A Difficult Neighbourhood

A Difficult Neighbourhood

Essays on Russia and East-Central Europe since World War II

Authored by: John Besemeres

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Through a series of essays on key events in recent years in Russia, the western ex-republics of the USSR and the countries of the one-time Warsaw Pact, John Besemeres seeks to illuminate the domestic politics of the most important states, as well as Moscow’s relations with all of them. At the outset, he takes some backward glances at the violent suppression of national life in the ‘bloodlands’ of Europe during World War II by the Stalinist and Nazi regimes, which helps to explain much about the region’s dynamics since. His concern throughout is that a large area of Europe with a combined population well in excess of Russia’s could again be consigned by the West to Moscow’s care, not this time by more and less malign forms of collusion, but by distracted negligence or incomprehension.

This is a wonderful collection of essays from a leading Eastern Europe specialist. John Besemeres brings a lifetime of experience, profound insights, and an incisive style to subjects ranging from wartime and post-war Poland through contemporary Ukraine to Putin’s Russia. At a time when doublespeak has become the new normal, his refreshing honesty has never been in greater need.’
— Bobo Lo

This publication was awarded a Centre for European Studies Publication Prize in 2015. The prize covers the cost of professional copyediting.


ISBN (print):
ISBN (online):
Publication date:
Oct 2016
ANU Press
Arts & Humanities: History; Social Sciences: Politics & International Studies
Europe: Belarus, Poland, Russia, Ukraine

PDF Chapters

A Difficult Neighbourhood »

Please read Conditions of use before downloading the formats.

Part 1. Twentieth-century Poland: War and Cold War

  1. Seven days that shook the world (PDF, 0.1MB)
  2. A difficult neighbourhood (PDF, 0.1MB)
  3. Jan Karski’s valiant failures (PDF, 0.1MB)
  4. The worst of both worlds: Captain Witold Pilecki between Hitler and Stalin (PDF, 0.1MB)
  5. Speaking truth to power and prejudice (PDF, 0.1MB)

Part 2. Poland and Russia since the fall of communism: Drawing apart

  1. Poland/Russia: Peace or ceasefire? (PDF, 0.2MB)
  2. Heading west, heading east: Impressions from Warsaw and Moscow (PDF, 0.2MB)
  3. Poland at the polls: A win for pragmatism (PDF, 0.1MB)
  4. Poland’s EU presidency: Drawing the short straw (PDF, 0.1MB)

Part 3. Turning points in Ukraine and Belarus

  1. Ukraine: A sharp turn eastwards? (PDF, 0.5MB)
  2. In Belarus, the leopard flaunts his spots (PDF, 0.1MB)

Part 4. Russia and the former Soviet republics: Putinisation at home and abroad

  1. Russia and its western neighbours: A watershed moment (PDF, 0.2MB)
  2. Russia’s elections: Leaving little to chance (PDF, 0.1MB)
  3. Putin’s Ceauşescu moment (PDF, 0.1MB)
  4. Setbacks at home, successes abroad: The mixed fortunes of Vladimir Putin (PDF, 0.1MB)
  5. Putin’s phoney war (PDF, 0.1MB)
  6. Re-enter Putin, weakened and resentful (PDF, 0.1MB)
  7. The real Mr Putin stands up (PDF, 0.1MB)
  8. Towards a greater Putistan? Part 1 (PDF, 0.1MB)
  9. Towards a greater Putistan? Part 2 (PDF, 0.1MB)
  10. Will Putin survive until 2018? (PDF, 0.1MB)
  11. Putin’s re-Sovietisation project and the Ukrainian jewel (PDF, 0.1MB)
  12. Vladimir Putin: Geopolitical wrecking ball (PDF, 0.1MB)
  13. Putin’s annus mirabilis (PDF, 0.4MB)

Part 5. Putin reverts to cold war: Changing the shape of Eurasia

  1. Putin’s last territorial demand (PDF, 0.1MB)
  2. Ukraine: Time to cut a deal? (PDF, 0.1MB)
  3. Russian disinformation and Western misconceptions (PDF, 0.2MB)
  4. Putin’s parallel universe (PDF, 0.2MB)
  5. Putin’s Westpolitik: Back to the USSR (PDF, 0.2MB)
  6. Peace in our time (PDF, 0.2MB)
  7. Ukraine conflict exposes Western weakness on Russia (PDF, 0.1MB)
  8. Bling and propaganda in an ethics-free zone (PDF, 0.1MB)
  9. Making nice and making enemies (PDF, 0.1MB)
  10. Ukraine, out of sight (PDF, 0.1MB)

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