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The Economist: Europe

The Economist: Europe

With a growing global circulation (now more than 1.5 million including both print* and digital) and a reputation for insightful analysis and perspective on every aspect of world events, The Economist is one of the most widely recognized and well-read current affairs publications. The paper covers politics, business, science and technology, and books and arts, concluding each week with the obituary.

Articles by The Economist: Europe

Will a November election break or prolong Spain’s political deadlock?

3 days ago

“I’VE TRIED everything, but it was impossible.” So said Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s socialist prime minister (pictured), as time ran out this week on his efforts to put together a governing majority, thus almost certainly condemning Spaniards to vote again on November 10th in their fourth general election in as many years. Theoretically those efforts could drag on until September 20th. But his statement marked the start of a new election campaign. It was an attempt to shift the blame that other political leaders say attaches to him for a failure that has both personal and structural causes and from which few of them come out well.Mr Sánchez’s Socialists won the most votes in April’s election, but with 123 seats (out of 350) fell well short of a majority. His options were limited from the outset

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Germany’s pricey “coal exit”

3 days ago

THEY CAME in hi-vis jackets and anoraks, beating drums and blowing whistles as the rain pelted down, defiantly defending their dying industry. Perhaps a thousand miners and other workers turned out at the Schwarze Pumpe coal-fired power plant in eastern Germany on September 9th, presenting a boisterous welcome to visitors at a conference on the future of the local Lausitz region. In a clever stunt, they forced those attending to enter through one of two makeshift arches marked “2030” and “2038”, signifying two possible end-dates for the use of coal in Germany. Anyone taking the first was roundly booed.Next year Germany will miss its emission-reduction targets. Continued dependence on coal is one of the main reasons for this. The share in the electricity mix of brown coal (lignite), the

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The threat to the southern European olive

3 days ago

“THIS ONE has seen Napoleon,” says Massimo Arsieni. “It has seen the world wars. It has seen everything. And soon it will be dead.” He throws his arms around the fat, gnarled trunk of the olive tree. He means to emphasise its age, but could be clasping a dying relative. Mr Arsieni’s family has owned these groves outside the village of Cellino San Marco since 1800. Though harvest season is drawing near in Puglia, in the heel of the Italian boot, the tree’s branches are mostly bare and its remaining leaves are grey-brown. Its few olives are discoloured and weather-puckered. “A disaster,” Mr Arsieni sighs. The olive groves that have encircled Cellino San Marco since ancient times are now turning into what locals call tree cemeteries.The cause is a bacterium called Xylella fastidiosa. Carried

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Once part of the Warsaw Pact, Albania will soon host a NATO air base

3 days ago

FLYING IN PERFECT formation, they wheel over the runway before touching down. For now these pigeons are the only ones making active use of Albania’s Kucova air base. Not for long, though. Early next year heavy machinery is expected to be moving in to upgrade this otherwise silent air base into a NATO one. Seventy-one rusting and broken Soviet and Chinese planes will be evicted. “The glory days are coming back,” says Viktor Vangjeli, aged 78, a retired MiG pilot.Communist Albania had a formidable air force, but by 2005 safety concerns and a lack of cash meant that the last of its MiGs were grounded. In Kucova they sit forlorn on flat tyres. Lettering on fuel tanks recalls the 1970s, when engineers from China assembled the MiGs they had shipped here and when men like Mr Vangjeli trained

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Why Russia is ambivalent about global warming

7 days ago

FIRST CAME fires that turned the Siberian skies into a wall of solid smoke stretching for thousands of kilometres. Then came a drought that sucked the Lena river nearly dry, leaving boats marooned in the mud. It has been an arduous summer in Yakutia, an icy republic in Russia’s far east. Add to that the fact that the regional capital, Yakutsk, stands upon thawing permafrost that warps roads and buildings, and climate inaction becomes hard to defend. “I’ve lived here my whole life, I remember what the winter used to be like, and what it’s like now,” says Sardana Avksenteva, Yakutsk’s mayor. “I can confirm that global warming is a problem.”Some 1,000km (600 miles) to the north, on the republic’s Arctic coast, the dying town of Tiksi would beg to differ. From its frozen vantage-point, warming

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Another French president tries pension reform

