Of the three multiethnic countries that dissolved in the aftermath of the Cold War, Czechoslovakia fared the best. The two successor states suffered none of the violence, economic catastrophe, or political discord that Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union experienced. Indeed, the relations between Prague and Bratislava are probably better now than they’ve ever been. The… Continue reading The Slovak Example
The world will not end with bang or a whimper. It will end with the silent slither of jellyfish. Literally. And figuratively. On the literal level, jellyfish are indeed taking over. As a result of global warming, overfishing, and fertilizer runoff, these surprisingly hardy creatures are spreading into new territory. Certain jellyfish can kill you. If… Continue reading The Jellification of Politics
I arrived in Istanbul last September just as protests were flaring up throughout Turkey. An activist had died at a protest in a southern city, one of several victims of the confrontations with riot police over the last year. By the time I got to Taksim Square in the heart of the city, the riot… Continue reading Standing Up in Turkey
During the Communist era, the governments in East-Central Europe tried to shoehorn art into the category of socialist realism. Artists were reconfigured as cultural workers who ideally created works to advance society in the same way that a steelworker shaped pig iron to advance skyscraper construction. The overlap was often quite direct. Many paintings and… Continue reading Public, Private, and Political Art
I took a break from interviews when I was in Prague to go with my wife on an excursion to Marianske Lazne in the western part of the Czech Republic. This is the famous Marienbad, the spa that attracted celebrities from all over Europe in the 19th century –Goethe, Chopin, Edison, Wagner – to take… Continue reading Making the Best Food in the Czech Republic
It started as a peaceful revolt. It descended into a civil war that has so far claimed over 100,000 casualties and ejected nearly one-third of the population from their homes. Even worse, it has broadened into a regional conflict in which neighboring countries and their proxies try to tip the balance of power in a… Continue reading Syria: What’s Next?
When I started working on U.S.-Soviet relations in the 1980s, I encountered my first GONGO. This was a “government-organized non-governmental organization.” It was like something out of Alice in Wonderland. An early GONGO, the Soviet Peace Committee styled itself as an NGO. It worked with various NGOs in the West. But it closely hewed to… Continue reading Creating an NGO Culture