Noontime Scholars Lecture: Karol Kujawa, “Migration Crisis: Implications for Turkish-EU Relations”

On February 14th, REEEC Visiting Scholar Karol Kujawa gave a Noontime Scholars Lecture entitled “Migration Crisis: Implications for Turkish-EU Relations.”  Kujawa is a Kosciuszko Foundation Fellow and Assistant Professor at Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University. His lecture was co-sponsored by the European Union Center.


Karol Kujawa

For the past several years, the EU has been facing a refugee crisis. Turkey, traditionally a “gateway to Europe,” plays a key role in this migration process.  As a result of the Syrian Civil War, Turkey has become the site of political asylum for over 2.8 million Syrians.  Turkey currently hosts more refugees than any other country on Earth.

According to Kujawa, Turkey decided to host these refugees for several reasons.  First, Turkish authorities initially believed that Bashar al-Assad’s regime would fall—and their “guests” (as the Turkish prime minister called Syrian refugees) would return home—within a year.  Second, the Turkish people were in favor of helping refugees, due to a cultural tradition of “welcoming people from the Ottoman Empire, the Caucasus, Crimea… all of them are refugees, and the society is very cosmopolitan.”  Additionally, “Turkish people really love children,” and over 50% of Syrian refugees in Turkey are minors.

Since the migration crisis began, however, the number of terrorist attacks within Turkey has risen dramatically.  The crisis has led to an increase in “anti-European feelings” among the Turkish people, which is “one of the main purposes of this terrorism” (most of which is perpetrated by ISIS).  Since 2015-2016, popular support for Turkey’s potential accession to the EU has waned, and nationalism and xenophobia are on the rise within the country: “even the seculars are nationalists… there is currently no moderate movement in Turkey.”  On the European side, “we have seen almost the same process”—after an earlier more welcoming attitude toward migrants, “Europeans gradually started changing their minds about the refugees.” This has also coincided with a rise in nationalism throughout Europe.

An “EU-Turkey Statement” was released on March 18, 2016, outlining a new agreement between Turkey and the EU with regard to the migration crisis.  According to this statement, “All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands… will be returned to Turkey,” but “For every Syrian being returned to Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU.” The EU also agreed to accept more refugees, liberalize the visa process, help improve conditions for refugees on Turkish soil, and to speed up the disbursement of 3 billion euros allocated under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey.  As a result of this agreement, the number of refugees coming to Greece decreased, although according to Kujawa, “that was mainly the result of stopping [migrant] smugglers on Turkish soil.”  Stronger borders have also been established in the Balkans.  However, Kujawa stressed that this is just a temporary solution: Syrian refugees will continue to migrate to Europe, and “there are still too many refugees in Syria, and too many coming to Turkey. To be honest, the only way to stop this problem is to stop the war in Syria.”

Kujawa noted that the EU and Turkey need each other, so they must try to cooperate. The EU needs Turkey’s help to stop the flow of refugees into Europe, and the Turkish economy relies on trade with the EU: over 50% of Turkish exports go to Europe.  However, many member states would oppose Turkey’s accession to the EU, due to human rights issues (“states like Austria and Luxembourg are very sensitive about the question of freedom and human rights, and will oppose integration with Turkey”), increasing levels of xenophobia (“anti-Islamic demonstrations… in Hungary especially”), and the rise of nationalist movements that threaten the integrity of the EU itself (“we don’t even know if the European Union will survive”).

Matthew McWilliams is a REEES M.A. student and a FLAS Fellow for the 2016-2017 academic year for the study of Russian. 

New Directions Lecture: Yuliya Zabyelina, “The Urge to Purge: Lustration in Ukraine during Ongoing Conflict”


Dr. Yuliya Zabyelina

On November 10th, Dr. Yuliya Zabyelina presented her research in a New Directions Lecture, “The Urge to Purge: Lustration in Ukraine during Ongoing Conflict.” Yuliya Zabyelina is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice with the John Jay College of Criminal Science at the City University of New York (CUNY). She examined the development of the lustration program enacted by the Ukrainian government in 2014,  analyzing the different aspects of the lustration program and the impact or lack thereof on those who would be targeted by the lustration program’s policies. The implementation of lustration followed from the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution, Euromaidan, as the activists attempted to work with the new government to remove those from the state that were active members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Yanukovych regime. Zabyelina aimed to address the following questions with her research into lustration: What to focus? What is lustration and what functions does it serve? How can late lustration programs be explained? How can lustration systems be categorized and what is the expected effect of each of them? What is the expected impact of lustration in heterogeneous and divided societies? Should lustration embrace the fight against corruption?

