Islamophobia in East-Central Europe

It’s often said that anti-Semitism continues to exist in Poland even in the absence of a large Jewish community. The recent Polish film Aftermath, about a farmer who uncovers the terrible truth about his village’s treatment of its Jewish community during World War II, makes that point vividly and tragically. The same can be said about Islamophobia. It too has taken root in countries in...
read more

Church and State in Poland

Poland has one of the stricter laws on abortion in Europe. Abortion is illegal except if the life of the mother is at risk, the fetus has a major defect, or the pregnancy is the result of a confirmed rape. Poland, Ireland, and Malta are the only countries in Europe that do not allow abortion on request. All three countries are also predominantly Catholic (95 percent for Malta, 91 percent for...
read more

The Market Before the Market

When East-Central Europe made the transition to market economies after 1989, journalists sometimes referred to the process as “overnight capitalism.” This gave the impression that the countries in the region were Communist one day and capitalist the next. In fact, the market was present in most of the countries in the region in one form or another prior to 1989. Hungary, for instance,...
read more

The Problem of Trust

On April 10, 2010, Polish President Lech Kaczynski traveled with his entourage to Russia to attend a commemoration of the Katyn massacre. In 1940, the Soviet NKVD murdered 22,000 Polish army officers, police, and intellectuals in the Katyn forest and then pinned the blame on the Nazis. In 1990, the Soviet Union finally admitted its guilt in the matter. Twenty years later, the Poles and the...
read more

The Three Mistakes of Transition

Start with a failing economy. Throw in a team of inexperienced politicians, people in fact who had spent their careers deliberately avoiding official politics. Add a population with the highest possible expectations. And, as a wild card, introduce an international community that was not offering very much in the way of financial assistance. This was the situation in Poland in September 1989 when...
read more