From Totalitarian to Transcultural Public Awareness

/, Essays, Blesok no. 85/From Totalitarian to Transcultural Public Awareness

From Totalitarian to Transcultural Public Awareness

– Dialogues of discourses and eras –

Eleven years ago I wrote an essay entitled “From Gutenberg to InteLnet”1F. The essay follows the history of writing seen through Umberto Eco’s semiotic glasses, via Bakhtin’s vision on the two voices of the word, leading to Epstein’s transcultural way of thinking, which incorporates the theoretical and philosophical postulates of the poststructuralist thought of the XX century. However, in 2001, at the very beginning of the century, my view of transculturality as a new type of freedom functioned independently from the political constellations defining the global changes in the world. I was only oriented to letters and sounds, meanings and significance produced by a hypertextual poetics neglecting the fact that the visions also persist in the truth that is not spoken (especially in the totalitarian regime societies), creating the aperceptive basis of our speech. And it has always been present in the texts that I read: Bakhtin, Foucault, Epstein, Derrida… That is why I decided to seek for those silent or postponed truths not in the articulation (construction) of ideas, but in the deconstruction which starts with authors and reconstruction that continues with the readers, ready to disseminate their knowledge. This is what I did, especially when I found an interesting conclusion in an essay by Mikhail Epstein, who makes an analogy between the abbreviations WWW and SSS(R), suggesting that the World Wide Web history was written in the history of the break-up of the former Soviet Union2F, as a chronological continuum which has confirmed the match of an end with a rise: the end of the powerful totalitarian world and the beginning of the new – virtual one (see: What is this all about?
In 1989 a series of events led to changes in the geopolitical structure of Europe. That year, the world saw the picture of the Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alois Mock and his Hungarian colleague symbolically opening the fence of the border line between the two countries. Soon after, Austrian politicians and representatives of the Hungarian opposition reached an agreement to open the border at Sopron area for several hours, due to the event planned for 19 August – the Pan-European picnic for Otto von Habsburg3F. It was a political act of ordinary people who woke the “genie of the bottle”: encouraged by the contents of the fliers that symbolically asked that the “iron curtain” is cut, six hundred citizens of the Democratic Republic of Germany (DRG) who spent their summer holiday at Balaton lake ran to the West from communist Hungary, marking the east German exodus and starting the events which led to the demolition of the Berlin Wall on 9 November that same year. As a confirmation of the desire for mobility to the “open” and democratic Europe – mobility similar to the movement of the electromagnetic waves which is typical for this creative exchange of ideas that takes place today without limitations and prohibitions – this mass reaction to the endless freedom was a demonstration of the human dignity and awareness…
Only one week after the Berlin’s 9 November, in communist Czechoslovakia, the police stopped peaceful demonstrations of the Prague students, organised on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the murder of the student Ian Opletal, during the German occupation in 1939. This ban caused massive street protests. Supported by the signatories of the Charter 77,4F the protests led to fall of the CSSR’s communist government, marking its transition from totalitarism to democracy. A month later, only couple of days before Christmas, in a live TV broadcast I watched the Romanian dictatorship regime of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu fall. I could not know then that despite the stormy historical events (Pan-European picnic, demolition of Die Berliner Mauer, the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia and the fall of the Romanian dictatorship power), another important event quietly marked 1898 – the historical HTTP of Sir Berners-Lee5F. It was the end of the Cold War…
Being 23 and having a degree in Yugoslav literature and uncertain future, I watched the existing world order change dramatically, but I could not even dream that two years later, the petrified values of my formative youth period would disappear without a trace… After the fall of the Wall…
At the very beginning of 1992, there were two more big events that took place in January, changing the political map of the world. After the international recognition of Slovenia and Croatia which happened after the ideological and dramatic separation of the brotherly Yugoslav republics and the military interventions there, the former SFRY definitely fell apart6F, and the powerful USSR transformed into SNG – a post-totalitarian, temporary and loose “alliance” of independent states (Союз независимых государств)… While Middle and Eastern European bid a stormy good-bye to the dominant communist system, Western Europe signed in CERN7F “Protocol for Free Transfer of Information between the Servers and Clients of Personal Computers”. This signing, initiated by Timothy Berners-Lee marked the start of a new era. Another world order and a new totalitarian awareness – whose long-term implications could not be foreseen even by Orwell, announced the birth of W3 (WorldWideWeb)8F. As if velvet butterfly (бархатная бабочка) which deveWWWloped from the body of the caterpillar, the “many-membered and unique USSR”, as Mikhail Epstein wrote in his inspirational essay (see
So, in this historical 1989, when the ideological illusion of the happy societies and stereotypes about the Socialist Man reminded of forgotten chapters of a long finished book, at the place of the once global International Republic of “workers” there was a new – Ideocratic9F republic of intellectual workers, whose intellectual potential was slowly being built into the virtual space of the electronic Net. How can one not believe the pre-destined relation of these marvellous coincidences?
