"Dispatches from Europe" Blog Contest

Did you travel to the European Union this summer? Submit a post to be featured on our Across the Pond blog and win prizes!

Congratulations to the Class of 2013

The European Union Center congratulates the MAEUS class of 2013!

Spring 2013 Photo Contest Winners

View the winning entries inspired by this year's theme, "Competition & Cooperation".

Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic

The second Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic class will travel to the Arctic Circle in summer 2013. Read the articles by students who participated in last year's trip here.

European Union Awarded 2012 Nobel Peace Prize

Perspectives on the award and what it means for the future of the EU.

EU Day 2013

The European Union Center celebrated its twelfth annual European Union Day on February 15. Watch videos and read a recap of the event.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics Spring 2014 Newsletter

The European Union Center is pleased to announce that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics has released their Spring 2014 newsletter. Many EUC-sponsored events are included in the newsletter, including the visit from the Chairman of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Željko Komšić, the Mobilizing Difference conference, the "How Radical Was the Enlightenment?" workshop, and Kevin Featherstone's lecture, "A System Fit for a Purpose?". The newsletter also features the accomplishments of EUC-affiliated faculty members Ercan Balcı, Zsuzsanna Fagyal, Eda Derhemi, and Marina Terkourafi. The EUC is very pleased to continue our collaborations with the School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics as a whole and with its units, faculty, and students!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Turkish Nationalism: Constructive or Destructive?

by Brett Barkley

“It is impossible to advance just by selling plants and fruits. We need an industry.” Such was the impassioned rallying cry in 1960 of Cemal Gürsel, the Turkish army officer and fourth President of Turkey who seized power in the coup of that same year. That industry was the automobile industry. If Turkey could build its own car—with Turkish engineers and Turkish parts—they could prove to the world that they deserved a place on the world stage, and amidst such envisioned success, national pride lifted and solidified behind the newly empowered government.

This is the true story brought to life by the 2008 Turkish film, Devrim Arabaları—i.e. Cars of the Revolution—screened at UIUC on March 5 as part of the LCTL Film Series. It is a story in the history of Turkey that I had not heard before, but its themes of nationalism and of a do-it-ourselves mentality are very familiar. Therein are attitudes that at once propel Turkey onto the world stage in this era of nation-states but at the same time complicate its relations with the international community.

Devrim, the first Turkish car, still on exhibit today in Eskişehir
Image Source

If it were not for this nationalistic ambition that first coalesced under the leadership of Atatürk, the Republic of Turkey as we know it today might not exist—left to be diced up like the rest of the Middle East after World War I. (Many Turkish youth still think so fondly of Atatürk that they tatoo his insignia on their arms.) Likewise, EU candidacy status probably would not have been possible if not for the economic achievement that partially stems from such ambition.

However, it is the same nationalistic fervor that has perhaps slowed its path to EU accession. Consider the persistence of the Kurdish issue or discrimination of other racial minorities, such as the Roma. Conflict over the Kurdish language has received a lot of press (it was recently approved as a medium of instruction in private schools), but lesser known issues include the far-reaching urban renewal projects in Istanbul that continue to displace thousands of Kurds and Romas.

Turkey is also one of the few remaining countries in the world to still have a ‘geographical limitation’ immigration policy related to the status of refugees. This, in effect, means Turkey only legally accepts immigrants coming from European countries and only receives asylum seekers on a very temporary basis. Without full documentation as a legal refugee, daily life of the already oppressed is made that much more difficult (e.g. in finding gainful employment). These policies, indeed, extend to current Syrian refugees, whom are only recognized under temporary protection status—not as “refugees” according to legal definition of the word. To be fair, the efforts of the Turkish government to provide for temporary needs of Syrian refugees have been commendable; they have built some of the most pristine refugee camps ever seen. Still, Turkey has refused to allow all but a few international NGOs into the country and has accepted very little in-kind assistance from UNHCR while decrying the international community for not monetarily funding Syrian relief efforts more generously.

In many ways, the Turkish government has seemingly confronted such contentious issues with much of the same attitude exuded in the quest to build the first Turkish car: ‘thanks for your help, but we’ll take it from here.’ Only a few Turkish cars were ever built, and it is not clear whether the same modus operandi, when projected onto current issues discussed above, will be any more sustainable in helping Turkey achieve its many aspirations.

