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Past for the Eyes
East European Representations of Communism
in Cinema and Museums after 1989

Edited by

Oksana Sarkisova, OSA Archivum; International Documentary Film Festival Verzio, Budapest

Péter Apor, Pasts Inc., Center for Historical Studies at the Central European University

How do museums and cinema shape the image of the Communist past in today’s Central and Eastern Europe? This volume is the first systematic analysis of how visual techniques are used to understand and put into context the former regimes.

After history “ended” in the Eastern Bloc in 1989, museums and other memorials mushroomed all over the region. These efforts tried both to explain the meaning of this lost history, as well as to shape public opinion on their society’s shared post-war heritage. Museums and films made political use of recollections of the recent past, and employed selected museum, memorial, and media tools and tactics to make its political intent historically credible.

Thirteen essays from scholars around the region take a fresh look at the subject as they address the strategies of fashioning popular perceptions of the recent past.

"Books on the CEE transformations that deal with media and popular cultures should be welcomed. Past for the Eyes belongs to this extraordinary breed.
The book is devoted to the visual representations of the socialist / communist past and the forms they took. The interconnected processes of visualization of the past, and the collective memory sedimentation are the main focus.

One of the common threads which stitch the chapters together and turn the collection into a quite homogenous regional report on an updated 'structure of feeling', are the authors' horizons referring to the experience of being post-socialist in a postmodern condition. They help to sense that there is something peculiar about reconsidering, revisiting and even rejecting a politically evil regime from the perspective that does not allow for any clear discrimination between what is ultimately good and evil. Simultaneity seems to be an important strategy for both researchers and filmmakers as objects of their enquiry. In many cases chapters recall visual texts which deplore the socialist regime while they simultaneously remain aware of the limits of any orthodoxy. This attitude of alertness and reflexivity is far removed from any 'so-we-will-be-free-now' optimism, and the collapse of this particular ideology is combined with the awareness that 'ideology is not a historically specific bad thing', as John Corner put it elsewhere." - Politics and Culture

"With their collection of essays, Oksana Sarkisova and Péter Apor aim at an interim statement about this multifaceted wave of remembrance by focusing on visual material, namely cinema and museums. Their geographical scope is broad - from the Baltic region to east central Europe and the Balkans, including Russia. They have organized the thirteen contributions in three parts "so as to reflect upon the concepts of 'document,' 'nostalgia' and 'objects,' which are crucial, but underexplored aspects of the complicated relationships between professional historical work and other spcial practices of evoking the past."

Past for the Eyes is a major contribution to the booming field of studies exploring how communism is remembered in postcommunist societies." - Slavic Review

"Intellectually engaging and timely, Past for the Eyes inquires into how socialism is shown and seen in the cinema and museums of contemporary Eastern Europe. This collection of fourteen fine essays joins an exciting (and rapidly intensifying) debate in the social sciences and humanities concerned with the memory's many manifestations in today's world. The volume demonstrates that the former communist Bloc offers an especially productive setting in which to examine practices of social remembrance, especially those that pertain to the memorialization of the recent Marxist-Leninist past.

Past for the Eyes is an intelligent and welcome addition to the study of socialist memory (and any other memory, for that matter) through film and museum displays. Richly illustrated and smartly argued, the essays comprising this groundbreaking volume should be read by scholars and students interested in East European socialism as an 'unforgettable' past that persists in the present." - Journal of Baltic Studies


Introduction, Part One: Documents of Communism: Lost and Found Rév: The Man in the White Raincoat Uitz: Communist Secret Services on the Screen: The Adventures of the Duna-gate Scandal in and Beyond Hungarian Media Varga: Façades: Private and Public in Kádár’s Kiss by Péter Forgács Solomon: Filmmaker’s Experience: Reconstructing Reality from Communist Archive Documents Part Two: Subjects of Nostalgia: Selling the Past Daković: Out of the Past: Memories and Nostalgia in (Post) Yugoslav Cinema Sarkisova: Long Farewells: The Anatomy of the Soviet Past in Contemporary Russian Cinema Pobłocki: The Economics of Nostalgia: Socialist Films and Capitalist Commodities in Contemporary Poland Dominková: “We have democracy, don’t we?” Czech Society Reflected by Contemporary Czech Cinema Part Three: Objects of Memory: Museums, Monuments, Memorials Horváth: The Redistribution of the Memory of Socialism: Identity Formations in Hungary after 1989 Cristea - Radu-Bucurenci: Raising the Cross. Exorcising Romania’s Communist Past in Museums, Memorials and Monuments Vukov: The “Unmemorable” and the “Unforgettable”: “Museumizing” the Socialist Past in Post-1989 Bulgaria Mark: Containing Fascism: History in Post-Communist Baltic Occupation and Genocide Museums Main: How Communism Is Displayed? Exhibitions and Museums of Communism in Poland, About the Authors, Index

436 pages, 30 photos
ISBN 978-963-9776-03-6 cloth $49.95 / €42.95 / £37.00
ISBN 978-963-9776-05-0 paperback $27.95 / €24.95 / £19.99