title=Europe's changing face
content= // actualities in audio services //
anncr: The Voice of America presents focus!
Music: "Focus" theme in full. Establish, then lose under:
anncr: Correspondent Jolyon Naegele is wrapping up a ten-year
stint covering Central and Eastern Europe for the Voice
of America, the past several years working out of our
bureau in Prague. It has been a period of monumental
change for much of Europe, politically, socially and
economically. In this focus report, Jolyon takes a look
back at the some of history-making events he has
witnessed and reported on.
Text: Ten years ago, when I started out with V-o-A, the
countries of Central and Eastern Europe were still
vassal states in the Soviet Empire. Their ability to
resist complete domination by the Kremlin depended on
their relative strategic importance, their past records
of insubordination and the vigor and negotiating
abilities of their communist leaders.
But for the average citizen in these states, day-to-day
concerns involved trying to stay out of trouble by
avoiding political involvement, be it with the
communists or with illegal opposition groups. Moreover,
much of the time was spent trying to get by in a world
of shortages where most basic consumer goods were
difficult, if not impossible, to find. There was plenty
of free time to spend with friends, to read or go to the
theater. Friendships were deep but one could never be
totally sure whether a friend, neighbor or acquaintance
was not a police informer.
Many people lived in fear of the police. But despite
the suppression of basic freedoms, such as the right to
free speech, free assembly, and travel, life across the
region for most people had some semblance of normalcy.
Patriotic and nationalist feelings, though largely
suppressed by the authorities, were nevertheless
increasingly palpable in the late 1980's -- particularly
in Hungary, Poland and most parts of Yugoslavia.
Hungarians and Poles were undergoing waves of nostalgia
for the territories they lost to their neighbors -- in
Hungary's case after the first world war, in Poland's
case during the Second World War.
But what in one country was little more than nostalgia
in another country was the germination of nationalist
intolerance and hatred. Albanians in Macedonia and in
Serbia's autonomous Kosovo province were facing
increasing ethnic repression, as were Turks, Gypsies and
other minorities in Bulgaria. Serbs were striving to
abolish the autonomous status of Kosovo and Vojvodina
and integrate these lands into Serbia, regardless of
their large non-Serbian populations. Wherever one went
the tune was the same.
Tape: music cut #1 song - ko to kaze ko to laze srbija je
mala (establish and under)
Text: "Who says ... Who is lying, that Serbia is small? It is
not small." Serbs would sing this popular refrain as
they flexed their muscles to deal in turn with their
Albanian, Croat, Muslim and Hungarian (Vojvodina)
The roots of the future disintegration of the Yugoslav
and Czechoslovak federations were taking hold. Slovenia
and Croatia were increasingly desperate to rid
themselves of the burden of financing the poorer
Yugoslav Republics to the South. Even the communist
authorities in the Czech lands were tired of subsidizing
Slovakia at the cost of neglecting Czech industry and
infrastructure. The Czechs had suffered more under
communist rule than had the Slovaks.
But while entire countries struggled under authoritarian
regimes and decades of neglect, there was much suffering
at a more personal level. As I was taking up my
assignment in Central Europe almost ten years ago, the
body of abducted Polish solidarity priest Jerzy
Popieluszko had just been found. In the months to come
the public learned in court testimony that police
officers had kidnapped and murdered father Jerzy. Four
police officiers were convicted for their roles in the
abduction and murder. But just how high up in the
interior ministry and party apparatus the case went is
still not entirely clear.
My first story about Czechoslovakia involved the murder
of a Czech railroad worker, Frantisek Faktor, who while
trying to flee across the iron curtain was followed into
Austria by Czechoslovak border guards who shot him in
the back and left him to bleed to death. Like the
Popieluszko affair in Poland, Mr. Faktor's murder showed
the world the ruthlessness of the police states in
Central and Eastern Europe and the lack of respect the
authorities there had for their neighbors, be they
individuals or nations. Four years after Mr. Faktor was
murdered, the iron curtain was torn down. Now after
nearly five more years, his two murderers are finally
being brought to justice.
It was ten years ago, in Bulgaria, when communist
authorities were preparing to launch the forcible
assimilation of their ethnic Turkish population of
nearly one-million, ordering them at gunpoint to change
their Islamic names for Slavic christian ones and
banning them from speaking their native Turkish
language. Western reporters who tried to drive into
ethnic Turkish districts were turned back at roadblocks
or detained. The Bulgarian Turkish story was one i
would return to repeatedly over the next few years. In
mid-1989, Bulgarian authorities finally allowed me to
travel into the Turkish districts. At Djebel, South of
Kirdjali, I talked with a group of very scared men in
the large washroom of a mosque.
