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Eastern Europe

A Commitment to Children in Romania

John Feffer | Posted 04.16.2015 | World
John Feffer

They are called the decret generation. During the Communist era in Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu issued Decree 770 in 1967 making abortion and contraception illegal except under certain circumstances. The Communist leader wanted to radically increase the population of the country.

The Crusades: Who, What, When, Where

William B. Bradshaw | Posted 04.16.2015 | Religion
William B. Bradshaw

Crusades "in general" refer to what are called "holy wars" or "just wars"--military campaigns for the purpose of halting the spread of non-Christian religions, of retaking holy places, or of conquering pagan areas.

Rescuing Rural Schools in Poland

John Feffer | Posted 04.15.2015 | World
John Feffer

In the early 1990s, Poland transferred ownership and management of the public schools to local authorities. But in many of the smaller, less densely populated areas, there wasn't enough money to keep the schools going, and thousands were closed. The crisis compelled Alina Kozinska-Baldyga to abandon her Ph.D. and throw herself into a new project to save rural schools.

The Land of Junk Contracts

John Feffer | Posted 04.08.2015 | World
John Feffer

The Poles call them "junk contracts." If you're young and lucky enough to have a job in Poland these days, it's likely to be short-term and come without benefits. Ten percent of young people (up to the age of 25) are working in the black market, and another 25 percent have part-time or short-term work. Of the rest, most have job contracts that provide little in the way of security.

Greece and the Unlearned Lesson of 1990

John Feffer | Posted 04.06.2015 | World
John Feffer

Greece has been suffering from high levels of unemployment, and the standard of living has dropped precipitously, as a direct result of the cuts in government programs mandated by the EU and the IMF. The EU should have predicted this result: This was the great unlearned lesson from the experience of East-Central Europe over the last 25 years.

The Accidental Activist

John Feffer | Posted 04.03.2015 | World
John Feffer

I didn't have a chance to interview Munteanu in 1990 when I was in Romania because he was still in detention. But I met him last year for a conversation in Bucharest. I was surprised to discover that the activist who had captivated huge audiences of protestors for weeks at a time in 1990 never particularly relished that role.

Housing Is for All

John Feffer | Posted 04.02.2015 | World
John Feffer

Balint Misetics and I talked about his views on militancy, how homeless activism connects to other political struggles in Hungary today, and why this kind of work can be traumatic over the long run.

Roma as Consumers

John Feffer | Posted 04.01.2015 | World
John Feffer

When it comes to Roma, East-Central Europe is still in its segregation era. The business community hasn't really begun to see Roma as consumers because it's too busy worrying about how an association with Roma would adversely affect its image. Istvan Forgacs would like to change that.

How a Trip Down the Danube Made Me a Better American

Rea Nolan Martin | Posted 03.30.2015 | Politics
Rea Nolan Martin

For America to earn its reputation as the home of the free, we Americans have some collective thinking to do. Thinking that might be better done abroad where the seeds of our freedom first germinated in the hearts of forebears.

Challenging the Warsaw Pact From Within

John Feffer | Posted 03.26.2015 | World
John Feffer

One of our important activities was the seminar organized in 1987 at a church in Warsaw. The title of the seminar was Bringing Real Life to the Helsinki Agreement, and it was based on the Memorandum prepared by the Western peace movement and politicians as well as people from the opposition in the East.

Conflict Resolution and German Reunification

John Feffer | Posted 03.19.2015 | World
John Feffer

When I met Jamie Walker in 1990, she was a specialist in mediation and conflict resolution. She worked in this capacity from her home in West Berlin, becoming involved in the peace movement, doing violence-prevention work in the school system, and eventually pioneering efforts in mediating cross-border family conflicts.

The Strange Non-Death of Polish Neoliberalism

John Feffer | Posted 03.16.2015 | World
John Feffer

Colin Crouch and I talked about how he became involved with Krytyka Polityczna, why he doesn't like the term "civil society," and why he considers the creation of the European Union one of the greatest innovations in history.

What Happened to Poland's Red Capitalists?

John Feffer | Posted 03.13.2015 | World
John Feffer

In Poland in the late 1980s, Polish sociologist Jadwiga Staniszkis began writing about "political capitalists." These were colloquially known as "red capitalists" -- technocrats and enterprise managers who were technically part of the Communist system but had already begun to function like capitalists.

Poland's Feminist Genealogy

John Feffer | Posted 03.07.2015 | World
John Feffer

There is an infamous story in Poland about a sign at the shipyard in Gdansk where the trade union movement Solidarity got started in 1980. Although nobody actually saw the sign, many people firmly believe that it existed. The sign read: "Women, do not disturb us. We are fighting for Poland."

Reinventing the Left in Poland

John Feffer | Posted 02.21.2015 | World
John Feffer

Poland was both the most likely and the most unlikely place to expect the rebirth of the Left.

Romania's Resort Tourism

John Feffer | Posted 02.20.2015 | World
John Feffer

Romania has 275 kilometers of Black Sea coastline. The country tries to attract tourists by touting its sandy beaches, temperate climate, spas, and resort hotels. It's tough competition. I met a couple of Romanians who said straight out that they prefer to vacation along Bulgaria's Black Sea coast.

Playing Party Politics in Romania

John Feffer | Posted 02.15.2015 | World
John Feffer

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.

What Happened to Romania's Irrecuperables?

John Feffer | Posted 02.13.2015 | World
John Feffer

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.

Game of (Nationalist) Cards in Romania

John Feffer | Posted 01.26.2015 | World
John Feffer

Despite the ongoing struggle for civil rights on the part of ethnic Hungarians and the continued playing of nationalist cards by extremists on both sides, Ungvari Zrinyi believes that the situation has improved overall.

November 17th - Romanians and Czechs Choose Democracy

Olena Kagui | Posted 01.24.2015 | Politics
Olena Kagui

"A minor miracle occurred yesterday," wrote Frank Fischer in an email on November 17th, "(it) marked a significant victory for democracy and justice in Romania's long march from the end of the Communist regime."

Roma and Local Politics

John Feffer | Posted 01.25.2015 | World
John Feffer

There are somewhere between one and two million Roma in Romania. Ratys estimates that there are around 300 Roma in elected office at a local level. But it's difficult to calculate how underrepresented Roma are at the local level.

Lobbying for Women in Hungary

John Feffer | Posted 01.22.2015 | Politics
John Feffer

Activist Judit Hatfaludi took a position with Hungary's Feminist Network to coordinate a campaign to lobby for the pro-choice bill back in the '90s. We recently caught up about the current state of women's issues in Hungary, why the annual Pride marches are no longer like jubilees, and what she does now in her current work as a shaman.

More Malcolm X

John Feffer | Posted 01.18.2015 | World
John Feffer

Aladar Horvath has been a Roma civil rights activist for more than two decades. He created one of the most important Roma organizations -- Phralipe -- and served in the Hungarian parliament in the early 1990s. He has also studied the experience of African Americans.

Resolving Conflicts in Romania

John Feffer | Posted 01.16.2015 | World
John Feffer

An ethnic map of Romania explains a great deal about the relations between the majority and the minorities in Romania. Ethnic Hungarians have an absolute majority in two counties -- Harghita and Covasna -- in the very heart of the country.

Making It in Lowicz

John Feffer | Posted 01.14.2015 | World
John Feffer

When we first met 23 years ago, Wojciech Waligorski worked for a newspaper devoted to sobriety. He updated me on the state of alcoholism in Poland. We also talked about the impact of former Communist officials, the role of religion in Łowicz, and what people expect from a local newspaper.