The End and the Beginning

The End and the Beginning: The Revolutions of 1989 and the Resurgence of History

Edited by Vladimir Tismaneanu
with Bogdan C. Iacob
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 602
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  • Book Info
    The End and the Beginning
    Book Description:

    A fresh interpretation of the contexts, meanings, and consequences of the revolutions of 1989, coupled with state of the art reassessment of the significance and consequences of the events associated with the demise of communist regimes. The book provides an analysis that takes into account the complexities of the Soviet bloc, the events’ impact upon Europe, and their re-interpretation within a larger global context. Departs from static ways of analysis (events and their significance) bringing forth approaches that deal with both pre-1989 developments and the 1989 context itself, while extensively discussing the ways of resituating 1989 in the larger context of the 20th century and of its lessons for the 21st. Emphasizes the possibility for re-thinking and re-visiting the filters and means that scholars use to interpret such turning point. The editors perceive the present project as a challenge to existing readings on the complex set of issues and topics presupposed by a re-evaluation of 1989 as a symbol of the change and transition from authoritarianism to democracy.

    eISBN: 978-615-5053-67-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VIII)
  3. Introduction Preliminaries
    (pp. 1-14)

    The present volume is an attempt to provide a fresh interpretation of the contexts, meanings, and consequences of the revolutions of 1989. It does not aim to search for ‘new truths’ or novel explanations for the fall of Communism and for the peaceful and sudden upheavals that took place in 1989. It does, however, emphatically argue for re-thinking, re-visiting, and re-assessing the filters and means that scholars use to interpret this watershed moment in our recent history. The editors perceive the present project more as a challenge to existing readings of the complex set of issues and topics presupposed by...

  4. Rethinking 1989
    (pp. 15-32)
    Vladimir Tismaneanu

    The revolutions of 1989 were, no matter how one judges their nature, a true world-historical event: they established a historical breaking point (only to some extent conventional) between the world before and after ‘89. During that year, what appeared to be an immutable, ostensibly indestructible system collapsed with breath-taking alacrity. This happened not because of external blows (although external pressure did matter), as in the case of Nazi Germany, but as a consequence of the development of insuperable inner tensions. The Leninist systems were terminally sick, and the disease affected first and foremost their capacity for self-regeneration. After decades of...

    • Purposes of the Past
      (pp. 35-54)
      Gale Stokes

      History is not a thing, an objective reality that is revealed through study, contemplation, or ecstatic inspiration, as so many nationalists appear to believe. It is a human construct. All history writing or speaking, all memory for that matter, is shaped by the framework of its time and by the purposes of its creators. Thus it is important to know who is producing a historical narrative, and for what purposes. What academics consider “proper history,” as Aviezer Tucker puts it, is that which has been agreed upon by “an uncoerced, large, and uniquely heterogeneous community of historians.”¹ This kind of...

    • Twenty Years After 1989
      (pp. 55-68)
      Agnes Heller

      The Soviet system collapsed twenty years ago. For my generation this happened just yesterday, but for the generation of my grandchildren it is already history. To write about it, I need to combine personal experience with historical analysis.

      The collapse of the communist regime was the last great turning point in the history of the twentieth century. As so many analysts emphasized throughout the years, the twentieth century began with the original sin of World War I and terminated in 1989. In that annus mirabilis the whole world changed. There were no more totalitarian dictatorships or any kind of dictatorship...

    • Moderate Modernity and the Spirit of 1989
      (pp. 69-108)
      Karol Edward Sołtan

      What does it mean to see the world as a citizen, to see it in light of a civic ideal? What does it mean to see history in light of the civic ideal? In this essay, I will try to illustrate my answer to these questions. But the answer is, broadly speaking, this: It means to look at the world and its history in a new way, in which we see a world full of projects, some quite ancient, others recent. And we see them not in the way a spectator might see them, but as someone eager to take...

    • People Power? Towards a Historical Explanation of 1989
      (pp. 109-126)
      Konrad H. Jarausch

      The celebrations of the twentieth anniversary of the overthrow of Communism have enshrined the fall of the Wall as the most important European event since the end of the Second World War. Even if there was less enthusiasm elsewhere, in Germany numerous eyewitness accounts, media specials, public exhibitions and official commemorations expressed joy over the collapse of the GDR and the return of national unity. Recalling her elation as a 35-year-old East German physicist, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel called November 9th a triumph of the “struggle against unfreedom” which she marked by walking with Mikhail Gorbachev and Lech Wałęsa across...

    • Was 1989 the End of Social Democracy?
      (pp. 127-168)
      Cornel Ban

      Did 1989 put the last nail in the coffin of European social democracy? Some scholars have echoed the popular view that whereas the social-democratic parties of Europe began to get closer to economic liberalism during the 1980s, it was not until 1989 that their “need to cut loose from the past” saw a marked surge. Anthony Giddens wrote that social democrats’ “need to cut loose from the past received a further dynamic charge from the collapse of east European communism in 1989.”¹ Tony Blair echoed him by linking the rise of the Third Way to the “death of socialism.” And...

