Goodbye Lenin-The nostalgia for the red state

The German unification was formally completed on the third of October in 1990. Once a nation separated by different ideologies is now finally reunited by the wind of change. Many orthodox historians could agree on that the falling of these communist regimes has brought rather positive social, economic changes to the former red states; however, could a notion of red nostalgia also existed within the people behind the iron curtain? The film Goodbye Lenin is exactly center around this topic-where the finale of reunification is only days away.

However, unlike what you may expect in many conventional Hollywood American films we are exposed to-this film is not just about the triumph of victory for the West and long-waited freedom for many Germans. Goodbye Lenin is a dark comedy centered on a quite taboo topic many historians would frown upon-it is a story about how an East German did everything he could to forbid his idealist mother to hear about the on-going unification of Germany.

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Alex, the protagonist, went from collecting vintage communist-era goods to broadcasting fake news, just to prevent his mother who recently woke up from a coma to know what was really going on outside their hospital room. After viewing this film and many other articles regarding similar topic, one could argue that this particular notion of red nostalgia, or the sentimental longing for the communist past, can be identified inside many former communist states. This argument will be further supported by three additional elements-the social element, the economical element and finally, the political element.

The film Goodbye Lenin provided us with an excellent example of the first element-like the character Christine, who is a strong believer in the communist system even until her last breath, many older generation felt a lost sense of identity during the rapid transformation and march towards capitalism. Indeed, Christine represented many of the former party members who held a sincere or maybe even naive view towards the communist ideology. The proud achievements of the past-such as Sigmund Jahn, who was the first German to fly in space, are still fresh on people like Christine’s memory.

It was an almost sudden and unexpected change that turned their International into the loud and obnoxious sound of the Western pop culture. This attitude of nostalgia in older generations (mostly sixty and over) made a big comeback following the recent global economic recession across Eastern Europe. For instance, In Poland, the 1960s T. V series “Czterej pancerni i pies” or “The Four Tankers and a Dog” has re-aired 6 times since 2001. [1] Similarly, the critical acclaim comedy show “the eighties” which was centered around the late Soviet communist period, is on the list of top pay-for-view programs in Russia, Estonia and Latvia.

[2] These T. V show trend might seems like a minor note to this nostalgia, but it is actually reflected upon on a much harsh reality faced by many retired and old Eastern Europeans. In general, the transformation to capitalism did not work to the advantage of the senior population. The rising social & economic disparity between the young, educated elites and the weakly seniors, plus the poor pension system designed for the retired minority had made them more vulnerable than ever. U.

K’s discover Poland magazine noted “For them, the ‘bad old days’ of oppression and fear have become the ‘good old days’ when they had steady jobs and free medical care” [3] But strangely, not only does the older generation miss seeing the red banner of hammer and sickle, the young generation in Eastern Europe has manifested their own nostalgia for the red banner in various unique ways. For instance, in Prague, a communist-themed bar was opened up in 2007 catering to young people who are interested in the history of the former communist Czechoslovakian Capital.

[4] Likewise, bars and clubs with communism reminiscing themes can be found stretching from Kazakhstan all the way to the eastern part of Berlin. [5] The economical element of the red nostalgia can be magnified during the recent global economic turndown-in which Eastern Europe fell to the shadow of loses of jobs and social society for the mass. Various polls further proved to us these doubts through public opinions. In January 31, 2013, a poll conducted by STEM agency shows 33 percent of Czechs are “nostalgic for communism” and voted to claim that “communism was a better option”.

[6] During the heat of recent recession, a poll in 2009 showed 57 percent of East Germans-an absolute majority, defend their former state by claiming “The GDR had more good sides than bad sides. There were some problems, but life was good there. “[7]It is not difficult to understand and draw a corresponding line between the economic performance of these former communist states and the trend for this red nostalgia. The film Goodbye Lenin depicted the introduction of the first McDonalds and a fleet of trucks carrying

Coke-Colas into the East German market. Although not discussed in the film, it is important to know that the “Eastern burden” such as GDR initially caused a significant stress on the West German economy. [7] Even though Eastern Europe had slowly yet surely managed to close up the gap with the west, many people still carries concerns about the capitalist economy and the fundamental risks brought by globalization. In terms of Microeconomics, many business owners seem to be able to grab this opportunity of red nostalgia to create success stories.

For example, in Poland, vintage products like Ludwik dishwashing and SDM butter were able to outperform against foreign competitors due to strong customer loyalty especially from the senior population. Other company even went to a step further by using slogans such as “Sausages like they were under Gierek” to market a pork sausage product in reference to the time under Edward Gierek, the 4th secretary of Polish Communist Party in 1970. Lastly, perhaps the strongest element of all is the political force behind this nostalgia. In the case of Moldova, the communist party regime was welcomed back with the 2001 Moldovan Parliamentary election.

The communist party of Moldova became the only communist party to have held a majority in government in the post-Soviet states. [8] Although never a communist state-Greece, once strategically valued by the U. S and its allies to contain the spread of communism, is now seeing a dramatic increase of support in the radical new-left party-Synaspismos. Largely due to the harsh reality led by the economic crisis, Greeks had voted them with 71 out 300 seats in the Greek Parliament in June 2012, compared to the mere 6 seats they held in 2004.

[9] Left-wing parties have gaining an increasing support in various Eastern-Bloc nations due to the increasing demand for personal social security. It isn’t hard to see that the film Goodbye Lenin took a dark comedic approach to express the director’s reminiscing for the communist era. It certainly did not glorify the communist regime by any means, but rather depicted the last days of the communist regime in his country through the effort of a loving son trying to bring back the “old day” for his dying mother.

In conclusion, the notion of the movie characters’ nostalgia for communist regimes in post-war Europe has survived into today’s world and can be identified by the various social, economic and political elements. The film might have ended with the death of Christine, only three days after the official unification of Germany. At the last scene of the movie, Alex described that East Germany will always in his memory be connected with his mother-it was a country that he will always keep alive for his mother.

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