May 29th, 2011
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER LAZAREVO, Serbia — This village near the Romanian border is Everytown, an indistinguishable collection of tidy lawns and trimmed trees, where the local people have been rocked by the news that Ratko Mladic, one of the world’s most wanted war crimes suspects, had been found hiding out among them. They say it couldn’t be true. “There is no chance that he was living here,” said the village mayor, Radmilo Stanisic, reflecting the general sentiment in this tightknit community. “Everyone knows everyone here. We’re like a big family.”
Mar 21st, 2011
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER TIRANA — In Albania’s rough and murky politics, the personalities are strong and the public institutions still count for less, 20 years after communism crumbled. The latest illustration of violent tussle between two opposing camps occurred Friday, when a crowd tried to storm the office of Prime Minister Sali Berisha. The five-hour clash left three protesters dead, about 60 hurt and 113 arrested. Opposition supporters threw sticks and stones at the building, while the police responded with tear gas, water cannons and firearms.
Oct 6th, 2010
SOFIA — An unusual investigation that brought together prosecutors and human rights lawyers has revealed a grisly picture of neglect at Bulgarian state homes for mentally disabled children: 238 deaths since 2000. More than three-fourths of the deaths were found to have been avoidable: 84 from physical deterioration caused by neglect; 36 from exposure to cold or long-term immobility; 31 from malnutrition; 13 from infections caused by poor hygiene; 6 from accidents; 15 were unexplained.
Mar 1st, 2010
Published in Monocle Issue 31 Vol 3 Journalism in Turkey has always been a political contact sport. Even so, the size of the tax penalty given to the Dogan Media Group – Turkey’s largest – had global reverberations. The conflict between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Dogan first surfaced when the papers dug into the allegations swirling around the premier of corruption. Erdogan publicly accused the group’s founder, 73-year-old Aydin Dogan, of blackmailing the government for policies favourable to his investments.
Jan 4th, 2010
From the hipsters of Williamsburg in Brooklyn to the cinephiles of France, Romanian cinema is developing a global cult-like following that in 2010 should make Romania famous for something far more meaningful than Dracula, Ceaucescu and Nadia Comaneci. The so-called “New Wave” Romanian cinema is producing film-lovers’ films. They tell stark, lonely stories of micro-human-scale dramas, in impressive defiance of all the mega trends and commercial might of the global film industry, which tends to favour big stories, grand, sweeping tales of heroes, wars and disasters and the great processes of history.
Dec 1st, 2009
An oddly fast-paced race is on to boost the global snail supply. Demand has been boosted by recent pharmaceutical and cosmetic applications for snail flesh and shells. Plus, the free-range snail population is decreasing and they are becoming harder to find.
Nov 16th, 2009
The Boyko Borisov show November 16, 2009 — Sofia Writer: Matthew Brunwasser The professional CV of the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov does not read like your standard head of government: firefighter, private security company owner, black belt in karate, trainer of the national karate team, bodyguard of the former Tsar Simeon II and communist dictator Todor Zhivkov and head of the national police.
Nov 11th, 2009
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER Published: November 10, 2009 SOFIA — The silence on the streets of the Bulgarian capital this week speaks volumes about this nation’s deep ambivalence about democracy. Although Tuesday was the 20th anniversary of the removal of Bulgaria’s Communist leader, Todor Zhivkov, and the start of democratic changes here, the day went uncelebrated, even as Germany cleaned up from celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. To explain the amnesia of Bulgarians about their Communist past, and apathy about their democratic present, Bulgarian commentators are using a biblical metaphor: Like the Israelites, the Bulgarians will have to wander the desert for 40 years to be cleansed of the sins of Communism.
Oct 29th, 2009
Relationship breakdown October 29, 2009 — Istanbul Writer: Matthew Brunwasser There are good reasons to condemn Israel for its incursion into Gaza last December: some 1,400 Palestinians were killed as Israel got tough on Hamas a month before parliamentary elections. But Turkey’s diplomatic response has snowballed to enormous proportions – leaving Turkey-watchers wondering whether Gaza wasn’t just a convenient excuse for the Islamist government in Ankara to shed a historical ally it really considered distasteful all along.
Oct 14th, 2009
Taking offence, Turkish style Offending Turkishness and common sense October 14, 2009 — Istanbul Writer: Matthew Brunwasser Turkey is schizophrenic about human rights. The country has made important steps towards protecting minority rights at home and reducing conflict in the region. But at the same time it continues to brutally silence critics – unable to tolerate either political opposition or those who challenge the myths of the Turkish nation.