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August 17, 2012

A band of long-haired psychedelic rockers locked up in the 1970s proved a catalyst in the fall of Soviet communism. “The band’s lyrics have nothing to do with music or art and seriously threaten the moral values of society,” the chief prosecutor declared portentously in a crowded court room. “They display extreme vulgarity and their words expose anarchy, decadence ... and cause a negative influence on the lifestyle of our young generation.”

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August 4, 2012

In Russia one of the biggest hits on YouTube is the dramatic scene in November when Vladimir Putin was booed at a martial arts contest. As he entered the ring at the Olympic Stadium in Moscow to congratulate the Russian winner of a bout against an American, cheers turned to catcalls.

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December 30, 2011

The Hungarian Prime Minister I knew was a fun-loving firebrand. Now his democratic deficit is a threat to the EU.

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December 2, 2011

Moscow’s leader is a corrupt bully. But it’s not worth starting a second Cold War over him.

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August 21, 2010

In his Cabinet room, the leader was exasperated by the latest reports of casualties in Afghanistan. “We’re in ... but how to get out racks one’s brains,” he told his generals and political colleagues. “We’ve been fighting in Afghanistan for years now and if we don’t change our approach we’ll be there another 20 or 30 years. We have not learnt how to wage war there. We had a clearly defined goal: to get a friendly regime in Afghanistan.

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November 21, 2009

There’s one sound I shall never forget about the revolution that bustled the Communists out of power in Czechoslovakia 20 years ago: the jangling of door keys. Every night for a week, crowds gathered in Prague’s Wenceslas Square. At regular intervals, thousands of people in unison waved their keyrings above their heads. The noise echoed throughout the city, signifying to their hated communist masters: “Go home, here’s your key. It’s time to leave.”

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