News

Post-Communist Tensions Are Between Civic, Material Values

Multimedia

Audio

<!-- IMAGE -->

The collapse of the Berlin Wall came as the result of social, political and economic pressures that built up over decades behind the Iron Curtain.  Its demise has exposed some glaring material differences in post-Communist societies.  Social activists say governments cannot narrow those differences in the absence of civic values among ordinary citizens.  The civic spirit made possible a key event leading to the collapse of the Wall, and what became of it since.

Hungary recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of the so-called Pan-European Picnic, when hundreds of East Germans pushed through Hungarian border guards and fled into Austria during a protest against the Iron Curtain in August 1989.  The event sparked a mass exodus of East Germans to Hungary, who crowded into Budapest, overwhelming the West German Embassy in their bid to get to the West.

Hungarian Priest Imre Kozma ran a charity service in the city and was asked to help feed and shelter the East Germans.

Kozma says his organization turned for help to hotels, restaurants and boardinghouses, and they responded everyday with enough food to feed the entire crowd of people.  He says the hotels and restaurants gave as much as they could and never asked if they would be paid or otherwise compensated.

Kozma recalls that as the crisis grew, Hungarian authorities did not interfere, and eventually opened the border for the first time since 1948.  The event helped bring a quick and peaceful end to a half-century of communist rule. 

Invisible barrier

The most prominent symbols of communism, the Iron Curtain and Berlin Wall are gone.  But many who lived behind those barriers say an invisible one continues to separate people from one another.  Reverend Kozma notes that material concerns have squeezed out some of the civic values that underpinned the material assistance given to East German refugees in 1989.

Kozma says Hungarians are constantly being reminded that they need to take care of financial issues, as a result of which, the interests of the community are shoved aside.

Post-Communist societies have exposed vast differences between haves and have-nots.  In the Polish city of Gdansk, Mayor Pawel Adamowicz says government alone cannot address the social problems of any country.
 
Adamowicz says Communism destroyed the hearts and minds of Poles who now want to rebuild solidarity and social bonds between people in order to enhance their willingness to volunteer and ability support one another.

Civic spirit

Civic values were the topic of a recent international seminar in Budapest.  Among those participating was John Shattuck, former U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic.  Shattuck says volunteerism in Communist countries was viewed as a form of collaboration with unpopular regimes.  He says that genuine civic spirit is something that cannot be imposed.

"If it's done voluntarily and is something that comes from inside of a person who wants to make a change in his or her own life, then it does have a spiritual aspect.  But it's not something that can be imposed.  It is not an organizational principle and a set of funds that can come from the outside."

Shattuck notes such funds can help groups seeking to foster civic spirit in countries of the former Eastern Bloc, but ultimately it is up to individuals to devote the time and energy needed to restore the community values damaged by Communism.  

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs