The Octopus named Gorilla

In 1994, as red-faced Vladimír Mečiar left the polling station claiming the electoral committee had prevented him from casting his vote by leaving his name off the electoral list, he scored a big victory by putting on a convincing show of righteous indignation. All day long television showed his angry face sending Slovak voters to ballot boxes by their thousands and handing nearly absolute power to their favourite politician, who had been set upon by dark forces. Since then nobody has managed to pull a diabolical trick that could significantly impact the election results and Slovakia’’s future – right up […]

The Twilight of Proletarian Afterglow

I had a dream the other night. I dreamt of the Passenger Car Factory where my father had worked for over forty years. After World War II it was the first – and for a long time the only – factory producing passenger cars in Poland. It was built in 1951. The first car it produced was the Polish version of the Russian GAZ M20, known as Pobeda, which means Victory. The factory occupied a large district on the periphery of Warsaw and must have been one of the largest employers in town and one of the largest in the […]

Heroes, Kings and Saints

The official celebration of the new constitution of Hungary kicked off in Buda Castle at the National Gallery, the former residence of Hungarian Kings. The government has ordered a special exhibition with one hundred artworks and relics representing a thousand years of Hungarian statehood starting with St Stephen of Hungary to hold our ancestors as a shield against cynicism, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán declared in his opening speech. The director of the National Gallery did not attend. He had sent in his resignation on December 31st before the new constitution went into effect on New Year’’s Day. Several artists, actors, […]

Visegrad Mirror: Women’’s Dilemmas

Wprost (Poland) 09.01.2012 Janusz Palikot, the enfant terrible of Polish politics allegedly wished his fellow countrymen for Christmas and New Year less of the Virgin Mary and more sex. Some Catholic bishops are outraged but Magdalena Środa finds their reaction at odds with other church dignitaries who have recently bemoaned the fact that the Polish nation is on the verge of becoming extinct due to a decreasing birth rate. Nevertheless, she also prefers the Virgin Mary to sex: She is an extraordinarily important figure. For the Virgin Mary saves contemporary culture from accusations of being radically patriarchal and chauvinistic. Furthermore, […]

The State of Things

The privatization carried out by Hungary’’s first democratic government, which regarded itself as the custodian of the 19th century ideals of freedom, immediately paved the way for the latest modernization of Hungary, following two previously interrupted attempts. The government knew what it wanted, yet it failed to take into consideration the legacy of dictatorship, including the shadow economy and illegal employment. Within this framework a secret, pro forma privatisation had already taken place, although it could not be de iure recognized under Kádár’’s legislation. What it basically amounted to was that local fiefdoms, based on profitable enterprises functioning in the […]