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LES ECHOS

How France Still Pays For Bad City Planning In The Middle Ages

The English chose to build their towns next to rivers. The French instead built on the ruins of Roman cities. A look at how these centuries-old decisions have impacted today's economy.

The medieval center of Dijon in eastern France
The medieval center of Dijon in eastern France
Jean-Marc Vittori

PARISWhat if all of France's current economic and social problems were the fault of Julius Caesar? Could the nation be suffering from weaknesses that have been concealed for two millenniums?

These strange questions have captivated many people on voxeu.org, an interesting European website for ongoing economic debates. The most-read article last month compared the settlement of cities in France and in England — under the Roman Empire and during the Middle Ages. Of course, it may seem scatterbrained to study such a topic amid an economic slowdown, social tragedies and populist temptation. But it may help to understand the economy better.

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War In Ukraine, Day 90: Three Months Since The Start Of A War That’s Changed The World

Vladimir Putin had planned to roll through Ukraine and splinter the West. While it has not gone according to plan, the destruction and uncertainty left in the path of the invasion has shaken the world.

A soldier of special forces of Ukraine displays his tattoos

Anna Akage and Emma Albright

Few will forget waking up to the news that Thursday morning in February. It was, exactly three months ago, in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 24, when Vladimir Putin sent his armies, missiles and fighter jets across Ukraine’s borders, from points north and east, launching a full-scale invasion of a sovereign nation of 44 million.

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It has, by all accounts, not gone as Putin had planned: the Ukrainian military resisting the much larger, better-equipped Russian invaders; the West unified in its support of Kyiv, through arms shipments and harsh sanctions against Moscow; steadily rising opposition at home.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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