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Watch one of the most informative and touching documentaries ever made on of the most impressive nonviolent freedom struggles in history – a whole nation rose up against a brutal occupation and started… singing!

The Singing Revolution

“Imagine the scene in ‘Casablanca’ in which the French patrons sing ‘La Marseillaise’ in defiance of the Germans, then multiply its power by a
factor of thousands, and you’ve only begun to imagine the force of
‘The Singing Revolution’.” – The New York Times

Dissidents and human rights activists from China, Tibet, Vietnam, Burma, North Korea, Indonesia, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Cuba and Venezuela gathered in Geneva, Switzerland on March 8-9, 2010 for the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy.
Here you can watch videos of all the debates and speeches.

There are so many myths and legends surrounding the collapse of communist totalitarianism, the nonviolent revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe and the development since then. What has really changed? And why? Are the people of the region really richer and freer today? And if so, how much?

The Cato Institute held a very informative half-day conference on these subjects featuring many reformers and experts. You can watch three videos of the panel discussions on their website, and if you are interested in the region, you should miss none of them! The keynote adress was given by Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic.

Freedom and Prosperity in Central and Eastern Europe
20 Years after the Collapse of Communism

“This year marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A major advance in humanity’s struggle for freedom, the collapse of communism has generally led to an increase in human well-being, with several ex-communist countries becoming free and prosperous. Yet the spread of liberty has been uneven. Many ex-communist countries lag behind and some have even reverted to political repression and economic dirigism.”

Listen to two great and independent minds, Christopher Hitchens and Russ Roberts, talk about why Orwells Anti-Totalitarianism still matters.

Watch Larry Diamond, co-director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies and founding co-editor of the Journal of Democracy, explain why he believes it can at the New York Democracy Forum:

Larry Diamond – “Can the Whole World Become Democratic?”

One of the most frightening and sadening realities in today’s Germany is how many people justify or downplay the crimes of the SED, the communist party which ruled Eastern Germany for decades.

Watch this touching documentary and confront those who deny or distort history:


Watch this impressing documentary about a man, who traces his father’s journey “through former labor camps and cities in northern Russia and his final uncovering of the horrible truth at the dreaded camp city of Vorkuta within the Artic Circle”:

Jon Utley’s search for his father

Watch Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and co-editor of the Journal of Democracy, debate his book The Spirit of Democracy – The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World, which I very strongly recommend to anyone interested in the science of democracy and democracy movements, with some researchers from Freedom House at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs:

The Spirit of Democracy – Carnegie Council, New York

We don’t know who murdered Anna Politkovskaya, but we do know why. All her life, she was a strong voice for human rights in Russia, Chechnya and the world.

Watch her speak at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in 2001:

Covering the War in Chechnya

“Ms. Politkovskaya talked about covering the war in Chechnya and related many of her experiences. She answered questions from members of the audience. She is the author of A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya.”

Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty has a short documentary on some major tragedies, which are almost forgotten: “Ukraine has turned a tragedy in its past – the famine of the 1930s – into an important national issue and a thorn in the side of Russia. But little is heard of some other tragedies of the Soviet era, including those that affected Russians themselves. Are the devastating famines in Kazakhstan and Russia’s Volga region bound to be forgotten?”

Gene Sharp is no blue eyed pacifist or dogmatic utopian. But he believes in the power of nonviolence, because he has seen it work so many times and in so many places. He is the author of a short handbook for the nonviolent revolutionary called ‘From dictatorship to democracy: A conceptual framework for liberation’, which served as a basis for the so-called color revolutions: Serbia’s Otpor, Georgia’s Kmara, Ukraine’s Pora, Kyrgyzstan’s KelKel and Belarus’ Zubr, and whose writings on civilian-based defense were used by the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian governments during their separation from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Watch him speak on The Power and Potential of Nonviolent Struggle.

“Gene Sharp, President of the Albert Einstein Institution, discusses the efficacy of strategic nonviolent action in a lecture at the National Conference on Nonviolent Sanctions and Defense.”

There are many ways to explain why socialism has never worked and will never work. Listen to a very convincing explanation by the Austrian philosopher Ludwig von Mises at the Mises Institute:

Economic Calculation In The Socialist Commonwealth – Read by Gennady Stolyarov II.

André Glucksmann, a leading french antitotalitarian, explains to Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty why we should listen very closely to what Wladimir Putin says:

French Philosopher Expounds On ‘Putin Doctrine’

“We haven’t paid enough attention to what Mr. Putin says; sometimes he talks very candidly and speaks his mind. In 2005, he said publicly that the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century was the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991.
Is it bigger than the World War I, which killed 10 million Europeans? Bigger than World War II, which claimed 50 million lives worldwide? Bigger than Auschwitz, than Hiroshima, than the gulag? This explains Putin’s entire policy, his drive to establish, as much as possible, an hegemonic power over Russia but also over close neighbors and former provinces of the Soviet empire.”

