Full Interview List

In 2012-13, as part of an Open Society Foundation fellowship, I am re-interviewing many of the people I talked to in 1990 when I traveled for seven months through East-Central Europe. Twenty-three years later, I am also interviewing 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...
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The No-Complex Generation

It is commonly said (on the Internet) that the second most widely spoken language at Microsoft, after English, is Romanian. Even if this is just a fanciful e-myth, it’s certainly true that the corporation does a great deal of recruiting in Romania and, in 2007, established its Global Business Support Center in Timisoara and Bucharest. Once a supplier of computers to the Soviet bloc, Romania...
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Avoiding the Yugoslav Scenario

The first war of nationalist extremism in East-Central Europe in the post-1989 era could easily have been in Romania, not Yugoslavia. Before conflicts between Serbs and Croats escalated into violence, ethnic Hungarians and ethnic Romanians squared off against each other in Targu Mures, a Transylvanian city that had a rough ethnic balance in the early 1990s. The clashes that took place in the city...
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The Puppet Masters of Targu Mures

It’s been nearly a quarter century since the fall of the Ceausescu dictatorship in Romania, and still many aspects of what happened in December 1989 and immediately afterwards remain a mystery. Many people in the country hesitate to call what happened around Christmas of that year a “revolution.” They suspect that the collapse of the Communist regime was actually a managed transition...
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A Sad Country Full of Humor

Constanta, the Romanian city on the Black Sea coast, is perhaps best known for being the place of Ovid’s exile in the first century AD when it was known as the Roman port of Tomis. The poet, having fallen afoul of Emperor Augustus for some mysterious offense, found himself at age 50 on the edge of the Roman Empire in a place where no one spoke Latin. This was no doubt a sad country for Ovid, a...
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The Revolution Came Too Early

For many dissidents, the revolutions of 1989 did not come soon enough. The great Czech philosopher Jan Patocka, one of the original signatories of Charter 77, died in 1977. Other dissidents were already quite old when the changes finally came. The Slovak writer Milan Simecka was able to enjoy life in a free country for less than a year before his death in September 1990. But in Romania, there was...
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