10 days ago

SISYPHUS HAD it easy, compared with French pension reformers. The mythical Greek was damned eternally to roll a boulder up a hill and watch it roll back down again. But he never had to persuade Gallic workers to retire later. In 1995 Jacques Chirac’s government shelved his attempt to reform the system after weeks of protests and strikes brought Paris to a standstill. He tweaked it in 2003 but faced protests of 1m workers and more. Nicolas Sarkozy made a bit more progress in 2010, but still not nearly enough.Now Emmanuel Macron has put a cautious shoulder to the boulder. On September 9th the president invited Laurent Berger, leader of the Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail, the country’s biggest private-sector union, to talks about pension reform at the Elysée palace. His prime

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Local elections embarrass the Kremlin

10 days ago

THE FIRST indication that things were not going to plan for Vladimir Putin came when the official exit polls for city-council elections in Moscow failed to materialise on schedule at 6pm on September 8th. By the early hours, the majority enjoyed by United Russia, the ruling party, had taken a huge dent, a sign of a growing mood of discontent in the capital.Before the election, United Russia had held 40 of the 45 seats in the largely powerless but symbolically significant city council. By the time the final votes were totted up next day, it had seen that total fall by almost half, to 25.Get our daily newsletterUpgrade your inbox and get our Daily Dispatch and Editor’s Picks.United Russia’s collapse was all the more remarkable given that over a dozen aspiring candidates linked to Alexei

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The Turkish rappers who rib the regime

10 days ago

“I GREW UP apolitical, I never voted, and all I cared about was vacation, travel, and debt,” a young man in a buttoned-up polo shirt says into the camera. “Now I’m too scared to tweet, I’m afraid of my own country’s police.” The camera pulls out. The man, it is revealed, is behind bars. Seated to his side is Sarp Palaur, better known as Saniser, a popular rapper. “Sorry to say, but this hopeless generation is your creation,” Mr Palaur snaps back at his cellmate. “The justice that was supposed to protect you will come knocking and break down your door…you didn’t say a word, which means you’re guilty.”Packed with such lyrics and images, “Susamam” (“I can’t stay quiet”) has touched a nerve among a large number of Turks. In the week since its release, the song and accompanying video have

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Why Europe should take the lead on trade

10 days ago

“THIS IS DEEPLY offensive,” declares Cecilia Malmstrom, gesticulating around her orchid-lined office in the European Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters. “We have colleagues here whose parents fought together [with the Americans] on the Normandy coast and we are a threat to national security?” The EU’s trade commissioner is referring to Donald Trump’s imposition of tariffs on European steel and aluminium, which he preposterously claims is necessary for national-security reasons. The EU has retaliated with its own tariffs on bourbon, Harley Davidson motorbikes and other iconic American goods.This tit-for-tat does not come easily to Ms Malmstrom, a pro-trade Swedish liberal. When she took office in 2014 the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO’s) Doha round of multilateral tariff reductions was

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Why so many non-religious Europeans pay church taxes

10 days ago

IN THE Old Testament, priests are told to take a tenth of every believer’s crops as a tax to support the faith. In these latter days, they can outsource the job to the state. In many European countries, “church taxes”—levied on all registered members of religious organisations by governments—still exist.The governments of ten countries across Europe administer membership fees on behalf of religious organisations. In two of these, Spain and Portugal, believers can opt to pay a portion of their income tax to their religion of choice. Six others run opt-out systems, whereby registered members of certain Christian churches (and, in some cases, other religious groups) are required to pay tax. In most of these, apostasy is the only way to get out of paying. Some states in Germany require even

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The new top jobs in Europe

10 days ago

EMMANUEL MACRON is having a good summer. In July, at his urging, leaders of the European Union’s member states picked Ursula von der Leyen, then the German defence minister, to be president of the European Commission. In a package deal Christine Lagarde, the French head of the IMF, was chosen to lead the European Central Bank; Charles Michel, the Belgian prime minister and a Macron ally, got the European Council presidency; and Josep Borrell, Spain’s Francophone foreign minister, will be the EU’s next high representative for foreign affairs. Having narrowly won her confirmation vote in the European Parliament, on September 10th Mrs von der Leyen presented her proposed line-up of commissioners at the Berlaymont building in Brussels. It was another good day for the French president.Under Mrs

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The new European Commission will be the most political yet

17 days ago

URSULA VON DER LEYEN was no one’s first choice to be president of the European Commission. She did not run for the job during the European election campaign in May as a “lead candidate” representing a political grouping. Only because national leaders could not settle on an alternative did they resort to Germany’s now-former defence minister, a centrist Christian Democrat. The European Parliament, newly fragmented after the elections, was barely convinced and endorsed her candidacy with a majority of just nine votes. When next week she presents her proposed team of 26 commissioners (one from each other member state, minus soon-to-exit Britain), and especially when she takes office on November 1st, questions about her authority will hang in the air.Nor can she expect a honeymoon. Mrs von der

