Planting Liberty’s Seeds in the Former Communist Bloc

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Student graduates and a few organizers of the Gonio, Georgia “Lessons of Liberty” camp pose for a group shot.

Glenn Cripe, President and Director of the Language of Liberty Institute (LLI) and ISIL Director Lobo Tiggre spoke at the Williamsburg conference about their efforts to spread libertarian ideas to groups of young people at week-long summer camps in Central and Eastern Europe.

In early July of each year Cripe’s organization runs the annual (and original) “Liberty English Camp” in Lithuania. These camps were founded in 1997 by Steve Browne and ISIL’s Lithuanian Rep. Virgis Daukas – and have received along the way important assistance from many ISIL members, including Kevin Bjornson, Ken and Li Schoolland, and Lobo Tiggre. Both Cripe and Andy Eyschen joined the project in 2004, and formed LLI in 2005 to continue the camp and spread it to new countries.

Jaroslav Romanchuk, another long-time member of both ISIL and LLI, runs the Mises Scientific Research Foundation in Minsk, Belarus. For several years he has brought a group of 25 Belarusian students from behind the new Iron Curtain to join 25 Lithuanians at the camp – which is usually held at the lakeside resort town of Trakai, 28 km west of Vilnius.

The objective of the Liberty English Camps is to provide students in Central and Eastern Europe an opportunity to develop their English skills – via intensive interactions with native speakers (while discussing classical liberal ideas and learning more about freedom and civil society).

     Texts used are libertarian-oriented – Henry Hazlitt, Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand, Adam Smith, speeches by dissidents, and the like.

The camps have been extremely popular with students who are hungry for the ideas of liberty and who have shown particular enthusiasm for the libertarian message. For many, the camps have been their first opportunity to discuss the ideas of liberty freely and they have found the experience overwhelming.

     This year LLI opened a new Liberty English Camp in Slovakia, near the town of Liptovsky Mikulas in the Low Tatra Mountains. 25 students attended from Slovakia, Poland, Belarus and the Czech Republic.

     Much of the organizational work was done by local partners – the Institute of Economic and Social Studies in Bratislava, and the KoLiber student organization in Poland. (Radovan Durana of INESS was a speaker at the Prague conference in 2006 – Ed.).

Due to the success of the camp, it will be repeated in June 2008. In addition, the KoLiber students were motivated to start planning a third Liberty English Camp to be held in Poland in September 2008.

Over the years, several other people have been sufficiently inspired by their camp experiences to organize similar events in their own countries. Barun Mitra, ISIL’s rep in New Delhi, India, regularly organizes a camp in the foothills of the Himalayas. This year, Paata Sheshelidze at the New Economic School (a public policy thinktank) decided to start a camp in the Republic of Georgia. He held his camp at Gonio on the Black Sea, called it “Lessons of Liberty” and invited 70 students (many of whom spoke little or no English) from Georgia and nearby countries. Providing valuable experience and assistance were Kevin Bjornson, Lobo Tiggre, and the Schoollands. Paata’s team conducted lectures and classes on libertarian ideas in both English and Russian, and brought in several Belarusian alumni of the Lithuanian Liberty English Camp to lead the discussions in Russian.

Lobo Tiggre took a suitcase full of books with him to Georgia to give to interested students. Much to his delight, he said he was almost run over by the stampede when he announced that the pile of books in the back of the hall was for them, gratis. “You don’t see this kind of eagerness in the West,” he lamented.

Cripe explained that people in Central Europe today have a special sense of history and opportunity because during most of their history they have not enjoyed the kind of freedom and self-rule that they have today – and they’re not sure how long this window of opportunity is going to last. They want to make the most of it and are eager to start schools, start businesses, write and translate books and publish.

Other long-time supporters of the camps include ISIL (of course), Europe’s Libertarian International, the Lithuanian Free Market Institute and the International Republican Institute. And the camps provide a golden opportunity for ISIL’s recently-acquired Laissez Faire books to help build movements in these former slave states through book donations.

ISIL members are encouraged to help support the camps. These very bright and highly motivated young people will be the leaders of tomorrow. Your donations to ISIL for student scholarships to both the Liberty English Camps and ISIL’s world conferences are tax-deductible in the USA.

We often provide scholarships for students at the English camps to attend ISIL conferences where they can test their improved English skills and meet top international libertarians. And as an added bonus, many camp “graduates” have become active libertarians, creating new organizations and publications.

We will be providing more information on the 2008 camps in future issues of the Freedom Network News – and on the ISIL website.

Organizers of educational youth camps with a focus on entrepreneurship, free market economics and classical liberal philosophy.

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