I have to admit that the coincidence of these two quite different forms if total awareness – on one hand, the former communist regime with its dominant and repressive logos (as a symbol of the political hypocrisy of the totalitarian societies which, instead of guaranteeing, suffocated the freedom of the people establishing control over the information flow), and on the other hand, the polyvalent power of the global world computer network (whose undogmatised logos opened alternative possibilities for all free and liberal minds) – started to take place in my head as an extended metaphor for the cyclic movement of the historical time, implying the conclusion that Mikhail Epstein skilfully described in few sentences. Built on the big and “important” books of its time, the totalitarian civilisation tried, even at the expense of human lives10F, to change the world adjusting it to abstractions and symbols. Unlike it, built on the foundations of a global international computer network, the virtual civilisation does not support violence. It does not demand victims. Its primary goal is uniting, and not dividing. Therefore, instead of the once scary Big Ideas that moved the world “with pain and faith, despair and damnation”, today there is another Huge that “rules” us. Its millions of eyes come from the computer screen, offering us quite a different life (
This poetic-political and historical-technological context built into Epstein’s essays, gave a new outlook to my perception. Especially the knowledge that disidenship was maturing in the awareness of the Soviets as early as the 1970es, quietly undermining the foundations of totalitarism, as a different political opinion, independent and disparant, as if an invisible archipelago of island-ideas. They have created the basis of the alternative discipline that allowed Mikhail Epstein to invent his new Archipelago – the one of persecuted minds, logic alternative and hypotheses11F, quite different than one of Solzenicyn12F – who deals with human thoughts instead of human destinies, alternative manuscripts scattered around the intellectual map of the world where there is a different approach, quite a different deconstruction. This is how it is.
Imagined as a “bank of ideas”, Epstein’s Book of the Books13F made me very curious. Its acentric and unhierarchical metaspace actually implements the nomadic logic of thinking, and, using the technical possibilities of Internet understand the reality which we know can never be fully exhausted. It can also exist as “other’s truth”, an unuttered Future Word which is always used to start a dialogue, as a confirmation of the thesis that there is a clash of voices in each of us (Bakhtin). Encouraged by this disensus in us, we start to think with others’ views, think helped by others’ views doubling them with exegesis and comments, with “inner proliferation of meaning”, as Foucault would say, confirming the fact that this Epstein’s project is actually turned to Bakhtin’s dialogism. His two-voiced word – quite different than the authoritarian technology of nihilism, produced by the Gulag machinery of Stalin is directed to a transfinite way of discourse, a specific network of ephemeral textual blocks whose frame today is only the computer screen. Because its complex genre structure does not know real subjects but only coexistent minds, united around different disciplines, it becomes clear why Epstein’s Book of the Books is conceived as an “eternal dialogue of cultures”. It reveals new horizons – not above the personality, but inter-personalities – horizons that allow different views, because the issue of a dialogue is an issue about the speech of the Other… Now I will stop before the future, to go back to the past…
Terry Eagleton’s view was indicative as a support of this “other speech”. In his essay entitled “Wittgenstein’s Friends”, this British theorist of culture mentions another Bakhtin – Nicolay (Mikhaylovich). As a white guard member who had immigrated to England, the one year older brother of the Soviet literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin taught at the University of Birmingham and in 1945 he established a linguistics department. There are proofs that this former Russian nobleman (of Jewish origin) who had left to England as royal officer, became a dedicated communist (which can be seen in his memoirs The Russian Revolution in the Eyes of a White Guard Member), unlike his brother Mikhail, who, although staying in the USSR was not allowed to publish his books for 32 years (from 1930 to 1963), and his name was almost forgotten in the Russian Marxist philosophical