A New Approach to CEE Communism Studies
5 October 2021
Podcasts have boomed ever since the COVID-19 pandemic overturned daily lives across the world, with people favouring the modern-day equivalent of the radio over an umpteenth video call. Several new and worthwhile podcasts concerning Central and Eastern Europe emerged over the last couple of years (often but not always from the region) providing insight, analysis and a (sometimes) lighter take on history and culture.
Nearly a hundred years after radio’s golden age, the medium returns in a more opulent version, with an infinite variety of on-demand shows that could be accessed from anywhere. The golden age of podcasts is undoubtedly a global phenomenon and has not circumvented Central and Eastern Europe.
In Slovakia, 43 per cent reported having listened to podcasts in the preceding month, 38 per cent in Poland, 37 per cent in Slovakia and 32 per cent in Hungary.
Numbers from the most recent year are not available for comparison; however, given the pandemic and the pervasive rise of podcasts, we can be sure that the numbers of Central Europeans tuning in to podcasts have only risen.
It is also worthwhile pointing out the democratic and community-building potential of the podcast form – predominantly created by independent media outlets, organisations, and creators, flexible and often free of charge, and rarely subject to state censorship.
What many of us love podcasts for – unique storytelling, in-depth analysis, and a breadth of insights from a variety of voices – make many of our region’s governments reluctant to become interested in them, giving podcasts the potential to be the stronghold of independent and reliable political analyses.
We also love podcasts for their unique storytelling, in-depth analysis, and a breadth of insights from a variety of voices. Our own Visegrad Insight Podcast brings stories “on Central Europe, from Central Europe”, and we enjoy listening to many more great audio productions related to the CEE region. So check out our list of top ten favourites. They are all in English, too!
1. Talk Eastern Europe is hosted by Adam Reichardt and Maciek Makulski from New Eastern Europe Magazine, a bimonthly published by Jan Nowak-Jeziorański College of Eastern Europe based in Wrocław, Poland. The podcast is dedicated to all things Central and Eastern Europe, emphasising politics and international relations. In a recent podcast (Episode 67), the hosts discuss the continued resistance by civil society in Belarus. The podcast does a great job in covering larger stories beyond just headlines. One such example would be their in-depth coverage of developments in Moldova, rarely taken up by the mainstream European political discourse. In November 2020, Talk Eastern Europe also produced a 10-episode podcast documentary series, “The Story of Belarus. The nation, its history and a new hope,” discussing perspectives on Belarus related to its history, culture, and politics and giving some insight into potential future developments.
2. Voice for CHOICE is hosted by Kevin Curran from the China Observers in Central and Eastern Europe, a multinational consortium of experts run by the Association for International Affairs (AMO), a Prague-based foreign policy think tank. It is a monthly podcast that features thought-provoking discussions with experts focusing on China’s role in Central and Eastern Europe. Recently, Janka Oertel reviewed China-EU relations regarding environmental policy (Episode 7). The podcast has so far published seven episodes, and we are looking forward to listening to more on the increasingly relevant topic.
3. The Cable is produced by The Institute of Current World Affairs and the Transatlantic Democracy working group from Washington DC and is hosted by Gregory Feifer. The Cable focuses on threats to democracy, particularly in Central Eastern Europe and its issues with democratic backsliding. One of the recent episodes addressed the role the US Congress plays in advancing democracy both at home and abroad. Other episodes touched on the topic of the rise of kleptocracy in CEE, as well as discussions on the future of the transatlantic alliance.
4. CEA Talk is a podcast by the digital magazine Central European Affairs. The podcast focuses on discussions on topics such as democracy, the rule of law, human and digital rights, as well as culture and EU integration in Central and Eastern Europe. It is a relatively new podcast with its first episode released only in February yet already with a very regular upload schedule. Recently, the podcast has been focusing on Hungary. It also featured an episode with journalist Alexander Faludy discussing Europe’s post-Merkel era, Fidesz after the EPP and the need for a ‘proper’ conservative party in Hungary. A go-to for those looking for political analysis focused on Hungary and its relationship to the wider region.
5. The Notes from Poland podcast is hosted by the Editor-at-large of the Notes from Poland website, Stanley Bill. The podcast focuses on Poland and “explains it” from historical, cultural, and political angles. The podcast is usually an interview with an expert on a topic. For example, one of the recent episodes features an interview with Poland’s former finance minister, Leszek Balcerowicz, about his opinion of the current ruling party and gathers his feedback on what the opposition’s best strategy should be. Additionally, the podcasts releases episodes of “Brief History of Poland” miniseries, a variant of Polish History 101. Notes from Poland’s insights into culture and art are also noteworthy. In particular, we recommend an episode with Juliette Bretan on a relatively unexplored yet fascinating topic: “A journey through Poland’s swinging interwar music scene with seven classic songs”.
6. Czechia in 30 mins is a podcast by Radio Prague International, the English-language service of the Czech Radio. The podcast is published every day except Sunday and covers Czech news ranging from politics, society, culture to sport and science. It also features in-depth reports and interviews from Radio Prague International. In the convenient length of 30 minutes, maybe just about how long you need to get to your workplace, you can catch up with Czech news from any day of the week as well as hear a story or interview on an exciting topic. Czech it out whenever you want to feel like you are walking down the Charles Bridge again.
7. Lithuanian Dream Podcast is the most popular podcast about Lithuania in English about all kinds of things Lithuania-related, ranging from current events and topics related to Lithuania’s politics, society, and culture, through interviews with successful Lithuanian business leaders and entrepreneurs.
8. New Books in Eastern Europe Studies produced by New Books Network is a show hosting discussions with scholars of Eastern Europe from around the world about their new books. The format is simple, but the interviews cover a wider range of complex and fascinating topics such as politics of sexuality under the socialist regime in Poland, Orbánism, everyday Islam in postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina, or knowledge transfer between architects from Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East in the Cold War.
9. Istros Conversations has been set up by Istros Books – a podcast by an England-based independent publishing house specialising in translating literature from the Balkans and South-East Europe. The show might serve you well if you are searching for recommendations for a collection of Romanian short stories or the new hottest Slovenian novel available in English translation. Episodes feature talks not just overviewing new literature but also addressing topics related to the translation and publishing process.
10. SRB Podcast is a weekly show addressing issues related to political, social, and cultural presents and pasts of Eurasia, hosted by Sean Guillory, digital scholarship curator in the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. The show attempts to “dispel the stereotypes and myths about the region with lively and informative interviews…from punk rock to Putin, and everything in-between.” Sean Guillory covers a range of topics and themes that are not prevailing yet topical and fascinating for those who follow the (post-)Soviet region’s vicissitudes, with the help of scholars, journalists, policymakers and writers who focus on Russia, Central Asia, Central and Eastern Europe. These topics include attitudes towards waste, recycling, reuse, and race in (post-) Communist Eastern Europe, zoos and animals in Eastern Europe, witchcraft in Ukraine and Russia, aliens in Eurasian science fiction, gender in politics in Mongolia, censorship in late Stalinist classical music, or commodification of labour in socialist Hungary. One of the podcast’s strengths lies in its emphasis on the postcolonial perspectives in the study of Eurasia and US-Russia relations as it addresses topics such as postcolonial socialisms in Africa, black radicalism in the USSR, history of tobacco in Imperial Russia, or Putin kitsch in America.
Do you have favourite podcasts on Central and Eastern Europe that we did mention but should consider? Enjoyed any of the shows mentioned above following our recommendations? Share your feedback with Visegrad Insight on Twitter!
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