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From Iron Curtain to Open Shutters

Posted on 09 February 2010 by admin

As part of our special coverage of the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, TOL asked readers to send us photos that in some fashion captured the changes of the past 20 years, in four areas: everyday life, industry and economy, landscapes and cityscapes, and politics and democracy. We received hundreds of entries from 29 countries depicting work, play, decay, regeneration, youth, and age in the countries of the former Soviet bloc.

The top prize, 200 euros, went to Giorgos Doganis for his photo of children walking from an apartment block in the city of Bobruisk, Belarus; three runners-up, winners in their individual categories, received 50 euros each. The slide show below features those images along with the others rated most highly by our judges.

For each picture the photographer’s name and current home city are listed in the caption. Thanks to all those who participated in the contest, and congratulations to the winners.

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Romanian Holiday

Posted on 23 December 2009 by admin

By Sinziana Demian

CLUJ-NAPOCA, Romania | It’s Christmastime in Cluj-Napoca, but here, and throughout Romania, the holidays bring more than the hustle and bustle of frantic shopping and snow-hampered commutes. This year Romanians are also celebrating 20 years since winning their freedom – if “celebrating” is the right word.

“It feels like much of what we fought for during that glorious December has been overshadowed by frustration that democracy did not instantly bring gratification for everyone,” says Nicolae Badescu, a 59-year-old engineer who was out in the streets of this western Romanian city during the revolution of 1989. Continue reading …

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Restaging a Revolution

Posted on 17 December 2009 by admin

Currently in production, the independent feature film Listopad tells the fact-based tale of three Prague teenagers caught up in the seismic events of November 1989. In this TOL podcast, Daniela Ivanova talks to director Gary Griffin and producer Jeffrey Brown about the film’s inspiration and aims, the potential pitfalls for American artists tackling Czech history, and re-creating a seminal scene of the Velvet Revolution on the streets of Prague 20 years later.

Listen to the podcast or download it here.

You can read an abridged print version of this interview at the Transitions Online main site.

Director Gary Griffin (sitting, far right) films a re-enactment of the 17 November 1989 demonstration that sparked the Velvet Revolution.

Director Gary Griffin (sitting, far right) films a re-enactment of the 17 November 1989 demonstration that sparked the Velvet Revolution. Photograph courtesy of the filmmakers.

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Northwest Passage

Posted on 11 December 2009 by admin

vratsa300By Diana Ivanova

[Editor’s note: A native of Bulgaria’s Montana province, journalist and poet Diana Ivanova is working on projects that explore personal and collective memories of the socialist period. This article is drawn from one such project with students in the region. Photo of Vratsa by Elena Chochkova.]

VRATSA, Bulgaria | “Teacher, you disappointed me when you said you were with the Communists!”

The dialogue occurs in Vratsa, a town in northwestern Bulgaria. It’s a 10th-grader’s reaction to his teacher’s recollection about her father: a member of the Bulgarian Communist Party in 1989, he thought the protesters in the streets of Sofia wanted to plunge the country into chaos.

The exchange is part of 1989: Mapping the Northwest, a project of the New Culture Foundation, a network of writers, artists, and new media designers in the region. The student’s comment is tongue-in-cheek, but it stays with me – maybe because I have a similar story. Continue reading …

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Fast-Forward, Rewind

Posted on 11 December 2009 by admin

By Christopher Walker

Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the landscape for media freedom in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union offers a decidedly mixed picture. Two divergent narratives have emerged: one, for the new democracies of Central Europe, the Baltic states, and those in southeastern Europe, is that of impressive but fitful progress. The other, a far grimmer story, is what might be characterized as the near complete reassertion of authoritarian media control in much of the former Soviet Union that has accompanied a broader assault on democratic institutions in the region.

This Jekyll and Hyde pattern of media development is starkly on display in analyses by the media and democracy monitor Freedom House and in numerous reports by other press monitors over the past two decades. Continue reading …

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