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Leonid Bershidsky

The Politics of Garbage Are Lifting Eastern Europe

New liberal leaders like President-elect Zuzana Caputova of Slovakia are emerging from landfill-protest movements. Not even Putin is immune.

Up from the dumps.

Up from the dumps.

Photographer: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg

If you’re wondering where a new crop of liberal eastern European political leaders might come from as the region succumbs to nationalism and corruption, check out the garbage dumps. Slovakia’s president-elect, Zuzana Caputova, acquired her political skills around one. 

Caputova comes from Pezinok, a small town in wine-growing country half an hour from the capital, Bratislava. In 1997, the town decided to use a pit left over from an old brickworks for a landfill. The project quickly got out of hand.