Revolution and Resistance in Eastern Europe: Challenges to Communist Rule

Revolution and Resistance in Eastern Europe: Challenges to Communist Rule

Revolution and Resistance in Eastern Europe: Challenges to Communist Rule

Revolution and Resistance in Eastern Europe: Challenges to Communist Rule

Synopsis

The history of Eastern Europe during the Cold War is one punctuated by protest and rebellion. Revolution and Resistance in Eastern Europe covers these flashpoints from the Stalin-Tito split of 1948 to the dramatic collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Covering East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Poland and Romania, the authors provide comprehensive critical analysis of the varying forms of dissent in the East European socialist states. They take a comparative approach and show how the different movements affected one another. Incorporating archival material only accessible since 1989, they discuss issues such as the diverse manifestations of non-conformity among different strata of the population, the complex relationship between Moscow and the national Communist Parties, the loosening of Soviet control after 1985, and everyday resistance to state authority. This book offers a firm grounding in the tumultuous decades of communist rule, which is essential to understanding the contemporary politics of Eastern Europe.

Excerpt

Pavel Seifter

A distance of sixteen years from the revolutions of 1989 seems to offer sufficient space for serious reflection and recapitulation. Yet although a new generation has grown up in the meantime, it is still memory that dominates the debate over 1989, and also over 1968, 1956 and 1953 – right back to the war. While the cycle of active wartime memory is now closing after sixty years, the battlefield of Cold War memories, the memories of life and resistance under communism, is still alive and noisy.

But memory, by nature contentious and partisan, is a very unreliable and misleading guide to the past. Memory tends to confirm and reinforce itself – and in any case it is impossible to remember how it truly was: not only do people forget, they remember a past that they tend to perpetuate in the present. That is not necessarily a past that happened. Moreover there is no single memory of the past; many of these pasts are competing with, contradicting, fighting and excluding each other, often feverishly following contemporary political and ideological battle lines.

The instrument of true learning about the past can only be history disciplined by rigorous investigation and interrogation. Still relatively soon after 1989 (and the opening of the archives) the real story is emerging only slowly and in pieces. Most historians are busy researching and interpreting fragments in time, nation by nation, and approaching them from the various angles of their profession. Yet the story of what really went on in Eastern Europe in the past sixty years can only be understood in its complexity, as a whole and by keeping in mind that while revolts were attempted on the fringes, their fate was decided by strength or weakness and decline at the core of the system – in Moscow. And, in the end, 1989 will have to be seen not merely from inside communism and explained by its own mechanics. It will be seen as heralding the end of an epoch, first by the implosion of Communist Eastern Europe, followed by change everywhere, in the West, and globally. The world has moved from samizdat to virtual communication, and from barbed frontiers to global markets. First attempts to paint a comprehensive new picture of the time that has passed have been made only recently: for such a perspective history needs distance. This volume represents an important contribution to this process.

History can tame memory. It can ask the right questions and answer some. Revolution and resistance under communism will be revisited by every new generation of Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Romanians, Germans and others. History . . .

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