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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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...
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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...
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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...
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Game of (Nationalist) Cards

Homogeneous countries can be nationalist. Think of Korea, either North or South. Their nationalism is generally expressed toward other countries that threaten their presumed purity in some way. Heterogeneous countries engage in that strategy as well. But nationalism in these ethnically mixed countries also functions domestically – as a card to be played in the game of one-upmanship between...
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Roma and Local Politics

“All politics is local,” said legendary politician Tip O’Neill. But if O’Neill hadn’t risen to the nationally prominent position of speaker of the House of Representatives, no one would remember this quotation, which comes from the time when...
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