Lustration comes from the Latin word “lustrum,” which denotes a ceremony of ritual purification. Essentially, lustration was an act of cleansing of the state apparatus of those who were a part of the state apparatus during times of oppression (under Communism) and during the Yanukovych regime. The lustration package in Ukraine post-Euromaidan had mainly one tangible, general function, as do most lustration policies, and that is to cleanse the state apparatus of those old policies and people who are no longer part of the status quo, who represent that which must be changed. Lustration in Ukraine also carries a long with it, as Zabyelina stated, a number of intangible functions, functions that are by-products of the lustration policies, intangibles that would hopefully come from a forward-looking, cleansing of the state of the old, making way for the new. Some of these intangible functions include: Drawing the line between the past and new regime, ritual purification of the old regime, the transformation of mentalities within the state towards policy and the nation, and responses to extraordinary politics.

According to Zabyelina, the type of lustration that Ukraine is undergoing can be called “hard lustration” with policies are meant to exclude and make public those who are being cleansed. In contrast, a mild or informal lustration policy might involve reconciliation or be conducted internally rather than publicly. Zabyelina argued that  Ukraine’s hard lustration policy lacks aspects of reconciliation, transparency, and consistency that might make it more efficient and safe. Thus, this half-baked hard lustration coupled with the fact that 81% of Ukrainians believe lustration is necessary to fight corruption, has led to vigilante lustration, where mobs of people would attempt to expose corrupt officials. For example in “Dumpster lustration” a lustrated individual is put in a dumpster while a crowd cheers “shame”. These events are often recorded and posted online.

Zabyelina suggested that there is no clear answer to whether lustration is working or not in Ukraine at the moment, as lustration is not only still ongoing, but also lustration is happening alongside ongoing conflict. She argued that as long as the conflict in Ukraine goes unresolved, lustration will never be able to fully work efficiently and to achieve the purposes for which it was enacted by the Ukrainian government.

Nicholas Higgins is a Masters student in the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include the development of identity separate from the Soviet identity during Glasnost’ and Perestroika, the current relations between Russia and its neighbors, especially Russia’s relations with Ukraine. He received his B.A in Philosophy and Russian, East European, & Eurasian Studies from Miami University of Ohio in 2015. He is currently working on his Masters thesis, which is attempting to adapt Søren Kierkegaard‘s model of faith into a political and social model that could represent the political and social nature of the late Soviet era.




New Directions in the Scholarship on the 1956 Hungarian Revolution: Memory and the Transnational Impact 60 Years After

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In 1956, Nikita Khrushchev delivered a speech before the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, in which he denounced Stalin’s “cult of personality” and condemned some of the crimes of the Stalinist era – notably, the mass terror of the 1930s – thereby destroying the myth of Stalin’s infallibility.  News of Khrushchev’s “secret speech” spread throughout Eastern Europe and contributed to the Polish reform movement, including protests in Poznań (June 1956) and the “Polish October,” which led to a brief period of liberalization.  The events in Poland inspired student demonstrations in Budapest, which swelled to a mass protest on October 23, 1956. After a delegation of protesters attempted to enter the Radio Budapest building to broadcast their demands, the secret police (Államvédelmi Hatóságor) opened fire on the crowd. Protesters responded in kind – the ensuing revolution spread throughout the country and forced the collapse of the government. However, Soviet forces entered Hungary in early November, brutally suppressing the Hungarian resistance.

