Is it like giving up when you get a GED?

Mixed double: conclusion
Visexit: It was nice with you!

For five months, our four columnists intellectually measured the V4 states, recorded the discourses in their countries and explored the political fracture zones in their societies. Time to take stock together.

Nils Broer: Hello everybody! You have been exchanging ideas for five months now. At the beginning your columns were quite gloomy, there was talk of broken states, cynical political games. At the end of the day, we decided to focus more on more optimistic topics and that - so my impression - has not always been easy for you. Why is that? Is the V4 room really that gloomy?

Tereza Semotamová: I don't really agree. I think it's more complicated. At first glance, a lot of things may seem gloomy about us. At the same time, however, many good things also happen. Above all, it is important to me not only to write about peace, joy and pancakes.

Marton Gergely: The Polish playwright Slawomir Mrożek was once asked why he always writes so sarcastically. He replied: His texts were not sarcastic, they simply correspond to the reality of Central and Eastern Europe. Perhaps our pessimism and optimism are also distorted by the question of how Germany looks at us. We quarrel a lot with ourselves, we take a lot too seriously and at the same time too lightly, I think.

Michal Hvorecky: Well, we live in a pretty dark time. The Czech folk singer Jaromir Nohavica has just accepted an award from Vladimir Putin himself. That's pretty bizarre. Even such people are no longer immune to propaganda. More and more intellectuals fail. Why do we still wonder why the so-called “common people” vote in an authoritarian manner and believe in disinformation? But I found the five months very exciting.

Marton Gergely: And anyway: The zeitgeist is pessimistic. In these five months Trump has undercut everything, Brazil is going crazy and scientists say we have twelve years to rethink, otherwise the planet will fly around our ears.

Michal Hvorecky: The established parties argue about how to shape a globalized world politically. Austria, too, with its right-wing populists in government, has come closer ideologically to the populists of the V4 states than it has been for a long time ...

Tereza Semotamová: Maybe there is a difference between the German reality and the Central European reality. Problems are perceived differently. Here problems are perhaps a normal, natural part of reality ...

Marton Gergely: And then we all belong to the same generation. I once read that we are the first generation since the world war that thinks: the worst is still ahead of us, not behind us.

Tereza Semotamová: You have to say that Nohavica (the Czech folk singer) was with the Stasi, that's not a real intellectual. It's an interesting life story - at the end of your life you want to get an award. Thank you, Putin, thank you very much.

Nils Broer: Do you think that there is a specific Central Eastern European negative dialectic of thinking?

Tereza Semotamová: No !!! I do not agree. I don't think in terms of positive / negative, but critical / uncritical.

Michal Hvorecky: "We are a small world here, in which the big one holds its rehearsal." - an allusion to the famous sentence by Friedrich Hebbel ...

Marton Gergely: I don't know, I'm overwhelmed. But the way I perceive the news at the moment, our thinking is not that singular. We're trendy. And there is one thing the Hungarians definitely do not want to be: Eastern European. Either entirely European or exclusively Hungarian.

Nils Broer: Welcome Monika! Welcome to our group.

Monika Sieradzka: Hello everybody! To your question, Nils, about a negative dialectic. In Poland, the situation is actually more gloomy than it has been for a long time, at least if you consider the intensified polarization of the fronts and the extent of the inflammatory language. Friends and relatives no longer talk to each other because they are on the other side of the barricade. But at the same time, in this dire situation, many people have come together to resist the populists. Sometimes I have the feeling that we Poles have a crazy inner logic, according to the motto: the worse the better. We only start to tick normally when the enemy is at the door. We have been able to organize riots with all possible occupations in history. Now the crisis has reached us and maybe not just us. The old world, even western-style liberal democracy, no longer seems to offer the necessary support. Alternatives are urgently sought.

Tereza Semotamová: Well, I have to say, I feel a little bit the crisis of the elites and the intellectuals in general. They are simply at a loss. We thought the world was going to work out for the better. That's not the case.

Marton Gergely: The difference is perhaps more in the question of how we perceive life. Our attitude may be more typical of this region.

Michal Hvorecky: It was also the time when we too became part of the new authoritarian international. From Putin to Erdoğan to Trump. Steve Bannon even visited Milos Zeman in Prague ...

