Iron Curtain


From the Velvet Underground to the Velvet Revolution: Charter 77’s Redemption of Human Rights in Czechoslovakia

Take a day, and walk around.

Watch the Nazis run your town.

Then go home and check yourself.

You think we’re singing about someone else.

— Frank Zappa, “Plastic People”

Czechoslovakia’s 1989 Velvet Revolution began not with a bang, but with a band. Specifically, that band was the Plastic People of the Universe, who took their name from a song by American musician Frank Zappa. Their style falls loosely into the Western genre of art rock and was inspired by Zappa’s experimental work with the Mothers of Invention, and by Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground’s “Exploding Plastic Inevitable” multi-media collaboration with artist Andy Warhol in the mid-1960s.

 

In 1976 under the auspices of maintaining social standards in music, the Czechoslovak government broke-up a music festival featuring the Plastic People, confiscated their equipment, and arrested the band’s members and associates. Here’s the official response to the international outcry which accompanied that action from the Communist newspaper Rudé Právo [Red Truth], included in Readex’s World Protest and Reform Movements: Global Perspectives, 1945-1996.

From the Velvet Underground to the Velvet Revolution: Charter 77’s Redemption of Human Rights in Czechoslovakia

Game of Zones: How Austria Unraveled the Iron Curtain

Austria 1.pngI’m thinking of a city, the glittering capital of a German-speaking people. It was the seat of monarchs and dictators before being bombed into submission during World War II. It was divided into four administrative districts by the victorious Allied powers following that war, and so came late to democracy. It was an island of independence and intrigue deep within territory under Soviet control. Adolf Hitler haunted its streets and harangued the crowds from its balconies. Perhaps you've heard of it? Berlin? No, I'm thinking of Vienna, Austria.

At the end of World War II all the pieces were in place for Vienna to suffer the fate of Berlin: a prestigious urban capital; strategic and economic importance; symbolic significance as an exclamation point marking the end of the Nazi program of German reunification. Yet Vienna and Austria were granted independence in 1955, while Berlin and East Germany labored under communism until 1990. Why such different outcomes?

 

Four Powers.JPG

 

Game of Zones: How Austria Unraveled the Iron Curtain

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