Tape: cut #2 - villagers - establish and fade
Text: Speaking in Turkish, the men described renewed official
efforts to suppress the Turkish language, including
beatings and bans on residents leaving the village, even
to go to work.
I was back in Sofia by dusk and quite worried that the
police might try to seize the interviews I had recorded
in Djebel. I became so nervous that, in the middle of
the night, I checked out of the hotel and drove out of
the country, crossing into Yugoslavia before dawn.
The interviews with the Turks of Djebel were broadcast
on V-o-A that week. The following weekend unrest erupted
in Turkish communities in Eastern Bulgaria and soon
spread. Bulgarian authorities began expelling Turkish
inhabitants, sending whole trainloads to Austria.
Bulgarian leader Todor Zhivkov delivered a speech,
blaming an unnamed American radio reporter for fomenting
unrest among the Turkish population. I was flattered
but a bit scared. President Zhivkov announced he was
openning the borders and letting all Turks leave.
While Bulgaria proved to be the beginning of a political
trend, there was no single catalyst setting in motion
the chain of events that five years later led to the
collapse of the iron curtain and the demise of communist
rule in Eastern Europe. Rather, there were numerous
developments, many of them unrelated and unforeseeable
in their impact. Although communism had managed to win
widespread support among a large share of Europe's urban
poor in the late 1940's and 50's, disenchantment grew as
the Soviet bloc increasingly lagged behind the West in
technology and living standards. Yet public
dissatisfaction was largely mute -- out of fear of
This was to change, however, by the mid-1980's, as
concepts such as civil society and pluralism began
taking root in large parts of East European society.
But before democratization really began to accelerate in
1988, only a handful -- such as Hungarian dissidents
Gaspar Miklos Tamas and Miklos Haraszti and Polish
dissidents Janusz Onyszkiewicz and Jacek Kuron -- had
the courage to declare openly that their goal was to end
the communists' monopoly on power and install a
parliamentary democracy and a free market economy.
[ Opt ] being a Western reporter in the communist world
was somewhat paradoxical. Unlike the people I wrote
about, I was free, the bearer of a U-S passport, who
carried foreign ministry press accreditation cards for
most of the countries I traveled in. I could move from
country to country as the need arose. Sure, there were
hassles at the border. My pockets and bags were
searched on more than one occasion by vigilant
Czechoslovak, Romanian and Soviet guards. [ End opt ]
But for the tens of millions of East Europeans living in
communist subjugation a decade ago, freedom of speech
and the freedom to travel were still little more than a
dream that future generations might one day enjoy. For
many, freedom from totalitarian opression was simply
Thus, the changes that shook the region in 1989 were
truly monumental. In a matter of months, in one state
after another, one- party rule and Centrally planned
economies were abolished, the ever present secret police
was disbanded, and agreements were reached on
withdrawing Soviet troops.
These really were, as the song goes, "days of miracle
and wonder". Over the past few days I have been
listening to many of the recordings of interviews,
speeches and demonstrations gathered during those
Some of the recordings of events before the revolutions
of 1989 still showed there was cause for hope, as when,
on a visit to Poland in 1987, pope John Paul the second
delivered a sermon about the meaning of solidarity to
one-million Poles in an immense field near Gdansk. The
pope succeeded as no one else in raising the Poles from
their post-martial law lethargy to unite in bringing
down communist rule.
Tape: act #3 Pope John Paul
"Solidarnosc to znaci jeden I drugi a skoro brzemia. To
brezmia miesal nie razem, we wspolnoci a wiec nigdy
jeden preciw drugiemu..."
Text: "Solidarity means...A burden shared by all, in unity,
and never again one against another." With those words
from the pope, the Gdansk field mass ended in a march
toward the city center that was violently broken up by
police as demonstrators chanted, "do not beat your
brother, be a Pole."
Tape: cut #4 demostration chant: "niebij brata bedz
polakiem! (Establish and fade)
Text: This and other such recordings still send chills down my
spine, like the sounds of Czechoslovak police ordering
the use of water cannon to flatten a crowd of believers
at a prayer vigil in Bratislava in 1988:
Tape: cut #5 Police radio sound (establish and fade under
"Vodne diela tlacit, tlacit, tlacit. Tu gamma jedna,
gamma jedna dava pokyn pre vodne diela tlacit tou vodou
ludi von prijem, bety 71, 2 az 4 tam to vytlacit pred
tym divadlom vodou, rovnat ti pred divadlom, prijem."
Voice: "Water cannons, squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, this is gamma
one, gamma one, is ordering water cannon to squeeze
those people, over, beta 71, two through four, force
those people from in front of the theater, flatten them
in front of the theater, over."
