In Trial, Romania Warily Revisits a Brutal Past

Remembered as a brutal sadist by inmates who managed to survive the prisons he once ran, Alexandru Visinescu bubbles with violent fury. “Get away from my door, or do you want me to get a stick and beat you?” the 88-year-old former prison commander screamed recently when a reporter called at his fourth floor apartment in the center of this capital city.

Like other onetime servants of the old Communist government, Mr. Visinescu — now a frail retiree with a hunched back — does not like being disturbed. Until recently, he was not. He was left alone with a generous pension and a comfortable apartment, surrounded by black-and-white photographs of his fit, youthful self in uniform. He passed his time with leisurely strolls in a nearby park.

His peace ended in early September, when prosecutors in Bucharest announced that Mr. Visinescu would be put on trial over his role in Communist-era abuses, the first case of its kind since Romania toppled and executed the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in December 1989.

The case has opened a flood of news media coverage here and raised hopes, however tentative, among victims and their advocates that Romania may finally be following most of its neighbors in Central and Eastern Europe in shaking off a national amnesia about its brutal past and re-examining a culture of impunity that has fed rampant corruption and constrained the country’s progress despite its entry into the European Union in 2007.

In the eyes of many here, the downfall and execution of Mr. Ceausescu merely removed the leader of the old Communist Bloc’s most intrusive dictatorship, leaving the system beneath largely intact. That continuity between the Communist and post-Communist elites helps explain why resistance to a serious reckoning with past crimes has been particularly strong in Romania, where there is still widespread nostalgia for the Communist era.

Much more at the source.

scanzen:

Fürödjünk a kispesti “Vörös Csillag” strandon. XIX. Ady Endre út 99. Villamosplakát, Terv Nyomda c1960.
Let’s bathe at the “Red Star” bath spa in Kispest. Hungarian advertising poster, c1960.

scanzen:

Fürödjünk a kispesti “Vörös Csillag” strandon. XIX. Ady Endre út 99. Villamosplakát, Terv Nyomda c1960.

Let’s bathe at the “Red Star” bath spa in Kispest. Hungarian advertising poster, c1960.

Photographs by Lithuanian artist Romualdas Požerskis.  

(Source. <—- BTW, this is one of my favorite blogs. Check it out.)

Zagreb, 1976.

(Source.)

These spaces — the city’s hidden topography of gay life — have recently been brought to light in the work of New York-based Russian photographer Yevgeniy Fiks. A self-proclaimed “post-Soviet artist”, Fiks sees it as his duty to react against the collective amnesia surrounding the Cold War period; previously he commemorated the overlooked history of communism in New York. At first glance, Fiks’s plainly titled new book, Moscow, could be just an ordinary photo album of public places in the Russian capital: we see parks, squares, boulevards, riverside embankments and public toilets. We admire the splendid architecture of the capital, its greenery and its striking constructivist-classicist constructions and we are impressed by the care taken by the Soviet authorities to make even toilets look beautiful. The pictures emanate a sense of peace and silence. But the way in which we see the locations depicted in these photographs is transformed when we learn that each and every one of them was a Soviet cruising ground.

Oh wow.

(So much more at the source. Go read it.)

My duty was to make beautiful photos and compose them artistically. It is a bit difficult for me to explain what was meant by ‘beautiful’ at that time, but an ever-present element of beauty was: happiness, laughter, gaiety, joy. The human being had to be photographed always happy and involved. Thinking types were not liked and never made the final cut. You could only portray the Politburo members as concentrated in deep thought but not always. The rest of us had to be concerned with work, the future, the contribution, and action. Reflection in art was not allowed for there was censure everywhere.

From a very interesting (seriously, go read it) interview with Niko Xhufka, who worked as a photojournalist in communist-era Albania.


Unknown artists have painted a Soviet Army monument in Sofia pink in honor of the anniversary of the Prague Spring, The Associated Press reports.
Residents of the Bulgarian capital discovered Wednesday morning that the figures of Soviet soldiers — who had been turned into comic book heroes in a previous graffiti raid — had been painted pink. An inscription in Bulgarian and Czech below read &#8220;Bulgaria apologizes.&#8221;
On Aug. 21, 1968, armies of five Warsaw Pact countries — the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and East Germany — invaded Czechoslovakia to crush democratic reforms known as the Prague Spring. The invaders killed 108 people while 500 were seriously injured.

(Source.)

Unknown artists have painted a Soviet Army monument in Sofia pink in honor of the anniversary of the Prague Spring, The Associated Press reports.

Residents of the Bulgarian capital discovered Wednesday morning that the figures of Soviet soldiers — who had been turned into comic book heroes in a previous graffiti raid — had been painted pink. An inscription in Bulgarian and Czech below read “Bulgaria apologizes.”

On Aug. 21, 1968, armies of five Warsaw Pact countries — the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and East Germany — invaded Czechoslovakia to crush democratic reforms known as the Prague Spring. The invaders killed 108 people while 500 were seriously injured.

(Source.)

Polish communist-era anti-alcohol posters.

Click images for a translation.

(Source.)

Albania, 1990.

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Soviet youth in 1967, as photographed by Life photographer Bill Eppridge. 

(Source.)