way, his persona combines an artist and a statesman whose political views include both national aspirations of Ukraine and the pursuit of programs which were marked by socialist and federalist ideas. His writing opens a window into cultural and political contestations that were taking place in Ukraine in the wake of the collapse of the Russian Empire and on the eve of the creation of the Soviet Union. The complexity of these dramatic and drastic changes manifests itself in Vynnychenko’s writing, which is marked by psychological nuances and emotional crevices. George Mihaychuk’s Disharmony and Other Plays (Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, 2020) invites the reader to delve into a psychological world of characters who try to deal with moral doubts, hesitations, and uncertainties. In the introduction, George Mihaychuk outlines the pillars of Vynnychenko’s dramas. The author situates Vynnychenko in the context of European modernism while providing trajectories that connect Vynnychenko to Hegel and Kant. The moral issues that Vynnychenko explores in and through his dramas resonate with the Dostoyevskian voice. His characters are split, tormented, haunted by the desire to be honest and genuine with themselves. Is it possible to be genuine with oneself? What does it mean to be honest with oneself, after all? George Mihaychuk’s Disharmony and Other Plays invites readers to take a bold journey into the deep and dark corners of the soul. Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed is a PhD candidate in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures, Indiana University Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Aug 13

52 min 46 sec

In the wake of the First World War and Russian Revolutions, Central Europeans in 1919 faced a world of possibilities, threats, and extreme contrasts. Dramatic events since the end of the world war seemed poised to transform the world, but the form of that transformation was unclear and violently contested in the streets and societies of Munich and Budapest in 1919. The political perceptions of contemporaries, framed by gender stereotypes and antisemitism, reveal the sense of living history, of 'fighting the world revolution', which was shared by residents of the two cities. In 1919, both revolutionaries and counterrevolutionaries were focused on shaping the emerging new order according to their own worldview. In Revolution and Political Violence in Central Europe: The Deluge of 1919 (Cambridge UP, 2021), Eliza Ablovatski helps answer the question of why so many Germans and Hungarians chose to use their new political power for violence and repression. Eliza Ablovatski is Associate Professor of History at Kenyon College (Ohio), where she has just completed her term as chair of the History department.  Steven Seegel is Professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Aug 11

57 min 23 sec

It’s been 44 years since the Young European Federalists first coined the term “democratic deficit” – two years before the first direct elections to the European Parliament, 10 before the Single European Act and more than 20 before the advent of the euro. Over those years – as the single market and the new currency shifted powers from the nation to the union – the conviction that the EU suffers such a deficit has taken root among europhiles and eurosceptics alike. While national powers have been ceded to the EU, they say, democratic accountability has not. But is this entirely true and, if it is, should this deficit be filled by the European Parliament? In European Representation in EU National Parliaments (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021), Lucy Kinski concludes that not only do national parliaments have “a stronger claim to democratic legitimacy than the overarching supranational tier” but that many national MPs are already acting as representatives for non-nationals and the wider union. Lucy Kinski is a researcher and lecturer at the Salzburg Centre for European Union Studies. She studied at the Hertie School in Berlin, the Utrecht School of Economics, the Graduate Institute in Geneva and obtained her doctorate at the University of Vienna. Before going to Salzburg, she was a senior researcher at the University of Düsseldorf. *The author's own book recommendations are Framing TTIP in the European Public Spheres: Towards an Empowering Dissensus for EU Integration by Alvaro Oleart (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021) and How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell (Melville House Publishing, 2019). Tim Gwynn Jones is an economic and political-risk analyst at Medley Global (Energy Aspects). Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Aug 10

42 min 29 sec

German Ambassador Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau believed that Germany and the Soviet Union were locked together in a Schicksalgemienshaft, or “community of fate.” The interaction of these two nations, Brockdorff-Rantzau thought, would decide the course of history, in Europe and beyond. Anyone familiar with the history of German-Soviet relations in the twentieth century might be inclined to agree with the ambassador’s assessment; though they might find his use of the word “community,” with all its positive connotations, somewhat out of place. For if the Germans and Soviets built any community at all, the evidence suggests it was not built on mutual respect and cooperation. Rather it was built on hate—vicious, unbridled, unrelenting hate. Hate, however, can unite as powerfully as it divides. Ideologically, politically, culturally, economically, and socially, the Germans and the Soviets were diametrically opposed. But for a brief period during the interwar years, their mutual hatred of the post-First World War order overcame their mutual distrust to bring these two powers together in an uncharacteristic, but highly consequential, economic, technologic, and military partnership. Formalized with the signing of the Treaty of Ropallo in April 1922, this uneasy alliance saw the Soviet Union provide a safe haven for German rearmament in return for German investment, trade, and military assistance. German officers, businessmen, industrialists, and engineers relocated to secret sites throughout the Soviet Union to work on the design of tanks and aircraft, develop new chemical weapons capabilities, and train a new generation of German military leaders away from the prying eyes of the Allied powers. Simultaneously, Soviet officers learned the art of war from their German counterparts, while their country acquired the industrial base, manufacturing expertise, and military hardware it believed necessary to advancing the Communist cause. Understanding the grave significance of that exchange is the object of military historian Ian Ona Johnson’s recent work, Faustian Bargain: The Soviet-German Partnership and the Origins of the Second World War (Oxford University Press, 2021). The Ropallo relationship, Johnson convincingly argues, can explain not only the outbreak of the Second World War, but also its conduct, especially on the Eastern Front. Germany’s rapid rearmament, the Nazification of the Reichswar, the Soviet military purges of the 1930s, and even British and French appeasement, Johnson maintains, can all trace their roots to the Ropallo era. Without the Soviet Union’s assistance, Germany would not have been able to so easily violate the Versailles treaty; nor would the German military have been able to so rapidly rearm. Close contact between German officers and the Soviet regime, Johnson observes, radicalized many in the Reichswar’s upper echelons, driving them into the open embrace of the National Socialists. Contact between these two groups also troubled Stalin, who feared Red Army officers were becoming contaminated by German ideology and culture. That fear, Johnson contends, resulted in the disastrous Red Army purges of 1936. And, Johnson argues, had the Germany Army not stolen a technological night march on the British and the French, appeasement may not have been as attractive a posture. Without Ropallo, Hitler’s early advances may have been more forcefully checked. Faustian Bargain is an insightful, incisive, exhaustively researched, and incredibly accessible look at a critical period in the lead up to the Second World War. Johnson provides a fresh lens through which to examine the most important questions surrounding the war, its origins, and its conduct. In doing so, Johnson reminds us that the story of the Second World War is in fact, as Brockdorff-Rantzau might have stated, the story of the the complex relationships built by an international “community of fate.” Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Aug 10

53 min 39 sec

Kin by Miljenko Jergović (Archipelago Books, 2021) is a family story that covers more than a century; it takes readers to various geographical places and introduces them to a kaleidoscope of historical perturbations. The narrator seems to sincerely try to tell a truthful story, but acknowledges from the very beginning that it would probably be impossible to provide only true facts. Thus, the reader has no other choice than to rely on the narrator’s sincerity and make their way through the labyrinthine narrative in which everything seems to have its own story: places, objects, names, food, houses, etc. Gradually, the novel turns into an attempt to provide evidence for everything that the narrator seems to know and remember: family members and friends, wars and conflicts, marriages and adulteries, devotion and betrayal, happiness and despondency. The novel chapters resemble vignettes which lure the reader into a magical world in which nothing can be lost. In this interview, Russell Scott Valentino, translator of the novel, shares his insights about the novel and the translation journey through Miljenko Jergović’s family saga. Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed is a PhD student in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Aug 9

45 min 23 sec