The One That Got Away / Everyday Life During Armed Conflicts

Joint Fellows Colloquium
Seminars and Colloquia

In this Joint Fellows Colloquium we had presentations from two of our current Fellows, both from the Milena Jesenská Fellowship Program for Journalists, Dimitar Kenarov and Paweł Pieniążek.

The One That Got Away

Georgi Markov was a famous and successful author in socialist Bulgaria, but decided to defect from the country in 1969. He settled in London and subsequently began to work for the BBC, Radio Free Europe and Deutsche Welle. His series of radio essays In Absentia Reports about Bulgaria, which discussed candidly the political and social life in his homeland, made him a prominent enemy of the communist regime. In September 1978, an agent of the Bulgarian State Security, with the technical help of the KGB, assassinated Markov in London by shooting a miniature poisonous pellet into his leg. This became one of the most notorious assassinations of the Cold War era. Dimiter Kenarov’s main focus, however, lies not in the criminal case but in Markov's own life and psychology, his rise to prominence in Bulgaria, his motivations for leaving the country, his views on art and political propaganda, and the meaning of dissidence.

Dimitar Kenarov is a freelance journalist and poet based in Sofia, Bulgaria. He has written for many acclaimed publications such as Foreign Policy, The New York Times and The Atlantic, among others.

Soli Özel, Senior Lecturer at Kadir Has University and Europe's Futures Fellow at the IWM, provided the comment.

Everyday Life During Armed Conflicts

War always surprises those to whom it comes. Even if it hangs in the air for a long time, almost everyone throws out of their minds the thought that it could come soon, even the next morning. Very quickly, this unexpected, tragic event becomes an everyday occurrence in which people must find their way to survive.  This means adapting and changing their habits.
In his talk Paweł Pieniążek presented how armed conflicts have affected the lives of the inhabitants of three different cities: Sloviansk in Ukraine, Stepanakert in Nagorno-Karabakh and Kabul in Afghanistan. Pieniążek is looking for similarities in their lives, but also for differences caused by different types of conflicts: internationalized civil war/proxy war, where government troops clash with non-state actors, armed interventions, and interstate conflicts. Furthermore, he examines how the duration of conflicts as well as political views or gender impact the lives of civilians.

Paweł Pieniążek is a Polish journalist covering conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. His reporting on the refugee crisis and the conflicts in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria has been published in Open Democracy, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Gazeta Wyborcza and Tygodnik Powszechny, among others.

Keith Krause, Professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, and Director of its Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding (CCDP), provided the comment.

Ludger Hagedorn, IWM Permanent Fellow, moderated the evening.