Posted by: MYPLACE FP7 | April 2, 2014

Alternating Pasts, Changing Futures

MYPLACE team members Dustin Gilbreath, CRRC, Georgia on history and Saakashvilli’s “rehabilitation” of Telavi, in Georgia, site of MYPLACE fieldwork.

For more information on the MYPLACE project visit the project’s website: HERE

All the MYPLACE WP2 reports, as referred to in the text, can be found HERE

Claims to 2000 or even 3000 years of nationhood are not difficult to find in Georgia as has been amply documented (see Pelkmans 2006, Suny 1994, Rayfield 2013). The former president Mikheil Saakashvili was even fond of using the earliest human skulls found outside of Africa, in Dmansi in Southern Georgia, as proof that Georgians were “ancient Europeans.” The pride in Georgia over ancient aspects of history is palpable. Yet, the events of more recent Georgian history often have pain and trauma attached to them. In this historical context, the CRRC-Georgia conducted focus groups, semi-structured interviews, and observation in Telavi, focusing on YMCA Telavi’s work with IDP youth. Research data was gathered as a part of a European Union funded project, MYPLACE. Fieldwork in Telavi was conducted in order to better understand the role of historical memory in the civic engagement of young people (aged 16 to 25), and the inter-generational transition of memory in both IDP and non-IDP families.

CRRC Blog Quote 1

Beginning shortly before and stopping shortly after the end of fieldwork, the historic city center of Telavi was being ‘rehabilitated’ by the government. Discussion of the rehabilitation with respondents proved an interesting lens on how history effects and produces affect in the everyday lives of young people in Telavi. Furthermore, the rehabilitation can be seen as a metonym for the government’s larger efforts at rehabilitating many sites in the country, and more importantly how these ‘rehabilitation’ and ‘development’ projects shaped citizens’ relationships with the state through the use of history and its relation to time.

As mentioned above, Georgia’s ancient history is often glorified in both every day and political discourses. The palace of King Erekle II, a celebrated 18th century king of Eastern Georgia, is located in Telavi’s historic center. The historic center with King Erekle’s palace had functioned as a site of memory, which elicited memories of the glorious past. The process of rehabilitation, however, began not only to evoke memory of the glorious past, but also to serve as a reminder of the rule of the Mikheil Saakashvili and the United National Movement (UNM), which were responsible for initiating the rehabilitation project in Telavi.

Participants in the MYPLACE project’s research in Telavi unanimously agreed on three things in regards to the ’rehabilitation’ of the city: the quality of works and materials used in rehabilitation were sub-standard; historical monuments were not well preserved; coordination with the local population was less than adequate. These complaints in many ways illuminate the political situation at the time of fieldwork and do so as if a light containing the political problems of the day were being projected through a prism, with the complaints emitted as rays.

The fact that, in the eyes of informants, the quality of works and materials used in rehabilitation was less than standard and the fact that the historical monuments were not well preserved points to the felt defamation of memories of the glorious past. One should remember that the sites being rehabilitated had previously evoked affects of pride in the celebrated and memorialized glorious past and served as sites of memory for this past. As one respondent stated:

“I think that generally what’s happening here is the eradication of the old, and the newly made will no longer be able to preserve the history. After 50 or 100 years they [Telavians] will no longer be able to remember [the past], because it [will] no longer exists, [i.e.] that is the face [of the town] which had been preserving the history until now.”

With the perceived (and actual) debasement in quality in rehabilitating the sites, the government had effectively defamed the past which they had previously tried so hard to be symbolically associated with.

This symbolic association took a variety of forms of meddling with the past, but one notable example comes from former-President Mikheil Saakashvili’s first presidential inauguration in 2004. Saakashvili, before his official inauguration came to Gelati Cathedral in the Imereti region in order to take an oath on the grave of 11th-12th century Georgian King, David the Builder. King David is accredited with the inauguration of the Georgian ‘golden age’ of the 11th-13th centuries and is known, as his name implies, for the geographic expansion and architectural development of the country. The intended symbolism that Saakashvili’s action was supposed to project was clear. Despite this symbolic gesture, complaints about construction quality, not only in Telavi but elsewhere in the country, imply that maybe Misha, as he was commonly known, will not be remembered for what he helped to build.

Moreover, the complaints of the population of Telavi regarding rehabilitation works in the town point to another inadequacy in the country at the time – an apparent lack of democracy. After 2007, the government had been sliding towards authoritarian rule (Slade and Tangiashvili 2013). Telavi respondents, in mentioning which events were important in recent history mentioned the “terror tactics” of former President Saakashvili’s party, the United National Movement (UNM), in 2007-2012. In complaining that the government had not adequately consulted with the local population about the rehabilitation works, in microcosm, a country wide issue was on display in fieldwork discussions.

Further enunciating the democratic deficit, consultations with the local population in almost all respects were non-existent. Adding to the dismay, no contracts were signed with residents whose homes were being ’rehabilitated’ regarding when works would be finished or whether the structural integrity of homes would be taken care of. After the end of ’rehabilitation’ works, families often came home to devastated interiors, destroyed furniture, and structurally questionable domiciles.

Window frame inside of a home in Telavi center after rehabilitation of building façade. Photo by Tinatin Zurabishvili

Window frame inside of a home in Telavi center after rehabilitation of building façade. Photo by Tinatin Zurabishvili

In looking at these larger issues in microcosm, the past was obviously present in relation to the ‘rehabilitation’ of historic sites, but at the same time, the future was also being meddled in.

