Empowering Women in Romania

The Women’s Association of Romania (AFR) began as a mass movement constructed out of the ruins of the previous Communist-era women’s organization. When I visited the offices in 1993, AFR was possibly the largest NGO in the country, with 240,000 members. Its activities were all over the map, from providing services to singles through a Club of Lonely Hearts to maintaining a job referral...
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Is Obama Adrift in the World?

For all the hands shaken and hamburgers eaten, President Obama has never quite shaken his reputation for detachment. He is the “cool” president who doesn’t lose his temper even when he should. He is the former constitutional law professor who is too “academic” for the Oval Office. He uses his brain when he should be relying more on other body parts: guts, heart, cojones. He surrounds...
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Hungary’s Independent Peace Movement

One of the great stories of the 1980s to be obscured by the success of civil society organizations like Solidarity in Poland and Civic Forum in Czechoslovakia was the rise of an independent peace movement in a region dominated by official peace councils. Freedom and Peace (WiP), for instance, had a tremendous influence on what would become Poland’s first non-Communist foreign policy. The...
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MH17: Cold War Replay?

The most bizarre conspiracy theory surrounding the recent downing of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine comes from a leading pro-Russian separatist, Igor Girkin. Relying on second-hand information, Girkin asserted that many of the passengers from the crash had already been dead before the plane had even taken off. His underlings had reported to him that the bodies were badly decomposed and...
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An Architect of Change

Nicolae Ceausescu was not exactly a team player. He adopted the title conducator – literally, the leader – and constructed his own personality cult. He defied the Warsaw Pact by refusing to allow Romania to participate in the Soviet-led 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. He preferred to pick up leadership tips from Beijing and Pyongyang – where Mao and Kim Il Sung offered larger-than-life...
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Growing Up in Transylvania

Agnes Gagyi grew up in the city of Miercurea Ciuc in the Transylvanian region of Romania. More than 80 percent of the population of this city of 50,000 people is of Hungarian ethnicity. Most everyday interactions are conducted in Hungarian. In fact, Gagyi didn’t learn Romanian at home or on the streets, but rather through television and Romanian classes at school. Life under Ceausescu was not...
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