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
A typical story of the economic transition in East-Central Europe is of the frustrated manager in a state-owned company under Communism who becomes a rich and successful entrepreneur after 1989. Certainly there were plenty of frustrated managers during the Communist period. And you can read plenty of stories about the new fabulously wealthy business owners… Continue reading Doing Business in Eastern Europe
Approaching 1989, the Communist governments in East-Central Europe were like the residents of a continuing care facility. Some governments – in Czechoslovakia, for instance – appeared to be very sturdy and, although quite elderly, were capable of living independently for some time. Others, as in Poland, were already in assisted care, needing the help of… Continue reading Pushing Boundaries
In explaining the fall of Communism, most analysts talk about pressure from the inside (dissidents) coupled with pressure from the outside (Gorbachev, Reagan). But equally important were the inside-outsiders. These were people from the region who found themselves in other countries as a result of war, uprising, or other dislocations. The Hungarian-born financier George Soros… Continue reading Inside Outsiders
The debate continues over whether the people of East-Central Europe have benefitted economically from the post-1989 transition. But this discussion of economic winners and losers largely ignores a key demand of the people in the region. Yes, they wanted bananas and travel to the West and propaganda-free media. But they also wanted an end to… Continue reading And Justice for All?
It’s been 20 years since Czechoslovakia split apart. The divorce took place without violence and without a referendum. The two leaders – Vaclav Klaus from the Czech side and Vladimir Meciar from the Slovak side – decided along with their respective political advisors that it was best for their countries to part ways. This was… Continue reading The Velvet Divorce