Text: The Voice of America broadcast this and other excerpts
of the recording, refuting the communist-controlled
Czech media's slanted version of events. The
authorities responded to the broadcast by immedately
halting all further mention of the vigil. In the words
of one faithful listener in Bratislava, the muzzled 1968
reformer Alexander Dubcek, that recording showed these
people for what they really were -- that they were
completely out of touch with society.
Mr. Dubcek, bitter that the best years of his life were
lost, wanted his honor back. He wanted to play an
active role in rebuilding Czechoslovakia, something most
people found almost laughable in a police state where
even the word "reform" was taboo.
When I met Alexander Dubcek for the first time, on a
cold november morning in 1987 at his home in Bratislava,
I was impressed by his determination. Within months he
began a crusade in the Western media to win
rehabiliation. He was initially afraid of reprisals if
he were to be interviewed by the Voice of America. But I
told him that he was not going to win much sympathy at
home by sparring with the authorities -- as he was doing
-- on the pages of the Italian communist daily, L'unita.
He had to speak to his people directly, and what better
way than on the most widely listened to foreign
broadcast in Czechoslovakia.
In June 1988, Czechs and Slovaks heard Mr. Dubcek speak
on the V-o-A. He was cautious but calculating. He
succeeded in projecting an image of decency and
humanity, something totally lacking in his successors.
He even sang a song for V-o-A listeners, a Slovak
rendition of the popular tune, "Green, green grass of
Tape: cut #6 dubcek song (establish and fade under)
Text: Two months later, on the 20th anniversary of the Soviet
invasion of Czechoslovakia, ten-thousand people gathered
in Prague's Wenceslas square demanding freedom and an
end to the 19-year-old Soviet military occupation. They
also chanted Alexander Dubcek's name, over and over
Tape: cut #7 crowd chant: "Dubcek, Dubcek, Dubcek"
(establish and fade under)
Text: The police were taken by surprise and needed two hours
to muster riot squads who brutally beat marchers and
passersby in front of the national theater. Thus began
a series of demonstrations that continued on a near
monthly basis until november 1989, when the number of
regular protesters finally surpassed 20-thousand, but
within days multiplied into the hundreds of thousands.
But the protests and Mr. Dubcek's name were heard well
beyond Czechoslovakia's borders -- in Hungary, for
example, which was racing toward establishing a fully
fledged parliamentary democracy at a time when
Czechoslovak communist officials were still rejecting
any suggestion of dialog with the opposition.
On october 23rd, 1989, about 100-thousand Hungarians
gathered spontaneously in front of the parliament
building on their lunch-hour to witness interim
president Matyas Szueroes' stepping onto a balcony to
read a document ending Hungary's status as a communist
"people's republic." He concluded by telling the crowd
that the country was finally on the road to liberty and
democracy. In Mr. Szueroes' words, "This nation
deserves happiness and wealth at last, long live the
Hungarian Republic, may it be happier than its
predecessors." Perhaps never before, or since, did the
Hungarian state anthem sound so beautiful as it did on
that autumn afternoon as 100-thousand people sang to the
accompaniment of a military band.
Music: cut #8 Hungarian anthem (establish and fade under)
Text: Tears rolled down nearly every cheek in the crowd. I
went back to my hotel room to file a story but found
myself overcome with emotion. Of course reporters strive
to remain objective, but when a nation finally emerges
from decades of oppression and has reached the threshold
of freedom without bloodshed or violence, surely even
hardened reporters can shed a tear of joy. How many more
years, I wondered then, would it be before the other
nations of Central and Eastern Europe would also be
As it turned out it would only be a matter of days.
The sounds of Czechoslovakia's "Velvet revolution", from
the street demonstrations of november 1989 to Vaclav
Havel's inauguration, are a vivid memory and still cause
a lump in my throat. On international human rights day,
december 10th, three weeks after the velvet revolution
began, Vaclav Havel spoke to an immense crowd gathered
on wenceslas square about setting a new course in the
Tape: cut #9 Havel
"Pravda a laska musi zvitezit nad lzi a nenavisti..."
Crowd chants of, "at' zije havel..."
Text: "Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred..."
The crowd burst out in chants of, "Long live Havel".
The next day the slogan was emblazoned on posters of Mr.
Havel that were pasted up all over Prague. The campaign
to put the long persecuted playright in the presidency
had begun and less than three weeks later, he was
On december 29th, as the just-appointed chairman of
parliament, Alexander Dubcek, escorted Vaclav Havel
through the 500-year-old Vladislav hall of Prague castle
to his inauguration, I thought to myself, "this is it, a
dream come true. Czechoslovakia is free." An older
communist foreign ministry official sidled up to me and
said, with a look of resignation: "well, it's all over".
