Yes, when the Soviet Block broke apart.

What’s the catch?!

You’ll see, read on!

Let’s take two case examples. Hungary and Romania.

In the summer of 1989, while still under communism, while still occupied by the Soviet Army, Hungary proved instrumental in breaking the Iron Curtain and helping with the reunification of Germany.

Horn is remembered as the last Communist Foreign Minister of Hungary who played a major role in the demolishing of the “Iron Curtain” for East Germans in 1989, contributing to the later unification of Germany, […]

There was not even a velvet revolution in Hungary, but rather a transition, in which the communist regime willingly allowed non-communist political forces at the table, gradually migrating the country to a multiparty system. Peaceful political reform.

Romania! 1989. A heterogeneous country ruled with an iron fist by Nicolae Ceausescu — the last Stalinist in Europe, best buddy of Kim Il Sung — the central character of the Korean War and the grand-daddy of the current North Korean leader.

Gorbachev brought Perestrojka and Glasnost (in English: restructuring and openness) to the Soviet Union. Ceausescu opposed that. When pressed by the Kremlin to push for reforms, he threatened to give them “a new Vietnam” if they dare to interfere in his “internal affairs.”

Popular unrest was brutally repressed in Romania, this until the Army turned coats. Go watch The Death of Stalin for a closer look at how things work in similar situations.

Unlike Beria (spoiler alert), Ceausescu ended up shot, by the Army and his party comrades, on the Christmas Day of 1989. Blood asks for more blood. Death brings more death. The game of karma is ugly. Perhaps not even a game.

Political bile aside, little Hungary stays faithful to its core historical identity. Today, Hungary presents herself as a trend-setter, not just for Europe, in respect to the reckless immigration policies that bear the potential to extinguish Europe as you know it.

Back in 1988, or even in 1989, for the common Roumanian citizen, the tyrant and his Securitate were ‘indestructible’ and ‘perennial.’ Sort of like for the little guy today, looking up at the banking system, the oil cartel, the military industrial complex, this clique or that cabal.

“Did ya know, bro, that a Roumanian invented the car engine that runs on water? Ah, and Tesla was a Roumanian too. Oh yeah!” Folklore always soothes deep wounds. Hope is the main fuel of survival. Look at the most oppressed and you’ll find the greatest hope. Especially when they’ve got the freedom to run, to move, to settle, to speak.

Unlike Hungary, today, Romania remains mired down in abstractions and an identity crisis. Am I telling you that Hungary is ‘the good guys’ and Romania ‘the bad boys?’ Nope. Not at all! Because, when you study a bit of history, then you understand that the people of these two countries are sharing a common ecosystem for centuries. They are about as much interconnected as the Belgian French and Dutch, or the Norwegians and the Danes. Ditch the dictators, pause the politicians, and you may say that we are talking about a family, quite big and noisy and brawling. Still a family at the end of the day.

What 1989 brought to this family — in two extremely opposite ways — was the freedom to do whatever they wanted to do. If they like to vote for the right, then you’ll get center-right and right all the way. Move there, live there, have a drink. If they like to vote left, then there you go: center-left and all nostalgic left. Stay there if you have the guts.

With a tyrant in Bucharest and Soviet tanks in Budapest, family members had little say, if at all. But 1989 changed all that: everyone can be whatever the heck his right, or left, leg wants to be. There’s a central one but it leans, one side or the other. Never straight.

With a rigid energy grid and food chain, with a sclerotic political system, under a draconian financial oppression, how on earth the little guy could manifest his freedom, could follow his instincts?

Today is a day for you to reflect, to compare, to consider: what 1989 brought to those guys out there in the Carpathians; what tomorrow brings to the little guy on planet Earth: the power to act as an individual, to make an educated guess, liberated from the ritual of obedience to the powers that be. Or were.

Photo by Federica Giusti on Unsplash

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