Soros funds online journal

March 3, 2000

PRAGUE

George Soros's Internet Project has given a new lease of life to post communist Europe's only pan-regional journal of social and political analysis, Transitions.

Transitions Online was launched late last year after philanthropist Soros's Open Society Institute (OSI) ruled that the annual cost of Pounds 600,000 was too high to print the glossy monthly.

Jeremy Druker, editor-in-chief and director of the subscription-based journal, believes the new online version has the capacity to become a far more powerful resource for researchers, academics, policy institutes and others interested in the complex challenges that new Europe faces.

Working with a small multi- national team from cramped editorial offices in Prague, Mr Druker's vision is to make Transitions Online, "a super-site for the entire region".

"Anyone can use it as a one-stop shop to access information and analysis on the former communist countries," Mr Druker said.

Founded in 1994 as a forum for comparative analysis of the rapid changes in post-communist societies, Transitions gained a wide following in the international research community. It became valued for articles written by authors with native experience of their countries and regions and attracted a monthly readership estimated at about 30,000.

In 1998, Soros made a donation of Pounds 600,000 to fund the magazine. This grant was set to decrease by Pounds 125,000 each year to encourage self-financing initiatives. But little extra money was found and, following the August 1998 meltdown of Russian financial markets, which hit Soros hard, the philanthropist cut funding.

Undeterred, Mr Druker and three colleagues persuaded the OSI's Internet Project to give a "start-up grant of Pounds 100,000 to relaunch the magazine online".

By last summer, their first issue, dedicated to the Kosovo crisis, was on the web. Subscriptions now total 3,000. Monthly issues based around a single theme - for example, nuclear energy in the March 2000 issue - draw on correspondents and analysts throughout the region and further afield. Open Media Research Institute country surveys, considered the most useful research tools on the region, are also accessible to subscribers.

Jiri Pehe, director of Prague's New York University and a former political adviser to Czech president Vaclav Havel, said: "Transitions Online is a very important cross-reference tool for students of the region,although the fact that now it is being distributed electronically could be a problem as not everyone can access this medium in this region."

Additional grants came from the German-based Robert Bosch Foundation; the Westminster Foundation for Democracy; and the US Eurasia Foundation.

Transitions Online is at: www.transitions-online.org

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