Ongoing construction works in and of themselves can inherently be seen as a projection into the future – a building being built today may be in response to the needs of the day but they are also for a projected future use. In looking at construction as a projection into the future, coming along with it comes a projection of what that future will be like. Thomas De Waal, in a pamphlet published by the Carnegie Foundation, characterized the rhetoric of the UNM as speaking in the “future perfect” (De Waal, 2011). Speaking in the future perfect meant that the government made statements about what the country would be and would have. The government not only projected into the future through its rhetoric, but also through construction. Construction was further accompanied by glossy brochures which were widely distributed with computer generated images of what finished buildings would be like. Works in progress were not left to the imagination alone, but an actual image was delivered along with the grounds broken for construction.

A "work in progress." Source: Georgia Today

A “work in progress.” Source: Georgia Today

In Telavi, as it was elsewhere in Georgia, the projected future muddied memories of the glorious past. One young woman who was interviewed during MYPLACE fieldwork stated that she tried not to look at what was happening in the historic center and tried not to notice what was new while walking through it. Her desire not to know is at least twofold in its avoidance. In not looking around it seems reasonable to say this informant was avoiding both the defamation of the old as was shown previously to be felt, but also the creeping reminder of the present ’terror’ and the then present government’s projected vision of the future. Sites of memory had been transformed into sites of reminder.

This future though was not to last. During fieldwork a viable opposition led and financially backed by Georgian billionaire, Bidzina Ivanishvili emerged. Its emergence and eventual victory in parliamentary elections ruptured the future that had been projected. With the loss of positions of authority as well as moral authority, the UNM had lost its ability to project the future it saw on Georgia – their future had become part of the past. ’Rehabilitation’ works along with a number of other projects in the country were halted shortly after Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream came to office. The halting of works in some way has preserved the sites of memory in the historic center of Telavi; their preservation though is not the kind which a preservationist would hope for, but rather, the preservation of the alteration of the sites. This preservation has thus, in turn, made sites of memory in Telavi polysemous. In preserving the alteration of the sites, now for those in Telavi, the sites are linked to both the distant past and the less than democratic recent past.

For how long the ‘rehabilitated’ buildings will serve as sites of memory of the recent past is unclear, but what is clear is present and future governments in Georgia will continue to meddle in the past and project their visions into the future thus impacting Georgians, young and old alike.

MYPLACE research team at the Ivo Pilar Institute, Zagreb on Croatia’s referendum on a constitutional definition of marriage.

For more information on the MYPLACE project visit the project’s website: HERE

Three referendums have been held in Croatia since the downfall of Communism and the beginning of the transition process.  At the first two referendums, the Referendum on Croatian Independence (19 May 1991) and the Referendum on Croatia’s Accession to the European Union (22 January 2012), the citizens voted on the state and legal position of Croatia.  The topic of the third referendum, which was held on 1 December this year, was completely different.  The citizens presented their position on whether they wanted the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia to include the definition of marriage as a union of woman and man.  This is the first referendum that has been called on the basis of collected signatures.  In order for a referendum to be held based on citizens’ signatures it is necessary to collect the signatures of 10% of the total number of citizens with voting rights within 15 days.  Namely, on 14 June 2013 U Ime Obitelji [In the Name of the Family] civic (Catholic) initiative had submitted to the Croatian National Assembly 749,316 citizens’ signatures in favour of calling a referendum, which figure is almost double the prescribed.  On 8 November 2013, the Croatian National Assembly voted in favour of calling a referendum on the definition of marriage.  The voter turnout at the referendum, which was held on 1 December, was 37.9% (1,436,163).  Of those, 65.87%, which nearly constitutes a two-third majority, circled the option IN FAVOUR on the ballot, which asked the following question: “Are you in favour of the provision being entered in the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia according to which marriage is a union of woman and man?” while 33.51% of the voters voted AGAINST.  Moreover, it is evident that, in the country deeply affected by the economic crisis, the majority of the citizens were not sufficiently motivated to take part in the referendum in view of its cause.  This has given rise to a public debate on the legitimacy of the referendum considering the low voter turnout, which was similar to the one at the referendum on joining the EU, in which 43.51% of the citizens took part.

pie chart

The latest referendum was different from the first two referendums, that on leaving the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and that on joining the EU, which were largely integrative in nature and which homogenized the society.  It may be said that a ruthless worldview war was waged between conservative and liberal social actors in the past six months.  The public appearances of the persons and organizations on the political and civic scene in the last days of the referendum campaign and the commentaries following the publication of the official results showed the division of the public into the liberal (left) and the conservative (right).  The liberal (left) option (; believes that the campaign of U Ime Obitelji initiative and the outcome of the referendum have shown that the Croatian society is mostly conservative-oriented, lagging behind world trends, as well as that, despite the fact that Croatia has joined the EU, “it is still in the Balkans.”  Certain liberal intellectuals, writers, and journalists even went as far as to compare the current attitude of the Croatian society towards the issues and the position of the LGBT community to the attitude of the German society of the 1930s towards its minorities.  On the other side of the political spectrum, the minority in the media space but the majority in the referendum comprised protagonists and citizens of conservative (right) positions (;  They emphasized in the media that “conservative is not the same as retrograde,” that “the liberal media Croatia is opposed to civic Croatia, that is, its conservative majority”, and so on.  Against promotionThere is no doubt that some of the people who consider themselves part of the majority were irritated by the dominant media discourse and the policy of the incumbent Croatian authorities — the prime minister and the president clearly advocated a vote AGAINST.  Despite the heated political passions, the outcome of the referendum was expected and in line with the results of the public opinion polls.  At the same time, the referendum also marked the collective public coming out of the Croatian LGBT community.  Their position is no longer a social problem that is discussed more or less only during gay pride parades.  On the other hand, the right has taken a distance from the established rhetoric. In favour promotion In addition to topics related to the Homeland War and the 1990s, there is now an important instrument for mobilization of its sympathizers that is linked much more closely to universal conservative values — faith and family.

