Interview with Andrzej Stankiewicz, in Polish Thursday, Dec 12 2013 

During the Warsaw conference I talked to Andrzej Stankiewicz. He published the interview today, in Polish, in the Tygodnik Powszechny journal, which contained a number of other articles on the conference and its topic, transitional justice in post-communist Europe. The interview, available here, is titled “My albo ono”. I trust Andrzej, since I cannot read or speak Polish.


Other photos from the conference:

Lavinia Stan

Lavinia Stan

Lavinia Stan

Lavinia Stan

Lavinia Stan

Lavinia Stan

After Oppression: Transitional Justice in Latin America and Eastern Europe (UNU Press) Sunday, May 13 2012 

Prof. Vesselin Popovski at the United Nations University in Tokyo, Japan, the academic arm of the United Nations, has initiated and brought to completion a large project comparing transitional justice experiences in Eastern Europe and Latin America. This project, conducted with the assistance of the United Nations University, Oxford University, and El Colegio Mexico, has resulted in a conference organized at Oxford University and a volume that will be published with UNU Press. A description of the project, which included a contribution on Romania that I signed, is available here.

“The gross violations of human rights in Latin America and Eastern Europe under authoritarian regimes created growing popular anger that finally exploded in mass revolts and demands for change, bringing the regimes to an end. It was a bottom-up process: a gradually rising discontent of ordinary people, who in the aftermath of the changes, made continuous calls for justice and accountability for the perpetrators of human rights violations, and simultaneous calls for compensation for the victims of these violations. The demands for justice and compensation faced initial reluctance, partly because political forces connected to previous regimes remained powerful and influential.

The processes of transitional justice have been controversial and complex, zigzagging from extreme demands for severe punishment to similarly unacceptable calls for blanket unqualified forgiveness. Transitional justice has had to perform a balancing act: paying full respect to grievances — traumatic, deeply emotional and divisive — while also taking into consideration strategies for societal reconciliation and future stability.”

Lansare de carte la Curtea Veche Saturday, Jun 12 2010 

Whether or not you have a facebook account, you may still view pictures from our recent book launch in Bucharest by clicking on the link below.

We take this opportunity to thank all of you who have been in Bucharest on a hot June 12 showing your support.

Out of the Closet – MacLeans Friday, Jan 1 2010 

An article that retains its relevance.

Skeletons are rattling as Romania opens its secret police files

MICHAEL PETROU | Oct 09, 2006

Seventeen years after Communism collapsed across Central and Eastern Europe, secrets from the era can still devastate careers and captivate a nation. Romanian President Traian Basescu has ordered his country’s security services to release long-buried records of the Securitate, the Communist secret police. Some files were previously available, but the records of powerful politicians and public figures were kept hidden. Now many are being exposed, igniting a political storm as Romanians discover how widespread the collaboration among today’s political and social elites was.

Mona Musca, a prominent parliamentary deputy, confessed she collaborated with the Securitate as a professor in the 1970s after being confronted with archival documents. Musca, who claims her reports did not harm anyone, had previously advocated that anyone who had collaborated be removed from public affairs, and had sponsored legislation to expose them. “She was the mother figure for this,” says Lavinia Stan, director of the Centre for Post-Communist Studies at St. Francis Xavier University. “It was a shock when we got proof that she collaborated. She did it to promote her career, and she did it systematically.”

Other public figures have also been implicated in investigations carried out by the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives, which is reviewing millions of secret police documents. Stan says many Romanians are sympathetic toward former collaborators; under the Communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu, Romania was a fearful society, and people were blackmailed into informing. What angers Romanians is that their elites denied or kept quiet about their past for so many years. “Whether you are considered a villain or angel has little to do with your actual work with the Securitate and more to do with the politics of the present, with your courage to repent,” she says. “People say that maybe under Communism you believed you had no way out, you saw you had only one venue open to you. But you’ve had 17 years. You could have admitted to this. But you always lied to us.”

Romania is among the last post-Communist countries in Europe to systematically probe the actions of its citizens during the Communist era. It is always a traumatic process, as citizens confront past sins and complicities that involved enormous numbers of people. Many informers were in turn spied on by other collaborators. “We are all in this together — those who created this regime; those who accepted it in silence; and all of us who subconsciously became accustomed to it,” Václav Havel, the Czech dissident who became his country’s president, has said.

Some simply prefer to turn away from the past. “I’ve had people say to me, ‘I don’t want to look,’ ” says Scott Eddie, a professor emeritus of economic history at the University of Toronto, who was informed on by friends and colleagues in East Germany, and possibly Hungary and Romania, during the Cold War. Eddie later looked up his own file in the East German archives. He knows who informed on him, but does not hold it against him, because he believes the man was simply doing his job and Eddie came to no harm. Others face more intimate betrayals. “When you find out that family members — your own spouse or children — turned in reports on you, that must be devastating,” Eddie says.

But many also believe countries making the transition to democracy must confront their history. Basescu himself says the process is necessary to solidify Romania’s bid to join the EU. “For a place like Romania, it’s absolutely necessary to come to terms with the past,” says Justinian Jampol, director of the Wende Museum, a California institution dedicated to the study of Central and Eastern Europe during the Cold War. “This is the first step in establishing a truly democratic state.”

The article is available at:

Player-President or Toy-President? The Romanian Presidential Elections of 2009 Sunday, Dec 13 2009 

On 6 December, the incumbent Romanian President Traian Basescu, representing the Democrat-Liberal Party, won the second round of presidential elections against Mircea Geoana, leader of the Social Democrat Party. For the first time in the history of post-communist Romania, which remains a laggard in Europe and the European Union with respect to effecting democratic and market reforms, more Romanians voted in the second, as opposed to the first, round. This was also the first time when presidential elections were organized apart from parliamentary elections, as the President’s mandate was extended to five years, and the first time Romanians had to elect their President after the country was reluctantly and belatedly accepted into the European Union in 2007. Also for the first time the difference between the two candidates was so small (70,000 votes) that only the most daring or self-deceiving political analysts (the country’s most abundant supply) could claim that they accurately predicted the outcome. The final result was so unexpected that for close to 12 hours each candidate claimed victory, without being able to prove his own claim and disprove his rival’s. But the power of conviction was greater for Geoana than Basescu, as the elated optimism of the former contrasted with the defeatist glance of the latter. Busy counting and recounting the ballots, the Central Electoral Bureau maintained a creepy silence during the night of 6/7 December, offering no real information beyond voter turnout. While the Bureau kept stubbornly silent with regard to the results of the vote, different opinion poll companies and the two political formations behind the candidates competed in proposing exit polls as definitive results. Each party supported its candidate’s claim to the Presidential office. Of four major exit pollers, three declared Geoana the winner, and only one sided with Basescu. Given the close count (50.33% for Basescu and 49.66% for Geoana), it’s no wonder that a majority of Romanian pollers bet on what turned out to be the loser.