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Volunteers are nabbing Venice’s pickpockets

17 days ago

WITH HORDES of distracted tourists crowding its labyrinthine streets, Venice offers rich pickings for pickpockets, especially during the summer crush. The police cannot cope. So volunteers known as Cittadini non distratti (CND), or Undistracted Citizens, help them out.Most of CND’s roughly 60 members just take pictures of suspects, using WhatsApp to pass along leads to cops. Some only grab the thieves they spot in the shops and bars where they are employed. Even so, CND is behind a third of pickpocket arrests in Venice, says Francesco Livieri, a deputy police commissioner. Collaboration between CND and the cops is so tight, Mr Livieri jokes, that he spends more time with the volunteers than with his wife.Get our daily newsletterUpgrade your inbox and get our Daily Dispatch and Editor’s

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Repression in Russia no longer works as well as it did

17 days ago

EGOR ZHUKOV, a student in Moscow, published a video blog on August 1st in which he described how the siloviki (members of Russia’s security services) had seized power in Russia, using protests over local elections in Moscow as an excuse. “Russia will inevitably be free,” he said, “but we may not live to see it if we let fear win, because when fear wins, silence comes…a silence that will be disturbed by the screeching brakes of a black police wagon and the deafening ring of a doorbell that divides life into before and after.”Coming from a 21-year-old student, in prettified and bustling Moscow, with its hipster cafés and cycle lanes, the associations with the darkest days of the Soviet 1930s seemed like hyperbole. Eight hours later, in the middle of the night, the security services rang Mr

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Germany’s ruling parties have escaped electoral disaster

17 days ago

ON SEPTEMBER 1ST Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) scored its worst result at a state election in Saxony for three decades—and the party faithful, crammed into a sweaty restaurant in Dresden, cheered it to the rafters. For although the party’s 32% share was almost one-fifth lower than in the last vote, in 2014, it was enough to stop the hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) from winning its first state election. A similar story unfolded in Brandenburg, another eastern state, where the ruling Social Democrats (SPD) squeaked a victory over the AfD with just over a quarter of the vote. The SPD once scored absolute majorities here. But the AfD’s performance in eastern Germany has dramatically lowered the bar for what other parties consider success.Disaster averted, then? The

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How the capital of Poland’s coal belt is reinventing itself

17 days ago

TO GRASP THE past and the hoped-for future of Katowice, visit Bogucice. The Warszawa II coal mineshaft, the largest of the southern Polish city’s old Hard Coal Mine, has long dominated this northern district. Its skeleton and giant winch-wheel loom over a tangle of highways and communist-era tower blocks. Such, for decades, was the image of the capital of the coal-mining region of Silesia: unbeautifully industrial, pollution-scarred and hopelessly reliant on hydrocarbon. When, last December, it hosted the latest global climate conference, it seemed a preposterous choice. In the week beforehand, Greenpeace reported, it had the second-worst air quality of any city in the EU.Poland is an environmental laggard. Its right-populist government remains emotionally fond of coal and resists tighter

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Elections in the east test Germany’s creaky unity government

24 days ago

IT IS ELECTION season in Brandenburg. Under a generous Friday-evening sun, the crowd in Wildau, a small commuter town south of Berlin, thump the tables in approval as Dietmar Woidke, the state’s centre-left premier, vows to take the fight to the far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD). Regina Bartsch, a retired engineer in the audience, voices her support. She has voted for other parties in the past, she says, but this time will plump for Mr Woidke’s Social Democrats (SPD) to keep the AfD from coming first. “That’s the most important thing.”An election in a state like Brandenburg, population 2.5m, would usually struggle to catch the nation’s attention. The campaign has been dominated by issues like house prices and transport links to Berlin. Yet the outcome of three elections in

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Emmanuel Macron reclaims France’s international role

24 days ago

AT THE START of this year, a fretful Emmanuel Macron grounded his presidential plane and cleared his diary in order to focus on civil disorder at home. For two months, as he tried to defuse the gilets jaunes (yellow jackets) protests, the French president left Europe only once, shunned global gatherings and ceded the stage to Angela Merkel. Mr Macron’s hopes of stepping into the German chancellor’s shoes as Europe’s leader looked then to be over.Six months later, the turnaround is startling. For three days starting on August 24th Mr Macron presided over the G7 summit in the seaside resort of Biarritz, an event many expected to be wrecked by conflict and theatrics. Instead, the French host managed to avert disaster, keep America’s Donald Trump happy, ease trans-Atlantic tensions over a