Posted by: MYPLACE FP7 | January 9, 2014

On Croatia’s Youth Network

MYPLACE research team at the Ivo Pilar Institute, Croatia on the MMH – Croatian Youth Network.

For more information on the MYPLACE project visit the project’s website: HERE

Last year, Croatian Youth Network (Mreža mladih Hrvatske – MMH) celebrated its 10th anniversary. This network is the biggest and most important youth association in Croatia, with a high level of participation in decision-making processes and achieved considerable influence in youth policy. They have one of the shortest visions: Young people in focus, but more is explained in their mission: “The Croatian Youth Network reaches its goals through networking, advocacy, dialogue and partnerships, informing, non-formal education, research and publishing.”

We can analyse their work at several levels:

  1. youth education, coordination and networking
  2. policy and advocacy level
  3. the market and employment


It is quite similar to their own words regarding the main goals of the MMH as a resource organization:

– Raises awareness among young people about active and responsible participation in society through networking and empowering youth organizations and individuals,

Co-creates and advocates quality youth policies at the local, national and international level and puts youth rights on the social agenda,

Contributes to the development of civil society through shaping and implementing policies related to the development of civil society.

Although we do not want to neglect the huge impact and range of activities on the general development of civil society and youth’s participation, in period of the serious economic crisis in Croatia and its impact on youth, it is more suitable for the MYPLACE framework to focus on that point.

1. Youth work

It is beyond the scope of a blog paper to list everything that this network has been doing to help youth organizations. Some activities include facilitating cooperation between organizations frequently as well as providing space for their presentation to the state and public with a more solid foundation but also with visible connections to other youth organizations and strong networks. At the start, there were 28 founding members while today this has grown to 64 youth organizations.

Perhaps this does not seem so important when observed from outside of Croatia where the youth sector is well established and functions properly, or in the main capital, Zagreb where there are major logistics and resources, as well as human and financial capital. However, as it already had been emphasized, the MMH comprising of 64 members covers the whole of Croatia, including places with different population numbers, levels of GDP and development, quality of living standards and policies towards youth.

There is a huge commitment and persistence in working on education, capacity building and cooperation between youth organisations, because there are big differences within them as people move in and out and situations change. One of the more important parts of their program is work on youth rights, where they do not just deal with the economic situations of youth, which we will describe in the following text, but also with their level of social exclusion, equal opportunity for education, etc. Accordingly, most effort has been placed upon the implementation of civic education as a subject in schools, which has involved work with other partners. Last year, an experimental introduction of this programme was coordinated by the Education and Teacher Training Agency, Ministry of Science, Education and Sport, and National Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. The experiences, achievements and results of this programme will soon for public.

Over the last years, it is worth mentioning Studies about youth for youth. In their recent public document, the 6th edition of the bulletin I know, think, participate (April 2013) they not only created a space for memories and a written history of youth organisations and policies in Croatia, but this has also been a space for learning as well as experience exchange, knowledge and skills for successful youth programmes.

2. Policy and advocacy level

Besides the “need for cooperation and improved communication among youth organizations” which we covered previously, another aim of their foundation is “effective and efficient advocacy of the interests and needs of young people in Croatia and building partnerships with governmental institutions in creating and implementing youth policy”. This is still the most important achievement of the MMH today. There are many networks in Croatia and region based on this interest or project activities and regardless of their initial purpose or reason for setting up, they mostly work on cooperation and communication between their own members. The step of moving out in society, into a broader scene is much harder, especially if there is an expectation of successful coming out and working with other stakeholders, partners and beneficiaries.

The MMH were successful in getting out of an umbrella network and becoming an advocate and influential network at a general or societal level. On the one hand, they have always taken care of the autonomy and independence of their own members, and on the other they worked hard to support local youth groups and initiatives. In addition, they linked up with local institutions and policy bodies, advocated for youth interest and needs at a national level and also participated in youth networks at the EU and international level.

It is even harder to count how many working groups they actively participated in; where they gave their point of view and comments on final documents, strategies, laws, action plans, etc.

What is specific about the Croatian Youth Network is that they are not just active in advocating in the youth sector, but in civil society at large. Thus, they have had representatives in the Council for Civil Society Development for the last three mandates and are involved in all the major networks and CSOs’ coalitions.

3. The market and employment

Perhaps, it would be more valid to present some other aspect of MMH activity, but we decided to present their work in the market and employment levels for two reasons:

–          In a number of studies, youth in Croatia expressed their fears and worries about future employment possibilities and it has become one of their largest concerns.

Moreover, the serious financial crisis that affects youth the most is still present in Croatia. According to Eurostat data in 2011, the rate of youth unemployment was 33.6% in Croatia, while according to more recent data, the rate of unemployment has increased to 46%. Thus, Croatia is among the few European countries with the highest rate of youth unemployment. In addition, the long-term unemployed accounted for more than half of the unemployed youth in the third quarter of 2011.

From this, it is obvious why employment opportunities and the job sector are one of the most important for youth in Croatia today. Of course, it is obvious why the MMH has worked a lot on this issue over the past years.