Watch or listen to this Cato – Policy Forum from 2006 on Lukashenko’s dictatorial rule in Belarus and the different strategies of the opposition movement:

Last Dictatorship in EuropePolitical and Economic Repression in Belarus

“Belarus attained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Since he took power in 1994, however, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has cracked down on his opponents and rigged successive elections. Today, Belarus lacks basic political freedoms, including the freedoms of the press, association, and expression. The Belarusian economy continues to be run according to the discredited socialist principle of central planning. Jaroslav Romanchuk, a prominent Belarusian opposition figure, and Anders Åslund, renowned specialist in post-Soviet economics, will discuss the state of political and economic freedom in Belarus and the role that Russia plays in keeping Lukashenko in power.”

Once again!

Charter 97OSCE observers didn’t recognise “elections” in Belarus

Radio LibertyOSCE Says Belarus Vote ‘Falls Short’ of Democratic Standards

UCPB – The Authorities Used Administrative Resource on 100%

And once again the democrats of Europe don’t stand up in support of the nonviolent and democratic resistance!

Charter 97Give Us New Elections!

BBCBelarus clean sweep poll ‘flawed’

Statement of civil campaign European Belarus

Shame on us!

Watch this Journeyman Pictures – documentary on oppression and democratic resistance in Belarus:

“Aug. 1998. After 4 years of increasingly dictatorial rule, President Lukashenko has rolled back personal liberties and put back the iron fist of the state. For Belarusians it’s as if Glasnost and independence never happened. In a rare protest, old men and head-scarfed mothers are bundled into the back of police vans. One man is not even fit enough to step-up into the van, yet the truncheon battering at his back is unceasing. This is a president who rules with the police and the KGB by his side. The former Deputy foreign minister now fears Lukashenko has become mentally unbalanced. This is after all a man who expresses ardent admiration for Hitler.”

Watch Anne Applebaum, author of the most important and well-researched book on the Gulag since Solschenizyn’s classic work, speak about Russia’s return to authoritarian rule under Putin.

Edward Lucas has been covering Eastern Europe and Russia for The Economist since 1986. In the Daily Telegraph he writes about the Kremlin’s latest war:

Russia is fighting a new Cold war with banks and pipelines, not tanks and warplanes

And you can watch him discuss his latest book, The New Cold War: Putin’s Russia and the Threat to the West, at the Google headquarters:

Authors@google: Edward Lucas

He argues that the threat is being overestimated by some observers and underestimated by most of them. I hope he is exaggerating. But whether he is or not, it’s a warning worth listening to.

Some commentators – left and right – are convinced that Russia’s new aggressive nationalism is at least to some degree a reaction to the West’s own special kind of aggression. They tell us that Russia has been humiliated by the West and if it had only been treated as a partner, it would have behaved like one.

Cathy Young strongly disagrees. Russia has not been humiliated by anyone, she argues, but a lot of people have been humiliated by Russia:

Don’t Cry for Russia – The world’s unlikeliest “victim.”

Forty years ago, when russian tanks brutally ended the Prague Spring, eight russian human rights activists saved the honour of the russian people by showing their support for czech independence on Red Square in Moscow. Of course they had to pay a heavy price for their courage.

Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty has talked to two of them, Pavel Litvinov and Viktor Fainberg, about their own experiences and their thoughts and feelings on the Russian invasion of Georgia:

Forty Years After Prague, It’s Georgia’s Turn

There are two reasons why I very much hope that a real and true peace will return to Georgia as soon as possible. The first is a very obvious one: war of course means that people are being killed and injured. But the second reason may be just as important: wars can easily destroy everything a country has been building up for very long periods of time: its infrastructure, its economy and its democratic institutions. And they can do that very quickly.

Starting in 2003 with the Rose Revolution – possibly the greatest moment in this small country’s painful history! – the country has done a lot of very positive reforms. To be sure, it has made some mistakes, too, and messing with a powerful and aggressive Russia might have been the biggest one. There have also been some political setbacks just before the war. Freedom House still calls it only “Partly Free”, and Amnesty has protested some of its politics concerning the rule of law. But, all in all, Georgia has been on the right track for some years now, and this is especially true for its economy, which has been one of the fastest growing not only in the region, but around the globe.

The Cato Institute held a very interesting and hopeful policy briefing on Georgia’s successes and difficulties in May 2008. You can watch or listen to it here:

Georgia’s Transformation into a Modern Market Economy

“Featuring Kakha Bendukidze, Head of the State Chancellery, Georgia, with comments by Andrei Illarionov, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute, and Former Economic Adviser to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Moderated by Ian Vásquez, Cato Institute.

Following the Rose Revolution of 2003, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia began far-reaching reforms in governance and economic policy that are turning the country into a post-socialist success story. Georgia now ranks 44th out of 141 countries on the Economic Freedom of the World index, is cited by the World Bank as one of the world’s leading reformers, and is sustaining economic growth of more than 9 percent per year. Kakha Bendukidze, one of Georgia’s key reformers, will explain how his country is rapidly modernizing and will share his vision for continued high growth in a sometimes hostile neighborhood. Andrei Illarionov will assess Georgia’s progress and highlight its remaining challenges in consolidating democratic capitalism.”