Duke University Alumni Magazine

Ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, is there any suggestion that former Soviet-bloc countries might be returning to Communist Party politics?

The situation of the former Communist bloc countries in Eastern Europe can be compared to that of a woman trapped in a disappointing second marriage. Her first marriage was a nightmare with a brutal husband who ruined her financial assets, beat her when she got out of line, and overall made her life simply miserable. Now, remarried for a decade, life is still unsatisfactory. The brutality is gone, and she is free to speak her mind without fear of retribution, but her quality of life is still poor and her new spouse is inept, untrustworthy, and simply not on top of problems.

When the Communist bloc came apart a decade ago, there were exuberant hopes that the countries of Eastern Europe, freed from the harsh domination of Soviet-installed regimes, would now be able to reach their full potential as functioning democracies chosen by their own people. However, once the initial euphoria of the end of Soviet-imposed Communism waned, very real problems emerged in its stead.

Such traumas as the Soviet military actions that suppressed reform in Prague, Budapest, and East Berlin, and the martial law imposed in Poland, are in no danger of recurring. But in such countries as Slovakia, Belarus, and Ukraine, the new regimes seem almost as undemocratic as their predecessors, and they have been unable to improve the quality of life of their populations. Indeed, given unstable currencies, poor productivity, and the growth of unemployment, it can be argued that life has been worse. Even in the "better off" countries, like the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, much of the population perceives their lot as worse or no better than it had been under Communism.

The unhappy wife now tends to forget the beatings she endured from her first husband. She now remembers that he brought home a paycheck every week, and that there was always enough to eat. Maybe she was hasty in leaving him. Will she marry yet again?

While there will probably be no return to Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, former Communists have emerged as electoral victors in these "democracies"--the president of Poland, for instance, is a former Communist who defeated Lech Walesa, the hero of the anti-Communist uprising. Examples like this suggest that too many people in Eastern Europe are unhappy--that in return for freedom, they lost the safety net that Communism presumably provided.
--Warren Lerner, history professor and author of A History of Socialism and Communism in Modern Times: Theorists, Activists, and Humanists

We asked ten students:
What are your plans for celebrating the countdown to the new millennium?

Our enterprising revelers appear to be either home for the holiday or somewhere around the world. Junior John Lindgren will be in Seattle; sophomore Nimmi Roche in frosty Minnesota, where she laments, "Why can't New Year's be in the summer?"; and junior Jasmin French in sunny Pasadena, California, at the Rose Bowl Parade with family and friends.

"My parents want me to stay at home because they are concerned about Y2K," says junior Unzila Ali. "I, on the other hand, plan on being in South Beach." Liz Prada, a sophomore, has two possibilities: "I'll either be at a Phish concert in the Everglades or I'll be in Montreal with friends." Junior Jennifer Grad plans to be "on a beach, in Nassau, with a very strong drink in one hand."

New Year's Eve for senior Ayisha Karim will be more reflective than celebratory, since it falls during the month of Ramadan, a Muslim religious holiday. "I'll be observing the sacred month and will most likely be engaged in spiritual conversation with other Muslims."

Mihir Gandhi, a junior, will be on the other side of the planet--literally. "I'm going to India for winter break and will be traveling by train from Agra to Delhi on January 1, 2000. This would probably worry some people; I am one of them. But I figure that most of the train equipment was made before anything remotely associated with the Y2K problem was created."

In one case, the occasion is a non-event. "I really haven't thought about it yet," says Alicia Falken, a sophomore in engineering. "It's kind of over-hyped."

--compiled by Neeta Bidwai '01

"Integrative medicine is not just about new tools. It's about restoring a healing ambition in medicine so the patients are more than physical bodies. It embodies a preventive orientation."
-- Best-selling author (8 Weeks to Optimum Health) and physician Andrew Weil, in his keynote address at the fourth annual "Integrating Mind, Body, and Spirit in Medical Practice" conference, in October "Clinton has a mixed record on constitutional issues. He is not, for example, a particularly strong advocate of the First Amendment, both in terms of the press and other regulation of speech. His strongest constitutional achievement has been that the Constitution hasn't been amended during his presidency."
-- Duke law professor Walter Dellinger, former acting solicitor general and head of the Office of Legal Counsel during the Clinton administration, speaking at the law school conference "The Constitution Under Clinton: A Critical Assessment" "Wherever you go, you find yourself answering questions not so much about guns in the classroom or China in the World Trade Organization, but money in the bank and ads on the airwaves."
-- Elizabeth Hanford Dole '58, announcing her withdrawal from the race for the Republican presidential nomination "College was a time when I learned to ask questions. It's like all these little seeds were planted in college, and I've been able to water some of them."
-- Actress Annabeth Gish '93 (Mystic Pizza, Double Jeopardy), speaking in Branson Theater in November on Duke's effect on her life and career

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