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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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...
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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...
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