–          They are currently presiding over the Minister of Work’s Council for the Creation of the Youth Guarantee Implementation Plan together with the Union of Autonomous Trade Unions of Croatia (UATUC). Their aim is to comment and lobby for more friendly and needs based approach in the package of measures entitled “Youth Guarantee” that was created by the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Social Policy and Youth.

Today, in their tenth year of activities, the MMH work as a Centre of knowledge for society development –the youth sector, that is a long term development of the CSO sector in Croatia, set up by the National Foundation for Civil Society Development. Likewise, they participate and work in the Advisory Council on Youth of the Government of Republic of Croatia that will set up a new Strategy for Youth Development and a new Youth Law. Within this activity, they are advocating for a law that will finally create a clear and transparent space for the financial and organizational stability of youth organisations.

They are taking care of 64 parts.

 MYPLACE Slovakia researcher Jaroslav Mihalik sends a report on support for neo-nazi candidates in recent Slovak regional elections..

For more information on the MYPLACE project, visit the project’s website: HERE

The regional elections in Slovakia held in two rounds in 5 of 8 regions during 9 and 23 November 2013 showed no spectacular surprises with the exception of Banská Bystrica region. The voters gave support to neo-Nazi leader of People´s party – Our Slovakia, Marián Kotleba who won the second round against a candidate from SMER-SD.

The results might be surprising at the first glance but as we explain below there are several critical junctures that enhanced the victory of the extreme right leader which was also a vivid topic for international media and press.

Marián Kotleba and his party ran for national parliament in 2012 with the 1,5% electoral result. Since then, apparently, something has changed in the support for political alternatives and radicalization. He won in 9 out of 13 electoral districts gaining 55,5% of the electoral votes.


Based on the results, Slovakia has become another EU country that witness the rise of support for extremists among citizens.

Regarding the success of the new regional leader there is also a change of the electoral map of Slovakia, adding brown colour to already established left and right colours (red and blue):


There are several arguments that can be particularly observed as the factors of voters´ influence. The first is devoted to the frustration of the “old” parties which were not able to fulfill the programs and are considered to be corrupt in the public based on the recent scandals. Then there were promises from 1989 to increase the living standards of ordinary citizens, to guarantee the higher employment rates and social benefits including the Roma issues that were usually only part of the electoral campaigns. The electoral apathy as well as political distrust might have caused the open political space for new alternatives, even when considered as radical ones.

Furthermore, the media power and general negative attitude against them among young people might have contributed to the success of Marián Kotleba. After the first round of the elections, media brought several interviews with the regional politicians, famous people and celebrities who expressed the denial of Kotleba´s politics and campaign. Apparently, everyone believed in definite success of the other candidate and underestimated the potential and mobilizing factor of Kotleba voters. After all, Kotleba received more than 70,000 valid votes which was enough to gain 55,5 per cent of the turnout. The negative campaign or anti-campaign in media has shown its darker side again.

Another factor of electoral success is vested in the personality of Marián Kotleba. He has the ability to influence the masses, even among the minority population, such as Roma. They demand the meeting with the new leader to negotiate the proceedings in solving the position of Roma in the region. Apparently, Kotleba didn’t need any particular program for the regional development and he relied mostly on his agenda against corrupt politicians, unemployed Roma and social parasites. In comparison with the other candidates, Kotleba has not used expensive campaign tools such as billboards and media space, but relied on his name and the factor of personalized politics. He might be also observed as a symbol of resilience toward the status quo.

Then, there is a democratic deficit particularly visible and valid in the regional elections. While in the other regions of Slovakia the electoral turnout hasn’t reached 20 per cent, there was considerably higher participation in Banská Bystrica where the turnout went beyond 25 per cent. Still, despite the relatively low number, the voters of Kotleba have mobilized to the extent which enabled his victory. Together with the factors analyzed above, these numbers create the potential for the rise of well-organized and mobilized supporters of the new wave parties and their leaders.

The immediate reactions from the other party leaders commenting the results also differ in the perspective of a “hot potato” issue.

Pavol Frešo, re-elected head of Bratislava region as well as leader of SDKU-DS calls for the responsibility of all democratic parties in order to unite and fight against extremism not only in Banská Bystrica but nation-wide. On a contrary, the Prime Minister Robert Fico sought the culprit almost immediately in the right wing voters since they did everything in order to defeat the candidate from SMER-SD. Fico blames the right wing parties because for them, Antichrist, Satan, Hitler, Mussolini, whoever is better than Smer-SD candidate and he suggested that these parties enabled such results.

Despite all, the political settings at the regional level do not allow the leader to be a sole executor since there are deputies from Party of Hungarian Community (5), Independent deputies (13) and SMER candidates (25). From this perspective, the political and ideological balance in the region should be established and guaranteed and the new leader will have to seek for compromises. Nevertheless, Marián Kotleba was given the mandate in a democratic election which authorizes him to attempt and prove his political abilities, providing political alternatives and solutions for the region. Most definitely, he will be in the spotlight of national as well as international media and organizations that can potentially mediate the radicalization and extremism.

Posted by: MYPLACE FP7 | October 28, 2013

Latvia’s National Force stands with Greece’s Golden Dawn

Recently, the MYPLACE team at Panteion University of Social Sciences in Athens sent a blog on recent events surrounding the leadership of The Golden Dawn. The blog referenced several examples of international support for the Greek far-right movement from other far-right groups.

This week the Latvian MYPLACE team’s Liga Rudzite sends an update from a recent demonstration in support of the Golden Dawn by Latvian nationalists.