The truth is that most Romanians were dissatisfied with both candidates, and over 100,000 of voters chose to invalidate their ballots. The final result, and consequently Basescu’s victory, reflects not so much his more persuasive arguments, concrete proposals, untainted reputation, rejection of nepotism, or willingness to address the country’s most urgent problems, but rather the fact that many voters considered him the best of two (burdensome) evils and many more took the trouble to wake up in the morning and do what they never did during the last decade – vote. The result could have been completely different if, instead of the 150,000 Romanian emigrants spread across the globe who impatiently assaulted Romanian embassies and consulates, peasants living in rural Moldova or Oltenia had put their knives and alambic down on that fatidical Sunday and chose to postpone their traditional early winter occupations: slaughtering the family pig, and brewing the all-present plum brandy. Indeed, the mood that followed the announcement of Basescu’s victory was far from festive, with many of his own declared supporters acknowledging that Basescu is no “usa de biserica” (pure at heart, morally vertical) and wondering what benefits the victory will really bring to the ordinary Romanian. More worrisome was the fact that even Basescu seemed to be taken by surprise by his victory.

The 2009 presidential elections were less European and more Latin American in nature and format. They were less about valor, honor and concrete proposals and more about populist programs, fabricated evidence, false charges, personal attacks, and unfeasible proposals. After the usual skirmishes that characterize everything political in Bucharest, in the first round the three top candidates – the Liberal Crin Antonescu, Basescu and Geoana – participated into a televised debate, whereas just before the second round the remaining contenders Basescu and Geoana locked horns again to show the nation their worth. But the real battle was taking place in the streets, where Basescu’s supporters beat up Antonescu’s men; in the chat-rooms and on the internet, where special teams took over internet sites, newspaper pages, blog entries, and any thread of decent discussion to blacken the rival and promote their favored candidate; in the politically-co-opted and investigative-feable Romanian mass-media outlets, where accusations and counter-accusations were launched; among the country’s pittiful “moguls” and “oligarchs” who openly or discreetly tried to decide the outcome of the poll; and among the country’s intellectuals, who supported the candidates under the guise of political neutrality.

The debate acquired surreal connotations when the Social Democrats unearthed an older video recording allegedly showing Basescu as a child molester. True, Basescu is known as a person whose vulgarity can reach unfathomable hights, a misanthropic racist who unhesitanly called a female journalist a “stinking Gypsy,” but this coarse political pirate has shown real moments of tenderness toward his wife and children. In short, it is very unlikely that he knowingly hit a child, even somebody else’s. But the pro-Basescu camp descended into ridicule when respected intellectual and political analyst-cum-physicist Horia Roman Patapievici declared that the incumbent President was an honest and well-meaning politician because he refused to take advantage of and disseminate during the electoral battle a video tape showing Geoana receiving oral sex. It’s unclear why such a recording could have damaged the Social Democrat’s leader reputation. All American things being coveted in Bucharest, an act that would have brought Geoana, Romania’s former Ambassador to Washington, DC, closer to the cocky Bill Clinton of the famed Lewinsky era might have helped him score a victory. Rather, the assertion suggests a misplaced and unnecessarily puritanical preoccupation with the bedroom, twenty years after the country moved away from a political dictatorship obsessed with sexuality and reproduction.

By voting Basescu, Romanians might have narrowly averted the complete control over the Presidential office of the oligarchs, which, in the mind of the pro-Basescu camp, populate only the self-interested world of Antonescu and Geoana. This is important because after 2000 Romanian politics has approximated a zero-sum game in which the winner takes all. During the 1990s the President appointed governments including the political formation that won a plurality of the vote. But during the last decade the rule was no longer followed, partly because the 2003 constitutional amendments allowed it. As such, the latest presidential elections are less a victory for Basescu, and more a victory for his Democrat-Liberals, who now know that they will be part of any government formula accepted by the President. Or will they? Isolated and distrusted by other political parties, which might be completely co-opted by the oligarchs but still represent a substantial percentage of the Romanian electorate, the Democrat-Liberals have burnt bridges and proven unable to propose a viable cabinet to date. While quick to criticize the Liberals, and rightly so, for appointing incompetent, interested and obscure figures as ministers, and to demonize the Social Democrats for their close ties to the moguls and unwillingness to promote anti-corruption and de-communization, the Democrat Liberals were silent when appointing the blonde bomb-shell Elena Udrea as Minister of Tourism, a domain in which her family has important business interests, or when agreeing to form a government with the Social Democrats in 2008. These ideological and policy pirouettes have bought Basescu time and the 2009 presidential victory, but have almost completely delegitimized transitional justice and governmental performance. It remains to be seen if the new old Player-President, who wants to turn the country into a fully presidential republic, will be able to accomplish in the next five years what he was unable to do in his first mandate.

Velvet Revolution: The Prospects (New York Review of Books, December 3, 2009) Sunday, Nov 15 2009 

by Timothy Garton Ash

In the autumn of 1989, the term “velvet revolution” was coined to describe a peaceful, theatrical, negotiated regime change in a small Central European state that no longer exists. So far as I have been able to establish, the phrase was first used by Western journalists and subsequently taken up by Václav Havel and other Czech and Slovak opposition leaders.[1] This seductive label was then applied retrospectively, by writers including myself, to the cumulatively epochal events that had unfolded in Poland, Hungary, and East Germany, as in “the velvet revolutions of 1989.”

Twenty years later, in the summer of 2009, the Islamic Republic of Iran staged a show trial of political leaders and thinkers it accused of fomenting enghelab -e makhmali—that is, precisely, velvet revolution. Across the intervening years, dramatic events in places including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, South Africa, Chile, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, and Burma were tagged with variants of adjective + revolution. Thus we have read about singing (Baltic states), peaceful, negotiated (South Africa, Chile), rose (Georgia), orange (Ukraine), color (widely used, post-orange), cedar (Lebanon), tulip (Kyrgyzstan), electoral (generic), saffron (Burma), and most recently, in Iran, green revolution. Often, as in the original Czechoslovak case, the catchy labeling has been popularized through the interplay of foreign journalists and political activists in the countries concerned.

These events could, with widely varying degrees of plausibility, be described as attempts—by no means all of them successful—to make a 1989 kind of peaceful, negotiated regime change, including elements of mass protest, social mobilization, and nonviolent action. Velvet revolution, it seems, has not just a past but also a present and perhaps a future. Starting as the moniker for a single historical event—the velvet revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989—it has cast off the definite article to become simply “velvet revolution”: the genus VR.


