Kurdish Dengbej Storytellers Revive Tradition In Turkey

Jun 29th, 2013

Kurdish Dengbej Storytellers Revive Tradition In Turkey

In Turkey, Kurdish culture is having something of a Renaissance. Public expressions of Kurdish culture are now legal. Now a new cultural center has opened for traditional Kurdish story-tellers to practice their ancient art. Reporter Matthew Brunwasser sat in on a session.

After Political Appointment in Bulgaria, Rage Boils Over

Jun 28th, 2013

After Political Appointment in Bulgaria, Rage Boils Over

By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER SOFIA, Bulgaria — Delyan Peevski’s mother used to head the national lottery and leads a growing media empire with strong political and economic connections in this small, impoverished and notoriously corrupt Balkan nation. So perhaps it was not surprising that the appointment of Mr. Peevski, 32, to head the powerful State Agency for National Security sparked protests that have been attended by thousands every day over the past two weeks and show no sign of losing steam.

Turkey’s Islamic Creationist TV Babes

Jun 15th, 2013

Turkey’s Islamic Creationist TV Babes

Turkey’s Islamic creationist guru Adnan Oktar is a regular fixture on his TV channel A9 – for hours and hours, day after day. Today, as he often does, Oktar is talking about one of his many exhibitions of fossils that he says disproves evolution. Oktar and his cult-like organization have been in the Turkish media space for decades. But only last year did he deploy his new weapon in the battle against Darwinism. A flock of ostensibly attractive, curvy young women.

New Bridge Over Danube Helps Dissolve Old Enmities

Jun 14th, 2013

New Bridge Over Danube Helps Dissolve Old Enmities

By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER VIDIN, Bulgaria — The European Union hardly basks in popular favor these days. But in this isolated corner of the bloc’s poorest periphery, leaders and locals on Friday celebrated a tangible benefit of membership — a $340 million bridge spanning the Danube that should help strengthen trade and ties between two impoverished members, Romania and Bulgaria.

With Many Despairing, Bulgaria Heads to Polls

May 10th, 2013

With Many Despairing, Bulgaria Heads to Polls

By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER VARNA, Bulgaria — Early one morning this past winter, Plamen Goranov, a 36-year-old photographer, stood on the steps of City Hall in this once grand and now crumbling port city on the Black Sea and held up a sign demanding that the mayor and City Council resign. He then took a bottle of gasoline from his backpack, poured it over himself and set himself on fire. He died 11 days later in a hospital.

Bulgaria’s Unholy Alliances

Mar 7th, 2013

Bulgaria’s Unholy Alliances

By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER SOFIA — His enthronement as patriarch of Bulgaria, spiritual leader of millions of Orthodox believers here, was supposed to stir pride and moral togetherness in an impoverished country confronting a vacuum in political leadership and widespread economic pain. Instead, the installation of His Holiness Neofit last month, in a ceremony replete with byzantine splendor, served as one more reminder that Bulgaria had never really thrown off the inheritance of 40 years of rigid Communist rule and all the duplicitous dealings that went with it.

That Crush at Kosovo’s Business Door? The Return of U.S. Heroes

Jan 5th, 2013

That Crush at Kosovo’s Business Door? The Return of U.S. Heroes

By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER PRISTINA, Kosovo — Prime Minister Hashim Thaci is in a bind. His country’s largest and most lucrative enterprise, the state telecommunications company, is up for sale. The jostling among buyers is intense. Narrowing the bidders has hardly helped. One bid is from a fund founded by former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. Lobbying for another was James W. Pardew, the Clinton-era special envoy to the Balkans. Both former diplomats are among the Americans who hold the status of heroes here for their roles in the 1999 intervention that separated Kosovo from Serbia and created one of the world’s newest states.

Religion Class for Every 4th Grader in Russia

Jul 14th, 2012

Religion Class for Every 4th Grader in Russia

A class called the “Basis of Secular Ethics” is popular among the students. (Photo: Matthew Brunwasser) This year Russia required fourth graders across the country to take a religion class. There are six choices: Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, secular ethics or world religions. Most Russians consider themselves Orthodox Christians, but most did not choose that class for their children. Matthew Brunwasser reports.

Al RTV, Russia’s First Islamic TV Channel

Jul 13th, 2012

Al RTV, Russia’s First Islamic TV Channel

It’s show time in the studio of the new Al RTV channel. “Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh” says host Rustem Arifdghanov, a seasoned Azeri journalist who also heads the channel. He says the mission is to reconnect Russian Muslims with their faith after 70 years of enforced atheism during the Soviet era.

Russia Remains Divided on the Pussy Riot Case

Jul 11th, 2012

Russia Remains Divided on the Pussy Riot Case

Despite 70 years of atheist Communist rule, Russia remains a deeply conservative society with traditional Christian values. Pussy Riot’s “punk rock prayer” was not received well by most Russians. But the way state and church officials handled the punishment did not go over well either.