Memo September 2007


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in September 2007

Eurobarometer saw to it to occupy a prominent position in two BO memos in a row.  

Jolly north
A month ago BO was a bit mistrustful about 91% of inhabitants in European cities being happy. Eurobarometer confirmed this continental joy in its latest report about social realities: 87% of Europeans feel happy, 26% very happy.

Forget the cliché about gloom and spleen attached to northern prosperity, against the merriness of less affluent communities in the south. Eurobarometer found that the richest countries in the north and north-west are also the happiest, and the eastern and south-eastern countries are the saddest - only 39% of Bulgarians feel happy.

Estonians, however, mix things up. They declare themselves one of the least happy nations, but when asked about personal situation in the past five and next five years, they were the most satisfied and optimistic in the entire Union. Occupying a diagonically opposite position, Hungary is the only country in the EU where the mood is blatantly negative, both about the past and next five years. Hungarians lead another black list: 45% (the highest rate in Europe) of the interviewed individuals fear the risk of falling into poverty.

Eastern passivity in culture
You might wonder what happiness has to do with culture. BO believes it does. Anyhow, the next item in the same Eurobarometer survey closely affects culture. BO composed a graph from what Europeans answered to the question whether they are active in an educational or cultural association. No comment needed.




Three countries mapped
In September, the most important novelty from BO remit point of view was the release of three country reports in the frames of the East European Reflection Group of the European Cultural Foundation.

Giving an account about culture in Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine is no easy task. These reports manage to provide thorough, balanced, informative and interesting description. As the ECF site remarks, "in contrary to previous mappings focusing on the independent cultural scene, this exercise aims to go beyond the usual circles of ECF clientele" - beyond the customary western focus, BO adds. Among others, these papers analyse the cultural needs and behaviour of various segments of society. More understanding and empathy towards local conditions characterises these reports than usual. The rapporteur-general is called Yael Ohana.

The profile of their big brother
In these countries Russia is a bit like America for Europeans: the powerful exporter of commercial culture that works against local creation.

Want to know more about culture in today's Russia? The Compendium country profile matches the three reports just praised. Which is no little achievement in case of such a complex country as the Russian Federation: formerly the archetype of communist cultural policy, having now an exciting and controversial present. In this profile pedantic presentation is interpersed to a considerable degree with opiniated remarks and assessment.

How do I know? In the process of peer-reviewing Compendium profiles my summer task was to appraise the one on Russia.

Searching in Nitra
The inhabitants of Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine are characterised by prolonged searches for identity. This is much less the case in the so-called Visegrad countries. And yet, the issue of regional, Middle European identity (Middentity) was the central theme of this year's Divadelná Nitra, the international theatre festival in Slovakia.

At the conference incorporated in the festival, the keynote speaker bravely contested the quest for identities in general, and for Middle European identity in particular, although he did not go this far. It remained for the second speaker to defend the longing for a Mitteleuropa identity, which, in view of the excessive search for national specificities can be considered as progressive nostalgia.

Searching the LabforCulture
The LabforCulture is not unlike the people in the three eastern countries, with regard to its identity. Visitors of the site are dazzled by the variety of offer. BO found precious pieces like the presentation of the chapter on sponsorship and alternative financing for culture: how important it would be for the illusion-hunting east Europeans to read it carefully, including the inserted link to the Cerec site.

Those areas of the research in focus chapter that contain annotated links about selected fields (instead of just one book or report) are of great help to the curious searcher about culture industries or cultural diversity. Similarly rich is the collection on the status of artists, coupled a bit strangely with copyright.

One hundred twenty years of protection
A propos copyright (intellectual property, to use a higher-brow term). People often say publications keep their copyright for 70 years. Much longer, rather. Try to publish Primo vere, the early poems (or just one of them) by Gabriele d'Annunzio, written 128 years ago; or Marta y Maria, created 124 years ago by Spanish novelist Armando Palacio Valdes; or Über den Begriff der Zahl (1887), the first major philosophical work by Edmund Husserl; or what Karl Kautsky wrote 120 years ago on Friedrich Engels. Or anything that the Czech president T.G. Masaryk and Stanislavsky, the Russian theatre personality wrote. You must detect for the person or office that sits on those rights and sells them to you today. All these authors died in 1938, less than 70 years ago: therefore in almost every country even their earliest works are protected by law. By legislation that claims to serve creativity - to boost it, not to hamper.

Bon anniversaire, IETM!
The international network for contemporary performing arts is celebrating its 25th anniversary. BO affectionately and proudly recalls the spring of 2004, when we could be part of the youthful, crazy, yet at the same time serious and meaningful IETM plenary at the Millenáris in Buda.