linguistic circles14F. The first more significant work by M. Bakhtin, published in 1929 was entitled Проблемы творчества Достоевского. It introduced the concept of dialogism. The same year, after he had been accused of participating in the underground movement of the Russian Orthodox Church (the period when Koba oppressed the artists and writers), Mikhail Bakhtin was convicted to exile into Siberia, but he asked to be pardoned due to his poor health (he had osteomyelitis, a bone disease which led to his leg being amputated in 1938). Instead of a GULag15F, Mikhail was exiled internally, into Kazakhstan for six years, where he worked as a librarian. Although there are no specific proofs that after the revolutionary 1918 the brothers stayed in touch, it is known that in 1930 Nicolay Bakhtin had a copy of the well-known and cult book on Dostoevsky written by his brother. They had been very close as children and under the influence of the same intellectual and literary circle during the studies at the Pietersburg University. Because the interest of the brother was directed to language philosophy, it should not be a surprise that Nicolay fiercely supported “Aristotle’s sense of the individual, as opposed to Plato’s tyranny of the general” (Eagleton; 1992: 92), and Mikhail Bakhtin supported the thesis of the two voices of the word, according to which the principle of reality matches the principle of “otherness”, seen as exotopy. That is why he could choose for the “mimicric” way of expression, when handing over the authorship to his real “doubles”, his collaborators Medvedev and Voloshinov, he gave them the roles of “thinking characters”, injecting them with his thoughts. They say that Mikhail Bakhtin could not fully identify with them – these thoughts revealed another, to him partially strange Marxist awareness – however, he could survive in those mad times, as a pure potential of the thought dressed in silence. “In the ideological and speech profiling of Medvedev and Voloshinov, says Epstein, Bakhtin brilliantly played the role imposed to him by the ideological scene of the 1920es – a Marxist literature theorist, i.e. a linguist, trying to insert the maximum suggestiveness in the voices of his characters… as if purposefully brought into the horizon of Stalin’s era” (see: Therefore the difficulties in determining the formal authorship of Bakhtin’s books which could neither be claimed nor denied, because, although written by him, they did not quite belong to16F.
Actually, when he elaborated his dialogism (which he turned from a metalinguistic to a metaphysical structure), Mikhail insisted on the fact that thanks to what he had called вненаходимост (exotopy is the translation given by Tzvetan Todorov), people can see their real nature, only because of the fact that they are Others, and not Unique. A human meaning can overcome its limitations only in touch with other alternative meanings, he wrote. But this self-overcoming can create such intellectual communities that would be able to reevaluate and build upon what has already been written. In this case, if their only reality is the linguistic reality, we see why it is possible to have same topics, points of view and ideas between two spatially and temporally distant texts (and personalities!). It opens the issue of the third one — the one sub-ddressee who understands the dialogue without directly participating in it. In this way, we who understand (interpret) also become participants in the dialogue – of course, not in a literal, arithmetic – but rather in a more specific, metaphysical sense – the one that easily skips eras and times. Then, if we return to the historical context in which the views of Mikhail Bakhtin were created and developed, it is quite clear why the Soviet egocrat Stalin made a decision to marginalize and liquidate the intellectuals who undermined the monolitness of his “single minded” ideology17F. But GULag is not something that is born and dies within the borders of a single country18F. It can be repeated, even centuries later, because as a sub-personal, transhistorical and planetary phenomenon, it is not only a specific mechanism for production of a mute language or alternative thinking, but also a camp mechanism for production of collective suffering and human victims. This knowledge was the point which initiated this essay for me, but now is the time that the link that connected the “eastern” thinkers Bakhtin and Epstein is expanded with the ideas of the “western” philosophers, Foucault and Derrida, because I have sensed points that brought their theories into close contact. You wonder how? In this way.