Marton Gergely: ... and with Orbán.

Michal Hvorecky: Hope is there! In Slovakia the awareness is growing again that political culture needs to be cultivated and defended day in and day out. We will continue to resist!

Marton Gergely: I wouldn't give up Hungary either. The resistance is quieter because the rulers have greater resources.

Tereza Semotamová: Well, I think the problem in the Czech Republic is that many older people are still in charge everywhere and the young people don't know how to deal with it. The president, but also the unions, the PEN club, etc. Somehow everything is petrified. But this old world is going to end. They just don't want to admit it yet.

Marton Gergely: Yes, I agree with Tereza on that. Those under 40 started high school after the fall of the Berlin Wall, they think and work differently, understand Europe differently, want something different from life, have different fears.

Monika Sieradzka: With us, the division is also very large, but less generation-related. The front runs between left-liberal and right-conservative. So very, very traditional, you could say. Unfortunately there are many young, educated people who stand for the national conservative program “Poland first” ...

Michal Hvorecky: Don't give up, don't hang your head, don't look the other way - on the contrary: Look closely and keep a keen eye on developments in the V4. This cooperation in mixed doubles has helped me a lot to better understand some things in your countries.

Tereza Semotamová: I think “looking closely” is extremely important. Even if we cannot change things, it is our duty to provide information about things.

Marton Gergely: And yes, the majority of voters are still socialized in the old days.

Tereza Semotamová: ... in Prague a pirate will probably be mayor now!

Marton Gergely: That fits you!

Tereza Semotamová: Lord Mayor or how you say it! I'm not a classic pirate fan, but I still really appreciate the party. Because it is a party that is chosen by young people as a sign of protest. And now the protesters have to show whether they can do more than just protest. Now they must rule.

Marton Gergely: ... to come back to Michal: This round also helped me. Also because it created new collaborations. I am really proud that my magazine,, was able to publish an article by Michal. (Topic: 100 years of Czechoslovakia.) To do this, you have to know our region and the wounds of history. It has now been 100 years since our countries went their own way. The Hungarians still can't believe it.

Tereza Semotamová: Yes, I agree. Above all, I think that there should be a lot more such projects in these times - journalists should generally cooperate more, I think.

Marton Gergely: The fact that Michal wrote at HVG was, in the sub-context, a sign from us, the younger generation.

Michal Hvorecky: Hopefully there will be long-term collaborations after this joint project. The average Slovak knows embarrassingly little about Hungary or Poland ... so keep writing, discussing, arguing and trying to convince. We should unite more closely in the region and work out new strategies. We must not be intimidated under any circumstances!

Monika Sieradzka: I am in favor! In Poland little is known about our region either. In general, the interest in the world is much, much smaller than that in itself. Poland is a country that is very focused on itself, on its domestic politics and its historical wounds. If it is abroad, then it is America first, then the EU and Russia. But the neighbors, who have similar experiences, stay aside. Funny! That needs to change.

Marton Gergely: Nobody talks about Slovakia in Hungary. These are not the stories that are told to the local minority. But stories about the future of the country. Yes, we let our politicians take the V4 from us. But we can also fill it with real life.

Nils Broer: How would that look like?

Marton Gergely: We don't use this as an empty phrase or as a power strategy ...

Michal Hvorecky: Each and every one of us bears responsibility and can act. And above all choose. By the way, here in Bratislava the mayor will also be elected on Saturday. A smart young man has great opportunities - an architect and a rock star at the same time! That could be a bit of a turnaround.

Marton Gergely: Then I am the only one in the group to have an embarrassing mayor.

Tereza Semotamová: We had a terrible Babiš woman for years and bridges are collapsing all over the city. Watch out!

Marton Gergely: ... Usually only Germans rush out of the window with you.

Nils Broer: Naaaaaa!

Marton Gergely: Joking aside: In Poland too, the big cities went to the opposition yesterday in the elections.

Monika Sieradzka: ... and the victory was great: of 107 cities, the PiS only rules in five! The opposition won in 28 cities, the rest is occupied by various independent candidates. These regional elections, the first elections since the PiS came to power, were a festival of resistance for me. The opposition has pulled itself together, so it is an optimistic phenomenon in our supposedly gloomy world.

