ernment of Czechoslovakia agreed to give up its monopoly on power. The story of this “Gentle” or “Velvet”
Revolution has usually emphasized the actions of elites in Prague and Bratislava. James Krapfl takes a different approach. His goal is to show how the Czechoslovak
Revolution of 1989 was a broad-based movement of ordinary citizens mobilized in the name of creating meaningful political change.
Using a vast array of materials from over forty archives across today’s Czech Republic and Slovakia, including a magisterial survey of local newspapers and bulletins published during the revolution, Krapfl examines the events of 1989–1990 as a citizen’s revolution.
The bulk of the book concentrates on the period between November 17, 1989 and January 1, 1990. During these weeks, Czechs and Slovaks shook off the ironic detachment that had characterized the post-1968 normalization era and began to see themselves as a community. This was solidified on the streets, where citizens met, talked, and registered their common disapproval of the regime and the political culture of apathy it had created. It was, Krapfl says, a transcendent moment of “collective effervescence” (p. 40) that forged individuals into a revolutionary community. This solidarity coalesced in the spectacularly successful general strike of
November 27. After the strike, OF in Prague called for an end to protests so they could negotiate with the government. But outside the capital few paid this any heed; people continued to gather for marches, meetings, and happenings, to form human chains, and to symbolically reclaim public space. Krapfl argues that they were not simply motivated by a desire for regime change or better material circumstances, but hoped to create a new society that would reflect the spirit that was embodied in these revolutionary moments.
The essence of these widespread public manifestations was captured in what was called the “ideals of November” (p. 74). Krapfl identifies some of its key elements as democracy, non-violence, equality, fairness, and humaneness. Citizens imagined a society where government was responsible to the community and reflected its will, while still respecting the needs of minorities. They hoped to abolish Communist privilege and corruption and to end the rule of an unfeeling bureaucracy. But creating a market economy was not at the forefront of popular concerns. Indeed, there was broad, if not universal, support for socialism, albeit within a framework of democracy and government accountability, harking back to the aborted reforms of 1968.
A major theme of the book is that people outside the cities of Prague and Bratislava did not simply follow the lead of urban elites. Krapfl shows that, for these few months at least, this was truly a popular revolution. It was local activists, for example, who took the lead in removing Communist directors from workplaces, schools, universities, and local or regional administrative offices. They fiercely resisted the attempts of the
Prague OF and Bratislava VPN to speak for them, countering that they represented the true will of the community. Ironically, however, this conflict between dissident elites in the capital cities and local activists would fracture both OF and VPN, allowing Va´clav
Klaus and Vladimı´r Mecˇiar to come to power. They would split the country in two and ultimately both would usher in a political culture that was far from inspired by the “ideals of November.”
Throughout the book, Krapfl uses the literature on democratic revolutions, particularly the French Revolution, to inform his analysis. This does have the benefit of showing how the Czechoslovak experience might be of interest to scholars interested in the study of revolutionary change more broadly. But even a tacit comparison to the French Revolution places an uncomfortable burden on its Velvet counterpart. On the first page of the book, Krapfl acknowledges that when he told
Czechs and Slovaks about his topic, they responded with “awkward discomfiture, hysterical laughter, or angry derision” (p. xi). Even a friend said, “ ‘So you’re going to write about what fools we were?’ ” (p. xi). By the end of the book, Krapfl has conclusively shown that ordinary Czechoslovaks did not act like fools in 1989; they were engaged citizens actively attempting to create a truly democratic political culture. But a brief epilogue about events after 1992 does not provide enough ammunition to adequately deal with this opening cynicism.
To what extent was this revolutionary moment not merely transcendent but truly transformative? For that, perhaps only time will tell.
Rutgers University–New Brunswick
ANDRIY ZAYARNYUK. Framing the Ukrainian Peasantry in Habsburg Galicia, 1846–1914. Edmonton, Alberta:
Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, Published in
Cooperation with the Wirth Institute for Austrian and
Central European Studies, University of Alberta, 2013.
Pp. xxxii, 449. $34.95.
In this ambitious and sprawling work, Andriy Zayarnyuk traces the emergence of the concept of “the
Ukrainian peasantry” in Austrian eastern Galicia beginning in the 1840s, and he tracks how that concept became an experienced reality by the early twentieth century. The Galician countryside constitutes a classic example of the nationalization of the peasantry in the nineteenth century. Bringing together social history with poststructuralist theory, Zayarnyuk challenges in several ways the conventional wisdom about the development of the Ukrainian national movement and
Ukrainian national consciousness.
Zayarnyuk draws on a diverse theoretical base, from
Foucault’s insights on the discursive and institutional techniques of modern power, to anthropological studies of peasant societies, and research on class formation, to formulate his questions and analyze his evidence. He defines “framing” as “the process whereby a self-perpetuating framework for the deployment of modern forms of power is created” (p. x). He explores the relationship between theoretical conceptualizaEurope: Early Modern and Modern 1383