Malgorzata FidelisSep 22, 2023
Imagining the World from Behind the Iron Curtain
Youth and the Global Sixties in Poland
Oxford University Press 2022
The Global Sixties are well known as a period of non-conformist lifestyles, experimentation with consumer products and technology, counterculture, and leftist politics. While the period has been well studied in the West and increasingly researched for the Global South, young people in the "Second World" too were active participants in these movements. The Iron Curtain was hardly a barrier against outside influences, and young people from students and hippies to mainstream youth in miniskirts and blue jeans saw themselves as part of the global community of like-minded people as well as citizens of Eastern Bloc countries.
Drawing on Polish youth magazines, rural people's diaries, sex education manuals, and personal testimonies, Malgorzata Fidelis follows jazz lovers, university students, hippies, and young rural rebels. In Imagining the World from Behind the Iron Curtain: Youth and the Global Sixties in Poland (Oxford UP, 2022), Fidelis colorfully narrates their everyday engagement with a dynamically changing world, from popular media and consumption to counterculture and protest movements. She delineates their anti-authoritarian solidarities and competing visions of transnationalism, with the West as well as the ruling communist regime. Even as youth demonstrations were violently suppressed, Fidelis shows, youth culture was not. By the early 1970s, the state incorporated elements of Sixties culture into their official vision of socialist modernity.
From the perspective of youth, Malgorzata Fidelis argues, the post-1989 transition in Poland from communism to liberal democracy, often dubbed as "the return to Europe," was less of a breakthrough and more of a continuation of trends in which they participated. Indeed, they had already created new modes of self-expression and cultural spaces in which ideas of alternative social and political organization became imaginable.
Jill Massino is a scholar of modern Eastern Europe with a focus on Romania, gender, and everyday life.