On November 19, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) hosted The End(s) of Communism: Paths to De-Communization in the Former Eastern Bloc, a conference in Washington, D.C.
The peaceful collapse of communism across Central and Eastern Europe in 1989—and the negotiated power-sharing agreements that trailed in its wake—were celebrated in the West as a triumph of high-minded compromise. With the notable exception of Romania, reconciliation had prevailed over the thirst for vengeance. Today the picture is more complex. For a number of countries, the circumstances surrounding communism’s implosion and the proper way to “deal” with those tainted by service to the old regime remain the subject of intense debate. Recent efforts to purge the allegedly residual communist elements from state institutions have prompted observers to reconsider the processes through which democratic systems were established in the region after 1989. This conference contributed to that effort by bringing together scholars of Central and Eastern Europe to explore the contested legacies of communism in the former Soviet bloc.