Human Rights in Serbia

One of the major problems plaguing the Balkans in particular is impunity. People commit crimes, and they get away with it. These are usually powerful people, like Iliya Pavlov, the head of Multigroup and Bulgaria’s wealthiest individual until a sniper took him out in 2003. If successful people break the law without paying any penalty, lots of people want to get in on the act. In the Belgrade...
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The Bulgarian Turn

When I visited North Korea in the late 1990s, I ended up having the longest conversations with my interpreters. When you’re an infrequent visitor to that benighted country, it’s not possible to travel freely and talk to whomever you like. You invariably spend a lot of time eating and drinking with the people who have been vetted to interact with you. One of my interpreters had spent several...
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Human Rights in Bulgaria

Bulgarian politician Ahmed Dogan was in the news this weekend after surviving a dramatic assault at a party conference in Sofia. Dogan is the controversial leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), an organization established in 1990 that has largely championed the rights of ethnic Turks and Muslims living in Bulgaria. Dogan was going to announce during this speech that he was...
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When Soft Power Fails

The oldest Chinatown in the world is not in New York or San Francisco or even Yokohama. It is in Manila, a fact that comes up often when Beijing talks about its longstanding connection to the islands that lie about 600 miles to the southeast.  Similarly, China boasts of its three Confucius Institutes in the Philippines where Filipinos can learn Mandarin and appreciate the many facets of Chinese...
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Escape from Ignorance and Chalga

There is a joke in Bulgaria. What are the two ways out of the current crisis? Terminal One and Terminal Two. Those would be, of course, the terminals at the Sofia airport. An enormous number of people have left Bulgaria since 1989. Over the last quarter century or so, the population dropped from approximately 9 million to approximately 7.3 million people. Some of the population reduction is the...
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