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.
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