This weekend people in France are going to the polls to vote for their local governments: mayors, regional and local governing councils. Mayors and local governments are the first point of call for the problems and daily concerns of French citizens. But these elections are also seen as a referendum on the national government: the results of the president's party will reflect what people think of him. Calais, in the north of France, is one of the last Communist party strongholds in the country. The opposition has put together an unconventional campaign to try to oust the mayor. Radio France International's Sarah Elzas has this report from Calais.
Thirty years ago Vladimir Remek became the first man in space who was not from either the United States or the Soviet Union. After taking part in the eight-day Soviet space mission in March 1978 Remek became a hero not only in his native Czechoslovakia but right throughout the East Bloc. Radio Prague’s Ian Willoughby spoke to the former cosmonaut about that historic flight – and the propaganda that came with it.
Let’s turn the clock back now – 46 years – as that’s when construction began on the Berlin Wall. This year a document came to light which seems to prove that East German border guards had explicit orders to shoot people trying to flee to West Berlin. Deutsche Welle’s Joanna Impey filed this report as old wounds were reopened
The Swedish government’s sparked a bad tempered debate this week over how schools should deal with the era of communist history in Europe and Russia. Sweden’s Education Minister wants to make classes on communism and the Soviet regime’s crimes obligatory. Some opponents say that by setting a rigid history syllabus for schools is itself quite authoritarian. Stalin would approve perhaps, if the subject was something other than his reviled gulags.
The 1949 Chinese communist revolution rarely brings to mind provincial France. But as it turns out, the tiny French town of Montargis, about 90 kilometres south of Paris, played a key role in that revolution. Montargis had an influential effect on hundreds of Chinese youths who came to work and study there. Now, the town is trying to capitalize on its communist link to attract Chinese tourists. Eleanor Beardsley has more.
It was 46 years ago this week that construction began on the Berlin Wall. It divided the city for close to three decades and became one of the most notorious symbols of the Cold War. Many who tried to flee over the wall paid with their lives. But the former East German leadership always denied that there was an official order to kill. Now, a document has come to light proving that East German border guards had explicit orders to shoot at people who were trying to flee to West Berlin.
In Romania the communist archives are still the skeleton in the closet for both politicians and high clergy alike. The Romanian Orthodox Church is now at a turning point after its Patriarch passed away at the beginning of the month. The search for his successor has reopened the highly sensitive issue of the relationship between church leaders and the communist authorities before 1989. Radio Romania International's Iulian Muresan reports from Bucharest.
"The Union of Communist Youth" in Romania was one of the richest youth organizations in south-eastern Europe. 17 years have passed since the fall of communism, and Romania has not solved the problem of the properties and assets which belonged to the communist youth organization. In the battle for this heritage, civil society may be the no.1 looser. Radio Romania International's Iulian Muresan reports from Bucharest.
The constitutional court in Poland last week shot down a vetting law aimed at purging ex-communist agents out of public life. The 11-judge panel declared unconstitutional numerous clauses equiring members of certain professions, including journalists, to declare whether they had collaborated with the communist-era secret police. The ruling was a rebuke to President Lech Kaczynski and his twin brother, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who campaigned on rooting out communists. Michal Kubicki of Polish Radio’s External Service reports that in reaction to this decision, some in Poland are now looking to open communist police archives to the public.
Between the two world wars, Bucharest was dubbed little Paris, with its French inspired architecture. But during the communist era entire neighborhoods of the Romanian capital were demolished to make room for blocks of flats. The communists are now gone but it seems that what's left of Bucharest's architectural legacy is now threatened by runaway capitalism. Radio Romania's Iulian Muresan lives in a city that's changing fast.
Polish military intelligence disbanded last year was involved in illegal activities and exerted illegitimate influence on Polish public life after the fall of communism, according to a just published government report. Polish Radio's Joanna Najfeld reports.
The Czech daily Lidove Noviny recently published details of a little-known footnote in Cold War history; browsing through the archives of Czechoslovakia's communist-era secret police or StB, the paper discovered that among the foreign journalists regularly followed on his trips to Prague was one Frederick Forsyth. Today known as the best-selling author of such classics as the Day of the Jackal and the Odessa File, back in the early 1960s Frederick Forsyth was a young journalist based in Berlin. Rob Cameron called the novelist at his home in Hertfordshire, England, and asked him to reflect on his trips to communist Prague at the height of the Cold War.
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