Reinventing the Past: Stories about
Communism and the Transition to
a Market Economy in Romania
‘… who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’
(George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-four)
In recent years, the transition to a market economy in Central and Eastern Europe has received increased attention from researchers, particularly in terms of government democratization and economic reforms (Clark and Soulsby, 1995; Whitley et al., 1997). However less attention has been paid to the ‘private’ face of the transition in terms of how individuals make sense of these reforms and what may be its impact upon subjective experience. This chapter attempts to redress the balance by engaging with some of the processes by which individuals attempt to understand and cope with the day-to-day complexities of the transition in one Eastern European country that has received less attention in the literature, namely Romania. The central argument of the chapter is that the construction of the present is interwoven with the ways in which the immediate past, that is, the history of the communist regime, is rendered meaningful 1. The argument is resonant of Ricoeur's (1978) position (quoted in Alonso, 1988) that meaningfulness is neither fully linked to present nor totally contained in the present time but inextricably interwoven with representations of the past and present.
Hertzfeld (1987) argues that there are two types of histories: those produced by the state, that is, official histories, and those produced by the people themselves, that is, popular histories. Popular histories are