Epstein used to say that his electronic project Book of the Books was based on a positive deconstruction, a bit different than Derrida’s, but I do not see any essential difference between them. You remember that starting from trace, Derrida suggested the theory of textual production under the name grammatology, but he did not start from the Sound, but from Writing, trying to rescue it from Logos domination, changing its status from transcription to inscription of differences, in an wholly Other. It is the “wholly Other” that is the touch point between the two most provocative concepts of the XX century: the graphocentric deconstructivism of Jacques Derrida and Bakhtin’s theory of “two voices of the word”, because the very term différAnce is an ideal example of a word that slips by. In this way, deconstruction has become nom de guerre for the phenomenon which Bakhtin so loudly called dialogism, indirect speech, polyphony and many voices“, says Michael Holquist (1992; 109-111). Texts, books and ideas are never a new beginning, but rather a new deviation from what has already been said or written. This “already-something” is a “discourse without a body, a voice silent like a sigh, writing which is itself a print of its own trace” thinks Foucault (1998: 29). But don’t these ideas anticipate the theory of traces, reality which the great minds of our time stood for – the reality of the absence – discussed by Bakhtin and Derrida? And isn’t this Epstein’s vision of revaluating and adding to the “history of silence of the Russian culture” (actually, of all eastern/mid-European postcommunist cultures), a vision that he discusses in his essays, when he says: “My intention was to collect in that Book all the metamorphoses of thought, all nuances of philosophical studies that had been polluted with the logic (or absurd) of our life in Russia, at the period when the communist era was dying… I wanted to collect all rejected variants and alternatives that used to be the breaking points of the opinions of that era, looking for a way out of the prisons where the very Thinking, with its most inspiring, idealistic and ideocratic patterns had positioned itself above the Being, above each of our lives” (
I now remember Milan Kundera, actually the historical-culturological context of the essay “The Tragedy of Middle Europe”19F, written in 1983. Here, this “mid-European” speaks about the destiny of the Soviet bloc countries, whose political system had defined them as east-European, and the cultural reality as west-European countries. The essay deals with the issue of the mid-European culture, as a metaphysical basis of the European spirituality, which had abdicated from the historical time, turning the “small nations” into vulnerable states, with their own vision of the world. This vision was based on the deep lack of trust to the conquering history of Europe, the one that they could not separate from (because they geographically belong to it), but at the same time they are its upside-down image, its victims and outsiders. “It is this view of history with open eyes that is the source of their culture – says Kundera – their wisdom, the ‘un-serious spirit’ which mocks the greatness and glory“ (Kundera: 17-18/1985; 299), the totalitarian danger and the ideological madness that not only destroyed culture, the one that comes to life in the dissident stories about the double identity of Europe. This European “doubleness” was the reason for big rebellions, freedom with high risks, encouraged by invasions, annexes and conquests, from those “common situations which have always collected the people to group them again, in a new way, along the imaginary and eternally changeable borders of a landscape, always populated with the same memories, same problems and conflicts, same common tradition“ (17-18/1985; 298 – the italics are mine). What does Kundera imply here?
When the Soviet tanks occupied Czechoslovakia in 1968, this regime writer found himself on the other side of the law, on the list of “unsuitable” persons. As one of the heroes of the anti-Soviet resistance in Prague, Kundera has all of a sudden become persona non grata of the Czech public life, until 1975 when he decided to immigrate to France. While the “east communism”, the strongest of all XX century myths, lived through its agony, Kundera supported the “Middle Europe” model, and explained it in the above mentioned essay.
