THE BIRTH OF FREEDOM by Andrew Nagorski


Shaping Lives and Societies in the New Eastern Europe
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 A solid report on how three Eastern European nations are faring in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse. Drawing mainly on his experiences as a Warsaw-based correspondent for Newsweek, Nagorski (Reluctant Farewell, 1985) offers an anecdotal appreciation of the changes convulsing Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland as they make the painful transition from backward Communist satellites to modern industrial democracies. In addition to assessing how well erstwhile dissidents (Havel, Walesa, et al.) are performing as heads of state, the author profiles the younger generation of officeholders and opposition candidates whose activities keep the political pot boiling in each country. Covered as well are the previously suppressed playwrights, filmmakers, and writers whose audiences have disappeared in the face of competition from Western entertainment media. According to Nagorski, moreover, the region's popular press has yet to come to terms with its role as a putatively objective observer. But while cultural and governance problems may persist, they pale in comparison with the wrenching challenges of converting centrally planned command economies to free enterprise. Without advanced technology, commercial banking facilities, an educational establishment, securities legislation, and allied elements of infrastructure taken for granted in capitalistic societies, the make-over has been halting and marked by blunders or racketeering. There's also a sizable due bill for the havoc wreaked by state-owned corporations that squandered natural resources and expanded without heed to environmental consequences. Nor, Nagorski shows, is labor entirely comfortable with market judgments and demands--e.g., showing up on time and putting in a productive day's work. But although Czechs and Slovaks, as well as Hungarians and Poles, seem to be blinking in the bright light of liberty, Nagorski leaves little doubt that they're creating credos, identities, and institutions that will ensure them brighter tomorrows. Savvy perspectives on Mitteleuropa's keystone states at critical historical junctures.

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-78225-8
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1993


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