London 2014

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On 29th November 2014, 66 students gathered in Netherhall House in London to participate in the first symposium of the European project “Dissent Conscience and the Wall”.

This first event was devoted to the analysis of the tolerance of dissent and freedom of conscience on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

Students had different backgrounds and origins: they came from Germany, Italy, UK, Poland, Greece, Netherlands, Lithuania, Hungary, Spain, Romania, just to name a few, and their field of studies ranged from Classics to Philosophy, from History to Languages, from Engineering to Medicine.

The event started with a contribution from Edward Lucas, senior editor at The Economist. His intervention, entitled “The Power of the Powerless”: Past Struggles and their Current Lessons, particularly focused on the Soviet repression in the Eastern countries, the climate of fear that the regime created among citizens and the difficulties of finding a place in private where to express freely. He also analysed the role of propaganda and of small actions of dissent in destroying from the inside the ‘lie’ of totalitarian regimes.

Lucas’ speech was followed by an intense Q&A session and students’ presentations about their research on the topic.

About the keynote speaker: Edward Lucas, senior editor at The Economist.

Edward Lucas, is a senior editor at The Economist. An expert in energy, intelligence and cyber-security issues, he covered Central and Eastern Europe for more than 20 years, witnessing the final years of the last Cold War; the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the Soviet empire; Boris Yeltsin’s downfall and Vladimir Putin’s rise to power. As a foreign correspondent he has lived in Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Moscow and the Baltic States. He speaks five languages besides English: German, Russian, Polish, Czech and Lithuanian. From 1992 to 1994, he was managing editor of The Baltic Independent, a weekly newspaper published in Tallinn. A graduate of the London School of Economics, he studied Polish at the Jagiellonian University, Cracow. The New Cold War (2008) was his first book; Deception, about east-west espionage, was published in 2011; The Snowden Operation was published as an e-book in 2014.

A video of his presentation is available here.


Panel 1- Historical perspective

Alvaro Perez, Opening the Gates of Eden, On the Physicality of the Wall

Alvaro Perez is a native of Spain, currently studying for his Master’s degree in history and critical thinking at the Architectural Association School of Architecture, in London.

Gianluca Costamagna , No barriers to dissent – the Girmann Group

Gianluca Costamagna is from Italy and studies medicine at the University of Pavia.

Ulrich Nagel, Joachim Gauck: Freedom as leading principle of German Friedliche Revolution

Ulrich Nagel is from Germany, and is pursuing his PhD in early modern history at the University of Bonn.

Panel 2 – Philosophical perspective

Andrei-Tudor Man, Intellectuals and Romanian Communism

Andrei-Tudor Man is a native of Romania, and is pursuing an undergraduate degree in philosophy at Babes-Bolyai University, Romania.

Clara Watson, Exploration of Wojtyła’s ‘The Acting Person’ and Kołakowski’s ‘Theses on Hope and Hopelessness’ as possible philosophical foundations of the Solidarity Movement in Poland

Clara Watson is from England, where she is reading for a Master’s degree in bioethics and medical law at St. Mary’s University.

Gustel Warnberg, Secularism in late socialist societies

Gustel Warnberg is from Sweden, and is studying for one year at Queen Mary University of London, as part of his Bachelor programme in historical sciences at Uppsala University.

Nathan Pinkoski, Between Freedom, Tyranny, and Totalitarianism – Hannah Arendt and Leo Strauss on Preserving the Moral Difference between East and West

Nathan Pinkoski is Canadian, and completing his D.Phil at the University of Oxford.

Panel 3 Cultural perspective

Gaia Coltorti, Censorship on the two sides of the Curtain and literary reactions in capitalist and communist worlds.

Gaia Coltorti joins us from Italy. She is a published novelist and recently graduated from La Sapienza University, Rome, with a Bachelors degree in English language and literature, with minors in Russia.

Maja Fabijanic, Science development on both sides of the Iron curtain

Maja Fabijanic is from Croatia, where she studies molecular biology at the University of Zagreb.

Alina Strelkovskaia, Soviet Nonconformist Art: Functional and Social Stipulation

Alina Strelkovskaia is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in the theory and practice of contemporary art.