The Revolutions of 1989

By Vladimir Tismaneanu | Go to book overview

14

THE NEIGHBORS OF KAFKA: INTELLECTUAL'S NOTE FROM THE UNDERGROUND

Mircea Mihǎieş

This article, by Romanian author and critic Mircea Mihǎieş, was written in 1992, several years before the watershed November 1996 elections were won by the democratic forces. Mihǎieş's essay captures the dismay of the critical intellectuals in his country and the sentiments of despondency among those who had hoped that Romania's exit from Nicolae Ceauşescu's despotism would mean the end of communism. Of all the East European revolutions, only the Romanian one was violent. It was also only in Romania that the former communist dictator was summarily tried and executed. Many in Romania and abroad thought that these circumstances would result in the instant emergence of a most resolutely antitotalitarian regime. Paradoxically, however, the post-1989 government was made up of former party bureaucrats who did their utmost to preclude a genuine break with the past.

The essay's contrast between Václav Havel and Ion Iliescu (Ceauşescu's successor) is particularly poignant and disturbing: whereas the Czech leader embodies the best traditions of dissent, Iliescu's whole career and mindset reveal a stubborn commitment to Leninist authoritarianism. Illustrating the regional disparities that are also mentioned in Jacques Rupnik's contribution to this volume, Mihăieş's essay personalizes and memorializes the immediate political complexities and moral torments of the postcommunist, that is post-1989, transitions.

* * *

I have gathered notes from my own personal underground. The town I come from is situated in a semi-imaginary space I would call the East of Central Europe. And I am someone who is proud to have lived in Pericles's Golden Century. From this point of view, my essay may be considered a report on the life during neo-Periclism. My essay, “The Neighbors of

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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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