Today, when the verdict from Russia against Pussy riot came out, my first thought was Glasnost and Perestroika are dead. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, Pussy riot is a Russian Punk band whose members got sentenced to 2 years in prison for homosexual propaganda, hooliganism and undermining social order. Amnesty international called it ‘a bitter blow for freedom of expression in Russia.’
This is not how the new Russia promised to be when the Soviet union dissolved and the iron curtain opened.
I remember vividly the growing unrest and the ever growing Sunday marches in the 80s in the at that time still DDR. People had such hope. They marched peacefully for change. The Polit Bureau was facing both non-violent protests from all parts of the population and an ever growing stream of dissidents.
Then Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the words of Glasnost (Openness) and Perestroika (Restructuring or Reform) into the Soviet parliament, and by extension into our vocabulary. Important changes were happening all over the eastern block. The curtain finally lifted a bit, just enough for a peek or two. Still people kept marching with their candles and their songs. Pressure mounted from the outside and then Mikhail Gorbachev told Erich Honnecker “The one who comes too late will be punished by life.”
Very shortly after the wall opened, a divided country was allowed to unite again, and a whole regime crumbled down. The most amazing fact is, that it happened utterly peaceful. Nobody died. In retrospect, it is nothing short of a miracle.
So this is the spirit I miss lately. I miss stronger support for the ideas of openness, transparency and democracy. It feels like in more and more places the curtains are coming down again.
Also, in the 80s we had frakking good music on the radio.