16 FEBRUARY 1991, Page 38


Dominic Lawson writes: Two years ago we appealed to our readers to buy half-price subscriptions to The Specta- tor which we undertook to send to people in Poland. The scheme was immediately ridiculed by Mr Neal Ascherson in the Observer, who de- clared that the people of Eastern Europe needed technical medical jour- nals but did not need The Spectator; however, our readers reasoned not the need and generously contributed 184 subscriptions.

The response from our new Polish readers was overwhelmingly apprecia- tive. As one opposition politician wrote: 'I would like to thank you for this kind and thoughtful initiative, not only in my own name, but also in the name of all my friends with whom I share every issue of your excellent magazine'. Articles from The Specta- tor were frequently reproduced, in translation, in samizdat journals, and many of our Polish subscribers have since become prominent writers and editors in that country's new indepen- dent press.

After the astonishing events in East- ern Europe in the autumn of 1989 we not only renewed our appeal for gift subscriptions, but also broadened it to include Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Rumania. This time our readers excel- led themselves, contributing more than 500 subscriptions.

Of those, 110 now go to Rumania: we are particularly glad to be able to strengthen our links with Rumania in this way, since The Spectator was one of the few journals in the West to show a serious interest in the plight of that country in the years before Ceauses- cu's fall. Rumania's plight is still de- sperate, with shortages of food, fuel and medicine as severe as anything experienced under the old Communist tyranny.

Rumanians certainly need all these things — but they also need ideas from the West, attitudes, in- formation about how things are done and debated in a free country, exam- ples of independent quality journal- ism, and, for that matter, descriptions of their own country as seen through Western eyes. Several of our recent articles about that country have been reprinted within Rumania; one of them, Noel Malcolm's article on the miners' pogrom in Bucharest in June, was reprinted in the leading Rumanian independent magazine, '22', with an estimated readership of 500,000. We have had many letters from Rumanian readers thanking us for their subscrip- tions, but, in some cases, asking us not to publish their names — a sign that old fears have still not disappeared.

The eventual solution of Rumania's problems can only come from the internal political development of that country, which depends in turn on the development of a political culture, a culture of attitudes and ideas. If we can aid that development in any way we shall be glad, and gladder still if we can also be a source of sheer entertain- ment and interest to our individual readers there. Although there is a hunger for Western writing of all kinds among Rumanians, they necessarily depend on our generousity to receive it: at unofficial rates (which must presumably come closer to the real rate of exchange), the average annual wage in Rumania is roughly £150.

As in previous years, The Spectator will make no profit from these gift subscriptions, which are at the special- ly reduced rate of £38.50. Also as before, names and addresses of reci- pients will be supplied by the Mihai Eminescu Trust, the Jagiellonian Trust and the Stefan Batory Trust. We are also happy to send subscriptions to people in all these countries (and Bulgaria and the Soviet Union) chosen by readers, so long as they supply us with their full addresses.

'Compassion fatigue' is an all too familiar thing. We can assure readers that there are no signs of gratitude fatigue among our East European subscribers; so we beg all our kind donors to redouble their generosity this year. John Simpson, whose name you will recognise from his excellent articles from the Gulf for The Specta- tor, has started the ball rolling with a gift of 20 subscriptions to Rumania.


I would like to give subscription/s to an individual or institution in Eastern Europe at the subsidised rate of £38.50 per annual subscription.

Name Address If you wish to give the name and address of a particular individual please enclose it with your payment. As we wish to add all the names to our computer at the same time please reply by February 28th, 1991.

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