After 1989, Eastern Europe became the poster child for liberal democracy. One after another, the countries in the region replaced their Communist systems with new market economies, alongside democratic structures. After many years of difficult “transition”—high unemployment, industrial collapse, rural dislocation—the countries in the region all began to stabilize as they approached the close of… Continue reading Eastern Europe Marches Right
He was a rich businessman, an outspoken outsider with a love of conspiracy theories. And he was a populist running for president. In 1990, when Donald Trump was still beyond the furthest outskirts of American politics, Stanislaw Tyminski was trying to become the new president of post-communist Poland. He shared something else with the future… Continue reading Welcome to the Birthplace of Trumpism
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?
Vladimir Putin, the wily strategist of Russian revanchism, is well on his way to reconstructing the Warsaw Pact. That, at least, is what the pundits of The Washington Post are making it out to seem. Last week, Jackson Diehl penned a column on how Putin has driven a wedge between NATO and its easternmost members. Anne Applebaum, meanwhile, pins the… Continue reading NATO: Rebellion in the Ranks?
The break-up of Czechoslovakia was generally amicable. There were grumbles from people in both parts of the country about the lack of a referendum. Some families found themselves split between two separate states. The Czechs had to travel abroad to ski the Tatra Mountains, and Slovaks had to study abroad if they were accepted at… Continue reading The Sound of Music
In broad strokes, religion became more important for people in East-Central Europe over the last 20 years and less important for people in Western Europe. According to the European Values Survey, church attendance jumped in Poland, Romania, and Slovakia whereas it declined throughout the West. Even in places where church attendance in the east remained… Continue reading Televising Religion
As part of their industrialization policies, the Communist governments of East-Central Europe built nuclear reactors to boost their energy production. Only Poland, at the time of the changes in 1989, didn’t have any nuclear reactors on line. Of the 26 reactors in the region, 24 were Soviet-designed. Although they generally weren’t the same models as… Continue reading Addressing Nuclear Power
Much of East-Central Europe was once ruled by monarchs. From the 16th century until the end of World War I, the Habsburgs presided over a territory that extended from parts of present-day Poland in the north to the Croatian coastline in the south. At the time, the subjects of the Austro-Hungarian Empire viewed it as… Continue reading Monarchy as Metaphor
The Czech playwright and dissident Vaclav Havel popularized the notion of “living in truth.” He was dismayed at the degree to which lies had permeated Czechoslovak society under Communism. It wasn’t only government and Party officials who lied about history, the economy, the state of human rights, the opposition Charter 77 movement, and so on.… Continue reading The Czech Culture of Corruption
The Communist governments and the oppositions shared at least one feature in common: they were overwhelmingly male. The leaders of the countries and the members of the Politburos were mostly men. And the dissidents that received all the coverage in the West – Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Victor Orban – were also men. There were… Continue reading Engendering Change