January 16, 2023 | 17:00 Lecture
University of Amsterdam | BG 3 | Binnengasthuisstraat 9 1012 ZA Amsterdam

Eastsplainers #2: Journalism

As the Russian war in Ukraine and imperialist Kremlin rhetoric continues to disturb world media, Eastsplainers offers a counterweight to 'westsplaining' – the habit of looking at developments in Central and Eastern Europe through Western lenses. In this public lecture series, we listen to intellectuals and artists who fled from the Russian war in Ukraine or who fled or migrated from Łódź, Minsk, and Moscow, among other places, to the Netherlands.
Historical Soviet Plastic depicts a soldierly, heroic scene. The flag is painted over in Ukrainian colors.

In this panel discussion, we welcome journalist Alexander Gubsky (Moscow Times) and media researcher Johana Kotišová (UvA/Vrije Universiteit Brussel).

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2022 was a year of deeply sombering media reports about the Russian invasion in Ukraine, and the material and human losses that this war continues to generate to this day. We read about the invasion a lot, but we rarely see the journalists, fixers, and other newsmakers behind these difficult reports. 2022 was also a year of harsh crackdowns on Russian media who aim for independent coverage of the same Russian war in Ukraine. Amsterdam is currently home to a quickly growing number of independent journalists who fled Moscow to be able to continue their work.

For Eastsplainers, we take a closer look at Central and Eastern European war journalism. We do so with internationally renowned journalist and publisher of the independent media publication Moscow Times Alexander Gubsky – who is currently a guest researcher at the University of Amsterdam – and with acclaimed media researcher Johana Kotišová – who grew up in the Czech Republic and who works as postdoctoral researcher in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam and as a guest professor at the Communication Studies department of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Kotišová zooms in on the various types of risks that Ukrainian war journalists and fixers currently face. Gubsky reflects on the trends and challenges in independent war journalism that he witnesses in his work for the Moscow Times. Eva Peek – Slavic and literary scholar and editor at the Dutch paper NRC Handelsblad – will act as moderator. Professor of Russian & Slavic studies Ellen Rutten (University of Amsterdam) opens the session with a short overview of the Eastsplainers series as a whole.

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Alexander Gubsky

Alexander Gubsky

Alexander Gubsky is a professional journalist, who joined The Moscow Times in 1995. Alexander was one of the creators of the concept and editorial team of Vedomosti, a unique business and media project created in Russia in 1999 jointly by The Wall Street JournalFinancial Times and Sauer’s Independent Media. As irreplaceable deputy editor-in-chief, Alexander left Vedomosti in 2020 along with other key journalists after businessmen close to the Kremlin gained control of the publication. In the same year, he and his colleagues founded a new Russian media project where Alexander became the publisher: VTimes. In 2021, VTimes was granted ‘foreign agent’ status by the Russian Ministry of Justice and was closed down in June 2021.

(Photo: Mariya Ostrenko)

Johana Kotišová

Johana Kotišová works as a postdoctoral researcher in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam and as a guest professor at the Communication Studies department of Vrije Universiteit Brussel. She has a background in social anthropology, media and journalism studies, and a joint PhD degree in sociology. Her interests include crisis and conflict reporting, newsworkers’ emotional labor and well-being, participatory action research, and creative research methods. Her first book Crisis Reporters, Emotions, and Technology: An Ethnography (2019, Palgrave Macmillan, open access) explores European crisis reporters’ emotional labor and professional ideology. Her current project focuses on local ‘fixers’ in war zones. 

(Photo: Esther de Jongh)

Eva Peek

Eva Peek is an editor for the books section at Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad and as an editor for the Nederlandse Boekengids. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Literary Studies and Russian language and culture from the University of Amsterdam and she studied History at Leiden University. Eva studied and worked in Saint-Petersburg, Paris, Berlin, and Kyiv.

Lecture series

Which contemporary cultural and intellectual trends do they witness in various parts of Central & Eastern Europe today? And how can knowledge about these trends help us understand Europe better? We study these questions with two important caveats in mind. One: the unlawful Russian regime somehow affects artists, scholars, and thinkers across all of Central & Eastern Europe – but we shun equalisations of other localities with Ukraine, where a full-fledged Russian war creates acute and mass-scale suffering. Second: rather than amplifying views on various Central & Eastern European locations as a monolithic European ‘East,’ Eastsplainers aims to unsettle these views. These locations may have connected histories – but our lectures and discussions show that they merit independent study and careful attention to local dynamics.

In a series of public lectures, staff members of the universities of Amsterdam and Leiden interview and introduce scholars, journalists, artists, film makers, musicians, and other cultural and academic professionals. They enter into conversations with each other and the audience, and they showcase new music, films, and literary works.

Apart from solidifying public education about Central & Eastern Europe, the series is meant as a space to jointly halt and digest the ongoing disturbing news about the Russian war in Ukraine. The series is also aimed to consolidate diasporic networks and offer financial support to artists and intellectuals in need. Eastsplainers is an initiative of prof. dr. Ellen Rutten, co-organised by Mari Janssen and Suzanne Rademaker and is set up with support from the University of New Europe, Middle- and Eastern-European studies publisher Pegasus and the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis.

The lectures take place from 17:00 to 18:30 in VOX-POP, the creative space of the UvA’s Faculty of Humanities.