Painting with a deliberately broad brush, an ideal type of 1989-style revolution, VR, might be contrasted with an ideal type of 1789-style revolution, as further developed in the Russian Revolution of 1917 and Mao’s Chinese revolution. The 1789 ideal type is violent, utopian, professedly class-based, and characterized by a progressive radicalization, culminating in terror. A revolution is not a dinner party, Mao Zedong famously observed, and he went on:

A revolution is an uprising, an act of violence whereby one class overthrows another…. To right a wrong it is necessary to exceed proper limits, and the wrong cannot be righted without the proper limits being exceeded.[2]
The 1989 ideal type, by contrast, is nonviolent, anti-utopian, based not on a single class but on broad social coalitions, and characterized by the application of mass social pressure—”people power”—to bring the current powerholders to negotiate. It culminates not in terror but in compromise. If the totem of 1789-type revolution is the guillotine, that of 1989 is the round table.[3]

Nonviolent revolution feels to many like a contradiction in terms. For two hundred years, revolution has been associated with violence. That is one reason people want to qualify these new-style revolutions with a softening adjective. During an internal debate among the leaders of the original velvet revolution, in Prague in autumn 1989, one Czech dissident even queried whether they should use the word “revolution” at all, since it implied violence.[4] “Let us refuse any form of terror and violence,” declared the Information Bulletin of the Civic Forum on December 2, 1989. “Our weapons are love and nonviolence.”[5]

In the case of Pope John Paul II and of Aung San Suu Kyi and other Burmese Buddhists, one can say that the choice of peaceful means was primarily a moral and religious one. “Defeat evil with good!” was the Polish Pope’s often repeated message. In most cases, however, this is a strategic rather than a moral choice—and none the worse for that. Definitionally characteristic of the 1989 type of revolution is a strategic preference for nonviolent action on the part of those who desire change. VR can therefore also be considered as a category of, or overlapping with, another genus: civil resistance.[6]

Trotsky once characterized revolution as “the forcible entry of the masses into the realm of rulership over their own destiny.”[7] In VR, this happens too, but a vital line is preserved between the forcible and the violent. We speak colloquially of “the force of numbers,” and that is the kind of force we are talking about here. “If I see 200,000 people, I will resign,” Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said dismissively of a relatively small opposition demonstration some years before the “orange revolution.” In 2004, there were some 500,000 orange-waving protesters on the streets of Kiev—and Kuchma’s chosen successor had to resign soon after his fraudulent election victory.[8] These events are characterized by vast turnouts, so that journalistic estimates of numbers become a branch of poetry. How many demonstrators, garlanded in green, filled the streets of Tehran from Revolution (Enqelab) Square to Freedom (Azadi) Square on that unforgettable June 15, 2009?[9] Two million? Three million? No one could know exactly; no one will ever know.

789 in France, 1917 in Russia, 1949 in China—all were at some point professedly utopian; all promised a heaven on earth. VR is typically anti-utopian, or at the very least non-utopian. In a given place, it aspires to create political and legal institutions, and social and economic arrangements, that already exist elsewhere (for example, in established liberal democracies) and/or that are claimed (often wrongly, or with much retrospective idealization) to have existed in the same place at an earlier time. François Furet, the historiographer of the French Revolution, doubted if the velvet revolutions of 1989 should properly be called “revolutions” at all, since they produced “not a single new idea.”[10] In this sense, they were closer to an earlier, pre-1789 version of revolution, the one that gave the thing its name: a revolution, a revolving, a turning of the wheel back to a real or imagined better past.

Hannah Arendt quotes, as a perfect encapsulation of this idea of revolution-as-restoration, the inscription on the 1651 great seal of Cromwell’s Commonwealth, at the height of the English Revolution: “freedom by God’s blessing restored.”[11] Poland in 1989 could have put those very same words on its seal, had it had one. “The return to Europe,” one of the great mottoes of Central Europe’s 1989, is also a version of the revolution-restoration theme. Most of the subsequent claimants to the title of VR display some such mixture of an idealized national past and a better present located elsewhere. While these movements manifest some unrealistic, idealistic expectations, none of them are decisively shaped by a utopian ideology, a vision of a new heaven on earth. The “new idea” is the form of revolutionary change itself, not the content of its ideological aspirations.

To say that the 1789–1917–1949 revolutions were class-based is of course a gross historical oversimplification, and even misrepresentation. As we know, the Bolshevik Revolution was not actually a heroic mass action of the working class. But it is fair to say that revolutionary leaders such as Lenin and Mao often claimed to be acting in the name of a class or classes—”workers and peasants,” and so on. In VR, the appeals are typically to a whole society, the nation, the people. Nationalism (or patriotism, according to circumstance and interpretation) is often a driving force of these, as it can be of more violent movements. In practice, the strategic key to mass mobilization—to getting those inestimable peaceful crowds out on the streets, to generating “people power”—often lies precisely in building the broadest possible coalitions between classes, sections of society, and interest groups that do not normally cooperate, and among which nondemocratic powerholders had previously been able to “divide and rule.”

In old-style revolution, the angry masses on the street are stirred up by extremist revolutionary leaders—Jacobins, Bolsheviks, Mao—to support radicalization, including violence and terror, in the name of utopia. Bring on the red guards! In new-style revolution, the masses on the street are there to bring the powerholders to the negotiating table. The moment of maximum mass mobilization is the moment of turn to negotiation; that is, to compromise. Or in some cases, to violent repression—at least for the time being. For also characteristic of VR is that it often takes a long time to succeed, after many failed attempts, in the course of which opposition organizers, but also some of those in power, learn from their own mistakes and failures—as, for example, in Poland, Serbia, and Ukraine. Protesters “fail again, fail better,” to adopt Samuel Beckett’s memorable phrasing. Both sides do it differently next time. Eventually, the moment comes when there are two to tango.

So another name for the genus is “negotiated revolution.” Exit prospects for the ruling elites are critical. Instead of losing their heads on the guillotine, or ending up hanging from lampposts, transition-ready members of an ancien régime, from a president such as F.W. de Klerk all the way down to local apparatchiks and secret policemen, see a bearable, even a rosier future for themselves under a new dispensation. Not merely will they get away with their lives; not only will they remain at liberty; they will also get to retain some of their social position and wealth, or to convert their former political power into economic power (the “privatization of the nomenklatura”), which sometimes helps them to make startling returns to political power under more democratic rules (as, for example, have post-communists all over post- communist Europe). In VR, it is not just the Abbé Sieyès who survives. Louis XVI gets to keep a nice little palace in Versailles, and Marie Antoinette starts a successful line in upmarket lingerie.

hese uneasy and even morally distasteful compromises with members of the ancien régime are an intrinsic, unavoidable part of velvet revolution. They are, as Ernest Gellner once memorably put it, the price of velvet. They produce, however, their own kinds of postrevolutionary pathology. As the years go by, there is a sense of a missing revolutionary catharis; suspicious talk of tawdry deals concluded between old and new elites behind closed doors; and, among many, a feeling of profound historical injustice. Here I am, a middle-aged shipyard worker in Gdan´sk, left unemployed as a result of a painful neoliberal transition to capitalism, while over there, in their high-walled new villas, with their swimming pools full of half-naked girls quaffing champagne, the former communist spokesman and the former secret policeman are whooping it up as millionaires. And their first million came from ripping off the state in the period of negotiated revolution.

