Imitation games

The legacy of 1989 on contemporary politics

The events of 1989 unleashed a world of discovery. Economic determinism was replaced by imitation of the West. Was that process authentically spontaneous or were eastern Europeans staging a script they did not write? Either way, imitation created a crisis of identity, the consequences of which are still unfolding.

Holly Case raises questions of agency: what are the relationships between the ‘creation of the real’ and the ‘role of the material’?

According to Ivan Krastev, imitation of the West was a choice. For central and eastern Europeans, the ‘end of history’ was more like the end of the future, which all of a sudden appeared adjacent in space rather than ahead in time. As a result, unlike in other revolutions, it was the winner who left first.

Imitation, however, brought long term consequences both to the West and the East: the former stopped being self-critical and the latter went through an identity crisis, which is now being exploited by contemporary populism.

You can listen to the conversation on the programme of Gagarin, the Eurozine podcast on Spotify, Apple podcastsCastbox, Stitcher or Soundcloud:

Or you can also watch the debate on our YouTube channel:

Historian Holly Case (Brown University) and political scientist Ivan Krastev (Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna) debated the legacy of 1989 on contemporary politics at the Eurozine conference ‘Europe ’89: The promise recalled’, the 30th European Meeting of Cultural Journals (1-3 November 2019, Berlin).

Read Eurozine’s interview with Ivan Krastev on his co-authored book with Stephen Holmes, ‘The Light that Failed’.

Read Holly Case’s article ‘The Great Substitution’.

Find more videos and articles from the Eurozine conference ‘Europe ‘89: The promise recalled’, 1-3 November 2019, here.

Published 17 December 2020
Original in English
First published by Eurozine

© Holly Case / Ivan Krastev / Heinrich Böll Stiftung / Eurozine



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