Accepted Paper:

Extracting one's past from a grey future: nostalgia in post-1989 Romania  


Marina Elena Tataram (University of Bucharest)

Paper short abstract:

This paper embarks upon examining types of discontent and/or nostalgic people in post-socialist Romania. As they were confronted with a highly idealised image of the West and of the future as initially depicted, what occurs is a selective remebrance and acceptance of a cosmetic "Communist" past.

Paper long abstract:

The probing of their recollections from this era has been known to make people talk, producing a remarkable collection of stories. Based on an archive of student interviews, our focus will lie with the ordinary people who claim that "all was better then".

Two possible patterns emerge: either the existence of a syndrome or that of a contagion. This study proposes to test these hypotheses against the discourses mentioned.

While nowadays political discourse re-appropriates relevant themes from the past, there is an increasing (and understandable) avoidance of representing the nostalgic layers of society, moderated by the need to account for these latter's discontent.

Perhaps the representation of the discontent understood in these terms is neither a legitimate political grievance, nor is it a problem for democracy and representation or a moral issue. Nevertheless, the puzzle is not the existence of several layers of discontentment, but the fact that such regrets associated with dictatorships occur in post-totalitarian or post-authoritarian countries (Chile, the former GDR, Romania, Serbia, etc.).

We shall identify several categories of discontent according to the usual sociological variables.

We shall distinguish between people who loved the past (and may want to get back to the past, but no party asks for it, so they are underrepresented), people who are unhappy with the present (hence the volatility of the social bases of the parties), and people who see no future (liberalization affects them negatively, hence they form the constituency of extremist parties). What is more, these categories may overlap.

Panel IW03
Liminal Europe