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20 Years after the Collapse of Communism

Expectations, achievements and disillusions of 1989


Edited By Nicolas Hayoz, Leszek Jesien and Daniela Koleva

The volume is an attempt to assess the meanings of 1989, in particular the multiple transformation processes and their effects in Eastern Europe. Obviously, the realities of the post-communist transformations have not met the expectations. Were the expectations too high? Did democratic institutions prove incompatible with local cultures? Was their implementation too fast to correspond to a genuine development of democratic culture? Whatever the reasons, the road to democracy has turned out to be steeper and the communist legacy heavier than expected.
The authors of this volume seek to comprehend the intricacies of various aspects of the post-communist transition; looking at a broad array of countries that have followed different paths. The studies combine methods of different disciplines. ‘Insider’ perspectives are juxtaposed with external assessments. This comparative and problem based approach brings into focus the ambiguities of the unfinished transformations as well as their broader cultural contexts: the politics of history and the battles for new memory, the re-signification of past and present, and the problematic transformation of homo sovieticus into an autonomous and responsive subject.


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Part 3: Texts in Changing Contexts: Values and Meanings


François Ruegg High Heels and Blue Jeans. What Are the Visible Signs of Democracy? A Short Ethnography of Post-Communism in Central and Eastern Europe Over the last twenty years, many things have indeed changed in Central and Eastern Europe. Prices have more than tripled; young ladies have adopted the style of T-shirts and jeans (but not sneak- ers) and definitely prefer high heeled shoes and boots. Young and old men in cities and remote areas alike wear baseball caps; Italian coffee has spread as well as pizza and pasta. We have also witnessed a most extravagant expansion of cell phones for people of all ages and social status. Old state-owned restaurants have been slowly but surely privatized or have altogether disappeared corps et biens, terraces are now offering tasteless expensive international beers and soft drinks under parasols bearing their brand names, and all the while fast food has become popular As for street level show- rooms, the old greyish socialist tint has been covered with a veneer of cheap globalized varnish. On the whole, this applies to banks or new and private businesses, particularly those selling fashionable goods Public buildings, even if reallocated to new functions, still convey the old image of a strong and unfriendly bureaucracy. This also applies to old-fashioned libraries and street shops, ticket shops for public transport or the theatre, as well as most of the university buildings (unless private) who have maintained their Soviet style of functioning My hypothesis was that as long as...

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