The Young Dictator Problem

The classic image of the dictator clinging to power, resisting the world’s entreaties to resign, and fending off internal attempts at ouster is that of an old man, stubborn and long past caring what others think. He’s been on the throne for so long that his name has become synonymous with the state — l’état c’est moi! — and his very longevity has become a stinging rebuke to his...
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Celebrating Destruction

Everyone on the Mall near the Washington Monument was looking up at the sky. I was there, too. But I wasn’t looking up, at least not that far up. On May 8, I was playing Ultimate Frisbee during the noontime game on a stretch of level grass behind the Holocaust Museum. This time we were joined by thousands of people eager to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany and...
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The Missing

There are several types of missing persons. Some missing people are missed so publicly that their absence is a presence. Vanished children reappeared on milk cartons and then later in amber alerts. American soldiers, killed in action or MIA, look out at us from rows of photos like headstones in the newspaper on Memorial Day. Mothers assembled with signs and photos in Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires...
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The Apology Olympics

Imagine an international event sometime in the near future known as the Apology Games. It is held every four years and features teams of professional diplomats, politicians, and conflict resolution specialists (with a few actors thrown into the mix). There are many rules in this Olympics, but one trumps all the others: contestants can only apologize for the conduct of their own nation. In the...
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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...
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