Some thirty years before him, two great “mid-European” and liberal minds rose their voice against the political situation in the eastern bloc countries. One is Mircea Eliade, a Romanian historian of culture and religions. After the communists entered Romania in 1945, Eliade immigrated to Paris. He taught at the Sorbonne, but from 1957 until his death he was a professor at Chicago University. In his study “The Destiny of the Romanian Culture” published in Uniunea Româna magazine in 1949, Eliade opened the question about the “religious war” of the Soviet occupier, against the European civilisation. As a consequence of the disastrous outcome caused by the instable situation in this part of the world20F, this world led to amputating Middle Europe which all of a sudden became the “Other”, the Eastern one. The Ceausescu dynasty took care to keep it alive in Romania for 25 years…
The other mid-European liberal mind is the Polish Nobel Prize winner Czesław Miłosz, who, after overcoming the issue with the diplomatic immunity caused by his government (for which he had worked as a diplomat in the USA), was reappointed a Secretary at the Embassy of Poland in Paris in 1951. Six months later, he asked the French government for a political asylum, ending his diplomatic, but not intellectual career with the Polish state. Only several months in an exile, in the fifth issue of Kultura (magazine of the Polish immigration in Paris), Milos published his essay “No”, where he explained the motives of his decision. He admitted that he had state privileges in socialist Poland, but at the time when he could no longer endure the ideological pressures of Stalinism, he decided to end the contacts with Polish “democracy” undermining the myth(ideo)logy21F of real-socialism. His book of anti-Stalinist essays, The Imprisoned Mind (1953) was very successful, not only because of the analysis of totalitarism, but also as an anthropological-sociological study of the intellectuals in the communist countries under the strong pressure of government and single-mindedness22F…
The mentioned examples of ideological-political exile are a paradigmatic indication that the culturological traditions in these mid-European countries (once members of the Warsaw treaty) have undergone essential changes in the time of communism and socialism. Not only at East-West line, but also in the awareness and behaviour of their citizens these were a clear signal that the victory of the great forces had questioned the European value system: the former Middle Europe was overnight transformed into Eastern, in part of the world where a “new religion” and a different “reality” became a reality. As a result of the well hidden and skilfully covered history, the “people’s democracy” in those countries was showing its real face only in the acts of resistance against the imposed ideology, which turned the people from subjects of history into its victims. It gives me the right to call the years passed under the repressive communist regime years in this part of the world “black holes” in the historical time of the European civilisation and its natural continuum, because, as a huge, open, conjunctive and unfinished system of signs, our civilisation does not only point out at us, but also at itself… Today, it lives it new and different reality – the electronic one. As the last phase of Democracy with capital D, there is the free, unlimited flow of information, which in a symbolic way, could announce the end of the institutionalised, bureaucratic power. All of us who have in one or another way had the privilege to experience the transit to the XXI century, we could even be lucky to experience that the hyperreal space of our “current” civilisation could create a new kind of citizenship – one that is above the nations and free, capable of replacing the parliamentary democracy with a hypercitizen awareness.
It seems that this s still a bold thought today, but I would like to mention the essay “Postponed Democracy” by Jacques Derrida, in support of its potential coming to life. Published in January 1989 (sic!), in Le Monde newspaper, i.e. in the first issue Le Monde de la Révolution française, monthly on the occasion of the French revolution, he discusses the media culture and its “relation to the public opinion, freedoms, human rights, democracy and — Europe“ (Дерида; 2001: 9). He says that public opinion was actually only a matter of daily rhythm in the course of its entire history, and that it is still but a fix idea of the democratic conscience.