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Europe’s long vacation flight home

24 days ago

EVEN IN EUROPE, a continent of welfare states famed for their gloriously long holidays, the summer must eventually end. This week, as they trickle back from Mediterranean beaches and Alpine campgrounds, Europeans are preparing for a fateful autumn. The risk of a recession looms. Eurosceptic populists are likely to win elections in Poland, and perhaps in Italy. Britain is heading for a hard or no-deal Brexit. From trade wars to migrant crises, the outside world looks threatening. Still, gazing out of their aeroplane windows, returning holidaymakers may notice some of the things that hold their curious little continent together.For one thing, they are physically connected. In Africa or SouthEast Asia, infrastructure often peters out at borders. Yet in Europe motorways, railway lines and

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Messages may show corruption behind a Slovak journalist’s murder

24 days ago

THE BRUTAL murders of Jan Kuciak, an investigative journalist, and his fiancée in February 2018 quickly turned Slovakia’s politics upside-down. Tens of thousands of Slovaks took to the streets, suspecting the killings were linked to political corruption. “We just thought our politicians’ behaviour was fishy,” says Jan Galik, a 31-year-old IT specialist who helped found “For a Decent Slovakia”, one of the main groups behind the demonstrations. The protests forced police to mount a serious investigation and ultimately drove the former prime minister, Robert Fico, to resign.Over the past month, the fishy smell has grown ever stronger. Slovak newspapers have been publishing excerpts from hundreds of pages of instant messages supposedly leaked from a police report on Marian Kocner, a

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Italy’s Five Star Movement has a deal to form a new government

25 days ago

GIUSEPPE CONTE is poised to boldly go where no Italian technocrat has gone before. Independent prime ministers in Italy either bow out at the end of their governments or get shoved aside by the voters if they try to hang on. But on August 29th President Sergio Mattarella asked Mr Conte to form a second coalition, this time teaming the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) with the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).Mr Conte has spent 14 months heading an all-populist government that yoked the Five Stars to the hard-right Northern League. The League’s leader, Matteo Salvini, ill-advisedly pulled the rug this month, thinking it was under his allies’ feet, when in fact it was under his own. The M5S has around a third of the seats in parliament, and can command a majority with the help of

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Employment in southern Europe: better, but fragile

August 22, 2019

VITAL ALMEIDA is on the hunt for workers. The boss of Ciclo Fapril, a firm that makes metal components for foreign manufacturers, needs to hire 200 staff by the end of the year to meet new orders. But luring workers—even unskilled ones—to Agueda, a rural town in central Portugal, is proving difficult. To attract more, he is running open days, setting up internships and building relationships with local schools.This is a far cry from the state of affairs just over a decade ago, when the global financial crisis struck. Many of Mr Almeida’s neighbours, also metal-bashers, were forced to close down. He weathered the drought by closing the factory on Friday afternoons and freezing pay.Get our daily newsletterUpgrade your inbox and get our Daily Dispatch and Editor’s Picks.As southern Europe was

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An ancient beast returns to Transylvania

August 22, 2019

CURT THE bison is not sure he wants to return to the wild. After 20 hours in a lorry from Germany to Romania, he takes a few hesitant steps down the ramp, chews at some leaves, then heads back inside. Two hours later he is still there, delaying the bolder females, stuck deeper inside the lorry. Finally the rangers shoot him with a tranquilliser dart. Eight men, two per hoof, carry him into an enclosure, where he quickly recovers. The other beasts trot dutifully after him across a small bridge. They will join two herds already about 50-strong. Transylvania just got a bit wilder.European bison were hunted to the brink of extinction in the early 20th century. Fewer than 60 individuals remained, all in captivity. In the United States, the American bison’s population fell below 600. Yet both

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Greenlanders say Donald Trump should have asked them first

August 22, 2019

MOST DANES thought it was a joke when Preisdent Donald Trump said America might buy Greenland, a self-governing island that forms 98% of Danish territory. Denmark’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, dismissed the idea as “absurd”. When Mr Trump reacted by calling her “nasty” and cancelling a visit to Copenhagen, his would-be hosts were stunned. But many Greenlanders were not.“I knew from the start this was to be taken seriously,” says Aleqa Hammond, a former prime minister of Greenland. It was not the first time an American president had suggested such a purchase. In 1946 Harry Truman offered $100m for Greenland ($1.3bn in today’s money).Get our daily newsletterUpgrade your inbox and get our Daily Dispatch and Editor’s Picks.Today the island has only 57,000 inhabitants, yet it is of