On October 21st, 2016, an international group of social scientists and humanities scholars met to discuss the impact of 1956. “New Directions in the Scholarship on the 1956 Hungarian Revolution: Memory and the Transnational Impact 60 Years After” was organized by Richard Esbenshade and Zsuzsa Gille (UIUC) and co-sponsored by REEEC, the Department of Political Science, the Center for Global Studies, and the European Union Center. By exploring the causes and consequences of the Hungarian Revolution in ethical, political, and transnational contexts, presenters revealed its far-reaching influence and persistent relevance, demonstrating the importance of continued research on the events of 1956.

Peter Kenez (History, University of California at Santa Cruz) discussed the relationships between the leading members of the Hungarian communist party – known as the Hungarian Working People’s Party (Magyar Dolgozók Pártja) from June 1948 to October 1956 – in the months before the revolution. He highlighted a divide within the party between the “communist hierarchy” (Stalinist party leaders) and “those who opted for the reform direction,” the main difference being that “no one in the communist hierarchy ever said, ‘I made a mistake.’” Kenez focused particularly on the moral trajectory of the Stalinist leadership: “None of these characters who behaved so badly actually joined the communist movement for careerist reasons… How did they become so rotten?” One explanation he offered was that four of the most prominent party leaders (including Mátyás Rákosi) spent several years in Moscow during the Stalinist purges, a “bad education” that “taught them all the wrong lessons.”

Also focusing on ethics, Emanuel Rota (Italian and French, UIUC) argued that the events of 1956 led to a “crisis of morality” within the international communist movement. If Khrushchev was right that Stalin was someone who made mistakes – and, by extension, that the higher-ups didn’t “know better” – then party members were morally responsible for their actions: “that was something we did.” Khrushchev’s condemnation of Stalinism also undermined the pretext for an all-pervasive intelligence service: “As long as Stalin remains attached to this idea that ‘the war is coming,’ espionage becomes a way of being. Once you take away the enemy and espionage remains, cynicism becomes a possibility.” According to Rota, the Soviet repression of the Hungarian uprising marked “the end of a crucial founding myth of the communist experience: the myth of revolution.”

Because the Soviet Union was the paradigm for communist parties internationally, the repression of the Hungarian Revolution “sparked an anguished debate in the international left,” according to David Ost (Political Science, Hobart and William Smith Colleges). However, Ost noted that it “mattered less and mattered differently than similar movements in 1968 [i.e. the ‘Prague Spring’ in Czechoslovakia] and 1980 [i.e. the Solidarity movement in Poland].” Alluding to the fascist Arrow Cross Party (1935-45) and Hungary’s alliance with Germany during World War II, he argued that the 1956 uprising was tainted by the “temporal proximity” of fascism. In Ost’s opinion, Hungary also failed to “matter more” to the West because of the Soviet acquiescence to the (apparently similar) events in Poland.

International attention was also deflected away from the Hungarian Revolution by the contemporaneous Suez War (or “Tripartite Aggression”) in Egypt. Ken Cuno (History, UIUC) discussed the origins of the conflict in “a century of [French and British] colonial domination, at the center of which was the Suez Canal.” In response to a withdrawal of American funds for the construction of the Aswan high dam – itself an act of retribution for the 1955 announcement that Egypt would begin importing weapons from Czechoslovakia, a “neutralism” that the Americans “regarded as a paler form of Communism” – Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, which had been controlled by French and British investors since 1875. After this decision, which was “highly popular within Egypt and in accordance with international law,” the French and British “immediately began preparing for war, in order to seize back ‘their’ canal.” The conflict that ensued prevented the American government from interceding in Hungary, according to then-Vice President Richard Nixon: “We couldn’t on one hand, complain about the Soviets intervening in Hungary and, on the other hand, approve of the British and the French picking that particular time to intervene against Nasser.”

