Michael Totten

Home from the East

I’m home again from an absolutely fascinating tour of post-communist Eastern Europe and can start writing about it as soon as I get my interviews transcribed.
After leaving Romania, I was supposed to visit Chernobyl and the apocalyptic ghost city of Pripyat outside Kiev, Ukraine, but the trip was cancelled at the last minute. The Chernobyl Administration wasn’t letting anyone into the area for reasons that aren’t clear to me and may never be — perhaps because of a radiation leak, or maybe for more mundane reasons.
So I went to Crimea instead, the part of Ukraine that may be lopped off and reattached to Russia if Vladimir Putin decides to go on another Georgian-style adventure.
Traveling from the eastern edge of the European Union into Ukraine is educational, to say the least. Romania, Hungary, Poland, and other formerly Eastern bloc countries have largely recovered from communism, but much of Ukraine outside Kiev is still ruined. It still hasn’t fully recovered from Soviet collectivization, the “genocidal terror-famine”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor, the Stalinist purges, and “dekulakization”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dekulakization. Kiev is a magnificent city and Crimea is a jewel, but large parts of the countryside feel haunted and doomed.
Stand by for photos and stories.