Between Utopia and Disillusionment: A Narrative of the Political Transformation in Eastern Europe

By Henri Vogt | Go to book overview

Notes

1. There has been a lively scholarly debate about the appropriate term for the events of 1989 — revolution, transformation, transition, Wende, or still something else. (Possibly the most comprehensive introduction to this debate can be found in Cirtautas 1997; cf. Tilly 1993: 234.) For the present study this debate is not of great importance, however. The term ‘revolution’ will be used to denote the actual revolutionary events of 1989 (1987–91 in Estonia); the terms ‘transformation’, ‘revolutionary process’ and ‘change’ also encompass developments after the revolutions — to what extent, is a matter of the context. The former communist countries of Central and East Europe, including the Baltic States but excluding the other former states of the Soviet Union, are usually referred to as Eastern European countries — the precise definition also depends on the context.

2. As this book concentrates on the views of ordinary people, it is apparent that the emphasis is on political culture in a reasonable sense of the word. The concept of political culture is, however, a very problematic one, which is why it is used here only in passing. Political culture is something that comes before the rational part of political decision making or policy making; it is ‘the society’ that makes politics possible; politics, in other words, is where political culture ends and politicking begins, on the border between these two. (See, e.g., Welch 1994; Vihalemm et al. 1997: 197–8.) Alternatively, one could also say that the emphasis in this study is on what Ulrich Beck (1994) has called ‘sub-politics’ as opposed to ‘official politics’.

3. In fact, this is probably not too far from Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of polyphony. He stated, with respect to novels, that ‘a polyphonous novel is thoroughly dialogical. The relations between all elements of the structure of the novel are dialogical; they are in other words contrapuntally placed as one another’s oppositions.’ (Bakhtin 1991 [1963]: 68)

4. The strength of this belief varied considerably, of course, from country to country, and also in historical terms. As will be seen later in the study, of the three countries under scrutiny, it was in the GDR where the belief was, or remained, particularly strong. In the words of Mary Fulbrook (1997b: 84): ‘Myths of destiny were vital to official identity construction in the GDR. There were concerted efforts throughout its history to evoke faith in glorious, even utopian, future as a compensation for the shortcomings of the present. The great advantage of the Marxist-Leninist version of history is that utopia is built into the programme: with the emancipation of the proletariat, the emancipation of mankind in general is assured.’

5. See Fukuyama 1989; Lepenies 1998: vii-xxvii. On the apologies of utopia after the end of communism, see Mathiapoulos 1992. On the nineteenth-century origins of the idea of the end of history, see Martins 1998.

6. ‘The almost complete absence of future-oriented, innovative ideas’ (Habermas 1990: 181). Cf. Bernward Baule’s (1996: 87) critique of Habermas’s ideas of the end of the GDR.

7. Compare this with the following remark by Raymond Taras (1992: 15): ‘The defining characteristic of post-communism appears, therefore, to be negative: what it is not. Retaining a Marxist conceptualization, it is possible to capture the

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