- Vladimir Tismaneanu: What are your personal memories of 1989?
- Bradley Abrams: Which explanation for events in 1989 is most compelling?
- Bradley Abrams: Why was there a communist/socialist return to power in Czechoslovakia?
- Bradley Abrams: What is communism?
- Padraic Kenney: How is Solidarity viewed today?
- Padraic Kenney: How have your ideas changed?
- Padraic Kenney: Did your research lead to a new interpretation?
- Maria Bucur: How have your ideas changed?
- Gale Stokes: What is the larger context within which you interpret the events of 1989?
- Gale Stokes: Why did the revolutions of 1989 happen so fast?
Maria Bucur: How have your ideas changed?
In my case, because I was in Romania when the revolution was taking place, the evolution of my thinking about this historic event has been a path of going from sort of personal experience and personal memory to putting it in a larger context. To what extent what I had seen in Romania was exceptional. I mean, I knew it was exceptional because the kind of violence that you saw in Romania was not replicated anywhere else, but, of course, there was elements of the kind of street unrest, you know, and the tensions within the elites and between the secret police and the military that I think can be seen as parallel to things that are going on in Bulgaria to some extent or East Germany.
More evidence has come out about what was happening in different places in Romania or in different places in Eastern Europe from eyewitness accounts, of course, from documents, from archives, and so looking at these sorts of sources has enabled me to put a broader historical perspective on it and, you know, the other kind of process of evolution has been one of thinking how to conceptualize the events of 1989 as a revolution. I think it was very facile in 1989 to say this has been a revolution. I think there was a sense of euphoria, of a need to say that the people have prevailed and that something bad ended and something good was beginning.
But, I think those nuances in that story that were not at all evident and for good reason. I mean, one doesn’t think about those issues in the middle of living this kind of historic moment, but, of course, the euphoria passed and the meaning of that moment has become relevant in different ways in the post Cold War era in terms of both understanding communism but also what Eastern Europe means today. You know, what does it mean to have democracy and market economy? Those things applied to all the area or part of the area. So I think, what I have wrestled with is how to preserve the kind of excitement about this moment that I lived and that others kind of remember personally, make it relevant to a generation of people who didn’t live through it, but also be critical about it.