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current events, the past, & Russia’s FSB opening mail

July 23, 2009

Sorry to have not posted lately. Life goes on, but I suppose we’ve been negligent to share any of our thoughts with you, our readers.  Please accept my apologies.

For those interested in the state of liberal democracy in central and eastern Europe, read An Open Letter To The Obama Administration From Central And Eastern Europe. The letter is written by a number of people who played prominent roles moving the region to democracy in 1989.

If you doubt that Russia seems to be rapidly moving toward totalitarianism, they just recently granted the FSB (successor to the KGB) and seven other security services agencies the authority to inspect private mail, shipments, and emails. See this article for details. Journalism and human rights activism continues to be a dangerous profession in Russia, especially if you are documenting human rights abuses like Natalia Estemirova, who was shot on July 15, 2009, as reported by The Guardian.  She is the most recent in a number of journalists who’ve been murdered in recent years in Russia.

Eleven years before the November 1989 climax of the Velvet Revolution in Prague, when the Czech crowd chanted, “We–are–not–like–them!  We–are–not–like–them,” Václav Havel wrote in his essay, “The Power of the Powerless”:

For the crust presented by the life of lies is made of strange stuff.  As long as it seals off hermetically the entire society, it appears to be made of stone.  But the moment someone breaks through in one place, when one person cries out, “The emperor is naked!”–when a single person breaks the rules of the game, thus exposing it as a game–everything suddenly appears in another light and the whole crust seems then to be made of a tissue on the point of tearing and disintegrating uncontrollably.

Havel is one of the signers of the open letter to the Obama administration.  The letter states that Central and Eastern Europe suffered due to American “realism” at the Yalta conference during WWII, and benefited from the principled stand America took during the Cold War.  I hope for the sake of central and eastern Europeans that the similarities between F.D. Roosevelt and Obama don’t extend to the realism of Yalta.

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