The Greatest Threat to Europe

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. Today, Europe has left war behind. In place of jostling empires, there is the European Union, a modern family beset by the usual bickering but nothing that a smothering bureaucracy can’t handle. Even Sarajevo, where the assassination of archduke Franz Ferdinand sparked world conflict in 1914 and a ghastly siege claimed...
read more

Standing Up in Turkey

I arrived in Istanbul last September just as protests were flaring up throughout Turkey. An activist had died at a protest in a southern city, one of several victims of the confrontations with riot police over the last year. By the time I got to Taksim Square in the heart of the city, the riot police had broken up the peaceful demonstration and chased protesters to all points of the compass. I...
read more

The Cancer in the Middle of Europe

There’s no goose-stepping in the streets. There are no curfews or explicit censorship or martial law. The cafes, in fact, are full of happy, laughing people. Tourists continue to flood the country. If you don’t speak Hungarian and if you don’t speak to Hungarians, you could visit Budapest and believe that you’re in just another beautiful European city. Sure, there might seem to be an...
read more

Taking It to the Streets (in the GDR)

The home movies show a bunch of young kids doing skateboard stunts all around their neighborhood. Without the sound, the action could be taking place almost anywhere. The kids have clothes and haircuts that look like the late 1970s, the town they live in has a prefab drabness. But their goofiness and exuberance is universal. Look a little closer and you’ll see that their skateboards are...
read more

The Secret History of Yugoslavia

In the 6th century, in the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, the historian Procopius penned an account of the misdeeds of the emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora. The Secret History is a compelling account of the court intrigues of a treacherous emperor in a crumbling empire. That Justinian enjoyed a high reputation, the result of the military victories of his brilliant general...
read more

You Don’t Know Squat

It was breathtaking. We emerged from the forest on the outskirts of Moscow and saw, looming above the tall grass, an enormous ruined palace. It was 1985, and I was studying Russian at the Pushkin Institute. We heard a rumor about a grand edifice, the unfinished palace of Catherine the Great, that was moldering not far from where we were staying in Moscow. We took the subway to the end of the...
read more