For more information on MYPLACE click here.

“Europe is waking – the darkest night brings Golden Dawn” poetically read one of the posters in the rally organized by the Latvian nationalist organization National Force in support of the Greek far right group Golden Dawn in front of the Greek Embassy in Riga, Latvia, on October 18th. It was accompanied by flags with symbolics of National Force and Golden Dawn and posters asking to “Stop persecution of nationalists, freedom to prisoners of conscience”.

Just over 20 people took part in the event which called for freedom for the arrested members of Golden Dawn. They signed a letter addressed to Greek Embassy asking to stop political persecutions on Greece and to ensure that human rights are respected, allowing the freedom of speech for everyone.

“What is done today to Golden Dawn in Greece, will be done, if needed, to anyone of us here in Latvia – if you have time, if you are near-by and if you are not afraid, come join us!” warns and invites the call to action signed by the member of board of the NGO National Force Viktors Birze.

National Force is the successor of the nationalist political party Alliance of National Force which a few years ago signed a co-operation aggreement with Golden Dawn. Viktors Birze and other former members of Alliance of National Force have been charged with hate speech in the past mostly directed against members of Russian-speaking minority in Latvia. Currently National Force is discussing to transform into a political party once again.

In the popular social network National Force currently has 356 followers, their Facebook page – 90 “likes”. Both sites offer a space for information and opinion sharing on issues that the NGO considers important. Support action for Golden Dawn was meant to gather a maximum of 50 supporters, but managed to get just over 20 participants and a small media coverage. The event itself was peaceful and there was no intervention from the police.

Pictures from the rally are available on the National Force’s page:

Posted by: MYPLACE FP7 | October 17, 2013

The killing that sent the Golden Dawn leadership to prison

The MYPLACE team at Panteion University of Social Sciences in Athens send this report on recent events surrounding the leadership of The Golden Dawn – another of the activist groups being studied in MYPLACE.

For more information on MYPLACE click here.


On September 17, Pavlos Fyssas a 34 year-old rapper, known for his anti-fascist activism and lyrics was with his friends at a cafeteria in Keratsini, Piraeus. During the same time a group of Golden Dawn members were there watching a football match. After the end of the game, Pavlos FyssasPavlos Fyssas and his friends left the cafeteria. On their way home, about 30 members of Golden Dawn surrounded and attacked them. At that time a car stopped and a man came out of it. He reached Fyssas and after fighting with him for a few seconds he stabbed him in the chest, in his heart. Before dying, Fyssas managed to point out to the police officers the man who stabbed him, and he was arrested on the scene. He was a 45 year-old Golden Dawn member, member of the local party division and known for his participation in the party’s activities (camps, food donations, etc.). A few hours later he confessed and was accused of cold blood murder.

The reactions this murder caused were huge. All the political parties condemned the killing, among them Golden Dawn that claimed no relation with the murderer! Huge anti-fascist demonstrations took place in the area and in the center of Athens the following days.

Demonstrations in the following days 1

The next weeks were more impressive. The judge that was charged with that case ordered to open the mobile communications of the murderer and examined his contacts before and after the killing. At the same time the government, too late according to some of its critics, sent 32 criminal cases to the judges in order to examine the involvement of Golden Dawn members and MPs in criminal activity. Based on the evidence on Saturday, the 28 of September, early in the morning the police arrested 6 MPs of Golden Dawn among them the general secretary Nicos Michaloliakos and the party’s spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris.


One of them went later on that day at the Police Headquarters to surrender and another one a couple of days later. Apart from them, other members of the party were also arrested among them two police officers. All of them were accused of as members of a criminal organization based on the Greek penal code. It is worth mentioning that three of the MPs were released after a few days, but under the term to not leave the country, while Ilias Kasidiaris had also to pay a bail of 50,000 euros, of course they are still accused of being members of a criminal organization. At the moment, apart from the leader of Golden Dawn, two other MPs are imprisoned and many other members of the party. The police have arrested many party members since then many of them in other Greek cities. In one of these cases, in Volos, 3 young people of 17, 22 and 27 years old were arrested before attempting to burn down an Islamic Mosque in the city of Volos. During his plea the 22 year old said that he went to the Golden Dawn offices with many others, because he had heard that they offer jobs to Greeks and he is unemployed. Furthermore, internal affairs of the police are conducting controls to police departments and arrested the former head of the Police Department in Agios Penteleimon, where Golden Dawn actually started its campaign against the immigrants. 

It has to be mentioned that after their arrests they didn’t stop uploading texts and messages in their websites. Among other messages they uploaded the support from other extreme-right groups around the world (Spain, Colombia, France, Italy, Germany, etc.). One of the first groups that wrote a support announcement was the British National Party together with the National Revival of Poland’s Foreign Committee BNP Statement( on the day of the arrests. Among other things they expressed their “full solidarity with Greek patriots, being persecuted by the system as a consequence of their fast growing support among ordinary Greeks”.

Spanish support

Colombian Support

Many things have happened within a month. Three are the most striking things. First of all, the material found in one of the houses of Christos Pappas, a party MP, which is directly related with Nazism as the pictures below prove (Pappas with Nazi uniform, Christos PaposSS helmets, bottles of wine with photos of Mussolini, Hitler’s photos, etc.).

The second one, that many active and former members of Golden Dawn broke the law of silence and spoke to the judges asking for protection and not revealing their ID. Finally, and most importantly, even though the majority of the Greeks were very critical about the party’s actions, in the opinion polls following the events, Golden Dawn is still the third political party receiving from 6.8 to 8% of the votes. This means that the arrests have weakened the party, but not to the level it was expected. It is absolutely certain that this case will not be closed. This means that our MYPLACE research about Golden Dawn is fundamental in order to understand this phenomenon and try to explain its presence in Greek society and especially its impact and influence on young people.