There is no perfect answer to this problem, but I will suggest two partial ones. First, absent both the catharsis of revolutionary purging (that orgiastic moment as the king’s severed head is held aloft) and retroactive sanctions of criminal justice, it becomes all the more important to make a public, symbolic, honest reckoning with your country’s difficult past. This alone can establish a bright line between bad past and better future. That is why I have argued that the essential complement to a velvet revolution is a truth commission. Second, establishing the rule of law as fast as possible is vital to lasting success, and corruption is deeply corrosive of it. “Speed is more important than accuracy,” the famous motto of the no-holds-barred Czech privatizer and free marketeer Václav Klaus, sacrifices the long-term prospects to the short.

One other feature of some velvet revolutions needs to be mentioned. Traditionally, we would think of a revolution as diametrically counterposed to an election: here, the violent overthrow of a dictatorship; there, the peaceful transfer of power in a democracy. But many examples of VR over the last decade, from Serbia to Ukraine to Iran, had an election as the catalytic moment of the new-style revolution.

In hybrid, semiauthoritarian regimes, the holding of an election—albeit not under fully free conditions, with a key distortion being regime control of television—provides the occasion for an initial mobilization behind an opposition candidate, whether Voji-slav Ko tunica in Serbia, Viktor Yushchenko in Ukraine, or Mir Hussein Moussavi in Iran. Real or alleged rigging of the election by incumbent powerholders is then the spark for a wider social mobilization, with burgeoning demands for change not merely in but of the system. The color symbolic of the opposition candidate—orange in Ukraine, green in Iran—becomes, or at least is now claimed to be, the color of the whole cheated nation, the color of the “color revolution.” So yet another name for this phenomenon, or a large subset of it, is “electoral revolution.”

Looking at the recent history of electoral revolutions, a prudent authoritarian ruler might reasonably draw this conclusion: Don’t risk holding any elections at all! But it is striking how few of them actually do draw this conclusion. Formal democracy, in the sense of holding public ceremonies called elections from time to time, has become established as one of the most widespread international norms. Elections are not just, so to speak, the tribute vice pays to virtue; they also seem to be part of the accepted panoply of legitimation for any self-respecting dictator. And nine times out of ten, authoritarian rulers can emerge victorious from these elections, or “elections,” with some combination of genuine popular support, tribal loyalties, media control, propaganda, bribery, intimidation, and outright vote-rigging. In the case of Serbia, for example, Slobodan Milo evic´ did win a series of at least semifree, even three-quarters-free elections, with only some vote-rigging, before losing power in an electoral revolution in 2000. Hubris, based on past successes, helpfully nudges such rulers down the road to nemesis.


My purpose here has been to sketch out, schematically and impressionistically, a hypothesis, in order then to qualify and interrogate it—including an indication of conditions under which the hypothesis might, over time, be found more or less persuasive. (More or less persuasive being the historian’s qualitative, probabilistic counterparts of the scientist’s hard, quantitative proof or disproof.) The hypothesis is that 1989 established a new model of nonviolent revolution that now often supplants, or at least competes with, the older, violent model we associate with 1789.

A first, essential qualification consists in stressing the word “established,” as opposed to “invented.” Semantically, the Czechoslovak revolution may have been the first to be called “velvet,” but Central Europe in 1989 did not spirit this model out of the ether. Relevant earlier history includes not just Central Europe’s own learning process through the failed emancipation attempts of 1953 (East Germany), 1956 (Hungary), 1968 (Czechoslovakia), 1970–1971 and 1980–1981 (Poland), but also the mobilization to unseat General Pinochet in Chile, where the 1988 plebiscite preceded Central Europe’s 1989; the toppling of the Marcoses in the Philippines in 1983–1986, which gave us the wonderful Filipino-English term “people power”; and the “revolution of the carnations” in Portugal in 1974–1975, arguably the first “velvet revolution” in postwar Europe; and all the way back to the seminal example of Gandhi in India.

So the suggestion is only that 1989 established the model, in the sense that, being such a giant, world-changing event, or set of events, 1989 becomes the major historical reference point for this kind of change; and in the sense that there does seem to have been a lot more new-style revolution around since 1989, and less of the old-fashioned kind. Or so, at least, we are told by those who label these events velvet, color, peaceful, electoral, negotiated, orange, rose, saffron, cedar, tulip, green, etc. revolutions.

Here a second qualification is overdue. Not everything that is called revolution is, in fact, revolution. Our glossy magazines are full of folderol about “a revolution” in shoe design, English cooking, retail banking, or vacuum cleaners; we all know that this is just hyperbole. Now, over the last twenty years, foreign reporters have been quick to slap the label “revolution” (plus catchy adjective) on mass street protests that look like, say, Prague in 1989, but in substance may not be. Sometimes those reporters are themselves veterans of earlier revolutions, including 1989; sometimes they may merely wish they had been. And for getting your story on the front page, the word “revolution” is the next-best thing to actual bloodshed.[] This, in turn, may be partly because readers and editors still consciously or semiconsciously associate the word “revolution” with bloodshed. Old stereotypes die hard.[12]

This cautionary remark is, however, complicated by the fact that the external journalistic labeling sometimes helps people involved in an event to characterize, and even to understand in a different way, what they themselves are doing. The foreign journalist’s story becomes part of their own story. Framing it as a revolution helps to make it so. There is a spectator–actor–spectator loop.

That said, we do need criteria beyond the naively nominal to determine what properly qualifies as a new-style revolution. The literature on revolutions usefully distinguishes between a revolutionary situation, revolutionary events, and a revolutionary outcome. The last is the most demanding. I like the new definition of revolution—or definition of new-style revolution—offered by George Lawson in his valuable book Negotiated Revolutions. Revolution, he suggests, is “the rapid, mass, forceful, systemic transformation of a society’s principal institutions and organizations.” (This rightly implies that mass nonviolent action can be “forceful” without being bloody.)

t will take specialists to apply the Lawson Test to each individual country and region. For most of East-Central Europe, including the Baltic states, I believe the test is clearly passed, as it is for South Africa. In southeastern Europe, the adjective “rapid” may often seem less appropriate, but for the most part, there surely has been systemic transformation. In Georgia and Ukraine, very large question marks must be in order. Kyrgyzstan surely does not pass the Lawson Test. And what about Lebanon? There are also cases where (at least for the time being) the movement for rapid, mass, forceful, systemic transformation has clearly been crushed. Burma is one of the plainest examples, but in Europe we should not forget the effective repression of an attempted velvet revolution in Belarus in 2006. And many would argue that the movement of Chinese students and workers whose repression began with the massacre on Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989 (the very day of Poland’s breakthrough semi-free election), was the most consequential failure of all.