However, when he published his essay in 1989, Derrida did not even dream that, as a contemporary type of agora, endless and free, the Internet would manage to expand and add up to the tele-meta-theoretical experience of the other related media: newspapers, radio and television, and that it would soon become the dominant hyper-space in the shaping of the public opinion (except in the countries where even today its use is censored or fully prohibited, such as North Korea, Cuba, China… the list is long), with all dangers and illusions that this medium carries within23F. However, he anticipates and says: “…if the public opinion would have its own place (but that is the issue), it would be a forum of a permanent and transparent discussion. It would oppose the non-democratic powers, but also its own political representation…” (2001: 76 – my italics). Indicating the difference between doxa and opinion, Derrida says that the public opinion is a modern artefact, a result of the political discourses in Europe, a model of its parliamentary democracy, quite incomprehensible for people’s dictatorships and totalitarian regimes, because – legally, it is “neither the general will, nor the nation, nor the ideology… It does not speak in the first person, it is neither an object, nor a subject, (‘we’, ‘the people’), it is quoted, it is allowed to speak, it speaks from the belly (‘real country’, ‘silent majority’), Nixon’s ‘moral majority’, Bush’s ‘main-stream’ etc..)…“ (2001: 77). As potential electorate, public opinion is an “assembly of people called to decide, via making a judgement, on topics that are within the competence of the legal representatives, but also on topics that slip from them, at least temporarily, in a zone that is quickly expanded and differentiated today, asking in this way difficult questions: on the current functioning of liberal democracy, if not about its principals as well…” (2001: 79). Opening the question about the future of democracy, Derrida actually reminds that the freedom of press is the fundamental right of any democracy, its most precious benefit which „is yet to be found. Every day. At least – he says – Democracy together with it… should keep an eye on censorship (…), not to regain the lost area again” (2001: 83-84), because there is no democracy without reciprocity. As long as the right to response rules in all of its depth and efficiency (which is an endless and still unfinished task, as Derrida claims), democracy will be limited. “Only the one of the press? Undoubtedly, but today, press is everywhere… It reveals the public space… It reveals the day itself… And another word, if you allow me, the same that you have given me for the start, today. The days are already counted: a day comes when today will be finished with another speed. The day comes (the visibility of the image and the public nature of the public, but also the measure of the everyday rhythm, and the phenomenology of the political, but maybe at the same time its very essence) will no longer be ratio essendi (reason for its existence, as added by A. Banovik), the reason or the portion of the tele-meta-theoretical effects that we spoke about before“ (2001: 88-89), but ratio agendi – the reason for acting, its fundamental motivation, I would say in line with his thought, and I would mention just another interesting culturological experience which gently touches upon Jewish sensibility of Derrida (but also Bakhtin’s and Epstein’s), concluding my dialogue with them.
Those familiar with the Talmud, those who dealt with this ancient Jewish text, indicated that it had been printed in such a way that in the middle there was the Biblical text, surrounded by the interpretations and comments of the learned people from the past. For a postmodern and liberal mind, today24F thesis interpretations are nothing else but lessons, directions on how to read the original text, but also its additions, those that destroy the myth of the monolithic and one-dimensional way of thinking (typical of the counties of the former Eastern bloc, or those with limited democracy today). As an open and unfinished system of signs, the collection of lessons is a confirmation of the meaning of hypertextuality and a support of the multidimensional, unlinear and symbolic judgement which turned all of us, slowly into “schizophrenic” organisms, crazy enough to cross their views and disqualify the mimetic concept of thinking, but smart enough to understand that the human civilisation is a disorganised space that follows the direction from the general to the specific. It is the road of Otherness to Selfness and Selfness to Otherness as a border phenomenon between outside and inside, as something transgradient (relative) rather than transgressive (absolute). Since the status of this transgardience is exterritorial (Bakhtin used to say вненаходимий), we return to the beginning of this essay as a symbolic travel through ears and discourses that belong to a very important “muteness” – the one that does not fall within any system and that keeps on sliding away, never ending…
Thus, departing from the structure of the monologically codified discourses and eras – from Bakhtin to Epstein, via Foucault, Derrida and the experience of the former communist Europe dissidents, we have passed the roads of a new “deconstruction”, directed to the non-conventional, open and democratic ways of dialogue which do not only cherish intertextual but also transcultural relations. They point out at traces of different (and yet similar!) discourses, codes and quotations that live their present, but never stop remembering their past – the one that has started the idea of the International brotherhood – but this time as a symbolic, virtual passage, from the totalitarian to the transcultural way of thinking25F, such that can see the triple letter Ю of the Russian words for love, youth and kisses in the triple W of the World Wide Web project, the words that mean what they mean in the hypereal and intelligent idea of Mikhail Epstein „from the first word read to the last word written“ (1998: 109).

