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Author: Adam Reichardt

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

We must not forget the values we fought for in 1989

Interview with Markus Meckel, a German theologian and politician. Interviewer: Kristin Aldag

KRISTIN ALDAG: As an active member of the opposition in East Germany, you were very much involved in the events of the peaceful revolution in 1989. What was the most influential moment or event for you that year?

MARKUS MECKEL: It was a very moving year for me. At the beginning of the year, together with a friend who, like me, was a Protestant pastor, I decided to set up a social democratic party in East Germany. That was, of course, a daring idea, because establishing a political party in the communist GDR was completely illegal. On the other hand, the establishment of the Social Democratic Party was an attack on the ruling Socialist Unity Party’s self-understanding since it had defined itself as a union of the working class of social democrats and communists.

May 2, 2019 - Kristin Aldag Markus Meckel

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

The curse of perestroika

Perestroika spawned entrepreneurship and readiness to undertake independent actions. It broadened access to managing the country and created the ground for creativity and innovation from one side. However from the other side it opened the Pandora’s Box of social, ethnic, national, economic and territorial conflicts.

It became common in Russia to remember Mikhail Gorbachev only in the negative sense and to blame him for the “breakup of the Soviet Union” and further troubles of Russia. Only one person was worse than him – Boris Yeltsin – and nothing was possible to do with this stereotype. However this year has seen a new trend – on March 2nd, Gorbachev’s birthday, positive comments and wishes for long life were posted on Facebook and other blogs. He was thanked for perestroika, for the freedom he gave and the opportunities he provided. At such moments one becomes witness to how eras change: a new generation is emerging.

May 2, 2019 - Anastasia Sergeeva

Vladimir Putin. What’s left to say?

A review of We need to talk about Putin. How the West gets him wrong. By: Mark Galeotti. Publisher: Penguin Random House, United Kingdom, 2019.

May 2, 2019 - Adam Reichardt

Accidental borders and blurred identities

A review of The Caucasus. An Introduction. Second edition. By Thomas de Waal. Publisher: Oxford University Press, 2019.

May 2, 2019 - Krzysztof Strachota

The taste of evil

A review of Błoto Słodsze Niż Miód. Głosy Komunistycznej Albanii (Mud is sweeter than honey. Voices in communist Albania). By: Małgorzata Rejmer. Publisher: Wydawnictwo Czarne, Wołowiec Poland, 2018.

May 2, 2019 - Małgorzata Nocuń

The unheard voices of war

A review of Інтернат (The Boarding School). By: Serhiy Zhadan. Publisher: Meridian, Chernivtsi, Ukraine.

May 2, 2019 - Zbigniew Rokita

Talk Eastern Europe episode 11: Armenia – Talking ‘bout a revolution

In this episode hosts Adam Reichardt and Maciek Makulski sit down with Richard Giragosian, director of the Regional Studies Center in Yerevan to talk about recent developments in Armenia.

April 18, 2019 - Adam Reichardt Maciej Makulski

Talk Eastern Europe episode 10: The comedian wins the first round in Ukraine

Our tenth episode of Talk Eastern Europe is dedicated to the results of the first round of the presidential election in Ukraine which took place on March 31st 2019 and saw comedian and showman Volodymyr Zelenskiy come in first place with over 30% of the vote; incumbent president Petro Poroshenko in second place with 15.95%; and Yulia Tymoshenko in third place with 13.4%.

April 11, 2019 - Adam Reichardt Maciej Makulski

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