Posted by: MYPLACE FP7 | October 8, 2013

Dalai Lama’s Third (and unofficial) visit to Riga

MYPLACE researcher Liga Rudzite from our Latvian team on the recent visit to Riga by the Dalai Lama, organised by “Latvia for Tibet” – an NGO featured in MYPLACE research into young activists.

For more information on the MYPLACE project visit the project’s website: HERE

8th to 11th of September this year saw the third visit of the 14th Dalai Lama in Riga, Latvia (the previous two being in 1991 and 2001). This time the three day visit was organized by an NGO Latvia for Tibet with a help from many other NGO’s and individual supporters. The visit included a public lecture in the „Arena Riga” and an unofficial closed meeting at the Meeting room of Commision for National Economics in Parliament of Latvia with a few MP’s and representatives of the local buddhist community.

The Dalai Lama attended a closed meeting at the Latvian Parliament

The Dalai Lama attended a closed meeting at the Latvian Parliament


The visit was accompanied with many questions regarding the refusal of the highest Latvian State officials to meet Dalai Lama. In response they stated that this was an unofficial visit organized by NGO’s, which had nothing to do with politics and therefore there was no reason why State officials should be involved with it at all.

On the side of the public, hundreds of people took part at both the events leading to the visit of Dalai Lama and the public lecture of Dalai Lama itself. The Buddhism Culture Weeks and the making of sand Mandala of Compassion were events that took place weeks and days before the visit and gathered hundreds of visitors of all ages. The greeting of Dalai Lama by his hotel gathered a group of people that included both interested passer-by’s, members of Latvia for Tibet, local opinion leaders and media.

Crowds gather to welcome the Dalai Lama

Crowds gather to welcome the Dalai Lama

The main event of the visit – public lecture „The Culture of Compassion” – took place in a large arena in Riga, providing opportunity for several thousands of people to hear the lecture. Although the arena was nearly filled up, at the end of the lecture the organizers asked the public to come forth with donations to be able to cover all expenses of the visit which was mainly financed by private and NGO donations and the income from ticket sales.

There are no estimates of how many people took part in the events, nor how many young people were involved with the visit both during the preparations phase and the visit itself, but in his lecture Dalai Lama stressed the importance of youth to lead the change for the better around the world.

The Dalai Lama's Public Lecture in RIga

The Dalai Lama’s Public Lecture in RIga

This is the first time when a visit of Dalai Lama is organized by the initiative and work of NGO’s and individuals only. For a major event of this scale it speaks of the connectedness and networks that Latvia for Tibet can utilize to organize it, even if the official number of members of the organization is small.

The MYPLACE project has completed its first major public deliverable: “Country based reports on historical discourse production as manifested in sites of memory.” These reports are available here: .

Here the Daugavpils University MYPLACE WP2 team Zane Stapkevica, Liene Leitiete, Aleksandrs Cvetkovs, Rihards Sisojevs, Irena Saleniece summarise the Latvian report.

History of Latvia in the 20th century is complicated and controversial; commemoration practices in Latvia are diverse and often contradictory for young people. That is why the Latvian report from Daugavpils University, in cooperation with the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia < > deals with Latvian youth attitudes towards historical events and representation of the past in the museum. The study is based on 5 expert and 5 focus groups interviews, field work in the museum, observation of public events, etc. Experts interviewed were staff members of the museum. There were 45 members in the focus-groups – 16-20 year old students from various kinds of educational institutions represented different regions of Latvia and different ethnic groups (mostly Latvian and Russian).
Both experts and members of focus groups expressed the opinion that the history of Latvia in the period between 1940 and 1991 is problematic and controversial. The dominant historical discourse sees the period from the perspective of Latvian state – it’s establishment, destruction and restoration. The ‘problematic’ and ‘difficult’ events thus are often related with foreign forces – the Soviet and Nazi regimes that occupied the territory of Latvia, destroyed its sovereignty and committed crimes against various groups of the Latvian citizenry. The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia represents the history of the 20th century of Latvia following the lines of the dominant narrative.
Experts listed the participation of Latvian voluntaries in the massacre of Jews during the Holocaust; collaborationism with the Nazi and communist regimes; the fact that the population did not protest against the deportations and the Holocaust as events that could be called shameful. To young people, in Latvia the shameful past may be related to collaborationism with the Nazis, to the Holocaust, to deportations. However, they doubt whether this notion can be used in regard to Latvian history. Unexpectedly in historical context some recent events were considered as ‘shameful’ – the spontaneous riot on January 13, 2010, when crowds in Riga threw stones at the Saeima (parliament) building and vandalized other objects and also the “language issue” relating to the unreasonable claims of the part of the Russian speaking population.
Public activities in Latvia show that there are many people who basically agree with the official version of the past. Observations have documented that the population of Latvia, young people included, celebrate November 11, November 18 and commemorate events of deportations, etc.

Image 1 Latvia D2 1

Image 2 Latvia D2 1

Categorical public denial of this version of the past has been rarely observed (R. Jefimovs; A. Gilman – denial of Soviet deportations; the incendiary of the flag of Latvia 18.11.2012.), the exception being the celebration of May 9. 

