The symbols of communists are everywhere in the village of Pinarayi, India. (Vivek Singh for The Washington Post)

In this occasional series, The Washington Post brings you up to speed on some of the biggest stories of the week. First up: The few places where a communist can still dream.

The biggest story: Communism swept the globe. Only few traces remain.

Exactly a century has passed since communists first came to power. It happened in Russia, then reeling from three years of world war and the overthrow of Czar Nicholas II. Few outside Russia thought the communist government could last for long, but that “October Revolution” was in fact the vanguard — to use a favorite Communist term — of a worldwide movement, one that inspired millions around the globe and repelled millions more.

Read the timeline by Will Englund.


Where communists can still win elections

A century after Bolsheviks swarmed the Winter Palace in Petrograd, Russia (now St. Petersburg), the Indian state of Kerala, home to 35 million people, remains one of the few places on earth where a communist can still dream.

Instead of ossifying into an autocratic force, Kerala’s communists embraced electoral politics and since 1957 have been routinely voted into power. Instead of being associated with repression or failure, the party of Marx is widely associated with huge investments in education that have produced a 95 percent literacy rate, the highest in India, and a health-care system where citizens earning only a few dollars a day still qualify for free heart surgery. But can they survive their own success?

Read the full story by Greg Jaffe and Vidhi Doshi.

Four other important stories

North Korea is a ferocious holdout among the remaining communist nations, and its regime governs in a brutal and ruthless manner.

1. New images show North Korea’s extensive network of ‘re-education’ camps


No. 12 camp of Jongo-Ri in North Korea. (Google Earth)

The brutal treatment meted out to North Korea’s political prisoners has been well documented, but a new report, based on satellite images, portrays the extensive network of “re-education” camps used for less severe violations of Pyongyang’s penal code.

Anna Fifield has the full story.

2. In Turkey, a surprise-hit crime drama trades the glitter for grit

In countries with restrictive governments, the content of widely available movies is often closely monitored by authorities. Turkish movies have frequently reflected the priorities of Turkey’s leaders by amplifying nationalist rhetoric or, more recently, reviving the Ottoman historical legacy that is central to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s conservative Islamist appeal.

Now, a surprise-hit crime drama, “Sifir Bir,” trades the glitter for grit. The main characters are working-class anti-heroes. They preside over streets a million miles removed from the Turkey of travel brochures: neighborhoods that recall Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, long neglected by the government, where policemen feared to tread.

Read the full feature by Kareem Fahim and Zeynep Karatas in Adana, Turkey.

3. Gatekeepers say gender-neutral pronouns pose ‘deadly danger’ for French language

As Britain’s political system was shaken by sexual assault and harassment allegations among politicians this week, a French cultural institution appeared to outright defend sexism.

Unlike English — but like many other languages — French has precise rules on gender. Everything from professions to household objects are considered “male” or “female.” There is an effort underway to make the language a little less complex, and a little less, well, male-dominated. But the storied Académie Française, the guardian of the French language, argues that any such changes would pose a “mortal peril” to the tongue. Read the full story.

The episode ramped up tensions in a country where flirting is a way of life, and where a unique blend of Gallic machismo and age-old codes of chivalry can be seen in virtually every corner cafe, writes James McAuley in Paris.


A European Union flag in London on February 20. (Justin Tallis/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

4. Europe is considering a ban on either summer or winter time — but can’t decide which

European countries set their clocks back by one hour early Sunday morning, marking the start of winter time. Although a British effort to investigate whether abandoning daylight saving time would make sense led nowhere in 2010, a new push in the same direction by Poland and Finland is gaining momentum. The E.U. Commission is now considering the idea, even though member states so far cannot agree on whether Europe should be on permanent summer or winter time in the future.

Read the full story


Of course, the E.U. is also facing some other, bigger dilemmas. How will it negotiate Britain’s exit? How will recent elections in Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany shape it? Will Macron and Merkel push forward big reforms to the bloc?

In the coming weeks, we want to discuss these questions and more with you, and keep you updated all on the news from Berlin and elsewhere.

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