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.

About the Author

Vladimir Tismaneanu is professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, College Park. His most recent book is The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century (2012).

View all work by Vladimir Tismaneanu