Timothy Garton Ash is Professor of European Studies and Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford. He leads the Free Speech Debate project at Oxford (freespeechdebate.com) and is writing a book about free speech.

Defying the Assassin’s Veto

Jean Cabut, known by the pen name Cabu, one of the cartoonists killed in the attack on Charlie Hebdo
Working out how to defeat the assassin’s veto is one of the great challenges of our time. Among the many questions that arise is whether or not to republish images at which fanatics have chosen to take such violent offense that they murder those who made them.


A Stasi official observing the interrogation of the lover of an East German playwright whose loyalty to the state is questioned, in Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s film The Lives of Others, 2006
I have only once met a censor on active duty. In the spring of 1989, my friends at the newly founded Polish opposition newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza let me take a cartoon up to the in-house censor at the printing house of the main Communist Party daily, on whose weary old …

The New German Question

There is a new German question. It is this: Can Europe’s most powerful country lead the way in building both a sustainable, internationally competitive eurozone and a strong, internationally credible European Union? Germany’s difficulties in responding convincingly to this challenge are partly the result of earlier German questions and the solutions found to them. Yesterday’s answers have sown the seeds of today’s question.

‘Choices for an Uncrowned Queen’

Aung San Suu Kyi standing in front of a painting of her father, General Aung San, Rangoon, October 2011
Rangoon It’s good to be back. I was last here thirteen years ago, at the turn of the century. I spoke about transitions to democracy at the headquarters of the National League for Democracy (NLD), with Aung San Suu Kyi in the chair. I wrote about the trip for The …

Insult the King and… Go Directly to Jail

Thai royal nurses holding candles at a celebration of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s eighty-fifth birthday, Bangkok, December 2012
Bangkok She sits calmly smiling at me across the lunch table: quiet, matter-of-fact, professional. Yet just a week ago, Joop’s husband, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, was condemned to ten years in prison for lèse-majesté—plus a further year on a related defamation charge. What was Somyot’s mortal insult to Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, …

India: Watch What You Say

Bal Thackeray, founder of the Hindu nationalist party Shiv Sena, Mumbai, 2010
Everyone knows the ongoing case of Free Speech vs. the Communist Party of China. We pay too little attention, by contrast, to the struggle for freedom of expression in the free or partly free countries of South and Southeast Asia. Their controversies may be more fragmented and incremental than the …

Freedom & Diversity: A Liberal Pentagram for Living Together

Malala Yousufzai, a Pakistani schoolgirl from the Swat Valley who was shot by the Taliban in early October for advocating education for girls. She is now receiving medical care in Birmingham, England.
If you want to elaborate a version of multiculturalism that is genuinely compatible with liberalism, you have to spend pages hedging the term about with clarifications and qualifications. By the time you have finished doing that, the justification for a separate new “ism” has evaporated. Why not simply talk about the form of modern liberalism suited—meaning also, developed and adapted—to the conditions of a contemporary, multicultural society?

Germans, More or Less

Thilo Sarrazin, left, a former finance ministry official who resigned as a director of the Bundesbank after the publication of his controversial book Germany Abolishes Itself, at a ceremony in Mainz to honor the comedian Lars Reichow, January 2011
Like a neurotic student, united Germany celebrated its twentieth birthday by contemplating its own extinction. Published in the summer of 2010, Germany Abolishes Itself topped the best-seller lists throughout the autumn—straddling the twentieth anniversary of German unification on October 3—with 1.2 million copies delivered to bookshops by the end of …

Tony Judt (1948–2010)

Tony Judt in his office at NYU, New York City, June 2006
The poet Paul Celan said of his native Czernowitz that it was a place where people and books used to live. Tony Judt was a man for whom books lived, as well as people. His mind, like his apartment on Washington Square, was full of books—and they walked with him, …

Tony Judt (1948–2010)

Tony Judt in his office at NYU, New York City, June 2006

The poet Paul Celan said of his native Czernowitz that it was a place where people and books used to live. Tony Judt was a man for whom books lived, as well as people. His mind, like his apartment on Washington Square, was full of books—and they walked with him, arguing, to the very end. Critical though he was of French intellectuals, he shared with them a conviction that ideas matter. Being English, he thought facts matter too. As a historian, one of his most distinctive achievements was to integrate the intellectual and political history of twentieth-century Europe—revealing the multiple, sometimes unintended interactions over time of ideas and realities, thoughts and deeds, books and people.

