Central Europeans reflect on life before the fall of the Berlin Wall
Participants AboutPartners

Rudolf Sikora

we had no idea what was going to happen

Bratislava, Slovak Republic, 2009
Slovak English

Rudolf Sikora, Artist, Co-founder of the Faculty of Fine Arts and Media at the Technical University in Košice

When speaking about the time before the revolution, it is very important for me, as an artist, to speak about inner freedom. When I am free on the inside, I am free in prison too!  However, if I am not free on the inside, I won't be able to run away from my imprisonment. Even if I would go to edge of the world! On the inside, I was even free during the communistic totality.

I co-founded and was active in the movement Public Against Violence, ( a political movement and party, established in Bratislava in November 1989 that played a central role in the Velvet Revolution.) One of our primary demands was to cancel the fourth point of the constitution, which was about the leading role of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. We succeeded. All political parties and movements became legal and equal!  This was the first step on the way to having free elections.

(In the early days of the revolution) we had no idea what was going to happen, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour.  More and more people were demonstrating every day and we wondered if the government would turn the army against us.  But the pressure coming from the tribunes and from the people on the squares was enormous. The result of this pressure was a breakdown of the power of the Central Committee of the Communistic Party of Czechoslovakia. It was very important (to have this breakdown) on the way to having a democracy that was without any attributes of socialism.

During these first days (of the revolution) there rose an amazing solidarity among the people.  People who didn’t know each other were joining hands.  The atmosphere was similar to 1968.  However, the revolution in 1989 was not a continuation of the Prague Spring of 1968.  After the occupation of Czechoslovakia, in August 1968, by the Soviet and Warsaw pact armies many people felt that to construct a utopia – “socialism with a human face” – is not possible!

During the revolution, if we would have been orbiting the Earth and we would look down at Czechoslovakia, we would see a country that is shining with love. It was so strong that I feel it even now, twenty years later.
At the present time, it seems that the citizens of Slovakia are tired from the rapid changes.  The whole political and economical system has changed.  The rules have changed.  Everybody is responsible for oneself. However, the mentality of people is also slowly changing. Democracy is young and fragile. The pressure from the citizens has to become strong enough so that they are in more control of the work of the politicians and their intermittent efforts to misuse the democratic system!

The younger generation, also my students for example, behave apolitically. As if the movements in society haven't anything to do with them. They are, however, able to see the contradictions in society and even reflect this in their creative work.  I think that it is just a matter of time when they will also start to be active as citizens.

In the last twenty years, our society has opened. It has opened to good and also to bad. And the bad is sometimes more aggressive. Stuffy and unfree. I would say that the two-dimensional, flat world of socialism has changed to three or four dimensional and maybe even a n-dimensional world. It is a world that, on the first glance, it is more difficult to orient yourself to, but it is a much more interesting world. More free, but also more complicated. However, it gives more possibilities for each individual to develop one's own creativity, one's own energy.  And that's a certain hope.

Photo by Janeil Engelstad

Previous interview
Next interview
Ideology Suppression Revolution Freedom Hope Values Identity