The Populist Curtain

Episodes

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01Poland and Hungary20190416

In 1946, Winston Churchill coined a memorable phrase: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the continent,” he said. Today the Soviet Union has gone, but populist parties are in government in every country along the route of the Iron Curtain, as defined by Churchill. In this series, political scientist Yascha Mounk travels that route, and finds out what is changing under these new governments in smaller cities, far away from the capitals. He speaks to supporters and opponents of the populist parties and builds up a complex picture of Europe in a time of flux.

Yascha begins in the north in the Polish city of Szczecin (Stettin) – where Solidarity was originally created. Today the PIS party governs the country, with its appeal to traditional religious values and social conservatism. Critics say it is attacking independent institutions, especially the judiciary. Szczecin saw vigorous protest against a law restricting abortion. He stays on the former Eastern side of the curtain by travelling on to Sopron, Hungary – the site of the picnic which led to the first mass breach of the Iron Curtain, then to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Victor Orban’s Fidesz party is accused of attacking civil society and the freedom of the press in his pursuit of an “illiberal democracy” – but there are forces fighting back locally.

Producer: Kate Lamble

Meeting the populists governing European nations along the Iron Curtain\u2019s route

Political scientist Yascha Mounk travels the route of the Iron Curtain.

01Poland and Hungary2019041620190421 (R4)

In 1946, Winston Churchill coined a memorable phrase: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the continent,” he said. Today the Soviet Union has gone, but populist parties are in government in every country along the route of the Iron Curtain, as defined by Churchill. In this series, political scientist Yascha Mounk travels that route, and finds out what is changing under these new governments in smaller cities, far away from the capitals. He speaks to supporters and opponents of the populist parties and builds up a complex picture of Europe in a time of flux.

Yascha begins in the north in the Polish city of Szczecin (Stettin) – where Solidarity was originally created. Today the PIS party governs the country, with its appeal to traditional religious values and social conservatism. Critics say it is attacking independent institutions, especially the judiciary. Szczecin saw vigorous protest against a law restricting abortion. He stays on the former Eastern side of the curtain by travelling on to Sopron, Hungary – the site of the picnic which led to the first mass breach of the Iron Curtain, then to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Victor Orban’s Fidesz party is accused of attacking civil society and the freedom of the press in his pursuit of an “illiberal democracy” – but there are forces fighting back locally.

Producer: Kate Lamble

Meeting the populists governing European nations along the Iron Curtain\u2019s route

Political scientist Yascha Mounk travels the route of the Iron Curtain.

02Austria and Italy20190423

In 1946, Winston Churchill coined a memorable phrase: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the continent,” . Today the Soviet Union has gone, but populist parties are in government in every country along the route of the Iron Curtain, as defined by Churchill. In this series, political scientist Yascha Mounk travels that route, and finds out what is changing under these new governments in smaller cities, far away from the capitals. He speaks to supporters and opponents of the populist parties and builds up a complex picture of Europe in a time of flux.

In this episode, Yascha stays in countries which were on the West of the former Iron Curtain. Graz in Austria is the birthplace of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Here, populists have been brought into the fold – with the coalition between the centre-right Austrian People's Party and the far-right Freedom Party of Austria running the country. But Graz subverts expectations: the Communist Party is locally strong here too. His journey ends in the Italian city of Trieste, which was contested city after both WWI and WWII. Here Italy’s peculiar coalition between the Five Star and Lega parties is accused of attacking minorities and immigrants. Will Italy’s numerous smaller opposition parties manage to unite against the coalition?

Producer: Kate Lamble

Meeting the populists governing European nations on the route of the former Iron Curtain

Political scientist Yascha Mounk travels the route of the Iron Curtain.

02Austria and Italy2019042320190428 (R4)

In 1946, Winston Churchill coined a memorable phrase: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the continent,” . Today the Soviet Union has gone, but populist parties are in government in every country along the route of the Iron Curtain, as defined by Churchill. In this series, political scientist Yascha Mounk travels that route, and finds out what is changing under these new governments in smaller cities, far away from the capitals. He speaks to supporters and opponents of the populist parties and builds up a complex picture of Europe in a time of flux.

In this episode, Yascha stays in countries which were on the West of the former Iron Curtain. Graz in Austria is the birthplace of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Here, populists have been brought into the fold – with the coalition between the centre-right Austrian People's Party and the far-right Freedom Party of Austria running the country. But Graz subverts expectations: the Communist Party is locally strong here too. His journey ends in the Italian city of Trieste, which was contested city after both WWI and WWII. Here Italy’s peculiar coalition between the Five Star and Lega parties is accused of attacking minorities and immigrants. Will Italy’s numerous smaller opposition parties manage to unite against the coalition?

Producer: Kate Lamble

Meeting the populists governing European nations on the route of the former Iron Curtain

Political scientist Yascha Mounk travels the route of the Iron Curtain.