The list of definite successes is not overwhelmingly impressive. The largest cohort is in just one region of the world—post-communist Europe—and most have so far been within the cultural-historical West, if that is taken ( pace Samuel Huntington) to include Latin America and the world of Orthodox Christianity. A possible exception might be the Philippines, but the Philippines is a largely Christian society. Whether or not Lebanon’s “cedar revolution” passes the Lawson Test, it took place in a country that is nearly 40 percent Christian. The great significance of the attempted “green revolution” in Iran is that it has occurred in a very Muslim society, in a self-styled Islamic Republic, and even takes the color of Islam for its own. But can one yet point to a plainly successful velvet revolution in an overwhelmingly Muslim country? (Mali? Maldives?) Or in a preponderantly Buddhist or Confucian one?

There does appear to be a statistical correlation between the choice of nonviolent action and broadly liberal democratic outcomes.[13] However, we must beware the fallacy of confusing correlation with cause. It might be that the kinds of society that adopt nonviolent means are also more likely, and better equipped, to consolidate liberal democracy. Both apparent cause and apparent effect could be symptoms of a deeper cause.

A further question is whether the aspiration to more democracy is also definitionally characteristic of VR—in which case, however, the argument for a link between nonviolence and liberal democracy would risk becoming circular. Could you have a velvet revolution to establish a different kind of dictatorship? Hamas and Hezbollah hardly qualify as nonviolent, although they have done well in elections, but what would emerge from, say, a “scarab revolution” led by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt?


What should one conclude from all this? That VR is just a political-journalistic tag? That VR exists, but is really just a type of transition characteristic of what one might call the democratization of the wider West over the thirty-five years since the revolution of the carnations in Portugal in 1974? In which case, since most of the wider West has now been democratized, we would be coming to the end of the line. Or should we rather conclude that, as Zhou Enlai is notoriously supposed to have answered when asked what he thought of the French Revolution, “it is a little too soon to say”? Twenty years, even thirty-five, is a short time for assessing large-scale historical phenomena. If, over the next two decades, there are many old-style, violent revolutions and few new-style, nonviolent ones, my VR hypothesis will be found wanting. If, however, there are more successful examples of VR in non-Western societies, including Muslim, Confucian, and Buddhist ones, then it may seem persuasive.

Yet to say “we must wait and see” misses a vital point. We—if we mean by that liberal democracies and democrats—are not mere observers in this history. We, like the foreign journalists reporting these stories, are also to some extent actors in them.

It cannot be emphasized too strongly that these movements are born from the conditions and the actions of people in the places concerned. These are not Western plots, as authoritarian rulers from Russia to China to Iran now claim—supported in their paranoia by a few conspiracy-minded Western observers. To be sure, there is often Western involvement, some of it public, some covert, but in no single case can one plausibly claim that it has been decisive. Moreover, the allegations of Western conspiracy are themselves part of the local political game, intended to disqualify opposition leaders in the eyes of an anti-Western public opinion and justify locking them up on the grounds of treason. A classic example is the indictment in the show trial of Iranian reformists, which says at one point:

The velvet revolution has three arms, intellectual, media, and executive, and each of these has relations to a number of American foundations, and there is a kind of division of labor among them…. In this triangle of sedition, each of these American organizations performs a certain function and a number of people cooperate with them. Of these, the most important is an institution called Hooffer [ sic, i.e., the Hoover Institution] at Stanford, created during the Cold War.[14]
And so on.

What emerges clearly from an international comparative study, however, is that the chances of success or failure depend to a significant degree on external factors—but that these must be understood much much more broadly than just alleged subversive American plots. The prospects for an attempted velvet revolution depend not just on the nature of the state and society it happens in, but also on the place of that state and society in a wider international setting.[15] Painting once again with a very broad brush, one might suggest that the best chances are to be found in semiauthoritarian states that depend to a significant degree, politically, economically, and, so to speak, psychologically, on more democratic ones—and most especially when the foreign states with the most passive influence or active leverage on them are Western democracies. Thus, attempts have failed in large, independent, self-referential states such as China but also in small, isolated, peripheral ones such as Burma, sandwiched as it is between China and India.

As Burma found to its cost in 2007, non-Western democracies such as India have generally been less keen than Western ones to exert active leverage to the benefit of velvet revolutions. Themselves often emerging from a colonial experience, they place a high value on sovereignty, and tend to see even well-intentioned forms of noncoercive external intervention as potentially neocolonial. And, of course, they pursue their own national interests. India, for example, apparently feels that it has an economic, military, and geopolitical interest in maintaining good rela- tions with the Burmese military regime. Will this continue to be the case? Or will non-Western democracies in time warm to the (profoundly anticolonial) enterprise of helping people in less free countries to help themselves? The answer they give may be decisive for the future of VR.

How democrats and democracies can enhance the prospects of VR in other places, if they wish to, is the subject for another essay. So is the question whether they should, even if they can; for some would dispute that this goal is either desirable or legitimate. In any case, it has certainly become more difficult over the last decade, as authoritarian rulers in Russia, China, Iran, and elsewhere have identified VR as a hostile Western stratagem, and carefully studied its history so as to nip it in the bud.

In attempting to counter it, they have mimicked some of its techniques: for example, founding their own NGOs (which are in fact, to use a British term, quangos, quasi -nongovernmental organizations) and sending their own election monitors. Now more than ever, I suspect that the long-term, indirect measures that free societies can take will prove more important and effective than the short-term, direct ones. That is also a lesson from the history of the cold war and its ending.

What we cannot credibly do is sit back and pretend that we are no part of this unfolding history, merely neutral spectators of it. That stance itself has an impact, thus belying its own claim. Whether velvet revolution has a future as well as a past will depend, in the first place, on the will and the skill of people in the places concerned; but it will also depend, in smaller measure, on us.

—This is the second of two articles.

[1]Despite extensive inquiries with leading Czech and Western historians of the velvet revolution, I have not (yet) been able to pin down the first use.

[2]Mao Zedong, Report of an Investigation into the Peasant Movement in Hunan, quoted in George Lawson, Negotiated Revolutions: The Czech Republic, South Africa and Chile (Ashgate, 2005), p. 51.

[3]I am well aware that the guillotine was not introduced until a later stage in the French Revolution.

