Christian Caryl is an editor at the Opinions section of The Washington Post and the author of Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the Twenty-First Century. (March 2020)

Follow Christian Caryl on Twitter: @ccaryl.


A History of Assassinations

Vladimir Putin with Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow, November 2019

The Compatriots: The Brutal and Chaotic History of Russia’s Exiles, Émigrés, and Agents Abroad

by Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan

From Russia with Blood: The Kremlin’s Ruthless Assassination Program and Vladimir Putin’s Secret War on the West

by Heidi Blake
On a balmy day in late August 2019 in the center of Berlin, a man on a bicycle rode up to forty-year-old Zelimkhan Khangoshvili and fired three bullets at close range, killing him instantly. He then botched his getaway. Witnesses saw him throw his pistol into a nearby canal; …

Back from the Cold

John le Carré

A Legacy of Spies

by John le Carré
George Smiley came into the world as a very different kind of spy, one perfectly adapted to the crepuscular realm of cold war intrigue. He appeared the same year as the Berlin Wall in Call for the Dead (1961), the first novel by his creator, John le Carré. The book …

The Kurds Are Nearly There

Kurdish peshmerga fighters at the front line during a battle with Islamic State militants near Mosul, Iraq, October 2016

From Tribe to Nation: Iraqi Kurdistan on the Cusp of Statehood

a report by Amberin Zaman

The Kurds: A Modern History

by Michael M. Gunter
The dream of a national homeland is one that all Kurds share, no matter where they currently live. For the past century—ever since World War I brought about the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the subsequent creation of new nation-states that excluded Kurdish aspirations—they have yearned in vain. Yet now circumstances have conspired to bring the Kurds—or some of them, at least—closer to achieving a workable state than at any other time in recent memory.

The Force of Nostalgia

Rey (Daisy Ridley) freeing the droid BB-8 from the net of the scavenger Teedo and his semi-mechanical Luggabeast in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

a film directed by J.J. Abrams
I’d expected the theater to be populated by teenagers in Jedi robes and white plastic armor, but most of the audience looked pretty much like us: middle-aged moms and dads and their offspring. The uniquely broad demographic appeal of the Star Wars universe probably goes a long way toward explaining the astounding success of the film.


The Autocrats’ Diplomat?

Rex Tillerson, secretary of state nominee and former ExxonMobil CEO, during his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing, Washington, D.C., January 11, 2017

What does it mean when the man chosen to run the State Department has no experience in government but ample experience doing business with dictators of every stripe? Given what we know so far, it is possible to imagine two possible directions Rex Tillerson’s tenure as secretary of state could go.

My Star Wars

Opening day of George Lucas's Star Wars at Grauman's Chinese theater, May 25, 1977

What a lot of the current rumination about the Star Wars franchise misses is the way the original movie stood out from the rest of Seventies filmmaking. All we knew was that we’d just seen something amazingly fresh and we left the theater feeling mysteriously liberated.

Burma: How Much Change?

An illustration of Aung San Suu Kyi, chair of the National League for Democracy (NLD), at the NLD party headquarters in Rangoon, Burma, November 13, 2015

“Change” is a word that crops up in many conversations in Burma these days. After decades of struggle Aung San Suu Kyi has achieved her greatest triumph—her NLD appears to have won an overwhelming 80 percent of parliamentary seats—one can only hope that she will wield her mandate to the best effect, and that she can successfully overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of the transformation her voters want.

A Poor Imitation of Alan Turing

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, 2014

The Imitation Game, the new film about the mathematician and codebreaker Alan Turning, seems determined to suggest maximum tension between him and a blinkered society. But this completely destroys any coherent telling of what Turing and his colleagues were trying to do.