Afterwards, president Havel threw open the windows of
the castle, ending the stuffiness of recent decads, to
speak to a crowd of well-wishers assembled below. He
promised not to disappoint them and to lead the country
peacefully to free elections without sullying, what he
termed, the clean face of our revolution.
Text: Minutes later in the adjacent cathedral of Saint Vitus,
the nearly 90-year-old cardinal Frantisek Tomasek then
celebrated a mass of thanksgiving, the centerpoint of
which was Antonin Dvorak's "Te deum".
Music: cut #10 dvorak's "te deum" (establish and fade under)
Text: Dvorak's wild mixture of Native American Indian drum
beats and Czech sacred music somehow set the tone for
the first term in office -- six months -- of the offbeat
The rapidity with which Czechoslovakia emerged from half
a century of totalitarian rule and transformed itself
into a parliamentary democracy with a stable free market
economy was staggering. President Havel took on the
role of conscience of the nation and as such, through
thick and thin, has remained the most popular politician
in the country -- that country now being the Czech
republic, which emerged with the divorce from Slovakia
that took effect on January first 1993.
President Havel's erstwhile political rival, Vaclav
Klaus, prime minister for the last two years, has
repeatedly contradicted and challenged the president on
a range of issues. Mr. Klaus's rightwing Civic
Democratic Party won the largest number of votes in the
Czech Republic in Czechoslovakia's parliamentary
elections two years ago. In Slovakia, Vladimir Meciar's
leftwing populist movement for a democratic Slovkia won
the most votes on a platform of slowing down
privatization and achieving sovereigntry for Slovakia.
The result was what most analysts had predicted would be
the worst-case scenario -- political forces leading the
country in two diametrically opposite directions.
Two weeks after the elections, Mr. Klaus and Mr. Meciar
reached agreement that the Czech and Slovak budgets
would be completely separated, effective January 1st
1993, and thus the two economies would go their own
separate ways. Mr. Klaus said he had done all he could
and a better solution was not possible. When a few
days later the Slovak parliament voted in favor of
Slovak sovereignty, president Havel submitted his
resignation within minutes. His resignation speech
closed with the same presidential fanfare what heralded
his joyous inauguration.
Tape: cut #11 fanfare (establish and fade under)
Text: But this time, as the last bars of the fanfare faded
out, many Czechs and Slovaks were left with a deep sense
of emptiness, not just that they were leaderless or that
the velvet divorce was irreversible and the 74-year-old
Czechoslovak state doomed. Once again the fate of the
nation had been decided wtithout the public having been
consulted. Most Czechs and Slovaks opposed the split at
the time and most Slovaks still do. A refrendum might
well have come out against the split, forcing prime
ministers Klaus and Meciar into compromises neither was
willing to make.
[ Opt ] Czech prime minister Klaus pledged that the new
Czech Republic would uphold the democratic and humanist
ideals upon which Czechoslovakia was founded by its
first president, Tomas Masaryk. But there were serious
and justified concerns that the populist Slovak
government would renounce Masaryk's ideals of national
coexistence to the detriment of the country's
minorities. Slovakia remains a region of political and
economic instability wile the Czech economy has
weathered the split and strengthened admirably. [ End
The end of communist rule and the rise of market forces
not only changed the political and economic life of the
states of Central and Eastern Europe but radically
altered personal relations as well. Friendships were
sorely tested or broken as people's priorities changed.
There was less and less time to spend with friends and
as price controls were lifted, less money was available
to spend in a restaurant or theater. People became more
self-reliant and in some places considerably more
agressive. The crime rate soared as a result of
amnesties, unemployment and open borders which enabled
everyone, from petty criminals to organized crime
bosses, to look for new opportunities.
In october 1989, the morning after East German communist
leader Erich Honecker was replaced, I was in Frankfurt,
West Germany, attending a conference on the future of
Europe and shared a breakfast table with the editor of a
Soviet foreign policy journal. I asked the man whether
with Mr. Honecker gone one could expect East Germany to
abolish the communist party's leading role in society.
"Typical American question," the Russian snarled, "the
party general secretary resigns and the first thing you
Americans ask is, 'when will the communists throw in the
towel?'" The Berlin wall was opened less than three
weeks later and within a year Germany was united.
Two years after that, the Soviet Communist Party was
banned and the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Who would
have believed it? To have had the experience -- to me,
the privilege -- of witnessing and reporting on the
these events of the the past ten years, is something for
which I will always be grateful.
Music: "Focus" theme (establish and under).
Anncr: You have been listening to focus on the Voice of
America. Our program on the changing face of East and
Central Europe was written by Jolyon Naegele, edited by
Phil Haynes, produced by _________ and directed by
13-sep-94 8:42 am edt (1242 utc)
source: Voice of America
A tovabbterjesztest a New York-i szekhelyu Magyar Emberi Jogok
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