Velvet Revolution: The Prospects

Yulia Tymoshenko, one of the leaders of the Orange Revolution and current prime minister of Ukraine, at a rally in Independence Square on the revolution’s first anniversary, Kiev, November 22, 2005
In the autumn of 1989, the term “velvet revolution” was coined to describe a peaceful, theatrical, negotiated regime change in a small Central European state that no longer exists. So far as I have been able to establish, the phrase was first used by Western journalists and subsequently taken up …


Anti-government demonstrators in Wenceslas Square, Prague, November 20, 1989
Unsurprisingly, the twentieth anniversary of 1989 has added to an already groaning shelf of books on the year that ended the short twentieth century. If we extend “1989” to include the unification of Germany and disunification of the Soviet Union in 1990–1991, we should more accurately say the three years …

The Road from Danzig

How should we judge the Grass affair? Judge it not in the “kangaroo court” of immediate press reaction, but calmly, considering all the available evidence, as in the slow court of history. The first and obvious point to make is that his achievement as a novelist is unaffected.</p

The Stasi on Our Minds

Ulrich Mühe as Gerd Wiesler in The Lives of Others
One of Germany’s most singular achievements is to have associated itself so intimately in the world’s imagination with the darkest evils of the two worst political systems of the most murderous century in human history. The words “Nazi,” “SS,” and “Auschwitz” are already global synonyms for the deepest inhumanity of …

Islam in Europe

###1. Earlier this year, I visited the famous basilica of Saint-Denis, on the outskirts of Paris. I admired the magnificent tombs and funerary monuments of the kings and queens of France, including that of Charles Martel (“the hammer”), whose victory over the invading Muslim armies near Poitiers in 732 AD …

The Twins’ New Poland

Poland’s normal condition seemed to be that of occupation, backwardness, frustration, and alienation from the foreign-controlled state. The virtues for which it became famous were endurance, cultural vitality, and heroic but doomed resistance. Pierced by foreign arrows, its white eagle bled to produce the national colors of red and white.

Soldiers of the Hidden Imam

Carved high in the towering rock of Naqsh-e Rostam, gazing out across the desert, are the tombs of the great Persian emperors from two and a half millennia ago: Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes. Lower down the cliff face of this imperial Mount Rushmore you see a dramatic stone relief, shimmering in …

The Orange Revolution

Last autumn, Ukraine imprinted itself on the political consciousness of the world for the first time in its history. In what was christened the “orange revolution,” vast crowds wearing orange scarves gathered in subzero temperatures in Kyiv’s Independence Square to demand a fair election for president. They won. Under …

A Genius for Friendship

When you are young, you cannot imagine that the old were ever young. As you get older, that becomes easier. Isaiah Berlin was in his sixties when I first met him in Oxford. Britain’s most celebrated public intellectual, an iconic figure with his heavy-rimmed spectacles, dark three-piece suit, and unforgettable, …

Orwell’s List

So there it was at last, the copy of George Orwell’s notorious list of “crypto-communists” that went into the files of a semisecret department of the Foreign Office on May 4, 1949. It lay before me in a buff folder on the office table of a senior Foreign Office archivist.

Anti-Europeanism in America

This year, especially if the United States goes to war against Iraq, you will doubtless see more articles in the American press on “Anti-Americanism in Europe.” But what about anti-Europeanism in the United States? Consider this: To the list of polities destined to slip down the Eurinal of history, we …

On the Frontier

For much of my life, I have worked on frontiers. Night, fog, armed guards, tension. Walk just a few paces down the snow-covered Friedrichstrasse in Berlin, through a musty East German checkpoint, and you move from a world called West to a world called East. Nothing changes, and everything changes.

Europe at War

Since September 11, I have been exploring that question in nine European countries, through conversations with political leaders, intellectuals, officials, and so-called ordinary people (but they never are ordinary) in Madrid, Paris, Warsaw, and other capitals. To visit so many nations in so short a time is like using one …

Is There a Good Terrorist?

Have you heard that Osama bin Laden is coming to Macedonia? No. Why? Because we’ve declared an amnesty for terrorists. This Macedonian joke, told to me recently in Skopje, invites us to reflect on one of the most important questions in the post–September 11 world: Who is a …

Odd Man Out

On March 11, 1999, Oskar Lafontaine, one of the most powerful figures in the recently formed government of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder—some even whispered, the most powerful of all, the power behind the throne, the socialist Richelieu of German politics, described by the British tabloid The Sun as “the most dangerous …

The European Orchestra

Will Europe never be Europe because it is becoming Europe? To most speakers of the English language this sentence must look like nonsense or, at best, a deliberately absurd illustration in a textbook of linguistic philosophy. Yet to initi ates of the inner temple of what is called “The European …

The Last Revolution

The last revolution was also the strangest. On Thursday, October 5, as Serbs stormed the parliament in Belgrade, waving flags from its burning windows, and seized the headquarters of state television, which an opposition leader had once christened “TV Bastille,” it looked like a real, old-fashioned European revolution. The storming …