As I write this, thousands of ardent young people are boarding trains and buses, heading towards Spain, towards Sweden, towards just about every place that President George W. Bush might possibly appear in public on his first state visit to Europe.
To some Russians, the memory of a first encounter with Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago is as much a physical memory–the blurry, mimeographed text, the dog-eared paper, the dim glow of the lamp switched on late at night–as it is one of reading the revelatory text itself.
Over the past few days and weeks, much has been made of the “mystery” of Vladimir Putin, the man who now runs Russia. Yet in some ways, we know far more about him than we ever knew about the very private Boris Yeltsin.
The Chechen wars of the 1990s were not the first time Moscow targeted the Chechens. First there were ‘sneaky Orientals’. Then there were “miserly Jews”. Now, thanks to the power of the international media to transmit ideas across borders, another ethnic stereotype has entered the English language.
Its pages were yellowed, its cheap binding broken, its typeface uneven: there was nothing imposing about the copy of Un Bagne en Russie Rouge – `A Prison in Red Russia’ – which someone once handed me as a curiosity. Nevetheless, the book, published in Paris in 1927, was one of the first to describe the …
In my mind, I have two distinct images of the fall of the Berlin Wall. One is the televised event that is ingrained in public memory: champagne corks popping, people dancing and cheering, politicians making weepy speeches.
He lives in a neat, narrow house with a small, well-kept garden. Inside his sitting room there are shelves of old books, a Biedermeier secretaire, a polished parquet floor. Black and white photographs of old friends stand in rows on the piano; prints and framed mementoes hang from the white walls. At first glance, everything …
At private dinners or public meetings throughout post-communist Europe, when talk turns to the crucial issue of economic policy, the debate is seldom about how much should be changed but about how much should be left the same.
I cannot remember a time when I did not fly on airplanes, and for years and years, I flew without anxiety. Later, after the Lockerbie crash, when I developed serious fear of flying not the odd tremor during turbulence, but the real thing – this previous experience with airplanes helped me to keep it concealed.
To the citizens of safe, happy countries which have never known war and occupation, the lives of ordinary people in less safe, less happy countries can seem extraordinary indeed. Here, for example, are three scenes, three moments in the life of a Polish woman, born in 1919.