In This Review

Revolution with a Human Face: Politics, Culture, and Community in Czechoslovakia, 1989-1992
Revolution with a Human Face: Politics, Culture, and Community in Czechoslovakia, 1989-1992
By James Krapfl
Cornell University Press, 2013, 292 pp.

Krapfl looks at the complex and dramatic transformations that the revolution of 1989 inspired in average Czechoslovaks far from Prague and Bratislava, where elites waged high politics -- changes that have been either neglected or casually distorted by the best-known analyses of the revolution. He argues that for the energized masses in villages and towns across the country, the common bond was not a rejection of socialism but a protest against the bureaucratic, oppressive, and inhumane way that it was pursued. By carefully sifting through a massive trove of ephemera produced by street protests and spontaneous civic mobilizations, he locates a common desire to create a new society of “humanness,” dedicated to nonviolence and democratic norms. He concludes his study by chronicling how those high hopes were fractured by more mundane conflicts over power and ceded ground to “radical, partisan” forces more preoccupied with the nationalist agendas that ultimately tore the country apart.