This year marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and I have decided to dedicate a portion of my year to reading and studying the events. As fate would have it even before deciding this, I had already began reading a book titled The Magic Lantern that highlights the 1989 Revolutions in chronological order starting with Poland and ending with Czechoslovakia. It was a great beginning for the years search for knowledge, and it did a wonderful job getting me really excited for the reading. I think its a bit funny to me how much I don’t know about 1989, even though I wrote my senior thesis on Vaclav Havel, gave some presentations on the events and even traveled to some of the exact location these revolutions took place. But 1989, I was alive, it truly is my history, quite possibly one of the most significant events that has happened in my 26 yrs if not the most important (think about it, the fall of communism brought and end to the Cold War which ended the polarization of international relations which means things may have proceeded very differently).
I think I’ve decided to look at Poland, Hungary, Germany and Czechoslovakia devoting 3 months to each and working in chronological order. So Poland is up first and I’m very excited about it. I am very ashamed to admit that I am completely lost when it comes to the infamous Solidarity Movement, when I was in Poland I just pretended I knew what it was all about but really never had a clue. This weekend I set out in search of some books but was sadly disappointed at what was being offered…actually there was nothing being offered but I am sure that will all be fixed with a quick stop at Amazon.
I know I keep saying I am excited to learn more about 1989 and I just wanted to explain a little more. Its simple to say that in 1989 Eastern Europe overthrew Communism but understanding and comprehending is so much more. The seemingly powerless in the eyes Soviet Union and the world, ship yard workers, play writes, students, musicians, actors, non-party members all ordinary civilians, over threw their corrupted communist governments and with that released themselves from the grips Soviet Union, and established NEW forms of governments and economies. Now you can debate revolution or reformation (seriously if you have an opinion of this I would love to hear it) BUT, it ALL changed! How can you not find that incredible? And even though we contribute 1989 to the success of the revolutions, I am not naive, I know that these revolutions began not just years but decades before success was ever each. They did not let threat of imprisonment, unemployment (intellectuals being reduced to handymen), physical violence, death or years of stagnation detour them from their goals and for that I have a tremendous amount of respect for those involved. So here’s to 1989 and the men and women who achieved nothing short of the extraordinary.
ps…don’t get me started on Reagan’s role for the Wall coming down…us Americans always want to make our part seem a bit larger than the reality.