Focus-group interviews reveal that young people are familiar with events of Latvian history; they learned about it first of all from the members of their families and from school. Young people are aware that the memories of their families have many gaps. However, the most important thing for young people, though not always unequivocal and precisely expressed, is the attitude of family members to events in the past, especially if they relate to the life experience of the people close to them. From what the young people told the interviewers, we can infer that they can identify differences in the historical experience of witnesses of the past belonging to different generations and they can provide explanations for these differences. Occasionally, they can explain why family memories in Latvia are often incomplete and fragmented. In two cases young people indicate that confrontation between them and their parents arises when they try to use what they learn about history at school.

Our focus-groups heavily rely on the information learned at school. Unlike other places and situations, the educational process usually provides verified factual material, but at the same time, a pluralism of opinions concerning the evaluation of the processes in the past. Moreover, when schools discuss themes or history-related issues they consider the motivation, interpretation and evaluation of past events of representatives of different sides. Schools, too, now try to teach pupils to evaluate past situations not by applying the criteria of their own time, but by trying to see the position of another person, to understand the choice he/she has made from the perspective of his time.

From the perspective of society and the state, comprehensive school is the only institution that in a systematic way provides all children of the respective country with the same version of the past, based on the conception of history developed by the national historiography. The situation in Latvia is a good example of this: today, at school young people learn the conception of Latvian national historiography, while their parents and grandparents, who grew up and were educated in the schools of the 1940-70s, had learnt the concepts of the Soviet historiography. In the latter, there was no place for the statehood of Latvia, therefore the history of Latvia was integrated into the history of the USSR.

Most interviewees accept the necessity to have commemoration days, but only on principles of parity: what is due to the participants of one warring side, the same is due to their former enemies (Latvian Legion of Waffen SS and Red Army). However, we cannot avoid the fact that young people living in the East of Latvia and especially those communicating in Russian in their everyday life are more oriented towards supporting the victors’ version of WW II and are more positive about those who celebrate May 9.

Image 3 Latvia D2 1

While young people of Eastern Latvia communicating in Latvian are more sympathetic to the veterans of the Legion.  In places where the language environment is homogenously Latvian and there are no vast May 9 celebrations, pupils take a more nonchalant attitude.

For further research we must take into consideration the fact that both past experiences and perceptions of history are very different in different families. The local population of Latvia, those who were raised in 1920s and 1930s, learned a specific view of history at school and certain personal experiences during the period of the independent state of Latvia and historical transformations of the 1940s – 1980s. Families, whose members arrived in Latvia after 1940, have a rather different experience. They do not have pre-war “witnesses”, their knowledge about Latvia was learned at a Soviet school. If they happen to have graduated from school outside of Latvia, at school they didn’t learn anything about Latvia’s history at all.

[The research leading to these findings has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme ([FP7/2007-2013] [FP7/2007-2011]) under Grant Agreement number FP7-266831).]

Posted by: MYPLACE FP7 | July 10, 2013

The hard work away from the spotlight

Martin Price, MYPLACE Project Manager, on approaching end of the project’s primary data collection phase.

For more information on the MYPLACE project, visit the project’s website: HERE

It is often said that success has to be earned. As it is in other aspects of life, so it is in empirical social science research.

MYPLACE now has data. MYPLACE is an empirical project, and its success always had to be built on the foundations that would be laid in the data gathering phase. So what have we collected? In summary, across 30 field sites in 14 countries, we have collected 17,177 (face to face) responses to our questionnaire survey (at an average length of around 45 minutes), and completed follow-up, semi-structured interviews with 877 of those respondents – yielding over a month of recorded audio (around 37 days). Tales of fieldwork heroism abound. Here I will just give some examples to provide some hint at the scale of the task.

MYPLACE fieldwork sites

MYPLACE fieldwork sites

In gathering the survey data in the UK, the intrepid team of researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University knocked on 26,452 doors (3 times or more) in Coventry and Nuneaton. A fieldwork coordinator described his hardy team at the end as being “visibly thinner and toughened up” by the winter months patrolling the streets of the field areas. The semi-structured interviews naturally varied in length, but while the average was a little over an hour, one member of our Russian team holds the record with an interview which was 6 hours long. That’s dedication – from interviewer and respondent.

Elsewhere, working with museums, NGOs and other ‘sites of memory’ our Work Package 2 researchers have completed 73 expert interviews and 54 focus groups with young people. You can read their reports on the first stage of this work here <link>. Work Package 2 will continue to produce data through inter-generational interviews through its next phase throughout 2013.

All this is accompanied by a huge volume of data from interviews and observation from over 40 ethnographic case studies (Work Package 7) of youth activism, many of which still have researchers in the field.

There will be much we can learn as we reflect on the experiences of gathering these big datasets. Teams have faced and overcome not only the challenges of massive fieldwork operations, and wrestled the usual problems of sampling and methodological issues, but in many cases have done so in the face of (for many countries) a deepening economic crisis, where higher education institutions have been squeezed hard in some cases and public administration as a whole has struggled with austerity measures. Other partners have had to fight a difficult political landscape.

Still more can, and will, be written about the process of integrating the data, across cases and countries, and ultimately pulling together the different work packages.

The real purpose, however, and the bulk of the work now facing the project team, will be in turning all this data into findings, and of course finding the right channels and audiences for those findings. Those audiences will be both academic and non-academic, with much work to be done on ensuring that our work informs policy in meaningful ways.