    • The Demise of the Soviet Bloc
      (pp. 171-256)
      Mark Kramer

      In the mid-1980s, just before Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), the East-West divide in Europe seemed as stark as ever. Both the Warsaw Pact and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) had deployed new nuclear missiles against each other, and tensions between the two sides were acute. Certainly no one expected that, before the decade was out, the Communist regimes in East-Central Europe would collapse peacefully (apart from violence in Romania) and that the Berlin Wall—the symbolic divide in Europe for nearly 30 years—would be opened.

      The momentous events...

    • Gorbachev and the Road to 1989
      (pp. 257-290)
      Vladislav Zubok

      In 2009 the countries of Eastern Europe celebrated twenty years of independence from the Soviet empire and of peaceful liberation from communism. Significant amounts of new archival information and historical accounts have emerged during those twenty years. Still, a true international history of 1989 has yet to be written, and the domino effects of that amazing year need to be studied further.¹ For many Eastern European politicians and intellectuals, from Warsaw to Sofia, the euphoria of the revolutions quickly gave way to new circumstances, needs and problems. Eastern European states’ paramount national interest—successfully met—was to join NATO and...

    • Success Was Not an Orphan: The Battle of the Euromissiles in 1983 and the Events of 1989 to 1991
      (pp. 291-312)
      Jeffrey Herf

      Following the failure of the American invasion of Cuba in 1962, President Kennedy referred to the old saying that success has a hundred fathers, but failure is an orphan. Perhaps if Kennedy had been alive to see reflections on the causes of the revolutions of 1989, it might have occurred to him to say that in this case, it was success which has been an orphan, because one of the key causal factors that made 1989 possible receives so little mention. I am speaking of the Western victory in the battle of the euromissiles. The public record and available scholarship...

    • “No One is Afraid to Talk to Us Anymore.” Radio Free Europe in 1989
      (pp. 313-328)
      A. Ross Johnson

      Radio Free Europe began broadcasting to Eastern Europe in 1950. Radio Liberty began broadcasting to the USSR in 1953. In 1976, the two stations were merged as RFE/RL, Inc., but RFE and RL remained separate operating units. By the end of the 1960s they had become seasoned substitute free national radios, commonly called surrogate broadcasters, focused primarily not on the United States or international issues (as were the Voice of America and the BBC World Service) but on developments in the countries to which they broadcast. They had recruited talented staff, organized a flow of information from the closed societies...

  7. Part Three EASTERN EUROPE IN 1989
    • Revisiting the Nature and Legacies of the Ceauşescu Regime
      (pp. 331-362)
      Vladimir Tismaneanu and Bogdan Cristian Iacob

      The nature of the 1989 Romanian revolution and its aftermath reflect the specific features of the communist regime in the country. Its essential elements constituted a national Stalinist synthesis: the unflinching emphasis on the party’s leading role; Nicolae Ceauşescu’s personality cult resulting in dynastic communism; the celebration of the “socialist homogenous nation”; and politics of pauperization. In contrast to most Leninist regimes in Eastern Europe, the Romanian one never renounced its ethos of radical transformism (Robert C. Tucker) and the obsession with building the “New Man.” The Romanian Communist Party compensated the growing popular discontent with the betrayed promises of...

    • Where Was the Serbian Havel?
      (pp. 363-380)
      Nick Miller

      My focus in this article will be on Serbia’s intellectuals in the 1980s. Why in their work did they diverge from patterns established in Eastern Europe’s northern tier? Why did Serbia not produce influential intellectual leaders who embraced the universal, humane, and tolerant qualities we tend to attribute to the revolutions and intellectuals of Europe’s 1989? The answer to that question will have implications for others that are beyond the scope of my paper today but are still interesting: Why was there no velvet revolution there? Was this uniqueness “Serbian,” or can it be understood more broadly as a Southeastern...

    • Communism, the Experience of Light Electrification, and Legitimization in USSR and Romania before 1989
      (pp. 381-398)
      Cătălin Avramescu

      Communism was once famously described by Lenin as “the power of the Soviets plus the electrification of the entire country.” It is interesting to note, then, that most histories of Communism have been, to date, only histories of Soviet power.¹

      From the vantage point of the history of ideas, Communism was an “ideology.” This is perhaps reading too much into the pretences of the Communist doctrinaires. Their intention was, indeed, to provide principles to support a set of policies. However, in the real world of the “workers’ movement,” ideas and arguments were blurred in the distance, eclipsed by more pressing...

    • Buying Time: Consumption and Political Legitimization in Late Communist Czechoslovakia
      (pp. 399-422)
      Bradley Abrams

      I would like to start by offering a statement that might seem self-evident: both consumption and consumerism were terribly weak in Eastern Europe under Communism. Of course, I do not think that this is completely true. I believe that it is somewhat, although not totally, a misreading of Eastern European history. It is true that the levels of consumption and the modes of consumerism differed in the East and the West, and any facile equation of developments in this regard on the two sides of the Iron Curtain is doomed to oversimplification. Nonetheless, I would argue that the Eastern European...

