Thursday, 28 August 2014

Nationalism Sparks a Summer of Deadly Violence in the Caucasus

By Dr. Kevork Oskanian, University of Birmingham

The world has been brutally reminded of the unresolved conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave in the South Caucasus which Armenia and Azerbaijan have locked horns over for more than 25 years. While the situation is clearly at a low ebb, the facts of what is happening are far from clear.

The two sides' accounts of the violence are, as ever, directly contradictory. In the absence of third-party monitoring, the only certainty seems to be that dozens of Azeri (or Azerbaijani) and Armenian soldiers have lost their lives in tit-for-tat exploratory and retaliatory raids, while civilians around the line of contact have been plagued by an upsurge in shelling and sniper fire.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The Sum and Its Parts: The European Union and its Member States

by Dr. Tim Haughton

August is perhaps the best month to reflect on European integration. True, there are the inevitable crises to deal with which tend to disrupt the holiday plans of foreign ministers and external relations personnel, but many of the Brussels-based bureaucrats have swapped their offices around Rond-point Schuman for warmer and sunnier climes, and many academics can finally get round to reading some of the books on the must-read pile.  

Sunday, 17 August 2014

On Reporting the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict


(This is a fragment of a longer piece on the British media's coverage of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict)

In early August 2014 the British media reported an escalation in the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This has brought the conflict, which has been less covered since the cease-fire of May 1994, back to the media’s attention. This blog is intended to shed some light on the role of the British, and the wider Western, media in shaping particular attitudes among the public, as well as policy-makers involved in the negotiation process over this conflict. It is based on analysis of the main premises of over 4,000 reports and analytical commentaries on the conflict by BBC TV, The Guardian, The Observer, The Times, The Financial Times, The Independent and The Economist in the period 1988-2014, including during the ‘hot’ stage of the conflict from 1988 to 1994. It focuses on the media’s interpretations of historical causes of the conflict and juxtaposes these interpretations with relevant historical facts.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Predictably Unpredictable: The 2014 parliamentary elections in Slovenia

By Dr. Alenka Krašovec, University of Ljubljana and Dr. Tim Haughton, University of Birmingham
Parliamentary elections and party politics in Slovenia are becoming predictable in their unpredictability. For the first two decades of the country’s independence party politics was largely stable. True, in the second decade the once mighty force of Slovene politics, Liberal Democracy, saw its support drop, the Social Democrats emerged as a powerful force, but only really for one election in 2008, and there were a stream of new parties. Nonetheless, in a region marked by high levels of electoral volatility, Slovenia appeared to be more stable than most. All that changed in December 2011 when early elections (provoked by the disintegration of a coalition) witnessed two parties formed just weeks before the polls garner 37% of the vote. Three-and-a-half years on, another early election provoked by a battle over the leadership in the biggest governmental party, Positive Slovenia, and the disintegration of the governing coalition, saw one new party formed just over a month before the polls scoop nearly 35% of the vote.


Monday, 21 July 2014

How Far Were Russia’s ‘Little Green Men’ Involved in the Downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17?

By Kataryna Wolczuk, University of Birmingham


The shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 in Eastern Ukraine on 17th June has placed the conflict which has engulfed that part of Ukraine into an entirely new context. It has transformed the event from a localised, regional rebellion into a crisis that brings Russia’s role into the open.

At present the vast bulk of international opinion holds that Russian-backed separatists were responsible for the shooting down. And therein lies the difficulty: what exactly do we mean by “Russian-backed”?. That Russia has been supporting the separatists has been inferred from extensive and wide-ranging but mainly anecdotal evidence. As a result, is there evidence to conclude that Russia is implicated in the shooting down of the civilian airplane?

Saturday, 24 May 2014

The Politics of Broken Relationships? Croatia on the Eve of the European Parliament Elections


A short walk from the Croatian parliament is the Museum of Broken Relationships. Zagreb’s quirkiest museum displays countless artefacts donated by couples from around the world symbolizing the end of their love. The results of Sunday’s elections to the European Parliament may make the long-standing political parties in Croatia and their voters suitable for exhibition.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Notes on the ‘Worthless Dowry’ of Soviet Industrial Modernity


The monotown, or ‘town-forming enterprise’, was, and remains a key organisation of urban space in the former Soviet Union. Bound up with such a specifically socialist-conception of space is a host of social and cultural signifiers relating to class, kinship, social networks, local identity, and more.