Remembering Communism: Private and Public Recollections of Lived Experience in Southeast Europe

Remembering Communism: Private and Public Recollections of Lived Experience in Southeast Europe

Remembering Communism: Private and Public Recollections of Lived Experience in Southeast Europe

Remembering Communism: Private and Public Recollections of Lived Experience in Southeast Europe

Synopsis

This volume provides an original contribution to the field of memory studies by addressing a hitherto less represented geo-cultural area, the Southeastern edge the former Communist bloc, Romania and Bulgaria. By focusing on the dynamics of the process of remembering, instead of scrutinizing "frozen" images of memory, the contributing scholars suggest an alternative way for studying memories of dictatorships. Through their research, they explore the linkages between experiences of Communism, the society-specific particularities of the transition process and the images of Communism that gradually emerged in the last two decades. Remembering Communism fills in an important gap in the literature of memory studies and connects its particular findings with broader issues of remembering Communism and dictatorships.

Excerpt

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The most remarkable thing about the spontaneous street demonstrations in different Bulgarian cities in February 2013 was not their surprising (and totally unexpected) success in toppling the center-right government of Boiko Borisov, but two features that made them unique: the demography of the protesters and their slogans. The crowd was mostly composed of young people, university and high-school students in their teens, and there was an almost complete avoidance of political sloganeering. The protests started over the high electricity bills, but were generally directed against the corruption of the political class, the arrogance of the nouveaux riches, and the abject poverty. Some of this was noticed in passing, but not given much weight. Yet, this was the most important lesson: the neoliberal covenant was broken, and there was no memory whatsoever of the past, no allusion to communism.

Political commentators were comparing the street protests to 1989 or 1997 (the fall of the socialist government of Videnov), and were bemoaning the potential for chaos and lack of political maturity. One journalist compared them

Instead of hailing it as an expression of political activism after decades of passivity, even anomie, the writer Georgi Gospodinov and other intellectuals patronizingly mused that this was not the way “to tame sorrow in a civilized society” and that it was a manifestation of a lack of civil society, reminiscent of ochlocracy (Georgi Gospodinov, “Vuprosut ne e koi shte plati smetkite, a koi shte plati provalenia zhivot,” Dnevnik, 23 February 2013, http://www.dnevnik.bg/ razvlechenie/2013/02/23/2008771_georgi_gospodinov_vuprosut_ne_e_koi_shte_plati/); see also Liubomir Martinov, “Doide li redut na bulgarskata tsvetna revoliutsia?,” Kultura, 1 March 2013, http://www.kultura.bg/bg/article/view/20671. In contrast, Gospodinov referred to the ongoing protests that started in June and which have turned increasingly into a theatrical happening, as a rebellion of the “beautiful,” “educated,” and “intelligent” (Georgi Gospodinov, “Bulgaria: Citizens Head Back to the Streets,” Presseurop, 19 June 2013, http://www.presseurop. eu/en/content/article/3895871-citizens-head-back-streets), in line with analyses (Georgi Ganev, “Kogato se nalivaha osnovite—v blatoto,” 24 chasa, 8 July 2013, http://www.24chasa. bg/Article.asp?ArticleId=2128990) which defined them as the rising of the middle class against the symbiotic alliance between oligarchy and poverty.

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