Popular culture is full of alternative histories. Mackinley Kantor wrote a famous article in Look magazine in 1960 about what would have happened if the Confederacy had won the Civil War. Philip Roth’s novel The Plot Against America imagines a world where Charles Lindbergh beats FDR in the 1940 elections and ushers fascism into the… Continue reading The Importance of the New Netflix Dystopia
IT HAS BEEN THE FATE of Central and Eastern Europe — that wedge of territory between what was once the Soviet Union to the east and the European Community to the west — to wrestle with its own “abnormality.” For nearly five decades, the region experienced varying degrees of Soviet-style Communism, from the relatively liberal… Continue reading Eastern Europe: Return to Normality?
One of the greatest moments of U.S. diplomacy in the 20th century was Nixon’s opening to China. It was a surprise, a breathtaking opportunity, and a true game-changer. It was also one of the strangest political matches of all time. A president who had established his political bona fides as an anti-Communist crusader shocked everyone… Continue reading Iran Deal: Is Obama Channeling Nixon?
Reunification, for Koreans, has a mythic quality, like the Promised Land or the Holy Grail. Most Koreans dream of reunification, of a time in the future when the North and the South will join together to recreate the Korean whole that existed before division and Japanese colonialism. It’s a lovely idea, but no one has… Continue reading Reunification: The View from the North
Imagine an alternative universe in which the two major Cold War superpowers evolved into the United Soviet Socialist States. The conjoined entity, linked perhaps by a new Bering Straits land bridge, combines the optimal features of capitalism and collectivism. From Siberia to Sioux City, we’d all be living in one giant Sweden. It sounds like… Continue reading Why the World Is Becoming the Un-Sweden
Poland is in the center of Europe. Poles often stress that their country is in Central Europe, not Eastern Europe. The title of Norman Davies’ immense study of Poland is The Heart of Europe. Indeed, throughout history Poland has been central to the European experience, from the medieval curriculum at Jagiellonian University in Krakow and… Continue reading Poland on the Economic Periphery
Throughout East-Central Europe during the Communist period, social movements were on the margins, repressed by the governments, declared illegal. The exception was Yugoslavia in the 1980s where the women’s movement, the peace movement, and other groups not only operated in the open but had some impact on public policy. This was particularly the case in… Continue reading The Future of Social Movements
Romania has 275 kilometers of Black Sea coastline. The country tries to attract tourists by touting its sandy beaches, temperate climate, spas, and resort hotels. It’s tough competition. I met a couple of Romanians who said straight out that they prefer to vacation along Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. And Turkey is a more popular destination… Continue reading Romania’s Resort Tourism
One of the great stories of the 1980s to be obscured by the success of civil society organizations like Solidarity in Poland and Civic Forum in Czechoslovakia was the rise of an independent peace movement in a region dominated by official peace councils. Freedom and Peace (WiP), for instance, had a tremendous influence on what… Continue reading Hungary’s Independent Peace Movement
Under Communism, the government cared a great deal about what you wrote. If you were part of the system, the government promoted your work. If you were against the system, the government censored you or possibly jailed you. In either case, though, the Communist governments took your words seriously — as useful propaganda or potential… Continue reading The Republic of Writers