Brett Barkley is a joint Master’s Candidate in the Departments of Agricultural & Consumer Economics and Urban & Regional Planning. He is currently a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellow with the European Union Center, studying Turkish. His research includes the impact of the EU accession process on environmental policy in Turkey, particularly as it relates to the management of transboundary waters.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Is Scotland Ready to Fly Solo?: Lack of Preparation Will Lead to Troubling Outcomes if Scotland Becomes Independent

by Caroline Clasby

Image Source
A rally held to promote an independent Scotland
Will Scotland remain part of the European Union if it secedes from the UK? If not, can it quickly obtain membership with the EU? What currency will it adopt? What will be the future of Scottish or the UK’s economics and businesses? Can Scotland survive without the UK? I say that the Scottish government needs to seriously consider these questions and the resulting different outcomes before voting “yes” to Scottish independence.

On September 18, 2014, there will be a vote on whether or not Scotland will become an independent nation from the UK. The Scottish National Party (SNP) has been working to convince the Scottish people that Scotland needs independence and has been promising the continuity of membership in the EU, economic security, and the British Sterling. However, how much of what the SNP actually promises will come true? Is the Scottish government prepared for secession?

The University of Pittsburgh hosted a videoconference on March 18, 2014, titled “English & Scottish Nationalism.” Several experts from England, Scotland, and the United States spoke about the Scottish referendum and how each of the predicted outcomes could affect Scotland and the UK. Throughout the discussion, the main question was: what would happen if Scotland became independent? The overall consensus was negative.

According to Neill Nugent, Emeritus Professor of Politics and Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration at Manchester Metropolitan University, no one knows exactly what will happen and, unfortunately, the Scottish government is not prepared for the outcomes. If we look at the outcomes that the SNP has promised, I believe Nugent’s statement is right.

First, it is likely Scotland will lose its EU membership and have to reapply like all new nation-states. In fact, the European Commission Chief, Jose Manuel Barroso, has stated numerous times that if Scotland becomes an independent state, it will have to follow the guidelines of the Lisbon Treaty and start at the very beginning of the accession process. If this is the case, Scotland is going to have to consider the challenges it will face to rejoin. For example, Spain is not supportive of Scotland separating from the UK because of Spain’s past dealings with Catalonia wanting to separate.

Second, Scotland needs to consider what will happen to its currency and economics. Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, claims that Scotland will be able to keep the current Sterling even when seceding from the UK. Again, this issue has not been clearly thought out. If Scotland wants to become a member of the EU, it would have to adopt the Euro by law. Plus, BBC interviewed UK Chancellor George Osborne during which Osborne clearly stated that the UK would not let Scotland keep the Sterling. A change in currency and a break from an economy in which Scotland relies on so heavily would leave Scotland and many of its businesses in less stable economic conditions.

Since there is no definitive answer to any of these potential outcomes, the Scottish government clearly needs to fully rethink the secession before jeopardizing its people’s lives.

Caroline Clasby is a first year MAEUS student.  She received her Bachelor’s degree in History and French from the University of Illinois in 2012.  Caroline has been awarded a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship to study the Arabic language for the 2013-2014 school year. Additionally, Caroline has spent her last six summers as a technology specialist for her local public school district.  Her hobbies include traveling, shopping, and enjoying a good cup of coffee.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Woman Politician in the Cold War Balkans from Biography as History: The Case of the Bulgarian Communist Functionary Tsola Dragoitcheva (1898-1993)

This blog was originally posted on the REEEC blog on March 10, 2014.

Prof. Krassimira Daskalova
On February 20, 2014, Krassimira Daskalova, Professor of Modern European Cultural History at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski, delivered the REEEC New Directions lecture entitled “A Woman Politician in the Cold War Balkans. From Biography to History:  The Case of the Bulgarian Communist Functionary Tsola Dragoitcheva (1898-1993).”

In the beginning of her lecture, Professor Daskalova spoke about the tendency of Eastern European historiography to marginalize gender history and Western gender history scholars’ tendency to marginalize Eastern European gender history. She argued that exploring the gender history of Eastern Europe would expand the scope of historical inquiry, particularly in the fields of social and cultural history, history of everyday life, and transnational history. Professor Daskalova went on to state that political and diplomatic history cannot be regarded as gender-free or merely the realm of male agents, and that even topics like Stalinism, Cold War, or International Affairs cannot be adequately understood without considering gender as a category. Gender historians would greatly benefit from examining the gender aspects of Eastern European history, which would increase the breadth and accuracy of gender scholarship, as it would provide comparative perspective and decentralization.

According to Professor Daskalova, material scarcity has been an essential factor seriously affecting every aspect of women’s experience in Eastern Europe including women’s integration into the workforce, the struggle against male domination, as well as other crucial factors of gender history scholarship. In her opinion, women played an extraordinarily active role in building state socialist economies, but their perceptions of the meaning of women’s participation in societies differed sharply with the perceptions of Western gender scholarship.

