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The idea behind this weekly column is to explore the six Eastern Partnership countries “beyond the Kremlin” (so, beyond Lukashenka, beyond Saakashvili…). Too often, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are presented one-dimensionally or distorted by the western media. Eastern Notebook juxtaposes Culture with culture, and brings together reflections from inside and outside the region.
After the media wars against Ukraine during the Euro 2012 football championship, this article by Dr Rory Finnin is timelier than ever. Dr Finnin is an academic at Cambridge University and a leading promoter of Ukrainian literature in the United Kingdom. For him, this distortion resulted from a lack of knowledge, as Ukraine remains “Europe’s Terra Malecognita”. He argues:
What Euro 2012 has revealed is a real and immediate need for us to study Ukraine on its own terms and to engage the country more directly as an object of knowledge, if only to see how its problems are dwarfed by its hard-won achievements and promising possibilities.
Speaking of Ukraine… Or not speaking: in Lviv (in western Ukraine), activists taped over the mouths of six statues of famous Ukrainians. This was an imaginative protest against the language law passed by the parliament on 3 July (video above).
Shakespeare in Armenian and Georgian? Yes, at the Globe to Globe festival in London, which brought together 37 plays in 37 languages. Many can be watched online for free (with English subtitles), including a performance of King Lear by the Belarus Free Theatre.
On a spicier note: coverage of the Caucasus focuses too much on war, and too little on its culinary traditions. In a recent article, British reporter Oliver Bullough tries the Abkhaz sauce adjika. This “bottled sunshine” is made from a mysterious mix of red peppers, garlic and spices. I have been following Bullough’s writing ever since his book Let Our Fame Be Great (2010), on the peoples of the North Caucasus, past and present.