The Berlin Wall fell 30 years ago. It was one of the few unambiguously joyous moments in modern history. This popular, nonviolent explosion of dissent effectively toppled East Germany’s despotic regime. And it signaled, if only symbolically, the end of the Cold War that had divided Europe for nearly half a century. Thirty years later,… Continue reading Did the Fall of the Berlin Wall Produce Trump?
Central Europe had been kidnapped, the Czech writer Milan Kundera once wrote in a celebrated essay from 1984. It had been dragged eastward by the Soviet Union after World War II. And like a displaced person yearning to return home, the region couldn’t wait until it could rejoin Europe after the fall of the Berlin… Continue reading Returning Poland to Europe
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… Continue reading The Market Before the Market
Bucharest was once known as the Paris of the East. In the 1930s, it was a vibrant city of cafes, artists, and poets. The playwright Eugene Ionescu, the historian of religion Mircea Eliade, and the essayist Emil Cioran all became friends at this time at the University of Bucharest. Romania was also enjoying a brief… Continue reading Romania’s Missed Opportunity
Compared to the other countries in the region, Poland’s transition to democracy and a market economy seemed to involve a great deal of negotiation. The country embarked on Round Table negotiations in spring 1989 that prepared the way for semi-free parliamentary elections on June 4 of that year. The negotiations also included discussions on economic… Continue reading Poland’s Unplanned Transition
Neo-liberalism, like the famous cat, seems to have nine lives in Poland. The effort to cut back the state and give freer rein to the market has suffered at least three near-death experiences. The initial “shock therapy” approach implemented by Leszek Balcerowicz in the first Solidarity-affiliated government in 1990 generated such high unemployment and social… Continue reading The Strange Non-Death of Polish Neo-Liberalism
When revolutions happen bloodlessly, it’s usually because some part of the elite has found its place in the new order. They don’t just open up the gates of the city to let in the Trojan Horse. They become founding members of the Trojan Horse party. They set up kiosks that sell Trojan Horse trinkets. They… Continue reading What Happened to the Red Capitalists?
Fyodor Gladkov published his novel Cement in 1925. One of the first examples of socialist realism, it depicted the post-revolutionary construction of the Soviet Union from the point of view of a cement factory. Gleb, a Soviet soldier who returns to his hometown, discovers that in a few short years everyone has forgotten about the… Continue reading Cement
In the recent Hungarian elections in early April, the one party that increased its popularity with voters was Jobbik, the radical party that stands to the right of the Fidesz government. It increased its vote count from roughly 16 percent to over 20 percent. Jobbik is now the largest radical right party in Europe in… Continue reading Jobbik: Looking East
When Poland went through its “shock therapy” years of the early 1990s, many people lost out as a result of the economic reforms. The unemployment rate went up rapidly from under one percent in January 1990 to over 16% in 1994. And even though the reformers had promised that the pain would be relatively brief,… Continue reading Organizing the Disappointed