Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My perestroika - different countries, same change

       The movie we started watching today in class might have a very different meaning for me, a child born in barely democratic Romania, just 2 years after the fall of the communist regime, than it has for most people in our class. Watching the images and listening to the stories of the people in the movie seems like I am listening to citizen of Romania, who are, for some reason, speaking in Russian. The manifestations and the pioneers, the songs and poems about peace, they could maybe be described as universal among the communist states. ( The video in this post is from the last celebration of communist rule in Romania in 1989, its anniversary was on the 23rd of August and the Romanian revolution started 4 months later,in December 1989).
        I think the thing that impressed me the most were the pioneers. The way they talk is hauntingly similar to the way the Romanian kids praised the glorified leader a little bit over 20 years ago. Even their voices are similar. And while some people found it funny, for me it was slightly terrifying, understanding how powerful the cult of personality was in all the communist countries. This unity in how kids were forced to show their approval of communism and their strong belief in its values really impressed me in a way that I never thought it would.
        The innocent children we saw in the movie are not just random kids, who show up in the video because they happened to be around when public television was taking interviews. They were carefully selected, based on their parents' involvement in communist activities, if these parents were effective and loyal members of society,preserving the values of communism and fostering them in their kids, so that the   offspring would become responsible members of the communist society.
        I haven't lived during the communist rule in my country, but I have been exposed to aspects of it and the way the Russian people talk about it is familiar to me. The way the interiors of their houses look like, even the social commentaries on class and income feel as if taken from a Romanian documentary about the democratization of my country. I relate to it in a very strong way. However, I can imagine that the American perspective on all of these issues is different. How does it make you feel when you see how fascinating wearing a T-shirt with USA written on it is for some people? Can you understand how cool the UCLA logo must have been ( I bet most people in Russia don't know what UCLA is even today...)? How does their perspective on the west make you feel?
         All in all, I think the things I am most curious about are: how do you feel about communism and about this movie? Can you put yourself in this situation? Do you resonate with the characters? Can you imagine how life was like either during the communist rule or at the time when the movie was made?
Also: how do you feel about their way of living? Is it in any way similar to anything you/ your parents/ your grandparents might have experienced?


  1. First off, Iulia, I'm really glad you wrote this. For most of us in the class, we were watching a documentary about a different culture that we aren't very familiar with and certainly haven't lived in. For you, however, it seems that this hit much closer to home.

    What was most interesting to me in the film was the surprise that one of the women felt when she found out that her income puts her barely above poverty. This made me wonder how the "poverty line" and "middle class" incomes were calculated.

  2. Sydney, I think that was a very interesting aspect for me too. Technically, if you think about just how extravagantly rich some people are and how the people who earn between 3000-5000 dollars (I think) are somewhere in the middle, the report Olga was talking about is fair. In real life though, I can understand what she is talking about: she benefits a lot of stuff that others who are truly impoverished can't afford and that makes her middle class, not barely above the poverty line. And it feels really interesting that I can understand this aspect too, even if my country is no longer part of the Soviet Union. This thin line between poor and middle class exists in Romania as well, so I think the development of the former communist countries might have had a pattern of growth similar to Russia's.

  3. Iulia, my parents spent first 25 years of their lives in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, before coming to be graduate students in the US in 1990. While they told me how life in Yugoslavia was somewhat different than in the rest of Eastern Europe because Yugoslavia was a member of a non-alligned movement rather than the Warsaw Pact, and as such more open towards the rest of the world than, say Romania or Soviet Union, many issues they faced were similar: relatively low standard of living, soc-realistic egalitarianism, or limited exposure to western culture. I must say that my parents believe how a large share of people (non-intelectuals mostly) felt fairly comfortable with prevailing mediocrity within old society where excellence was not promoted and financial incentives were discouraged.

  4. I feel like I had a bit of the same reaction. Coming from a former Yugoslavian country - Slovenia, that's only actually been a country for the past 20 years, I definitely related. Maybe not me personally, but as Iulia said, I've been exposed to the effects communism had on people. And most of them would agree completely with what was said in the video. My teachers in primary schools used to praise communism in fornt of us and yearn for the glory days, when everything was cheap and easy, and there were jobs, and the world just seemed like a great place. We didn't even know what communism was. When they mentioned the pioneers, I remembered my mother showing me a picture of her, when she was younger with almost the exact same hat on. All in all, this movie made an impact on me, and made me reflect and understand russian and my own country's society more in depth.