The transnational context of the revolution was also discussed by Árpád von Klimó (History, Catholic University of America) and Stefano Bottoni (History, Hungarian Academy of Sciences). Von Klimó spoke about the conflicting narratives surrounding two World War II-era atrocities: the mass killings of several thousand (mostly Serbian and Jewish) civilians by Hungarian troops in January 1942, known as the “Novi Sad raid” or “Újvidék massacre,” and the mass killings of thousands of (mostly Hungarian) civilians by Tito’s army in 1944. Noting that these atrocities were highly politicized, especially “when the communist regimes in Hungary and Yugoslavia based the legitimation of their authority on anti-Fascist narratives and interpretations of the war,” he contended that the 1956 “anti-Stalinist revolution… made it even more difficult to propagate the original Stalinist narrative about the war.” Bottoni argued that party leaders in neighboring Romania were able to exploit the events of 1956 for their own political agenda. He contended that the Hungarian Revolution served as a pretext for “limiting the cultural rights of [Romania’s] most sizeable ethnic minority, the Hungarians.” Mass trials in Romania in the late 1950s targeted ethnic minorities for “social crimes” (e.g. hooliganism) as well as political offenses, and “the ‘classic’ Stalinist-type structure was gradually replaced by a similarly rigid dictatorship, but one with a ‘more national’ complexion,” which continued until the fall of Ceauşescu’s government in 1989.

Taking a different approach, Maya Nadkarni (Anthropology, Swarthmore College) highlighted the revolution’s “shifting role in Hungary’s politics of memory” by examining the official commemorations of its 40th, 50th, and 60th anniversaries in Budapest. She remarked that although the memory of ’56 divided Hungarians along political lines, it “represented a shared trauma” for everyone. In 1996, the then-dominant Hungarian Socialist Party (Magyar Szocialista Párt) pushed through a bill declaring Imre Nagy – the reform-minded communist who became the leader of the 1956 revolutionary movement – a martyr. By 2006, however, the memory of 1956 had been largely coopted by a right-wing narrative, becoming a symbol of “struggle against oppressors” rather than “a contested legacy against various political opponents.” Additionally, the broadcast of another “secret speech” (in which then-PM Ferenc Gyurcsány admitted that his party had lied to the electorate) sparked protests, which morphed into riots. According to Nadkarni, the protesters and their right-wing media observers “deliberately drew links” between their actions and those of 1956, in an attempt to adopt the ethical “unimpeachability” of 1956. Despite this unrest, the MSP were obligated to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the revolution: they tried to evoke a generalized nostalgia for the socialist era which would “enable people across the political spectrum to find common ground,” using the memory of ’56 as an abstract “shared heritage” in order to “avoid uncomfortable parallels between itself and the past regime.” In 2016, Nadkarni observed a relative lack of emphasis on 1956, possibly because of the absence of the MSP as a political enemy, Viktor Orbán’s conservative Fidesz party having dominated Hungarian politics since a landslide victory in 2010 (which Orbán called “the revolution in the voting booth”). She noted that the rhetoric has shifted “from anti-communist to anti-EU,” a “fight for freedom” centering on national sovereignty.  Illustrating her argument with different “technologies of memory” – including monuments, TV ads, and museum exhibitions – Nadkarni demonstrated how the memory of the revolution has been variously interpreted and employed by political actors in postsocialist Hungary.

In support of the continuing research on the Hungarian Revolution, Kit Condill (REEES, UIUC) provided an overview of pertinent resources at the University of Illinois Library and elsewhere. He noted that, although the modern period isn’t the main focus of the U of I Library’s Hungarian collection (which is much stronger for the pre-1918 period), the Library is particularly strong on Russian (i.e. Soviet) sources on the revolution.  Kit also recommended the Hungarian National Library, which provides digitized versions of several Hungarian newspapers of the period, as well as the National Bibliography of Hungary: “Hungary is one of the contenders for the prize of… ‘best national bibliography’. They are excellent in recording every single thing that’s ever been published.”

Matthew McWilliams is a REEES M.A. student and a FLAS Fellow for the 2016-2017 academic year for the study of Russian.

CAS/MillerComm Lecture: Karen Dawisha, “Is Russia a Kleptocracy? And If So, Who Cares and So What?”


By Matthew McWilliams

On April 21, 2016, Professor Karen Dawisha gave a CAS/MillerComm lecture to a packed house at Spurlock Museum’s Knight Auditorium.  Her lecture was entitled “Is Russia a Kleptocracy?  And If So, Who Cares and So What?”  Dawisha is the Walter E. Havighurst Professor of Political Science and the Director of the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies at Miami University.  She is the author of a number of books and articles on Russian politics and post-communist political transitions.  Her latest book – Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? – was the subject of her lecture.

