Canada’s first political sex scandal was really a dud

Gerda Munsinger, allegedly a low-level Soviet spy, was sexually involved with at least one, and possibly two, cabinet ministers

Canada’s first political sex scandal was really a dudI’d been in Canada for just a few months when the Munsinger affair broke. In March 1966, John Diefenbaker – the former Progressive Conservative prime minister – was berating Liberal cabinet minister Lucien Cardin in the House of Commons on the subject of government laxity regarding security. Exasperated, Cardin struck back by raising the Munsinger…

Harold Macmillan and the fickleness of history

The onetime British PM’s apparent affable, avuncular nature masked a lethal ruthlessness

Harold Macmillan and the fickleness of historyHarold Macmillan, the onetime British prime minister, popped into mind a few days ago. Watching the problems in extricating the United Kingdom from the European Union reminded me that a humiliating failure to secure entry to that same entity’s predecessor was one of the things that drove Macmillan from office. Macmillan (1894-1986) was prime minister…

The unwelcome consequences of the collapse of empires

The demise of the German Hohenzollerns led to Hitler, while the collapse of the Austrian Habsburgs gave rise to malignant nationalism

The unwelcome consequences of the collapse of empires​November marks the political demise of two imperial dynasties, the German Hohenzollerns and the Austrian Habsburgs. Like the Russian Romanovs and the Turkish Ottomans, they were casualties of the First World War. The Romanovs were the first to go, upended by the war-induced 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Of course, the case can be made that what…

The abysmal scorecard of socialist revolutions

Real communism has failed repeatedly to provide better living conditions. Why do countries like Venezuela persist?

The abysmal scorecard of socialist revolutionsNineteen years ago, ex-general Hugo Chavez came into power in Venezuela, vowing that a “Bolivarian revolution” based on communist principles would improve the lives of his people. Today, millions of Venezuelans are fleeing their homes looking for food, medicine or employment in neighbouring countries. Inflation is out of control. In a country with perhaps the…

Ronald Reagan’s remarkable mission to Moscow

The American president's loathing for nuclear weapons and his desire to see new freedoms in the Soviet Union framed his trip

Ronald Reagan’s remarkable mission to MoscowLate in his presidency, Ronald Reagan went to Moscow for a visit that generated some dramatic images and memorable moments. If you’d predicted this when he was elected in 1980, most people – pundits and experts especially – would’ve scoffed at you. Reagan, so the narrative went, was a dangerous cowboy, a warmonger and a…

Stalin’s Moscow show trials a blind spot for western intellectuals

The eagerness of western intellectuals to justify the Moscow show trials of the late '30s was what was truly frightening about them

Stalin’s Moscow show trials a blind spot for western intellectualsThe infamous Moscow show trials ended 80 years ago this month. Based on fabricated charges of treason, Josef Stalin systematically eliminated virtually all of the remaining Old Bolsheviks, clearing away potential rivals and consolidating his power in the Soviet Union. The first trial began in August 1936, the second in January 1937 and the third…

The pope, the president and the resurrection of Poland

Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan shared a vision of an independent Poland. Together, they helped the country break free from the Soviet bloc

The pope, the president and the resurrection of PolandIn a recent column, I wrote about Poland’s 20th century tragedy, culminating in the “betrayal” to Josef Stalin at the February 1945 Yalta Conference. So it’s appropriate to finish the story by writing about Poland’s resurrection. While the Poles were the main players in this resurrection, they did have external help. Changing circumstances in the Soviet…

Lithuania a country caught between two worlds

A letter from Lithuania: Its history is one of struggle and compromise. Now it's looking to the future and its options with caution

Lithuania a country caught between two worldsVilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is a charmingly historic European city that tells a chilling tale of sorrow. Our hotel, directly across from Lukiškės Square (formally Lenin Square and, yes, the statue is gone), stands opposite the Genocido aukų muziejus, a museum dedicated to preserving the memory of the many victims of Soviet cruelty. This…

Communism’s pernicious influence persists despite the best evidence

On the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, some romantics still embrace the fallacies of communism and its sister socialism

Communism’s pernicious influence persists despite the best evidenceA number of Canadian newspapers recently noted the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. The attention was misplaced and lacked perspective. In 1917, a small band of fierce, committed and violent extremists seized control of the Tsarist Russian Empire. They then created the much more oppressive and murderous Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. After the success…

Was the Ukrainian Red Famine genocide or incompetence?

Historians are divided on Josef Stalin’s intent in the Ukraine that resulted in millions of deaths. Anne Applebaum’s new book has revived the dispute

Was the Ukrainian Red Famine genocide or incompetence?Chances are Anne Applebaum’s Red Famine will set the cat among the pigeons with respect to the horrendous Ukrainian hunger of 1932-33. It’s already touched off a rhetorical skirmish between the author and an early reviewer. Applebaum is an American journalist-historian whose Gulag: A History won a 2004 Pulitzer Prize. Russia is a particular specialty of…