Professor Daskalova noted the increasing importance of oral history, as it reveals that women had embraced new socialist identities which gave them positions of authority in their respective societies, where socialism was not simply an abstract ideology or a failed experiment, but an uplifting experience. Though we can indeed see oral history as an interesting field of study that enriches our understanding of the historical record, I would argue that the scholarship on oral history in post-1944 Bulgaria should include the accounts of the many victims – male and female – of the communist regime. A good start would be Atanas Kiriakov’s documentary on the survivors of the Bulgarian communist forced labor camps entitled The Survivors: Camp Tales, available at the REEEC Library as well as online

(with the accounts of female inmates at 36:17 and especially at 50:00).

With the Bulgarian communist regime’s human rights record and economic performance in mind, it seems unclear to me how the building of state socialism in Bulgaria could be considered an uplifting experience in any respect, except for officials like Dragoitcheva. While Nazi terror and crimes have been universally condemned, the Eastern European communist regimes’ state-organized terror practices and crimes against humanity are still little known. In addition to the above-mentioned documentary, there are some texts from western scholars who have examined the 1944-1955 experience in Bulgaria, such as the account of the Ethridge Mission in Bulgaria1, as well as John Horner’s article on Nikola Petkov’s trial and execution in 19472, although this period generally remains under-researched.

Professor Daskalova noted Tsola Dragoitcheva’s involvement in the 1925 terrorist bombing of the St. Nedelya Church in Sofia, but not the fact that the incident is one of the worst acts of terrorism of the early 20th century with over 150 dead, mostly among the civilian population, and hundreds of wounded. In addition to Ms. Dragoitcheva’s direct involvement in the bombing, she was among the executioners of communist assassinations prior to the September 9, 1944 Coup, as well as one of the main leaders of the Bulgarian Communist Party and government after that. The anti-Fascist German journalist Wolfgang Bretholz reported that she had taken pleasure in her direct participation in one of the most horrific mass killings after the People’s Tribunals’ kangaroo trials – the mass execution of 25 regents and ministers, eight counselors, and sixty seven former representatives in parliament in February 1945.3

Professor Daskalova defended an anthropological approach that treats people as individuals, rather than as members of groups and organizations, which would allow historians to better understand the reactions of men and women to historical events. While I agree with this point, I would add that research from a gender studies perspective on this period of Eastern European and Bulgarian history should not exclude the numerous accounts of the regime’s female victims. Certainly, Professor Daskalova’s work on Tsola Dragoitcheva represents only one part of her larger project, but the conclusions she draws and the sources she consulted (including the official archives of the Bulgarian People’s Women Union, the Bulgarian Communist Party, and Women’s International Democratic Federation, along with the published memories of Tsola Dragoitcheva) regarding the emancipator aspect of communist policies toward women would likely alter with a broader range of sources. Further research into oral history and biographic sources would bring to our attention other, less compromised female historical figures who were not involved in mass killings and official communist politics like Ms. Dragoitcheva. Their accounts examined in comparison with Tsola Dragoitcheva’s case would give us a broader and more accurate picture of women’s changed roles in post-1944 Bulgaria.

Hristo Alexiev is an M.A. student in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. A native of Sofia, Bulgaria, he has pursued Balkan Studies and East European and Eurasian Studies at the Sofia University, North Harris College, University of Houston and the University of Texas at Austin. He is also a graduate of the Music Department of Sofia University. Before being accepted into the MA program at REEEC on a FLAS fellowship in 2012, Hristo worked in Kosovo for five months in 2011, providing linguistic support to the US troops in KFOR. A recipient of the FLAS 2012 Summer Fellowship and the Boren Fellowship, Hristo studied in Turkey at Boğaziçi University during the 2012-2013 academic year. His acceptance of the Boren Fellowship includes an obligation to work for one year for the federal government. He hopes to pursue a career in the foreign service.

1 Stone, D. R. (2006). The 1945 Ethridge Mission to Bulgaria and Romania and the Origins of the Cold War in the Balkans. Diplomacy & Statecraft, 17(1), 93-112, available through the UIUC Library multi-subject search tool.
3 Cited in Troanski, H. (n.d.). The Communist St. Bartholomew’s Massacres. In Stanilov, V. (2004). The international condemnation of Communism: The Bulgarian perspective: excerpts from the reports presented at the Colloquium in Koprivshtitsa, Bulgaria, 24-26 September 2004. Sofia: Vassil Stanilov Literature Workshop. Available at URL: http://www.decommunization.org/English/Communism/Bulgaria/Massacres.htm for another account of the February 1945 killings and communist terror in post-1944 Bulgaria, see Black, C. E. (1979). The start of the cold war in Bulgaria: A personal view. Review of Politics, 41(2), 163-202. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/38283571?accountid=14553