Burnt by the sun twice

Category: by sophie engström, movies, russia
Tags: , , , , , ,

(Läsningstid: 2 minuter)

Yesterday I wrote about Boris Mikhailov. During my most absent minded and distracted period in life, my mind have confused him with the director Nikita Mikhalkov. There is nothing resembling between them at all, (apart from the mustachio and the surname I guess). Notable is that I haven’t confused their work, of course, but their names. Which have lett me into a handfull confused dialogues. I won’t reproduce them here, you can possible imagine. Instead I will highlight the fact that Nikita Mikhalkov is making a new movie.


Perhaps this is no news for you, but I have to admit I was slightly surpised when I read it. During the past 10 years I have completely lost faith in his ability to make a movie that is not soaked in sticky nationalism and imperialism. And I actually belonged to those that enjoyed his “Burnt by the sun”.

When I now learned to know that he is working with a “Burnt by the sun 2” I can’t feel other than pure fear flavoured with a slice of scepticism’s. On the other hand, the movie possibly opens for an other dimension… like pure comedy? But I doubt the actual theme allow it. The Great Purge is nothing to joke about.

On what a naked body can do

Category: art, by sophie engström, gender, ukraine
Tags: , , , , ,

(Läsningstid: 3 minuter)

It was a couple of days ago I started to think about Boris Mikhailov again – the photographer, not the ice hockey player ; ) My first acquaintance with him and his photos was at a Photo Fair in Gothenburg. I guess it was in the late 1990s. The collection of his photos was not any his more wild and exposing photos, but the old hand coloured. I also saw them in Moscow a couple of years ago and got as equally impressed. It is a fascinating work. But it was a completely different story when I really fell in love with his work. It was when he got the Hasselblad Award in 2000. I had been able to grab a ticket to the award ceremony, and the so called party afterwards at the local City Art Hall.


When I was walking around that City Art Hall I slowly started to grasp what kind of photographer this was! I was completely stunned with his serie with the homeless, alcoholics and drug addicts. Not only was he brave, but also the people he depicted was so. At first I wasn’t very sure if I liked it or not. I thought he exploited the people somehow but I couldn’t put my finger on if I thought it was entirely bad and evil action to do so. But when I came to the last room, I was not very sure what to think at all. It was a serie with self portraits, mostly naked and not in an euphemistically way. His aging body was put in more or less obscure positions. It was something very laughable about it, as it was extremely admirable! He deconstructed his own body, and I both liked and feared. It was like his work spoke two different languages, both brutal and very subtle in the same breath. I was completely entranced by him and his way of thinking, but I still feel have problem describing why, and actually how, I love his work.

Here is an interview with Boris Mikhailov on “Specialisten”.

A couple of years ago a friend from Moscow visited me and we started to talk about Mikhailov. I think we both shared a common admiration for him, but probably in different ways. My friend told me that Mikhailov had been arrested in Kyiv (and released shortly after) due to that he and his assistant had been collecting women’s sanitary pads at public toilets. They needed it for some kind of project that Mikhailov was working on. I still don’t know if it true or not. And parts of me does not want to know either, because I fear it does not exists at all. But if it does, I am convinced that we will most certainly hear about it. It would be pretty controversial … And if it does exist, I will probably dispute with myself if I like it or not, possibly ending up entranced, once more.

Focus Ukraine

Category: 1989, eastern europe, EU, ukraine
Tags: , , , ,

(Läsningstid: 3 minuter)

It is possibly that somebody have noticed that the a current focus at in Ukraine. Actually December and January, and possibly also parts of February, will have focus Ukraine. I dont want the articles to focus only on politics or/and economics, so if you have any ideas, essays, articles etc about Ukraine, that you would like to share, please send me a note or just comment on this entry.

After I wrote the short comment on the Ukraine-EU summit yesterday, I discovered that this issue actually is able to be more debated than I thought. Checking around the web I see that very few have mentioned it at all. The one that have discussed it seems to have been less critical than, at least I, desired. And after a conversations over lunch yesterday with a Swedish project leader working with Georgia, I felt I need to come back a more to this issue.

Just to clarify, I have never had any high thoughts about EUs “commitment” in Ukraine or any other country east of Berlin, actually. But I think possibly EU should learn from some mistakes before and especially by US. After the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, USA seemed to lack ambition with their eastward connections. As Gross & Steinheer claims in “Economic transition in Central and Eastern Europe: Planting Seeds” (2004) USA had no clear view on how to approach economical changes in Eastern and Central Europe (I hate that concept, but please give me an acceptable idea of what to use instead and I will use that!) which implied that Europe, or consequently EU, won the economic battle. Of course, this is something that could be disputed – against and for Gross & Steinherr conclusion. But we could possibly agree on that EU have an influence over Eastern and Central Europe. Regardless or not of the American influence, because it is perhaps not possible to evaluate how “little” the American influence is in that comparison.

But honestly, this is not what I had in mind to discuss, I just wanted to establish once more that EU actually have an influence, and that the crucial point is not how big the influence are but rather what is the main idea with it.

