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.
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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