Dawisha began her presentation by discussing her controversial new book’s path to publication.  In a letter published in The Economist, her longtime publisher (Cambridge University Press) declined to move forward with her manuscript due to British libel law, telling her that its “basic premise that Putin’s power is founded on his links to organised crime” made them uncomfortable.  Eventually, she published the book with Simon and Schuster in the United States, which offers protection under the first amendment – but her publisher has still “made every effort to ensure that the book is not distributed, translated, or sold” outside of the country.  However, Dawisha noted that “the book is doing very well in its pirated version.”

Dawisha argues that Putin’s government is a kleptocracy, a “system in which the risk is nationalized while the reward is privatized.”  This entails a lack of transparency, the distortion of the market by political considerations, property rights being “secured by loyalty [rather than] law,” and the extraction of tribute.  Dawisha also asserted that “loyalty and silence [are] demanded,” commenting, “I don’t like using mafia analogies… but the rule of omerta is applicable to Putin’s Russia.  There are many cases of people who have been killed because they broke the code, and many others who fled the country in fear.”  She mentioned the assassination of Boris Nemtsov, a former political figure and reformer “murdered in the shadow of the Kremlin” in 2014.  Nemtsov had authored reports detailing Putin’s lifestyle and the real cost of the Sochi Olympics, “detailing the extent of the money that was being skimmed off.”

In order to ensure loyalty, kleptocracies don’t allow people to establish their property rights by law.  In the age of globalization, this means that Russian oligarchs have moved a massive amount of money outside of the country.  In 2014 alone (after the invasion of Crimea), Russia experienced over $150 billion in capital flight.  This money strengthens tax havens, weakens sovereign controls, and “contributes massively to black economies in the West” – and according to Dawisha, “this is happening everywhere, including in the U.S,” where wealthy Russians buy property through LLCs.  In part, Dawisha attributes this phenomenon to E.U. and U.S. sanctions on Putin’s associates: “when there’s an impediment to the flow of money, people will always find ways around it.”

Expanding her argument, Dawisha showed slides detailing Putin’s closest associates, the beneficiaries of this system – most of them have a net worth of over $1 billion, and all of them have been with Putin since the 1990s.  According to Dawisha, these men “are truly bound to each other as a kind of brotherhood.  In Russia, it’s very common to call this group ‘bratva.’”  At the same time, wealth inequality in Russia is greater than in any other country: “110 billionaires own 35% of the wealth.”

Dawisha also revealed that she found a 2000 document detailing plans to dismantle the Russian democracy.  She concluded that the document indicates “that every single election under Putin was organized in such a way that the opposition would not have a chance… They were stealing the elections from the very beginning.”

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Matthew McWilliams is a REEEC M.A. student and a FLAS Fellow for the 2015-2016 academic year for the study of Russian.

Is There Still an “Eastern Europe”?

Prof. David Cooper, Director of REEEC, introduces Prof. Carol Leff prior to her New Directions lecture.

Prof. David Cooper, Director of REEEC, introduces Prof. Carol Leff.

On September 4, 2014, Professor Carol Leff gave a lecture entitled “Is There Still an ‘Eastern Europe’?”  With the advancement of democracy and the capitalist developments taking place in Eastern Europe following communism, the countries of the region are continually acquiring characteristics which make them more like their Western European neighbors, which raises the question of the importance and necessity of defining Europe by East and West today.  Her lecture investigated this important question from a political science standpoint.  Professor Leff is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  She is a specialist in Czech and Slovak politics and the communist and post-communist period in Eastern Europe.

Professor Leff began her lecture by providing an overview of Eastern Europe.  She explained the complexity of the term itself, what it means, and the difficulty in determining the borders that define it.  She noted that these questions are still debatable today, and they pose a challenge for political scientists who study the region.  Professor Leff highlighted this fact by presenting a series of maps which are not all in agreement as to where the boundaries between East Europe and West Europe are located.  Thus, there is no standard geographical definition of Eastern Europe.  Professor Leff then moved to a discussion of how political scientists have attempted to address this ambiguity and try to understand where the East/West division exists.  Political scientists have many methods at their disposal to investigate this problem.  She explained that they can detect a separation between East and West when considering the “World Value Survey.”  By examining the data for this survey for former communist countries, one can observe trends that place them in relation and hence, expose a division between East and West.  The “Atlas of European Values” is another tool that can demonstrate that an East/West divide can be created.  According to Professor Leff, with the “Atlas of European Values,” one “can make East Europe appear and disappear based on the question.”  Thus, the answers some Eastern European respondents give share a similarity which separates them from Western Europeans.

