1989 brought about a lot of changes in Eastern Europe, but the transition to democracy has been like a rugged road filled with potholes and boulders.
Politically speaking, there are many problems — an arduous clean-up after fifty years of state rule — but here I’ll focus on the cultural aspect.
With the new freedom of expression, there was a rush to publish works previously censored. In the early 1990s, a great many publishing houses appeared but didn’t last long in the fragile economy. Bad management and the absence of subsidies didn’t help either.
Still, some houses survived and prospered by changing old rules, and of course by increasing the quality of the books. Among the most notable publishers are Humanitas in Bucharest and Polirom in the city of Iaşi.
Newsprint periodicals followed a similar route, first failing then re-emerging. Among those were Dilema Veche (Old Dilemma), Revista 22 (Magazine 22), and Observator Cultural (Cultural Observer).
Joining a long list of Romanian authors, new writers made a name for themselves. Among them is Mircea Catarescu. The ties with the Romanian diaspora are stronger than ever, considering names like Andrei Codrescu (who now writes primarily in English).
As a writer, I’m proud to call such artists my fellow countrymen.
Theater and Film
Romanian theater also suffered in the transition. Some venues survived due to their prestige, others by investing in material and high quality of productions. Independent theaters are now quite popular in university cities.
After some desperate times, Romanian film-making returned strong with Filantropica, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, all extremely well received in Paris and Cannes.
Those are small but important steps in a place where substantive change can take centuries. Like drops of water — to quote an old proverb — slowly shaping a rock.