Category Archives: Comment

An Actress to Watch Out For

credit-unatcroThis article was also published in Romanian on Hotnews.

Whenever a great Romanian actor dies someone tells me that this is the latest chapter in the decline of Romanian drama.  Romanians can be very negative about their future and this negativity is projected onto the arts where they tend to see a glorious past and a miserable future.  But I am not Romanian and I don’t share these views.

I am from Edinburgh, a city which hosts the world’s biggest theatre festival but is actually a deeply un-cultural place where alcohol and football are far more important than arts.  (If you want to understand Scotland, read Irvine Welsh.)   Like most of my compatriots I know little about acting and have no comment about the ancient Romanian actors whom people here hold so dearly.  But whenever I go to a Romanian play or film, which is rarely as I am unable to resist the escapist attractions of Hollywood, I see great young actors. I recently saw Periphery and was mesmerized by the charisma of Ana Ularu. Continue reading

British Comedy in Bucharest

comedy-copy-2nd-april-e1300778516839This article was also published in Romanian on Hotnews.

The most interesting thing about “British Comedy Night”, which takes place on the first Saturday of each month, is the street.  Strada Gabroveni is the last street in Bucharest’s Lipscani area (the old town) that is still “under construction” (i.e. in total chaos). Michael Fraser, the manager of the Mojo Club and the organizer of British comedy in Romania, says “It’s the worst street in Bucharest”.

If you are tired of the uniformity of the streets of Bucharest go to Strada Gabroveni at night. It’s a trip to another dimension.  I savoured the uneven earth surface, the total absence of cars, the dark empty buildings, the wooden boards that people wobble drunkenly along, the orange pipes that spew crazily out of the ground and the contrast with the Cocor Shopping Centre, which is a vast TV screen at the end of the street. With music pumping out of a dozen clubs and images of high fashion being flashed down the street from Cocor, I felt like I was in a scene from Blade Runner. Continue reading

How to Prepare for an Earthquake


This article was also published in Romanian on

I have just walked away from a really annoying talk show on one of Romania’s news channels with a feeling of déjà vu.  Every time there is a natural disaster somewhere in the world the news channels quickly dig up politicians, experts and indignant journalists who proceed to blame each other for not doing anything to prepare Bucharest for the coming quake. None of this intense media scrutiny will translate into policy, political will, or anything that will make a difference.

Now Japan dominates the TV news.  This time last year it was the Chilean quake and ProTV did a rather good campaign about how well prepared the Chileans were for their quake. In Chile the people who invest in a building are forever responsible for its structural integrity, whereas in Romania scores of people (in other words nobody) are responsible for construction standards.  Nothing came of this and building standards in this country remain overly complex and completely unenforced, and nobody knows if the buildings that have gone up in the last 20 years will withstand the next big quake. Continue reading

Ordo Quod Chaos

casa-poporului-crw_11298bwThis article was also published in Romanian, on the Dilema Veche website.

My view of Romania over the last 10 years is that it has been developing in a steady, predictable and incremental manner.  The key policies of capitalism which were put into place almost immediately after the 1989 revolution – free elections/press/travel, rule of law, property rights – have been steadily strengthened. Every few years there were rumours in the media that Iliescu, Nastase or Basescu are about to become dictators, but each of these has proven to be a chimera; each one of these leaders has done a bit to consolidate this stability. Continue reading

What’s Twitter For?

twitterOver the last year I’ve become a keen user of Twitter.  My friends and family make disparaging remarks such as “Twitter is for self promotional egomaniacs” and “Why don’t you use Facebook like the rest of us?”  But I don’t mind such criticism as most of those who make them have either not used Twitter or are not suited to it.

Everyone’s heard of Twitter but not everyone knows what it is. A two word definition is that it’s a “Micro Blog”, in other words a means of publishing short statements.  Its unique feature is that you can only write 140 characters (about a line and a half of text on a Word document). And that’s it. The discipline and challenge of Twitter is to Continue reading

Crisis? What crisis?

greva_generalaSomething strange happened to me last week.  I was at the recycling bins with my 7 year old son Luca (who likes to practice karate chops on chunks of polystyrene) when a garbage truck pulled over. Two fat guys got out, wandered over and helped us to load our Ikea waste into the containers. I couldn’t understand it, what on earth had got into them? I’m used to garbage men being morose and sarcastic, reluctantly moving the waste they’re hired to shift but never lifting a finger to do more. Why were they suddenly being helpful? Could it be because of the crisis? Are they afraid for their jobs? Continue reading

Romania risks HIV epidemic

hivRomania’s Ministry of Health stands accused of abandoning those who are suffering from the HIV virus as the “anti-retroviral” medical supplies that have been keeping them alive for many years are about to run out. In addition, the needle exchange programme that has been supplying thousands of injecting drug users in Bucharest is about to end.

“We are extremely alarmed by information from Romania” writes the EU HIV/AIDS Civil Society Forum (an advisory body set up by the European Commission), “the supply of antiretroviral treatment for People Living with HIV is not assured – with some patients having treatment interruption of over a month now, and patients living in rural areas travelling to the capital to queue up in front of the main hospital to obtain treatment”. Continue reading

The Romanian Tourism Trap

kalnoky_guesthouseWhenever the words “tourism” and “Romania” are mentioned in a discussion the word “potential” is sure to follow: it is generally agreed among those who know and love this country that Romania has huge potential as a tourist destination, but it is equally clear that Romania has failed miserably to build on this potential over the last 20 years. Continue reading

Does Serbia need a brand?

beograd_april-08-26When discussions about promoting Serbia take place the following comment often comes up: “shouldn’t we develop a country brand?” The short answer is “NO”.  I am from Scotland, I now live in Romania, and I would like to share my opinion of branding countries.  I hope that Serbia can learn from the mistakes of others.

A lot of money has been wasted by successive Romanian Governments in developing absurd country brands and it certainly hasn’t resulted in more tourists or investors.  Their most recent slogan was “Romania – Land of Choices” and I am still trying to work out what it means. Continue reading

Waiting for 2012

peak_oilI was asked to write an article for Dilema Veche on the theme “what can we expect in 2010?” and this is what I think.  But what do you think? Please leave your comments below. Rupert Wolfe Murray

This year will be much like 2009: political infighting, economic crises and passive discontent.  Nothing new or useful can be expected from the new government and the media will be filled with the arguments and illicit affairs of Romania’s irresponsible leaders. Continue reading