[4]See my account in The Magic Lantern: The Revolution of ’89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin, and Prague (Random House, 1990), p. 113.

[5]Quoted in an excellent article by John K. Glenn, “Competing Challengers and Contested Outcomes to State Breakdown: The Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia,” Social Forces, Vol. 78, No. 1 (September 1999), pp. 187–211. Note also that the Slovak counterpart of the Civic Forum was actually called the Public Against Violence.

[6]On this see Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present, edited by Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash (Oxford University Press, 2009). For this essay, I have drawn on the findings of that multiauthor volume, and the Oxford University research project behind it:

[7]Quoted in Lawson, Negotiated Revolutions, p. 72.

[8]See Timothy Garton Ash and Timothy Snyder, “The Orange Revolution,” The New York Review, April 28, 2005, now reprinted in Timothy Garton Ash, Facts Are Subversive: Political Writing from a Decade Without a Name (Atlantic Books, 2009).

[9]See Roger Cohen, “Iran: The Tragedy and the Future,” The New York Review, August 13, 2009.

[10]Quoted in Lawson, Negotiated Revolutions, p. 90. On this, see also my The Magic Lantern, p. 154, and Krishan Kumar, 1989: Revolutionary Ideas and Ideals (University of Minnesota Press, 2001).

[11]Hannah Arendt, On Revolution (Viking, 1963), p. 36.

[12]When my earlier New York Review essay “1989!” (issue dated November 5, 2009) was reprinted in a supplement to the Guardian (October 24, 2009), it was illustrated with a dramatic photograph of a young man with a machine gun running through the streets of Bucharest, Romania, in December 1989. Ah yes, the reader inwardly exclaims, that’s revolution. But what happened in Romania was profoundly unrepresentative of 1989: it was the exception, not the rule.

[13]See Adrian Karatnycky and Peter Ackerman, How Freedom Is Won: From Civic Resistance to Durable Democracy (Freedom House, 2005).

[14]I am most grateful to my colleague at the Hoover Institution, Professor Abbas Milani, for his translation of this interesting document.

[15]This emerges very clearly both from the studies in Roberts and Garton Ash, Civil Resistance and Power Politics, and from those in Democracy and Authoritarianism in the Postcommunist World, edited by Valerie Bunce, Michael McFaul, and Kathryn Stoner-Weiss (Cambridge University Press, 2009).

23 August – The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact Sunday, Aug 23 2009 

Russia Defends Stalin’s Deal with Hitler
By Jonas Bernstein
20 August 2009

Sunday, August 23, marks the 70th anniversary of the so-called Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact – the non-aggression treaty signed in 1939 by Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. The pact included a secret protocol dividing Eastern and Central Europe into Nazi and Soviet spheres of influence. Days after it was signed, first German and then Soviet forces invaded Poland.

The anniversary’s approach has sparked a debate in Europe. Western governments condemn Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin as two equally murderous variants of totalitarianism. The Russian government calls that comparison a “distortion” of history.

On August 17, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service issued a statement saying it had declassified documents showing that the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was the Soviet Union’s “only available means of self-defense.”

The spy agency’s demarche was just the latest in a series of Russian government statements that critics say appear to defend Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and justify actions he took shortly before and during World War II.

In early May, Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu introduced legislation in parliament that would make it a crime to deny the Soviet victory in World War II.

Later in May, President Dmitri Medvedev issued a decree setting up a presidential commission to counter what he called attempts to “falsify history.”

At a meeting in early July, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe passed a resolution designating August 23 – the anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact – as a day of remembrance for the victims of both Stalinism and Nazism.

Russian delegates to the European security body walked out of the meeting, in protest. Russia’s Foreign Ministry denounced the OSCE resolution as “an attempt to distort history with political goals,” while Russia’s parliament called it a “direct insult to the memory of millions” of Soviet soldiers who, in the words of the parliament, “gave their lives for the freedom of Europe from the fascist yoke.”

Former independent Russian parliament Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov says what he calls the “official” Russian position on the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is “extremely strange.”

Ryzhkov asks why today’s Russia, which has a democratic constitution and new democratic legitimacy, should justify the division of Europe between Hitler and Stalin.

He says that this view is now included in Russian history text books and has caused “enormous moral damage” to Russia’s reputation, particularly in the countries of Eastern Europe that were the main victims of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.  Ryzhkov says the only explanation for the Russian leadership’s position on the issue is what he calls “sympathy for Stalin.”

Public opinion surveys suggest many ordinary Russians share at least some of their government’s views.

A poll conducted by the state-run VTsIOM agency, following the OSCE resolution condemning Stalinism and Nazism, found that 53 percent of the respondents across Russia viewed it negatively, while 11 percent viewed it positively and 21 percent viewed it neutrally. In addition, 59 percent of those polled said the resolution was aimed at undermining Russia’s authority in the world and diminishing its contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Dmitry Furman of the Russian Academy of Science’s Institute of Europe calls the presidential commission to counter what it deems historical falsification an “idiotic undertaking” and a “very bad idea.” He also says Stalin’s government killed as many, or even more people than Hitler’s.

But, given the suffering Russians endured after Hitler turned on Stalin and invaded the Soviet Union, Furman says it is natural that many resist equating Stalinism and Nazism.

Furman says it is “very difficult psychologically” for Russians to put what they see as their “victors” in the Great Patriotic War, as they call World War II, on the same level with the vanquished Nazis.

Condemning totalitarianism of all colours Saturday, Aug 22 2009 

The 23rd August is “European Day of Rememberance for the Victims of Nazism and Stalinism”, to condemn totalitarianism. A noble cause perhaps, but one which has provoked controversy in Russia, where Stalin is still a national hero. They point out that Russia in fact saved many lives threatened by Nazism. Yet the Russians remain cagey about their Soviet Union archives, a stumbling block for ex-Soviet states to really understand their totalitarian pasts.

In Vilnius in July, 20 years after the collapse of communist regimes in Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) passed a resolution entitled “Divided Europe Reunited.” The OSCE document, which was hardly reported by the press, acknowledges “the uniqueness of the Holocaust,” and notes that  “in the twentieth century European countries experienced two major totalitarian regimes, Nazi and Stalinist, which brought about genocide, violations of human rights and freedoms, war crimes and crimes against humanity.” It further recommends that member countries “clearly and unequivocally condemn totalitarianism” (one of the stipulations of the 1990 Copenhagen Document), on the basis that “an awareness of history” will help “to prevent the recurrence of similar crimes in  the future.” It was adopted by large majority of delegates — 202 of the 214 present — in spite of vehement opposition from Russia.

