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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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The Future of Social Movements

Throughout East-Central Europe during the Communist period, social movements were on the margins, repressed by the governments, declared illegal. The exception was Yugoslavia in the 1980s where the women’s movement, the peace movement, and other groups not only operated in the open but had some impact on public policy. This was particularly the case in Slovenia. In 1990, for instance, I was...
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Returning Poland to Europe

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 Wall. The economist Jeffrey Sachs first visited Poland in spring 1989, before the...
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Could the Yugoslav Wars Have Been Avoided?

When I traveled through Yugoslavia in 1990, a number of people confessed their fears to me. They were worried about the rise of nationalism, particularly in Serbia with Slobodan Milosevic. They were concerned about the economic situation – the high level of national debt, the overall stagnation, the persistent gap between the more prosperous northern republics and the less prosperous south. And...
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Pig Farming in Poland

I know a bit about dairy farming since I spent my summers growing up in the dairy country of Vermont’s Northern Kingdom. But my knowledge of pig farming is all second-hand and comes mostly from Annie Proulx’s novel That Old Ace in the Hole, a devastating indictment of industrial farming in Oklahoma. What remains in my memory are the huge holding ponds of pig excrement and the unholy smell. So...
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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...
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