The Legacies of 1989: The Moving Ruins

Issue Date January 2014
Volume 25
Issue 1
Page Numbers 59-70
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The article reassesses the post-communist landscape in Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the revolutions of 1989. A quarter of a century after the upheaval, the old definitions of civic and ethnic belongings have lost their previous meanings. The idea of civil society bequeathed a legacy of non-conformity and refusal of regimentation. Former dissidents have come under attack from the far left and the far right. Because of EU accession, the revolutions of 1989 succeeded in bringing a return to Europe of most of the former socialist bloc. Understanding the diversity of the postcommunist transitions requires the exploration of pre-1989 legacies. Disillusionment with the new order translates into nostalgia for the time of stability. Resurgent nationalism operates as an umbrella, all-encompassing fantasy of salvation, mixed with populism and, sometimes, with self-styled conservatism. The article stresses the importance of dealing with the past of twentieth century Eastern Europe, as it is increasingly clear that a democracy deprived of memory is profoundly vulnerable.