As I told my “colleague” at lunch yesterday, I am not sure EU know what to do with their Eastern connection and Ukraine. They don’t have an agenda and consequently have to jump from one tree to an other in order to try to avoid and maneuver nervous, pleading questions from Ukrainian leaders. My opposition is that an unaware influence actually can be much more damaging than having an aggressive attitude or even xenophobic and warmongering one. Xenophobic attitudes is easily raised, everywhere, evidently also in Ukraine, as Olya Vesnjanka wrote today at Deutsche Welle.

Conclusions? Well, I am not certain EU ever had any clear ideas about Eastern and Central Europe. I just think they “won” the battle economically once, due to the fact that that USA was even more hesitating and doubtful than EU. But one can call me illusionist ; ) from one perspective, and that is from the point of view that I wish EU to evaluate what the connection and commitment with eastern Europe actually is about! And answer the questions, even if the answers gets nasty and unpleasant (as in “We don’t care about the countries, but we want to suck them dry and have what reamins of their small resources”). And it is possible that this could imply that future cooperation dies. But as I said above, the todays unaware and near-sighted commitment could in the long run be pretty harmful!

Surprised by the Ukraine-EU summit

Category: by sophie engström, EU, ukraina, ukraine
Tags: , , , , ,

(Läsningstid: 2 minuter)

I have to admit I was really surprised when I opened my weekly issue of one of the leading newspapers in Sweden this saturday and found a small note about the Ukraine-EU summit. I was not as surprised by the actual agreement. Of course there where no real change in order to improve the relationship between the Ukraine “the EU’s closest cooperation and trade partner”, as the Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said, and EU. I think, that even though I am a sceptic, pessimist a real misanthrope in these circumstances, I am probably not alone when say that one of the priority issues during the Swedish Presidency, The Eastern Partnership, is perhaps a real fiasco. It has actually been so little talk about this priority, so I started to imagine that they perhaps had moved it out from the priority list… Anyway, I wonder, really wonder, what the chairman of EU, Mr. Reinfeldt, and Chairman of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, hopes to achieve when their main focus is to pressure and lecture Ukraine, pointing on that Ukraine’s reforms are too slow or not democratic enough? The only achievement I can see is that they follow wishes from IMF like little doggies? • woof woof •

I am especially worried, because it seems like EU has run out of any creative ideas about how to cooperate with, for instance, Ukraine. And it is possible that this inanity actually affect the relationships in a many negative ways. I can’t say I have any constructive ideas right now on the issue, but I at least do know that even though the EU leaders congrats themselves, the whole agreement is painfully worthless.

Or? Any objections?

Pingviner mot allt – en lönsam kombination?

Category: by sophie engström, literature, ukraina, ukraine
Tags: , , , , ,

(Läsningstid: 2 minuter)

Den rysk-ukrainske författaren Andrej Kurkov har uttalat sig om det förestående ukrainska presidentvalet. För den svenska publiken har han gjort sig ganska känd för de båda burleska och absurdistiska romanerna “Döden och Pingvinen” samt “Pingvin försvunnen“.

Andrej Kurkov, bild från wikipedia.

På frågan om hur han ser på förestående val svarar han till Deutsche Welle att han inte har särskilt stor tilltro till kandidaterna eller till deras politiska ambitioner.

– Det största problemet för Ukraina är att det inte finns några politiska partier, ingen ideologi. De olika partierna företräder bara olika finansiella grupperingar, säger han vidare till Deutsche Welle.

Andrej Kurkov fortsätter med att peka på att oavsett vilken av de starka kandidaterna som vinner valet, Viktor Janukovitj eller Julia Tymosjenko, så kommer Ukraina att närma sig Ryssland. I förra veckan noterade jag att det finns en möjlighet att Rysslands premiärminister Vladimir Putin har satt sitt pund på Tymosjenko, då de lyckades förhandla fram en ovanligt gynnsam gasuppgörelse inför nästa år. Men igår hävdade Putin till Reuters att han absolut inte stödde Tymosjenko i valet. Man kan kanske tillägga att även om han stödde Tymosjenko så skulle han aldrig erkänna det. Det vore politiskt oklokt, och inte alls lika slugt som Putin ibland lyckas agera.

Det är svårt att avgöra om Kukov har rätt. De ukrainska politiska klimatet är allt annat är lätt analyserat, men faktum är att Kurkov har rätt i att mycket tyder på att Ukraina kommer att ändra kurs, något österut då, efter valet. Frågan är bara om det i egentlig mening kommer att påverka relationerna med EU? Enligt min bedömning kommer de inte nämnvärt påverkas. Relationerna med EU är inte intensiva särdeles, och Ukraina har dessutom visat prov på en ganska korrupt ekonomi i förberedelserna inför (herrarnas!) fotbolls-EM 2012 som landet står värd för, tillsammans med grannlandet Polen.

Däremot tycker jag att Kurkov gör en fyndig reflektion när han menar att väljarna är hjälplöst uttröttade till leda på allt vad some heter politik och vill inte rösta. Det är bara några få ambitiösa unga valarbetare som verkligen bryr sig om valet, säger han. Kurkov menar också att om man verkligen vill ha folkets stöd så bör man vara en sann antagonist och helt enkelt döpa om sig till “Mot Allt” och då också vara emot allt. För det är just så folket känner.

