Gelman looks back on fall of communism

Gelman Library is hosting an exhibit that explores the revolutions that led to the collapse of communism, 10 years after the fall of the eastern European bloc.

The “Goodbye, Comrade .” exhibit showcases posters, books, magazines and other images from the revolutions in eastern Europe in 1989.

The exhibit, which runs from March 10 to Dec. 30, was developed by James Hershberg, an assistant professor of history and international affairs, and Mark Yoffe, curator of the International Counter Culture Archives at Gelman.

Yoffe said memorabilia from Hershberg’s travels in Eastern Europe offered a unique opportunity to display the images of the fall of communism in eastern and central European countries.

He said the exhibit opened in March to get a head start on commemorating the anniversary of the uprisings, and he anticipates other organizations will mark the anniversary later in the year as fall approaches.

“Most of the momentous events took place in the fall (of 1989),” Yoffe said. “We decided to get an early start.”

The exhibit includes 45 posters Hershberg collected while traveling in eastern Europe. The posters depict the fall of communism with such captions as “Comrades – It’s Over,” and “It Must Not Happen Again.” Yoffe described the posters as “visually striking and historically important.”

The exhibit’s name derives from the caption on one of the posters, described in the exhibit guide as a 1990 election poster produced by the National Liberal Party, which opposed communism in Romania.

Romania had the only east-central European revolution that turned violent. The poster depicts a figure resembling Nikolai Ceausecu, the long-time Communist dictator in Romania who was tried and executed during the revolution, walking toward a red background, suitcases emblazoned with the hammer and sickle. Above him are the words “Adio Tovarasi,” or “Goodbye, Comrade.” The guide explains in this instance, “goodbye” implies “and good riddance.”

In addition to the posters on display, books related to the fall of communism and the events of 1989 are displayed at the exhibit, as well as magazines devoted to pop culture and rock and roll music, Yoffe said. Most of the books are personal property and are on loan to Gelman for the exhibit, but the magazines belong to the library’s International Counter Culture Archive.

Yoffe said the exhibit, which is open to the public, is a collaborative effort between Gelman, the Friends of Gelman, the National Security Archive, and the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Cold War International History Project.

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