The Tao of North Korea

You’ve seen those nighttime satellite pictures of the Korean peninsula. The northern half is dark, while the southern half is a thousand points of light. You might think: hat’s off to those thrifty North Koreans who are helping save the planet by conserving electricity! But of course, that’s not the message you’re supposed to take away with you. The nighttime map is supposed to be a...
read more

Full Interview List

In 2012-13, as part of an Open Society Foundation fellowship, I re-interviewed many of the people I talked to in 1990 when I traveled for seven months through East-Central Europe. Twenty-three years later, I also interviewed a wide range of additional people in order to get as broad a picture as possible of what has changed (and not changed) in the region since the transformations of 1989. I send...
read more

Playing Party Politics

Political parties in East-Central Europe are like amoebas. They are constantly splitting apart (mitosis) and then banding together in coalitions (aggregation). For someone coming from a U.S. context of two relatively stable parties, the political scene in East-Central Europe seems hopelessly complex. That goes double for Romania. During the 1989 revolution in Romania, a popular front organization...
read more

What Happened to Romania’s Irrecuperables?

In 1990, the issue that catapulted Romania into the headlines in the West, after the rise and fall of Ceausescu, was the country’s orphanages. Journalists and foreign health care workers were appalled to discover the condition of babies and children in the many state-run institutions in the country. During the Ceausescu era, abortions were difficult to obtain, and many families were simply too...
read more

Fighting for Equal Opportunity

Revolutions elevate a new and unexpected group of people to power. In East-Central Europe in 1990, an electrician became the president of Poland, a playwright the president of Czechoslovakia, and a philosopher the president of Bulgaria. After this brief period of the world turned upside down, the professional politicians took over again (or in the case of Vaclav Havel, the playwright morphed into...
read more