The OSCE initiative parallels the European Parliament resolution on “European conscience and totalitarianism” passed in April, which chose to establish a “European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Nazism and Stalinism” on 23 August — which also happens to be the the anniversary of the signature of 1930 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. It is not a coincidence that the EU has decided to honour the memory of the victims of deportation and mass extermination on a day that establishes a link between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Placing Nazism on the same level as Communism is identified as an important step in the “European conscience and totalitarianism” text, which also calls for the opening up of secret police and intelligence agency archives, and the adoption of wide-reaching measures to facilitate research and the re-examination of the past.

Russia “against falsification of history” refuses to open archives

Russia reacted strongly to the “A Divided Europe Reunited” resolution, which a spokesman for the Ministry for Foreign Affairs described as “an unacceptable attempt to distort history for political goals.” The Russian parliament also issued a statement condemning the resolution as “a direct insult to the memory of millions of Russian soldiers” who “gave their lives to liberate Europe from Nazi domination.” For the Russians, Stalin is still a real hero. For the peoples of Eastern Europe, he is responsible supporting communist regimes with blood on their hands.

Russia’s outrage at the equation of Stalinist and Nazi regimes reflects a reluctance to come to terms with its totalitarian past, which is also evident in the revival of the Soviet tradition for the organisation of massive military parades. Among other post-communist states, Russia has also been the one that has made least effort to take responsibility for the crimes of communism (and that includes Stalinist communism) — on the contrary the current administration has even sought to reinforce the structures of the former KGB and their control of the political process. It also responded to what it perceives as academic aggression with the establishment of a “Commission to counter the falsification of history to the detriment of Russia’s interests” in May 2009. It is on this basis that the Russian Academy of Sciences has now sent an official order to the directors of its institutes in its history and philology section demanding an annotated list of cultural-historical falsifications in their fields of study and proposals for the scientific confutation of the falsifications in question.

With its call for the opening of archives, the OSCE resolution draws attention to the policy of Russia, which has yet to grant access to its secret police records. Not only does this situation affect the work of Russian historians, but it also hampers the research of their colleagues in former Soviet republics. When they withdrew in 1991, KGB staff took all of the most important documents from the former Soviet republics back to Moscow, and in so doing, denied the citizens of those countries the right to understand their recent past. Since its independence, post-communist Estonia has only had access to secret police catalogue files, but no access to the reports to which they refer. The catalogue files list names, but do not specify if the people concerned were informers or surveillance targets— and a critical need for access to further data is highlighted by the fact that a number of politicians’ names have been discovered in these catalogue files. In Lithuania, the KGB removed almost all of the archives from Vilnius, but historians have been able to conduct research using documents from other KGB document sources outside the city. Notwithstanding these differences, all of the Baltic states would benefit from a better understanding of their history if they were granted access to the Soviet archives in Moscow.

Lavinia Stan

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OSCE a decis: comunism = nazism (un articol din Revista 22, 11 august 2009) Monday, Aug 17 2009 


u este surprinzător că, dintre guvernele postcomuniste, cel rus nu a făcut mai nimic pentru asumarea crimelor comunismului.

La 2 iulie, Adunarea Parlamentară a Organizaţiei pentru Securitate şi Cooperare în Europa (OSCE) a adoptat la Vilnius rezoluţia intitulată Reunificarea Europei divizate: promovarea Drepturilor Omului şi Libertăţilor Civile în regiunea OSCE în secolul XXI. Propusă de delegatul Sloveniei Roberto Battelli şi susţinută de Vilija Aleknaite-Abramikiene, reprezentantul Lituaniei, rezoluţia marchează 20 de ani de la prăbuşirea regimurilor comuniste europene. Ea a fost adoptată cu o largă majoritate a delegaţilor – 202 dintre cei 214 prezenţi –, în ciuda opoziţiei acerbe a Rusiei. Ministerul Afacerilor Externe rus a calificat hotărarea drept o „inacceptabilă încercare de distorsionare a istoriei în scopuri politice“, un pas care „nu contribuie la crearea unei atmosfere de încredere şi cooperare între ţările membre ale OSCE“. La rândul său, Parlamentul rus vedea rezoluţia OSCE drept „o insultă directă la memoria milioanelor de soldaţi ruşi“ care „şi-au dat viaţa pentru eliberarea Europei de sub jugul fascist“.

Un alt critic a fost Michel Billout, reprezentantul Partidului Comunist Francez, pentru care rezoluţia „confundă nazismul cu stalinismul“ şi lista regimurilor totalitare ar trebui să includă Franţa, care în anii ‘30 a creat lagăre de concentrare pentru refugiaţii spanioli, Statele Unite, în timpul campaniei lui McCarthy, şi „întreaga creştinătate, pentru ideologia sa religioasă generatoare de persecuţii religioase“.

Recunoscând „caracterul unic al Holocaustului“, documentul OSCE observă că „în secolul XX, ţările europene au suferit două regimuri totalitare majore, cel nazist şi cel stalinist, ce au dus la genocid, încălcări ale drepturilor şi libertăţilor omului, crime de război şi crime împotriva umanităţii“. Ţările membre trebuie să „condamne totalitarismul în mod clar şi neechivoc“ (promisiune inclusă în Documentul de la Copenhaga, din 1990), deoarece „cunoaşterea istoriei duce la prevenirea unor asemenea crime pe viitor, iar dezbaterile oneste şi complete privind istoria facilitează reconcilierea bazată pe adevăr şi memorie“. Reamintind iniţiativa Parlamentului European de a declara 23 august, când Pactul Ribbentrop-Molotov a fost semnat, în 1930, drept „Zi de comemorare a victimelor stalinismului şi nazismului“, în memoria victimelor deportărilor şi exterminării în masă, Adunarea Parlamentară îşi exprimă „îngrijorarea profundă cu privire la glorificarea regimurilor totalitare prin organizarea de demonstraţii publice de glorificare a trecutului nazist şi stalinist“.

OSCE îşi „reconfirmă opoziţia unită la regimurile totalitare de toate culorile ideologice“ şi le cere statelor membre: 1) „să continue studierea moştenirii totalitare, să aducă la cunoştinţa publicului, să dezvolte şi să îmbunătăţească programele educaţionale privind istoria totalitarismului, drepturile omului şi libertăţile fundamentale, pluralismul, democraţia şi toleranţa“; 2) să sprijine organizaţiile neguvernamentale care studiază crimele regimurilor totalitare; 3) să îndepărteze structurile şi comportamentele care „cosmetizează trecutul“ sau „îşi au rădăcinile în încălcarea drepturilor omului“; 5) să-şi deschidă arhivele politice şi istorice; 6) să combată xenofobia şi naţionalismul agresiv şi 7) să dovedească un mai mare respect pentru drepturile omului, chiar şi în vremuri de ameninţări teroriste, criză economică, dezastre ecologice şi migraţii în masă.

