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Tag: 1989

Remembering 1989: Sometimes, the goddess of democracy doesn’t triumph

As we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the events that led to the reunification not only of Germany, but also of Europe, we would be wise to recall the cautionary message of those who sacrificed their lives on Tiananmen Square.

May 14, 2019 - Matthew Kott

The Polish Round Table. A bird’s-eye view

Today, the 1989 Round Table is still a topic of an important discussion in Poland, one that in the last years has become more intense than before. Many participants of the discussion are still active in Polish political life, including former presidents and prime ministers. A majority of them stress the positive aspects of the negotiations. Yet the Round Table has always had fierce critics.

The Polish Round Table negotiations, which started in February 1989, were one of those events whose meaning was not clear from the very beginning. In a way, we can compare this moment of Polish history to Julius Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon in 49 BC, after he ignored the order of the senators who were well aware of his high ambitions and wanted to keep him away from Rome. It marked the beginning of the end of the Roman republic, while from that moment on, the phrase “crossing the Rubicon” refers to a decision, or a historical event, which brings about irreversible consequences.

May 2, 2019 - Paulina Codogni

The bodies of the Velvet revolution. Remembering 1989 in the Czech Republic

During the 1990s, the commemoration of November 17th 1989 was dominated by the generation of witnesses and former dissidents. Today, it is mostly in the hands of the younger generation that did not directly participate in the events of 1989; they must find other ways to formulate the significance of the commemoration.

Národní Street in Prague has become a place of commemoration of the last Czech (Czechoslovak) great historical turning point – the fall of the communist regime. On November 17th 1989 a student march was violently repressed here. This event triggered nationwide social changes leading to the fall of state socialism. The two authors of this article do not have the events of November 1989 in their living memory, yet in our teenage years, the surge of our parents’ generation was the closest one can get to the so-called “great history”.

May 2, 2019 - Čeněk Pýcha Václav Sixta

No bloody revolution

The year 1989 unfolded quite differently for Hungary than the rest of the Central European states where there was some sort of revolution. As opposed to all other countries in the Eastern bloc, the new political system that came into place was seemingly designed in advance.

The consensual term for the historical events that took place in Hungary in 1989 is rendszerváltás. In Hungarian it literally means “changing of the system”, as in Changing of the Guards. There are two other versions: rendszerváltozás (“the change of the system”, using an intransitive verb) and rendszerváltoztatás (“making the system change”, with a transitive and causative verb), reflecting some politico-linguistic subtleties that may be hard to grasp for a non-Hungarian speaker. The word “system” has special Hungarian connotations here, meaning the constitutional order or form of state.

May 2, 2019 - János Széky

Beyond nostalgia

The 30th anniversary of the fall of communism is an important milestone for Romania. Yet this anniversary is not present within the public space. Instead, today’s challenges appear to be far more pressing for society.

For many Romanians, the fall of the communist regime in 1989 was an unexpected moment that brought hope for a different way of life and a better future. Nicolae Manolescu, a Romanian literary critic, public intellectual and politician in The Right to Normality (published in 1991) pleaded for the restoration of normalcy after the political, social and cultural “rupture” brought by the communist regime in Romania. But what did this “normality” mean, and who was asking for it?

May 2, 2019 - Eugen Stancu

Bulgaria’s taboo

In recent years, Bulgarians have gained better clarity about what happened during communism because of the efforts of researchers who dared dig up the dirt and make their findings available to a broader audience. And it is only now that the crimes of communism have been included in the mandatory school curriculum. This transparency is essential for understanding the political processes in Bulgaria post-1989.

I was born in Bulgaria in 1985, but I first learned about the particularities of communism in an academic setting in 2003 when I started university in the United States and enrolled in various classes on political science and history. Until then, my understanding of communism was entirely based on conversations with my family and the obscure samizdat books which my grandfather kept in his library.

May 2, 2019 - Radosveta Vassileva

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