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Around the Bloc - 7 June

The important, interesting, or just downright quirky news from TOL’s coverage region. D-Day in Russia; media in Uzbekistan; ‘pink slime’ in Estonia; Czech beer in Bosnia; and Dracula’s cannonballs in Bulgaria.

7 June 2019

No Love Lost Over D-Day Celebrations

Russian President Vladimir Putin acted unperturbed by the lack of an invitation to the memorial events in northern France marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day, according to the BBC. "We also don't invite everyone to every event. Why should I be invited everywhere? I have enough business of my own here," said the Russian leader, as quoted by the BBC. Russia’s view of the Allied landings in Normandy in June 1944 is quite different than the Western one, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova saying that the Allied contributions should not be exaggerated. "As historians note, the Normandy landing did not have a decisive impact on the outcome of World War II and the Great Patriotic War. It had already been pre-determined as a result of the Red Army's victories, mainly at Stalingrad [in late 1942] and Kursk [mid-1943]," Zakharova said, according to Reuters.



Uzbek Press Freedom Takes Baby Steps


Uzbekistan has good news for certain media outlets – and less good for others. The Central Asian country has considerably simplified the process of obtaining press accreditation, Eurasianet writes. “As of 4 June, the process of obtaining long-term journalistic accreditation from the Foreign Ministry has – in theory – been shortened to five days. In former times, even successful applications could take up to two months. Rejections were the norm, however.” In practice, the change has already resulted in an accreditation for Avazbek Takhirov as correspondent for the Uzbek service of the BBC. The British service has been denied permission to operate in the country since 2005. However, RFE/RL’s Uzbek service Ozodlik is still not welcome, as one of its journalists was recently denied entry into the country. Uzbekistan stands out in Central Asia for its recent moves to ease internet censorship. On 10 May, the head of Uzbekistan’s information and communication agency, Komil Allamjonov, said service had been restored to the sites of around a dozen news operations and human rights groups, which in some cases had been blocked since 2004.



More Than Just a Fashion Trend


A new fashion accessory has become a way of taking a stand against the policies of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE). It is a “pink blob the consistency of used chewing gum,” which “dangles from lapels in libraries, at foreign-policy conferences, and in bars in Telliskivi, Bohemian quarter of the Estonian capital,” according to The Economist. The brainchild of jewelry designer Liina Lelov, it is a reference to EKRE’s beliefs that Brussels’ agenda is to “erase the identities of Estonia and other countries, turning them all into a uniform post-national mush,” The Economist writes, or, to use a concrete word referencing women and gay rights, “pink slime.” Reflecting the public’s frustration with mainstream parties, this March EKRE more than doubled its votes from the last election, winning 19 seats in the 101-member parliament.



Dracula’s Cannonballs Found in Bulgaria


Vlad Tepes. Public domain image.


Archeological digs in Svishtov, a small town in northern Bulgaria, have yielded some interesting discoveries. Lead archeologist Nikolay Ovcharov told archeological news website Archeology in Bulgaria that, in addition to artifacts dating back to the Roman period, the finds included cannonballs, which were used as ammunition for culverins, an early, imperfect type of cannon that was no longer in use after the 16th century. These cannonballs are likely to be connected to Vlad Tepes’s siege of the Zishtova Fortress in 1462. Since the Wallachian ruler’s image has become inextricably linked to that of Bram Stoker’s fictional character of Dracula, Ovcharov made some clarifications. “Dracula, Vlad Tepes, was not a vampire at all, of course. He was one of the most meticulous fighters against the Ottoman invasion. He was cruel but, at the end of the day, that was the Middle Ages, and he was allowed those things. All the vampire stories date from the time of Bram Stoker’s books onwards," he told Archeology in Bulgaria.



Czech Beer Is Coming to Bosnia


Czech company TechOrg is bringing local craft beer-making know-how to Bosnia – while incorporating the Balkan country’s own characteristics. Project coordinator Vit Rejsek told Czech Radio that Bosnia was a natural choice for such a venture because of its own beer-making traditions going back to the Habsburg times. “The problem there is the same as we had in the Czech Republic 20 years ago – that large international beer companies are making inroads into the market and are eliminating local producers, because they want to control the market with their industrial brews. In this way we are losing two important aspects of beer culture,” Rejsek said. Still, compared to the Czech Republic’s tradition of beer-making, Bosnia is a newcomer to the craft. “Everything started around five years ago with a simple post in a Bosnian forum which was giving instructions on how to produce your own beer,” Mirza Nalo, who established a small brewery in Sarajevo, told Balkan Insight, dubbing that moment the beginning of craft beer-making in Bosnia.

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu
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#PragueMediaPoint Conference for journalists, media professionals, and scholars

‚ÄčThe 2019 edition of Prague Media Point will highlight these types of inspiring examples and more. We will offer a mix of scholarly presentations, including keynote addresses; sessions with innovators explaining their solutions; and networking opportunities to promote the exchange of know-how. As in years past, the conference will have a special regional focus on Central and Eastern Europe, though we look forward to covering cases and trends from other parts of the world. – WHAT’S WORKING





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This innovative approach to story telling gives voice to ordinary people and takes the reader on the virtual trip across Moldovan rural and urban landscapes. 

It is a unique and intimate map of the nation.


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