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...
read more

Lobbying for Women

It took a while before the new democracies of East-Central Europe acquired the trappings of a modern political system. One of the new features borrowed from the West was lobbying. To engage in lobbying, however, the new NGOs first had to overcome the perception of politics as “dirty,” since engaging with official political structures still carried a taint of “collaboration” from the...
read more

More Malcolm X

In many discussions on the Roma issue in East-Central Europe, someone will inevitably say, with a mixture of wistfulness and bewilderment, “Where is the Martin Luther King of the Roma?” There are indeed some parallels between the experience of Roma and African-Americans. But a galvanizing civil rights leader with broad appeal like Martin Luther King has not yet emerged in the region. There...
read more

Resolving Conflicts in Romania

An ethnic map of Romania explains a great deal about the relations between the majority and the minorities in the country. Ethnic Hungarians have an absolute majority in two counties – Harghita and Covasna – in the very heart of the country. Together with parts of Mures county, this region is known as Szekely Land. This area maintained a high degree of autonomy – and distinct cultural...
read more

Making It in Lowicz

One of the economic advantages that Poland has over its East-Central European neighbors is its relative decentralization. Hungary is completely dependent on Budapest just as Bulgaria leans heavily on Sofia and the Czech Republic on Prague. Poland has a number of major cities, including Krakow and Gdansk. Moreover, decentralization was a chief aim during the transition period. In March 1990,...
read more

The Costs of Reunification

Here’s a condensed version of what happened in Germany in 1989-90. The Germans in the East rose up against their authoritarian regime because they wanted freedom. Eventually they also got the German deutschmark and reunification. The cost of that economic and political reunification was shouldered almost entirely by West Germans while the benefits flowed mostly to the East Germans. Economist...
read more