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Historical memorials are not enough to stop anti-Semitism in Europe

August 22, 2019

TEREZIN IS AN old garrison town in today’s Czech Republic that was used by the Nazis as a Jewish ghetto during the second world war. Some 33,000 Jews died in Theresienstadt, as it is known in German, and over twice that number were transported from there to death in extermination camps further east. Today it is an eerie site: part town and part ghost-town, walls speckled with commemorative plaques, train tracks overgrown. The ghetto museum contains drawings by children who were imprisoned there. One by Arnost Jilovsky, born in 1931, depicts a wire fence with wheeling birds and fluffy clouds beyond. Doris Weiserova, one year younger, sketched butterflies fluttering through a flowery meadow. Both died in October 1944 in Auschwitz.The literary immortalisation of Terezin’s strange atmosphere

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Matteo Salvini hopes elections will make him Italy’s prime minister

August 22, 2019

IT SEEMS AT times that Italy’s role is to terrify the euro zone’s other member states. In 2011 the refusal of its then prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, to tackle the euro crisis drove the single currency to the brink of collapse. Since then the country has had six governments and as many market-spooking crises. Its latest government fell apart on August 20th, when Giuseppe Conte resigned as prime minister, ending a rickety 14-month coalition between two populist, Eurosceptic parties: the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the nativist Northern League. The previous week Matteo Salvini, the League’s leader, had withdrawn confidence in the government. He wants the top job for himself. How alarmed should Italy’s partners be?Not very, thought investors. The following day, as

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Protests in Moscow show that Putin’s critics are getting stronger

August 15, 2019

IT IS 20 years this month since then-President Boris Yeltsin appointed a shadowy security chief called Vladimir Putin as Russia’s prime minister. The next New Year’s Eve, the ailing Mr Yeltsin would install the ex-KGB man as his successor. On the anniversary of his ascent to power, Mr Putin has little reason to celebrate.On August 10th, as they have for the past five weekends, Russians took to the streets of Moscow to demand that opposition politicians unfairly barred from next month’s city-council polls should be allowed to run after all. Waving white, red and blue Russian flags, an estimated 50,000-60,000 protesters flooded a broad avenue. “Russia will be free!” they chanted. It was the biggest opposition rally since 2012—after Mr Putin’s pals again bamboozled a ballot.Get our daily

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Eurocrats know Boris Johnson well, making no-deal Brexit more likely

August 15, 2019

THE LAST time continental Europeans felt they were dealing with an easily readable, straightforward British prime minister was in the late 1990s. Tony Blair charmed his continental colleagues. He wooed the French in their own language, led fellow heads of government on a bike ride through Amsterdam during a Dutch-led summit and made common cause with fellow “third way” social democrats like Gerhard Schröder, Germany’s then chancellor. Set against the backdrop of the “Cool Britannia” popularity of British music and fashion, this all suggested that Britain had finally cast off its conflicted post-imperial garb and was embracing a modern, European identity.The glow faded when the Iraq war sundered Mr Blair from the French and the Germans. Then came Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa May,

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How Turkey deals with returning Islamic State fighters

August 15, 2019

SUHEYLA REMEMBERS the day clearly. She had invited her children for dinner and was preparing her youngest son’s favourite stew. He never showed up. Neither did her four daughters. When none of them picked up the phone, she and her husband Lutfu understood what was happening. They rushed to a police station to ask the authorities to track down their children: they were headed south. A month later one of Suheyla’s daughters called. She and her siblings, the youngest 18 and the eldest 27, along with her brother’s wife and their infant son, had smuggled themselves into Syria and joined Islamic State (IS).That was in late 2015. Today, three of the daughters are behind bars in Baghdad, having been captured by Iraqi forces two years ago. The fourth died in jail, two months after giving birth to a

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In the Baltic states, many people are stuck in Khrushchev-era flats

August 15, 2019

IN THE BALTIC STATES, Soviet-era apartments have taken on a gritty glamour. In Lithuania, Instagrammers hunt down Fabijoniskes, the neighbourhood where a recent television series about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was filmed (see picture). In Estonia and Latvia, they form a backdrop to art shows and hip-hop videos. Nicknamed khrushchyovka (after Nikita Khrushchev), these uniform blocks of prefabricated panels were built to house workers across the Soviet Union from the 1960s onwards.Many were meant to last no more than 30 years. Yet in the Baltic states —where 68% of people live in apartments, the highest level in Europe—many people still call them home. Living inside history is less appealing than looking at it, alas. For, like the Soviet Union itself, they are drab, joyless places.Get

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