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<nettime> Songs and samizdat made the Wall fall: Europe Against the Curr
Tjebbe van Tijen on Wed, 11 Nov 2009 05:49:46 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Songs and samizdat made the Wall fall: Europe Against the Current September 1989 revisited

The full  version of this article - illustrated and documented - can  
be found at the following address:



below here just the three opening paragraphs:

Songs and samizdat made the Wall fall: Europe Against the Current  
September 1989 revisited

November 9, 2009 by Tjebbe van Tijen
In mainstream news papers and television the decade-commemoration- 
machinery for The Fall Of  The Berlin Wall in November 1989 is  
running at full speed now. So this is the right moment to recall the  
?against the current?  history of those days ? just before from 1985  
till summer 1989 ? when mainstream media and commentators had no clue  
yet, of the sudden change in the political configuration of Europe,  
that would have its now official apotheose at last in November 1989.  
It was citizen dissidence that made not only the Berlin Wall fall,  
but also leveled the walls of nine state communist buildings (though,  
failing to dig out the deeper authoritarian fundaments). Thirty years  
of  heavy Cold War propaganda bombardment of party-regime edifices in  
the eastern parts of Europe did not accomplish, what in the end could  
only be done by the inhabitants, the citizens,  themselves. Some did  
it by writing and self publishing, others by distributing and  
reading, playing, dancing and singing, thus exposing the internal  
contradictions of systems reigning in the name and interest of all  
people, while excluding most of them from participation. The counter- 
culture movements in Eastern Europe have been instrumental in  
hastening the erosion process of state-socialism, this to such an  
extent that the walls of  these bureaucratic paradises crumbled at  
the sound of these ?horns of Jericho?. It was in Hungary and  
Czechoslovakia that the first fissures appeared, and soon it were the  
East Germans, hopping trains, buses and their Trabants to hurriedly  
climb the fences of embassies in Prague, or to simply do a country  
hike and walk out across the Hungarian Austrian border where ? for a  
short while ? barbed wire was cut and watch towers were unmanned. DDR  
citizens not tearing down walls but ?voting with their feet.?


Earlier in 1989 the iron curtain ? however rusty ? was still in  
place, the great divide between Western and Eastern Europe. Block- 
thinking was predominant: First World (capitalist), Second World  
(socialist) and Third World (poor and revolting). A long curving line  
from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean split Europe, separated it  
physical in two opposing political systems. Europe was a plural word  
at that time. The geographical Europe as could be found in atlases  
and maps reaching till the Urals, and two socio-political Europes:  
Western Europe and Eastern Europe. Culturally speaking, that what was  
East of that fenced line was considered by the Westsiders NOT even  
part of their idea of Europe (something like the actual perception of  
Turkey as something that should not be part of the EEC). It is hard  
to imagine now, but it needs to be recalled how deeply entrenched the  
divide was then, on all levels. There had been popular risings in  
Eastern Europe, starting in East-Berlin in 1953 and ending in Gdansk  
in 1980, with the Hungarian Revolt in 1956 and Czech Spring of 1968  
as moments where the iron curtain was torn aside a bit, but soon  
after repaired by Soviet and Warsaw Pact occupying forces with their  
tanks. There was no end in view of  the ?entente? between the power  
blocks that kept each other in a forced embrace of mutual deterrence,  
based on their nuclear weapon arsenals. This military vision also  
translated into the cultural realm with the  monolithic view of the  
Eastern European block as one total oppressive political unit with a  
only a few courageous dissidents, martyrs for the cause of  a Western  
type of  ?freedom?, for the rest just masses of indoctrinated  
communist obeyers


Those who looked beyond this Cold War imago knew that the rule and  
control in each of the countries ? messed together in the notion of  
?Eastern Europe? ? had its own particularities, its own time line of   
periods of openness and repression. Those who were knowledgeable  had  
observed that ? in each country in a different way and at different  
moments  - in certain official recognized cultural areas some forms  
of  less restricted activities and expressions were possible, like  
jazz festivals, cinema and theatre experiments, international  
scientific meetings, certain publishing activities, and cultural  
centers managed by youth associations or students. Those from ?the  
West? who went through the curtain and made the effort to go beyond  
the controlled itineraries could also discover  a whole network that  
could rightly be labeled  a ?cultural underground?, or as it was  
called  in Czech society of that time, not ?underground? or ?counter  
culture? like in ?the West?, but ?paraleln? kultura? (parallel  
culture), also sometimes named ?zweiten Kultur? (second culture) like  
in the DDR.

Tjebbe van Tijen
Imaginary Museum Projects
Dramatizing Historical Information
web-blog: The Limping Messenger

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