Journeying Through Europe's Last Dictatorship
In keeping with our mission of “illuminating dark places,” grantee Jason Motlagh shines a light on one of Europe’s darkest corners. “Dark Days in Belarus,” featured in the current issue of The Virginia Quarterly Review, is a highly readable account of Jason’s journey through Europe’s last dictatorship. Along the way he encounters artists, dissidents, opposition politicians and Chernobyl survivors (most of the radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl disaster ended up across the Ukrainian border in Belarus). Fittingly, the journey ends with Jason’s arrest and expulsion. Less fortunate was Jason’s traveling partner and frequent Pulitzer grantee Dimiter Kenarov. Dimiter is a tractor buff, but his curiosity about the Belarusian tractor industry did not sit well with authorities, who detained him for six days before deporting him as “a threat to public order.”
This week marked the official end of America’s war in Iraq. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta traveled to Baghdad for a muted ceremony during which he said the war had given “birth to an independent, free and sovereign Iraq.” Yet even as he spoke, sectarian violence continued to unsettle the country. As grantee David Enders writes for McClatchy Newspapers, almost 2 million Iraqis have been displaced during the nine years since the U.S. invasion. The Iraqi government maintains that the situation is improving, but David reports that persistent violence prevents most of the displaced from returning home, a situation that will continue to destabilize this fractured country.
Until next week,