Tereza Semotamová: What I was missing a bit is the German - that is, the West German and the East German - view ...

Nils Broer: Tereza, what do you think? In what form did you lack the West German / East German perspective?

Tereza Semotamová: So if you organize another project, I would think it would be great if a German would always take part.

Marton Gergely: East and West. Would be interesting!

Nils Broer: I would be interested in how you perceive the East-West discussion in Germany. It's also a lot about unexplained identities, breaks in biographies, experience of a collapsing system ...

Tereza Semotamová: It can also be self-critical, e.g. how information is provided about Eastern European matters, or how you discuss East-West problems.

Monika Sieradzka: In Germany I am always amazed at how different the West and East German mentalities are. That's my impression. As if the Ossis still felt they were inferior and treated worse. Maybe it is so, because to this day they earn less and the West Germans set the tone in relevant positions.

Nils Broer: Michal, are you still there?

Tereza Semotamová: It turns out that not everything is rosy. I mean about the east and west.

Marton Gergely: ... and the insults.

Nils Broer: What offenses do you mean?

Marton Gergely: You can learn a lot about Eastern European insults if you simply take notes from an East German. Simplifications, rebukes.

Tereza Semotamová: Exactly, I think too. And the East always had a submissive position.

Nils Broer: The question is: Do you think the East Germans are more Eastern European than the West Germans?

Marton Gergely: It all happens with you in one country. It's exciting. We tend to have this clash with Western Europeans. Once, in 2004, I was in Croatia for a training course with journalists from all over the Balkans. The foundation sent us a Dane to teach us something. She then talked about her experiences in Nigeria and Vietnam. But she would never have been to Eastern Europe before. Not even in Rostock ...

Monika Sieradzka: Well, Vietnam and Nigeria are apparently just as far away from "old" Western Europe as the Eastern European countries! Yes, Nils, for me the East Germans are a bit Eastern European. They carry the burdens of the past with them to this day. There was a time when they came to terms with communism, that's not something to be proud of. We Eastern Europeans also have this problem, but the Poles can perhaps feel a little better because, in the Poles' sense of history, the great resistance movement Solidarność toppled communism. I have the feeling that the division of Europe into East and West is now more noticeable than before the EU's eastward expansion. At that time it seemed that only this formal step was necessary now, because we have all always been part of Europe anyway. The more we grow together, the more visible the differences become. Perhaps that is also the case in Germany. I like the idea that there is an East German in a group like the mixed doubles. That's where you could really compare everything.

Michal Hvorecky: I am observing the discourses in Germany pretty closely. I used to hear inflammatory speeches much less often, and certainly not at government level. Or even conspiracy theories! No matter where, we must do everything we can to arm and strengthen civil society.

Marton Gergely: The Europe project is important to us because we count ourselves among it. And our insults come from the fact that this is not always reciprocated from the West.

Michal Hvorecky: Sorry, I have to stop now. I have a meeting. Bye!

Marton Gergely: Bye!

Tereza Semotamová: I don't know, I don't think I really know what Eastern Europe is. Am i Eastern Europe? Anyway, I have to go too, see you then ...

Marton Gergely: I would have to jump off too. See you soon.

Nils Broer: OK Bye! See you soon.

Dear readers. At this point our mixed double visegrad ends. But that doesn't mean you have to say goodbye to our columnists. You will soon find out what happens next - at or by subscribing to our newsletter.


In mixed doubles, Michal Hvorecký (Slovakia), Tereza Semotamová (Czech Republic), Márton Gergely (Hungary) and Monika Sieradzka (Poland) record the discourses in their countries. They explore topics such as the current importance of Europe, right-wing populism, national sovereignty, social change, the arrogance of the Western view - and thereby break state and intellectual boundaries.

The Goethe-Instituts in Poland, the Czech Republic and the online magazine jádu published the articles in the column series with the kind permission of and in cooperation with ostpol, the online magazine of n-ost - Network for Eastern Europe Reporting e.V.


Copyright: | n-ost e.V.
November 2018

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