In This Review

Modern Romania: The End of Communism, the Failure of Democratic Reform, and the Theft of a Nation
Modern Romania: The End of Communism, the Failure of Democratic Reform, and the Theft of a Nation
By Tom Gallagher
New York University, 2005, 432 pp.

Romanians, whatever their other disagreements, normally agree that the long interludes under foreign domination are to blame for the country's shortcomings. Wrong, says Gallagher. Over the last century and a half, whatever the genuine burdens imposed by outside overlords, Romania's stunted progress is owed mostly to self-seeking elites and "a fragmented and mutually distrustful society" that allowed the pilfering of the state at the expense of the common good. This has been going on for a long time, and never more egregiously than under the communists. Gallagher pulls no punches in taking the measure of the two postcommunist phases under Ion Iliescu, and even the 1996-2000 interim under putative reformers he judges a failure -- not least because the reformers "were in office, but not in power," an insight that sadly may apply elsewhere. Gallagher thinks in neat, clear categories and writes with a style to match.