The importance of being Alexander Nikolov, or what is eating the Bulgarian middle class?

Note from the LeftEast editors: a longer version of this piece was first published in Bulgarian by web portal Baricada. Over the last week, the major media outlets in Bulgaria, and especially the liberal press, were taken over by a seemingly small-scale scandal: an online celebrity called Alexander Nikolov tricked tens of people with the promise of buying them cheap plane tickets. To do this he “just” needed their credit card details. In some cases he did not deliver the promised tickets, in others – he withdrew money from the credit cards in small instalments. The first remarkable thing about this case is ..

Bakur Rising: Democratic Autonomy in Kurdistan

Note from the editors: This article was originally published in ROAR magazine here. Bakur Rising: Democratic Autonomy in Kurdistan By Nazan Üstündağ Illustration by David Istvan Photo by Uygar Önder Simsek / MOKU In recent years, following the collapse of the peace process between the Turkish state and the Kurdish freedom movement, the struggle for autonomy in the towns and cities of northern Kurdistan, or Bakur, has undergone a significant shift from a non-violent re-organization of social and political life to a militant self-defense movement. The declaration of round-the-clock curfews in the summer of 2016 ..

The Romanian Pension System Between Low Wages and Demographic Fears

This article has been published in collaboration with the Bilten regional platform. The illusion of the “private vs. public” opposition A flurry of irate opinions, fuming comments, and angry analyses have emerged in Romania’s liberal press once the Social-Democratic Prime-Minister, Mihai Tudose, announced in late August, under rather vague terms, his Cabinet’s intentions to reform the pension system. The debate developed into a strange public fray, mixing economic fears, fiscal fatalism, and demographic concerns; a discursive potion which is unfortunately representative of the manner in which the pension ..

From historical affinities to effective solidarities: Israel and Eastern Europe

In a column in Ha’aretz last year, historian and journalist Ofri Ilany pointed out to his Israeli audience a number of affinities between Israel and Eastern Europe, ranging from the culinary to the political (Hebrew). As an antidote to the Western-oriented provincialism of the Israeli liberal sphere, Ilany’s intervention was welcome, but building effective solidarities requires a sustained critical reflection on the questions he raises: in what ways is Israel continuous with the Eastern European region? In what ways is it not? And how can these similarities and differences be mobilized in the search for tran ..

To Stop the Engine of Inequality: a Bulgarian Campaign for Tax Reform

Preface by Georgi Medarov: After months, if not years, of relative quiescence, progressive politics in Bulgaria has been thrust into national visibility by a new campaign for tax justice supported by a wide coalition of activists, NGOs, unions and small center-left and left parties. At this stage, its main activity has been focused on generating public debate and collecting signatures, which will be submitted to Parliament in a month, when the new budget is being debated. The campaign’s demands are far from radical, but despite their mainstream character, or perhaps precisely because of it, they has already man ..

Hungary’s ‘Lex CEU’ and the State of the Open Society: Looking Beyond the Story of Democratic Revolutions

This article appeared originally on the Cultures of History Forum at the Imre Kertész Kolleg, University of Jena. The Cultures of History Forum’s invitation to discuss the ‘Lex CEU’ and the state of the open society focuses on threats against academic freedom and civil society in Central and Eastern Europe. It reads the Hungarian government’s attack on the Central European University (CEU) as a symptom of a more general shift away from fundamental principles of liberal democracy in the region. As a regional process, this backslide is seen as standing in contradiction to the hopes and efforts of ..

The Red and the Black: the Riddle of post-Soviet Racism

This text was originally published in Russian in the web-journal ReLevant: a Journal of Current Analysis. We are much obliged to Maria Brock for its English translation. Anyone who has crossed paths with Soviet immigrants in the West will have noticed the strange phenomenon of post-Soviet racism, which is all the stranger because the overwhelming majority of emigrants from the Soviet Union are “individuals of Jewish origin,” that is, people who not only faced quotidian and structural racism, but who also ended up fleeing from it. Dr N was pensively stirring his cappuccino, which had long gone cold. We were ..

Contradictions in Russian Cultural Politics: Conservatism as an Instrument of Neoliberalism

Note from the editors: The following piece is scheduled to appear in the edited collection The Art of Civil Action, edited by Philipp Dietachmair and Pascal Gielen and published through Valiz in November 2017. Today, it is common to contrast the statism of today’s Russia with the Western neoliberal order, which is based on the primacy of political and economic freedom. European journalists and experts discuss Putin’s Russia as though it were a revisionist state that is not only ready for military aggression but is also driven by internal destructive forces: a “populist international” of right and left par ..


The following is an open letter by two professional organizations of progressive scholars of Eastern European Studies and related fields, protesting the rise of white supremacy in trans-national context connecting the United States, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and demanding that ASEEES (the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies) take a stand on the issue, in particular following the recent white supremacist rally and murder of a progressive demonstrator in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA. You may sign the letter (regardless of your own scholarly / professional affiliation b ..

Why the Left in Central and Eastern Europe Must Support Refugees

The refugee crisis continues to dominate European politics. By the beginning of August, almost 118,000 refugees had already entered the European Union via the Mediterranean Sea this year, with an additional estimated 2,400 of them losing their lives on the journey.[i] The continuation of western-instigated wars in the region, political destabilisation, terrorism, poverty and climate change mean that this flow of refugees to Europe is only likely to increase. Of course it is not Europe itself that is bearing the main brunt of this refugee crisis – but those countries that are bordering the war-zones, such as Leb ..