    • The Second Hat: Romanian Mass Media from Party Loudspeaker to the Voice of the Oligarchs
      (pp. 423-438)
      Ioan T. Morar and David Morar

      The state of affairs of Romanian journalism can be best expressed by way of a real-life anecdote, which, incidentally, was transformed into a motion picture.¹ Of course reality mixes with fiction. In fact, one could easily find enough similarities between this story and Milan Kundera’s tale from the Book of Laughter and Forgetting, where one individual (Vladimir Clementis, a prominent member of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, who was included in the Slansky show trial and executed in 1952) is taken out of photos and history books, on account of being a traitor. The only remaining proof of his existence is...

    • Totalitarian Discourse and Ceauşescu’s Loss of Words: Memorializing Rhetoric in 1989 Romania
      (pp. 441-464)
      Noemi Marin

      The year 1989¹ engages Eastern and Central European countries in a discursive frenzy, where “unfrozen”² words of the past meet disparate novel civic appeals to create new words of the public sphere for the newly freed public.³ By 1989, after half a century of communist life, political changes in the region created a different arena for political discourse, a locus where public appeals of past and present connected or disconnected with effervescent voices of the underground (samizdat). Depicting the legacies of the past in post-communist politics, Vladimir Tismaneanu states that:

      [And] the past is both communist and pre-communist, with strange...

    • “A Spectre is Haunting Europe…”: Dissidents, Intellectuals and a New Generation
      (pp. 465-494)
      Marci Shore

      “A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of communism,” wrote Marx and Engels in 1848. Yet communism, once no longer a spectre to come became a spectre from the past. The revolutions of 1989 were a wrinkle in time: time, seemingly halted for so long, suddenly leapt forward. The revolutions, too, were an opening of a Pandora’s Box - and a vindication of Freud’s warning that the repressed would return. A certain parallel to Freud’s unconscious—that dark psychic closet into which everything too disturbing is thrown—has appeared in the communist archives. Freud, for his part, had no illusions...

    • Memory, Justice, and Democratization in Post-Communism
      (pp. 495-508)
      Lavinia Stan

      The year 1989 remains a remarkable milestone in the history of Eastern Europe, not only because it allowed all countries in the region, with the exception of Albania and Yugoslavia, to transition to democracy and rule of law within the span of just several months, but also because, with their democratization, these countries were for the first time in decades in a position to interrogate themselves honestly and comprehensively about the recent past. True, the past had been examined several decades earlier, during the early stages of communism, when Eastern European authorities condemned Nazi collaborators and sympathizers. But that exercise...

    • Transitional Justice and the Politicization of Memory in post-1989 Europe
      (pp. 509-520)
      A. James McAdams

      In late May 2008, the past came back to haunt Gregor Gysi. Marianne Birthler, the commissioner of Germany’s office for the disposition of the files of East Germany’s former state security service (Stasi), produced records that confirmed what had long been suspected: Gysi, a former lawyer and the Bundestag Fraktionschef of Germany’s increasingly popular radical leftist party, Die Linke, had “knowingly and voluntarily” shared information about his clients with the Stasi. This revelation led to a modest inter-party debate about Gysi’s suitability to be a member of parliament. Several members of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) demanded his resignation. In...

    • Incredible Voyage: Romania’s Communist Heirs Adapt and Survive After 1989
      (pp. 521-542)
      Tom Gallagher

      State institutions have a provisional character in Romania despite a decade of “modernisation” and “reform,” supposedly carried out under the auspices of the European Union. A primitive warfare for positions appears to be the only regular form of political activity on a barren landscape. Much of the economy is privatised while heavily influenced by interlocking political and economic groups often given the term “the oligarchy.” Within society and even among educated people located in the liberal professions, a sense of abandonment and isolation is palpable.¹ The impact of major democracies and progressive intellectual currents from Romania’s own past, as well...

    • In the Footsteps of 1989: Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution” as a Carnival of Anti-politics
      (pp. 543-558)
      Peter Voitsekhovsky

      There was a flavor of carnival in the atmosphere of the joint session of the U.S. Congress on April 6, 2005. Vice President Dick Cheney presided wearing an orange tie, while some of the congressmen came with orange scarves on their shoulders or orange bows pinned to their lapels. On that day, Victor Yushchenko, Ukraine’s new President, was the guest of honor on Capitol Hill. Members of Congress gave a standing ovation to their foreign invitee; with much enthusiasm, they waved the orange scarves, kerchiefs and ribbons—just like the crowds of Ukrainians did in the famous scenes that had...

  9. Conclusion: Shades of Gray: Revisiting the Meanings of 1989
    (pp. 559-578)
    Jeffrey C. Isaac

    In 1789, the French Ancien Regime fell, with a resounding crash that echoed throughout the European continent. Immanuel Kant spoke for many “enlightened” thinkers when he observed that: “The revolution of a gifted people which we have seen unfolding in our day may succeed or miscarry … this revolution, I say, nonetheless finds in the hearts of all spectators … a wishful participation that borders closely on enthusiasm.”¹

    Almost exactly two hundred years later ramparts again came crashing down, this time in the East of Europe. Symbolized so dramatically by “the fall” of the Berlin Wall, the entire edifice of...

  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 579-586)
  11. Index
    (pp. 587-594)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 595-595)