The Revolutions of 1989

By Vladimir Tismaneanu | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Vladimir Tismaneanu

By a felicitous coincidence, this volume appears precisely ten years after the world-shattering series of events widely known as the revolutions of 1989. During that year, what appeared to be an immutable, ostensibly inexpugnable system, collapsed with a breath-taking velocity. And this happened not because of external blows (although external pressure did matter), as in the case of Nazi Germany, but as a consequence of the development of insoluble inner tensions. The Leninist systems were terminally sick, and the disease affected first and foremost their capacity for selfregeneration. After decades of flirting with the ideas of intrasystemic reforms, it had become clear that communism did not have resources for readjustment and that the solution lay not within but outside, and even against the existing order.

The demise (implosion) of the Soviet Union, consummated before the incredulous eyes of the world in December 1991, was directly and intimately related to the previous dissolution of the East European “outer empire” provoked by the revolutions of 1989. No matter how we regard or value these events, it is now obvious that the historical cycle inaugurated by World War I, the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia in October 1917 and the long European ideological warfare that followed had come to an end. 1 The importance of these revolutions cannot therefore be over-estimated: they represented the triumph of civic dignity and political morality over ideological monism, bureaucratic cynicism and police dictatorship. Rooted in an individualistic concept of freedom, programmatically skeptical of all ideological blueprints for social engineering, these revolutions were, at least in their first stage, liberal and nonutopian. 2 Unlike traditional revolutions they did not originate in a doctrinarist vision of the perfect society and rejected the role of any self-appointed vanguard in directing the activities of the masses. No political party headed their spontaneous momentum and in their early stage they even insisted on the need to create new political forms, different from ideologically defined, traditional party differentiations. The fact that the aftermath of these revolutions has been plagued by ethnic strifes, unsavory political bickering,

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The Revolutions of 1989
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Causes 17
  • 1 - What Happened in Eastern Europe in 1989? 19
  • 2 - Amidst Moving Ruins 51
  • 3 - What Was Socialism, and Why Did It Fall? 63
  • Part II - Meaning 87
  • 4 - The Breakdown of Communist Regimes 89
  • 5 - The Year of Truth 108
  • 6 - The Meanings of 1989 125
  • 7 - Nineteen Eighty-Nine: the End of Which European Era? 165
  • 8 - The Legacy of Dissent 181
  • 9 - Overcoming Totalitarianism 198
  • Part III - Future 203
  • 10 - The Future of Liberal Revolution 205
  • 11 - The Leninist Legacy 213
  • 12 - The Post-Totalitarian Blues 231
  • 13 - The Velvet Restoration 244
  • 14 - The Neighbors of Kafka: Intellectual's Note from the Underground 252
  • 15 - Is Communism Returning? 258
  • Index 263
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