Punând semnul egalităţii între comunism şi nazism, ca feţe ale aceluiaşi fenomen totalitar reprobabil, documentul OSCE reprezintă un important pas înainte pentru sprijinirea Rezoluţiei Parlamentului European privind conştiinţa Europei şi totalitarismul, care a cerut şi ea deschiderea arhivelor istorice şi secrete, declararea zilei de 23 august drept „Zi de comemorare a victimelor stalinismului şi nazismului“ şi adoptarea unor măsuri largi de reconsiderare a trecutului (inclusiv prin deschiderea unui centru de informare la Bruxelles). Regretabil, printre iniţiatorii moţiunii comune de promovare a rezoluţiei Parlamentului European, depusă la sfârşitul lunii martie 2009, nu s-a numărat niciun reprezentant al României, în afara lui László Tökés, deşi ţări ca Polonia au fost reprezentate de câte doi semnatari. Parte din acest efort larg de asumare a trecutului recent sunt şi rapoartele naţionale comisionate de Directoratul General pentru Justiţie, Libertate şi Securitate al Comisiei Europene. Raportul despre România, pe care am avut onoarea să-l scriu, analizează asumarea trecutului fascist şi comunist, discutând în amănunt iniţiativele guvernamentale şi ale societăţii civile, legislaţia şi jurisprudenţa din domeniu, metodele de decomunizare şi mandatele instituţiilor din domeniu.

Deşi delegatul lituanian Aleknaite-Abramikiene a insistat că rezoluţia de condamnare a stalinismului a căutat nu să jignească, ci să aducă un omagiu celor ce-au pierit în timpul şi după cel de-al doilea război mondial, reacţia Rusiei a fost vehementă. Stalin continuă să fie considerat un adevărat erou, mulţi ruşi creditându-l cu înfrângerea Germaniei naziste, deşi în ochii Europei de Est el este culpabil de transformarea acestor ţări în satelite şi susţinerea unor regimuri comuniste sângeroase, care s-au întors împotriva propriilor cetăţeni doar pentru că aceştia şi-au cerut drepturile. Administraţia cu care s-a înconjurat fostul preşedinte Vladimir Putin, aşa-numiţii siloviki, se mândresc cu moştenirea cekistă pe care şi-au asumat-o benevol, în ciuda cruzimii notorii de care au dat dovadă troicile extrajudiciare ale anilor ‘30. O colecţie de carte tot mai abundentă glorifică regimul comunist şi poliţia sa secretă, în timp ce victimele acestora şi suferinţele lor sunt trecute sub tăcere. În plus, Moscova a reînceput organizarea unor masive parade militare, care amintesc de cele sovietice. Nu este deci surprinzător că, dintre guvernele postcomuniste, cel rus nu a făcut mai nimic pentru asumarea crimelor comunismului (inclusiv ale celui stalinist) şi chiar a urmărit întărirea structurilor fostului KGB şi a controlului acestora asupra procesului politic. Rusia s-a opus schiţării oricăror paralele între regimurile lui Hitler şi Stalin, ultimul chiar clasându se pe locul trei într-un sondaj de opinie privind personalitatea rusă cea mai remarcabilă.

În nicio altă ţară postcomunistă ofiţerii secreţi care au dezvăluit informaţii despre poliţia politică nu au fost judecaţi şi condamnaţi la închisoare, cum s-a întâmplat în Rusia. În nicio altă ţară nu a mai fost lansată o campanie susţinută împotriva „falsificărilor istorice“ de genul celei declanşate recent acolo. Anul acesta, guvernul rus a susţinut o foarte controversată lege ce pedepseşte cu până la trei ani de închisoare „reabilitarea nazismului“ prin negarea rolului jucat de Uniunea Sovietică în înfrângerea lui Hitler. În plus, Decretul de înfiinţare a Comisiei de combatere a încercărilor de falsificare a istoriei ce afectează interesele Rusiei, semnat de preşedintele Medvedev la 5 mai 2009, promovează viziunea Moscovei conform căreia rolul său în al doilea război mondial a fost unul eroic, date fiind costurile umane enorme suferite de Uniunea Sovietică în vederea respingerii atacului nazist. În virtutea acelui decret, la 23 iunie Academia Rusă de Ştiinţe le-a cerut directorilor de institute de istorie şi filologie să identifice falsificările istorico-culturale în care instituţiile lor au fost implicate, numele celor care le-au produs şi promovat, potenţialele pericole la care acestea expun Rusia, alături de o refutaţie a fiecărei falsificări în parte. Decretul încalcă autonomia universitară şi libertatea de opinie, descurajează analiza imparţială a trecutului recent şi le cere istoricilor să producă argumentele propriei lor condamnări publice.

Prin apelul său pentru deschiderea arhivelor, rezoluţia OSCE s-a adresat în special Rusiei, ţară unde arhivele sunt încă sub cheie, situaţie care-i afectează nu numai pe istoricii ruşi, ci şi fostele republici sovietice. Aşa cum se ştie, înainte de a se retrage la Moscova, în 1991, efectivele KGB au luat cu ele documentele cele mai importante compilate şi colectate pe teritoriul republicilor sovietice, prin aceasta negându-le acestor ţări dreptul de a-şi înţelege propriul trecut recent.

De la declararea independenţei sale, Estonia postcomunistă nu a dispus decât de fişele de catalog, nu şi de dosarele secrete la care acestea se referă. Cum fişele nu dezvăluie calitatea în care persoanele menţionate au interacţionat cu poliţia secretă, numeroşi politicieni şi-au susţinut nevinovăţia (pretinzând că au fost victime, când, de fapt, au fost informatori). În Lituania, arhivele din Vilnius au fost evacuate aproape în totalitate, însă nu şi cele din provincie, unde importantele colecţii lăsate de KGB în urma sa au ajutat la reconstituirea adevărului istoric. Dar toate ţările baltice ar beneficia de o citire mai corectă a istoriei, dacă arhivele sovietice din Moscova le-ar fi accesibile.

Importanţa rezoluţiei OSCE pentru România este întreită. Într-un gest simbolic, ziua de 23 august – asociată în mentalul colectiv românesc cu regimul comunist – va deveni o zi de comemorare a victimelor acestuia, ale căror suferinţe încă sunt negate de unii comentatori. Progresele substanţiale înregistrate în ultimii ani în deschiderea arhivelor trebuie menţinute pe viitor, pentru ca accesul neîngrădit la documente al cercetătorilor – indiferent de opţiunile lor ideologice, metodologice sau politice – să permită necesara pluralitate de vederi. Guvernul României trebuie să sprijine şi mai mult, financiar şi logistic, procesul de asumare a trecutului recent şi instituţiile neguvernamentale din domeniu. //

Lavinia Stan–nazism-6436.html