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Features / September 1, 1990

David Hlynsky: Windows Through the Curtain

1989: Democratic reform sweeps Communist Europe. Overnight, 150 million people climb into the petri dish of social, political and economic change. Ever eager to assist in the metamorphosis from lifelessness into lifestyle, Western rightists gloat at the collapse of the Marxist experiment and ready themselves for the pleasure of inoculating the fresh agar with little dabs of venture capital. Just as they told us all along, free enterprise is the grandest freedom of all.

Modern history is chopped into spicy news bites and seved up in an electronic salad bowl of seamless consumerist fantasy. Mr. Smith watches his Watchman as Poor Ivan (a late sleeper) wakes from his Stalinist trance hungry and ready to boogie. Somehow it never dawns on Smith to ask, “Were you really sleeping all that time?” Media stereotypes, reinforcing some official Orwellian amnesia, laid that question to rest back in the ‘50s. Yet logic indicates the opposite. East bloc artists and intellectuals survived that long night with vision and humanity intact. Cradle-to-grave Stalinist austerity left them with too much time to kill… and too many dreams to fill.

So begins the cover story from our Fall 1990 issue. To keep reading, and see related photographs, view a PDF of the entire article.