Podcasts have seen a steady rise in popularity in 2019. While Visegrad Insight publishes written news and reports on the future of the Visegrad Group countries and the wider region, we also keep an eye out for interesting audio recordings. Here are some of our favourite 2019 podcasts.
Our favourite 2019 podcasts cannot overlook the small but noteworthy contribution we have made in the last year. The hosts of In Between Europe regularly focus on Central European affairs in their podcast. Following the publication of our report on Scenarios for cohesive growth, we spoke with them about the current state of EU budget negotiations and the impact of regional politics on the economy.
The spectre of 1989
Similar to our favourite reads, our selection of 2019 podcasts is characterised by 1989 and the legacy of transition in Central and Eastern Europe. Several outlets found inspirations in the events of thirty years ago and produced recordings that are well worth your time.
Sean’s Russia Blog took the collapse of communism as the main angle and made a recording available from the British Association for Slavonic & East European Studies that took place in April earlier this year. Participants included Timothy Garton Ash, Bridget Kendall and Jens Reich, each of them notable witnesses to the developments in 1989, albeit from a different position and perspective.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, on the other hand, released a podcast that zooms in on the hopes and dreams of 1989. Jonathan Charles and Kerry Law are joined by BBC Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg EBRD Chief Economist Beata Javorcik and try to see whether dreams of freedom and prosperity have been realised.
Instead of looking back, ECFR’s Mark Leonard takes a more forward-looking approach by asking how 1989 will shape the coming decades.
Since a number of years, Poland’s Adam Mickiewicz Institute publishes articles and podcasts on its website culture.pl. One podcast, Stories from the Eastern West, focuses on little known histories from behind the Iron Curtain that left their traces in the contemporary world.
No big-picture politics or history here, but little stories of how a teen’s letter to a stranger in the Soviet Union led to a long-distance friendship that has lasted decades. Or, how a giant communal song festival helped Estonians regain independence from the USSR.
In what is perhaps a keyword of 2019, populism was the frequent subject of podcasts in various media outlets. The Guardian focused on the contested meaning of the term and whether it threatens democracy.
“The media framing of populism almost always sounds like a discussion about the margins: about forces from outside “normal” or “rational” politics threatening to throw off the balance of the status quo. But the scholarly discourse makes clear that this is backward: that populism is inherent to democracy, and especially to democracy as we know it in the contemporary west. It finds life in the cracks – or more lately, the chasms – between democracy’s promises and the impossibility of their full, permanent realisation.”
For those with proficiency in French, the connection between demography and populism in Central Europe was thoroughly explored in a France Culture podcast by Christine Ockrent with insights from Agnieszka Fihel, Jacques Rupnik, Marc Lazar, François Héran and Ivan Krastev.
Good podcasts do not always aim at tackling large subjects but can excel in narrating small stories of great significance. “Europe Is Working” produced by the Central European University looks at how workers share their everyday workplace experiences and what are the possibilities for solidarity and collective action in the region and Europe.
In one episode, the hosts focus on poor labour conditions in Czech super- and hypermarkets, touching upon issues related to corporate practice, migration and collective action.
What is ahead?
Visegrad Insight as a platform for debate and analysis is concerned with the future of Central Europe and how global trends will play out in the region. Therefore, future-oriented podcasts find a particular audience among our team. While Talking Politics is usually the go-to place to stay in the loop with British politics, the main hosts David Runciman and Helen Thompson also address bigger developments in the years to come.
Two episodes caught our eye in 2019. Runciman talks about the future of democracy through the prism of time: are we at the beginning, in the middle or near the end of democracy, and what might this mean for contemporary politics?
In a second episode, Talking Politics looks at the future of humanity in the age of digital transformation. Runciman and Thompson speak with Paul Mason about the biggest political choices in our lifetime.