För den som läst någon av Kurkovs romaner känns humorn igen – politikern “Mot Allt” skulle kunna befinna sig i hans litterära kabinett. Det märkliga är väl bara att “verkligheten” tycks har hunnit ikapp honom. Jag ser därför i en inte alltså för avlägsen framtid hur pingviner strövar med slokörad husse på standen till den isfria Dnepr.

Sociala medier i kampen mot valfusk

Category: by sophie engström, sociala medier, ukraina, ukraine, web 2.0
Tags: , , , , , ,

(Läsningstid: 2 minuter)

Under förra presidentvalet 2004, som senare ledde till den orangea revolutionen, rapporterades det om det flera oegentligheten. De första uppgifterna som kom ut om valfusk och förhindrande av valprocedur var ofta via internet. Detta ledde till att man valde att stänga ned en server som användes av en organisation som bland annat ställde sig bakom den nuvarande presidenten, Viktor Jusjenko. Idag är nästan alla överens att kommande presidentval i januari MÅSTE gå rätt till. Denna gång får inte internationella övervakare rynka på näsan åt den ukrainska demokratiska viljan.


Ett försök att stärka valprocessen är Internviews-Ukraine’s Twitter projekt. Vitaliy Moroz, från Internews-Ukraine, säger till Olya Vesnjanka för Deutche Welle att Ukraina ofta har varit arena för innovativ och kreativ journalistik, och avser aktioner som de jag nämnde ovan, samt att Livejournal användes som en politisk debatt och nyhetsrapportering under förra presidentvalet.

Tanken med Internews-Ukraine’s projekt är att utbilda journalister (och gärna bloggare) runt omkring i Ukraina, till att skapa ett twitter flöde som synliggör oegentligheter under valkampanjen 7-17 januari. De också lyfter fram de politiska frågorna även om de är väl medvetna om att kan inte kan ha en politisk debatt på Twitter, eftersom siten bara erbjuder 140 tecken per status uppdatering!

Journalisterna i projektet ska därför inte bara få utbildning i hur de rent tekniskt twittrar, exempelvis från mobil, utan också hur man kort, endast några tecken, uttrycker saklig och begriplig information. (Helt uppenbart är att undertecknad borde gå en sådan kurs, då jag verkligen har svårt att uttrycka något sakligt, kärnfullt och framförallt kort 😉 ) Allt material som twittras ska sedan smalas upp av en större portal som samlar blogginlägg, twitter, bilder från exempelvis Flickr, på en och samma sida. Jag föreställer mig att den eventuellt kan se ut som piratpartiets Live-ström.

Om detta kommer att motverka att presidentvalet 2010 blir lika smutsigt som förra, låter jag vara osagt. Men faktum är att förra valet kanske “räddades” just av att de som kritiserade situationen under valet faktiskt använde sig av ny teknik för att sprida information!

För den som är intresserad kommer jag att under december månad publicera en liten artikel med intervjuer med några dem som stod bakom förra presidentvalets flashmobs och spektakulära serverflyttar.

Former West rather than Former East?

Category: 1989, eastern europe
Tags: , , ,

(Läsningstid: 2 minuter)

I can’t say I am the kind of person, and also journalist, that regularly takes part of what the “old media” (“gammelmedia” in Swedish, as the Swedish Pirate Party’s party leader Richard Falkvinge call the traditional media) but every now and then I actually listen to BBC online. But during the last two months I have avoided it and that has been in a vain try to escape documentaries about 1989 and the Fall of the Berlin wall. No, this is NOT because I am in some kind of weird sorrow over the fall of the wall, but because I actually objects against that total prevail of interpretation the “old media” actually has and takes. Yesterdays whining about Peter Day, is actually how my irritation could be … designed.

This is why I am so really, so very proud to be able to introduce a project for you that really problematizes the idea about what actually happened and still are happening after 1989!

fomer west

Former West is a project with the intention to criticize our apprehension of what have changed in ours societies since 1989. They claim that now only Eastern Europe have change, but also Western world. For many of us it seems like a rather obvious reflection, but it is also all too clear that, simultaneously, we somehow imagine the changes after 1989 as Eastern Europe went through a paradigm shift, while Western world stood still and entire. Like Eastern Europe must learn everything like a little child from the educative and nursing mother, the West. The more you think about it the more absurd it gets! I am actually rude enough to claim that the considering part of (former) Western politicians, bureaucrats, journalist, professors etc etc have swallowed an interpretation like that, just because it it is easier and more convenient – in that way they don’t need to reconsider their positions and so called reality.

I have to admit this is a simplified version of the project and I do not claim that I am even close to the complexity of their dimensions. And I do admit that also I every now and then forgets and sometimes calls Former Eastern Europe, just because it is easier to explain what geographical area I’m actually talking about! But even so, I am so glad that projects like Former West actually exists. We need them! Oh, we need them far too much! However, I just hope that one day we won’t need them as much …