If foreign policy had a soundtrack, it would be the opposite of easy listening. Really, could anyone listen to a symphony of war and peace all the way through? In the first movement — devoted to death and destruction and played presto and fortissimo — the electric guitarists step to the front of the orchestra… Continue reading The Music of Hopelessness
Last May, a terrible set of storms swept through Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina, and Croatia. More than 70 people died during the ensuing flooding, and nearly a million people had to be evacuated. Tens of thousands are still living in temporary shelters. There’s a new fundraising effort to link up people who experienced Hurricane Katrina in… Continue reading Blues for the Balkans
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 East-Central Europe, the Hungarians are something of an anomaly. They are not Slavic. They don’t speak a Slavic language. Even their origins are hotly contested, as some Hungarian nationalists have challenged the conventional “Finno-Ugric” explanation that present day Hungarians and Finns both derive from older Eurasian tribes. Instead, they argue that the Magyars derive… Continue reading The Hungarian Horseradish
Vaclav Havel wrote for the theater. When change came to Czechoslovakia in November 1989, the velvet revolutionaries of Prague met and planned in the Magic Lantern theater. The events of those ten days that shook the country unfolded like a massive, open-air performance, with dramatic speeches, a soundtrack provided by local bands, and a huge… Continue reading Creating a Spectacle
The intellectual revolutionaries of the Age of Enlightenment created a community through the exchange of letters. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, this “republic of letters” created a common intellectual language across countries and, indeed, across the Atlantic between Europe and the United States. This non-territorial republic played a role in various scientific… Continue reading YU-Rock!
In 1968, protests erupted around the world: Chicago, Mexico City, Paris, Warsaw, Tokyo. The protestors, most of them part of a new generation untouched by World War II, demanded an end to war, dictatorships, economic follies, and the culture of death promoted by sclerotic leaders in the East, the West, the North and the South.… Continue reading High Times in Yugoslavia
In Bratislava, as the Velvet Revolution unfolded in November 1989, musicians played a key role in the Czechoslovak opposition movement. Yes, they participated in the demonstrations and spoke out against the communist authorities. But their main contribution was more prosaic: amps. The dissident community, which had been silenced for decades, needed to get their voices… Continue reading Rock the Regime