Prof. Carol Leff giving her lecture.

Prof. Carol Leff giving her lecture.

Additionally, the “Mainwaring Volatility Study” also provides insight into a common trend in East European politics.  Through it, political scientists can observe a fundamental difference between East European and West European politics.  The percentage of voters who changed party affiliations following an election has been significantly higher in Eastern Europe than in Western Europe.  Professor Leff stressed how the people in this region are seeking an end to corruption in politics after communism.  Therefore, we see a distinct trend in new parties originating in Eastern Europe which largely define themselves by “promises” to end corruption which is “seen as chronic in the post-communist state.”  The concept of “Biographical Credentialing” has also aided political scientists in dealing with the question of East Europe.  Essentially, a political issue of tremendous importance in Eastern Europe is the past activity of a politician during the Cold War.  I found it fascinating that this issue is raised in politics and campaigns throughout the region; it is very important in contemporary politics.  Professor Leff stated that the communist era is considered a “sensitive period” and also mentioned the “question of moral legitimacy.”  I was very surprised to learn that the last Slovak election witnessed the first election of a president who was not a former communist. I found Professor Leff’s lecture to be very enlightening.  I am always interested to see how different academic disciplines approach issues and problems in vastly different ways.  It was fascinating to see and be exposed to the methods employed by political scientists who study the post-communist region.  In addition, Prof. Leff’s lecture demonstrated to me that one cannot simply define Europe in regional terms by an East and a West, and that so many factors need to be taken into account when trying to understand this region.

Ryan Eavenson is a MA student in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies.  He is particularly interested in communist development in Eastern Europe.  His additional interests include Imperial and Soviet Russian history, Czech history, and Russian and Czech language.  He received a AB in History/Russian and East European Studies from Lafayette College in 2010.  After graduation, he hopes to find employment focusing on international affairs and then continue his education.

REEEC on HuffPost Live: Alisha Kirchoff discussing the recently convicted opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny, freed on July 19, is a Russian activist who led anti-Putin protests in 2011 and 2012 and was sentenced to five years in prison for an embezzlement outside experts said never happened. Is Alexei Navalny the “Russian Mandela,” as one analyst described him to the BBC? To what extent is Navalny’s imprisonment and conviction as big of a deal in Russia as it has been in the news worldwide? What does Navalny’s release as a result of popular protests mean for Putin’s Russia? REEEC Associate Director Alisha Kirchoff discussed these questions on HuffPost Live with Natalia Antonova, Acting Editor-in-Chief at The Moscow News, and Julia Ioffe, Senior Editor at The New Republic, on the day of Navalny’s release. To watch the live broadcast, click on the video.

REEEC on HuffPost Live: Alisha Kirchoff discussing Putin’s Homophobic Law and Russia’s Future

 On July 15, 2013 Associate Director Alisha Kirchoff joined Russian-American journalist Sergey Gordeev, Harvard Visiting Fellow Stephen Frost and Timothy Patrick McCarthy (Director of the Sexuality, Gender, and Human Rights Program at Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy) in a live HuffPost broadcast hosted by anchor Josh Zepp to discuss  the federal law banning gay ‘propaganda’ among children. Recently signed by Russian President Putin after it passed unanimously in the Duma, this law is the latest example in a series of legislative measures against LGBT rights adopted amid a more general crackdown on human rights communities and independent civil action in the country. Among others,  the on-air guests explored what the sources behind this post-Soviet trend in the criminalization of homosexuality and the restriction of homosexuality are and discussed its future implications for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, LGBT tourists and citizens and Putin’s plans for Russia. To watch the live broadcast, click on the video.