Some countries in Eastern Europe are experiencing democratic backsliding, brutal government crackdowns on opposition, exclusion of LGBTQ+ people and other minorities, and increased xenophobia as the region sees an influx of refugees. What explains this revival of authoritarian politics, nearly three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union? How are populism and populist movements contributing to public life in Eastern Europe? What roles do religion and religious actors play in regional politics?
This discussion featured PBS NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Simon Ostrovsky, who has reported on political trends in Belarus and Poland, and Marlene Laruelle, director of the Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at George Washington University. Ostrovsky and Laruelle discussed the rise of authoritarianism in Eastern Europe and how it has been advanced through the use of media and misinformation, including the Belarusian crackdown on government opposition. The conversation also covered the rise of mainstream conservativism and nationalism in Eastern Europe, as well as the complex roles of religion and religious actors in the region. Berkley Center Senior Fellows Jocelyne Cesari and José Casanova joined the conversation as facilitators and respondents.
Prior to the public conversation, the Berkley Center and Pulitzer Center hosted a complementary closed-door session wherein Ostrovsky and Laruelle, joined by Pulitzer Center grantees Jack Jenkins and Adi Renaldi and scholar Senem Aslan, discussed authoritarianism and misinformation in comparative perspective.