It will be by these outputs that the success of the project will be judged. But any such success will only be possible because of hundreds of hours of contact time with respondents, tens of thousands of doors knocked on and intercoms buzzed. Not to mention the thousands of miles covered around and between fieldwork sites, mostly in the depths of winter (albeit those depths being deeper in some places than others).  As we now begin to analyse our data and turn it into publishable outputs, I think it is worth keeping in our minds that we have earned the right to speak on youth engagement, disengagement and activism.

The MYPLACE project has completed its first major public deliverable: “Country based reports on historical discourse production as manifested in sites of memory.” These reports are available here: . Here Sanjin Ulezic and Mariona Ferrer, of Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, discuss some of the findings of the Spanish/Catalan report.

“Calling attention to what was experienced at that time is useful for honouring all the people who, at that time, didn‘t lose their lives, but were denounced and forgotten anyway.” (response from a young focus group participant within the MYPLACE project)

When considering memorial spaces in countries with a similar past, there are a few phenomena that stand out when we look at Spain. Following authors such as Paloma Aguilar, the central argument of this text will be that the key source for the conflicting memorial dynamic that forms some central political divides stems from a lack of a country-wide policy condemning the dictatorial Francoist regime in the transitional and post-transitional periods. Spanish D2_1 blog denounced and forgotten quoteThe open-endedness of the narratives has produced what has often been dubbed ,intentional forgetting‘, where not only have institutional developments been practically paralysed, but where the emergence of new developments regarding issues from the Francoist period have in turn produced endless disputes both in the public sphere, as well as in academic and professional circles.

 When the dictatorship ended in 1975, and the transition period began (the conclusion of the transition period is not clearly defined, and several events are considered as representing it), certain developments already pointed towards what the memorial space in Spain would resemble for the coming generations. Namely, in light of striving towards a reconciliation and a swift and successful transition to democracy, an agreement was made which would prevent a clear and open condemnation of the Francoist dictatorship. This was a product of a longer-running process of self-legitimation that was present during the dictatorship, but which also lasted long into the transition period. Therefore, while Spain moved from dictatorship to democracy without questioning Francoism, this is due in good measure to the dictatorship‘s power to impose its own account, even after it technically ceased to exist. Furthermore, on an institutional level, the leadership of individuals linked to the dictatorship had an undisputed effect, with especially the roles of Carlos Árias Navarro, Franco‘s last interior minister and prime minister until 1976, and Adolfo Suárez, who succeeded Árias Navarro as prime minister, adding to the continuation of the legitimation, and as such, to the marginalization of any attempts to formalize the condemnation of the dictatorship at an institutional level. Such political dynamics ultimately culminated in the Amnesty Law of 1977, which put a moratorium on the prosecution of any human rights violation committed during the Francoist period. As of today, this moratorium still stands, and is the source of controversial issues.

 There are several contemporary, but also continuous, phenomena that emerge from this. First, there is a highly diverse (and divergent) interpretation of the dictatorship that emerges on the regional level. Here, Catalonia and the Basque Country are at the helm, no doubt motivated by their own national heritages that were so clearly opposed to what the Francoist dictatorship and its undelying values came to represent, but also, because their increasing desires for sovereignty ultimately demand a quest for a legitimation of the distancing from ,Spain‘ as a concept. Second, there is a large discrepancy in the understanding of political parties on either side of the left-right divide as to what, if anything, should be done in relation to this legacy. Here, the right has been instrumental in the process of „forgetting“, not least because some high-ranking pre-transitional and transitional politicians represented the core of political parties from that political spectrum, whereas the left, such as PSOE, the Spanish socialist party, played a two-fold role. On one hand it was content with the simplistic appeasement and ,forgetting‘ for the sake of political progress – which was also a result of the quite sudden onset of a more prominent role for the left in Spanish politics in the transition period – but on the other hand, especially in recent times, it became instrumental in the institutionalization of clear anti-Francoist narratives, mostly with the Ley de Memoria Histórica [Historical Memory Law] of 2007.

 Spanish D2_1 blog transition and dictatorship quoteWhat is crucial is that these developments have not brought about a consensus regarding the negative legacy of the dictatorship, and in fact, the discrepancies in the views have often been used to herald specific political gains, adding to the already deep divide. As was mentioned before, a crucial factor in this was the presence of political elites from the dictatorship period in the transition period. The dynamics that this has produced has led to a defining characteristic of the Spanish memorial space, which is that what little memory there is of the past in popular discourse, it is of the transition, and the dictatorship from which one is supposed to have transitioned, is mostly disregarded. However, in the context of the current economic crisis and the high levels of political disaffection, a new position is emerging in the public sphere. Namely a critical review of the institutional design and of the informal agreements established during the transition process. The “culture of the transition”, which is a concept used by some intellectuals and the media, is being disputed by an increasing part of the Spanish population. Mostly present in the discourse of young people – those most disenchanted with current politics – this remnant is seen as an obstacle for the advancement of the quality of democracy in Spain. Furthermore, only a few days before the publication of this contribution, 30 organizations working in various capacity to bring to light the human rights violations under Francoism formed an umbrella organization, the Coordinadora contra la Impunidad del Franquismo. Spanish D2_1 blog historical justice quoteThe goals they are expressing can surely be regarded as positive, as they include both the raising of public awareness, and as such a recinding of the deep-rooted ,forgetting‘, as well as some clear institutional horizons – the removal of Francoist symbols, and most importantly, public oversight of the exhumation of mass graves from the Francoist period. It seems that historical justice has been given highly organized representation, and the era of wide-spread intentional amnesia is coming to an end.


[The research leading to these findings has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme ([FP7/2007-2013] [FP7/2007-2011]) under Grant Agreement number FP7-266831).]

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