1. Эпштейн, Михаил (1998): „Из тоталитарной эпохи – в виртуальную: К открытию Книги Книг“ (
2. Эпштейн, Михаил (1989): „Ленин–Сталин. 1988*“ (
3. Еpštejn, Mikhail (422/2002): „Likovi koji misle“ in: Polja časopis za književnost i teoriju, godina XLVII, broj 422, Novi Sad (
4. Епштејн, Михаил (1998): „О виртуелној књижевности“ во: Постмодернизам, Zepter Book World, Београд
5. Eagleton, Terry (1992): „Wittgensteinovi prijatelji“ in: Bahtin i drugi, Naklada MD, Zagreb
6. Holquist, Michael (1992): „Razabrani muk“ in: Bahtin i drugi, Naklada MD, Zagreb
7. Kundera, Milan (17-18/1985): „Tragedija Srednje Europe“ in: Gordogan: časopis za književnost i sva kulturna pitanja, god.7, br. 17-18, Zagreb
8. Miloš, Česlav (2006): Zarobljeni um, Paideia, Beograd
9. Конрад, Ѓерѓ (1992): Антиполитички предизвик, Култура, Скопје,
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11. Kolakovski, Lešek (2005): Moji ispravni pogledi na sve, Petrovaradin: Futura, Novi Sad, Beograd
12. Verderi, Ketrin (2005): Šta je bio socijalizam i šta dolazi posle njega?, Fabrika knjiga, Beograd
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14. Derrida, Jacques (1976): O gramatologiji, Veselin Masleša, Sarajevo
15. Фуко Мишел (1998): Археологија знања, Плато, Београд
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17. Ungureanu, Kornel (423/2003): „Drugačija Centralna Evropa“ in: Polja: časopis za književnost i teoriju, godina XLVIII, broj 423, Novi Sad (
18. Саркањац, Бранислав (2009): Идеологијата и поединецот, Макавеј, Скопје
19. (3-4/1988): Književna kritika: časopis za estetiku književnosti (Temat o književnoj logorologiji), Beograd
20. Bahtin, Mikhail (1967): Problemi poetike Dostojevskog, NOLIT, Beograd
– (1976): Formalni metod u nauci o književnosti, NOLIT, Beograd
– (1980): Marksizam i filozofija jezika, NOLIT, Beograd

Translated by Elizabeta Bakovska

1. This essay was first published at the beginning of 2002, in the January issue of Блесок : двојазично електронско списание за литература и други уметности; no. 24 (see: The English translation “From Gutenberg to InteLnet (the cyber-theories of Mikhail Epstein and Umberto Eco)” was soon at Mikhail Epstein’s site The original version of this text is part of my book Групен портрет: културолошки и литературно-теориски есеи (Магор, Скопје, 2007).
2. “When I see the letters WWW, I remember SSSR”, says Mikhail Epstein in his essay “Из тоталитарной эпохи – в виртуальную. К открытию Книги Книг”, (see:
3. The organiser of the historical Pan-European picnic was Otto von Habsburg, the former heir of the Austro-Hungarian crown, an international president of the Pan-European Union and a member of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The current European Union was only a European Community of several member countries then.
4. Charter 77 – an informal and open association of people of various professions and convictions, who stood for respecting the civil and human rights in CSSR in 1977. Its signatories were distinguished communists from the period of the Prague Spring (1968) and a big number of cultural and scientific workers, such as Watzlav Havel and Ian Patocka. They warned about violations of the civil rights and freedoms. After the publishing of the Decree of the Charter in the foreign media, the communist government of CSSR strengthened the political oppression on the signatories and activists, and many of them also ended in prison…
5. As a CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire) project, the hypertextual concept of HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol) was initiated in 1989, by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and supported in 1990 by Robert Cailliau, in order to facilitate the access to data of the researchers and scholars, suggesting in a way the end of the Cold War and the fall of the “Iron Curtain” in Europe and the world.
6. On 15 January 1992, an Arbitrage Commission of the European Union, led by the president of the Constitutional Court of France, Mr. Robert Badintaire, concluded that the Republic of Macedonia (as well as the Republic of Slovenia) fulfilled all conditions for international recognition and that the name was not a territorial threat. Because Greece opposed the recognition of the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name, the process of international recognition and establishment of diplomatic relations with the EU was postponed. On 27 June 1992, the Lisbon declaration of the European Council disputed the name Macedonia siding with Greece in the dispute. The Macedonian Parliament rejected the declaration. The full diplomatic relations between the Republic of Macedonia and the EU were established in December 1995.
7. Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire/European Organization for Nuclear Research – an international scientific organisation for nuclear research (now renamed European Laboratory for Particular Physics), with its headquarters near Geneva, established by twelve European governments in 1952.
8. The first Web browser was online in 1991, but as a project called ENQUIRE – W3, it started in 1989.
9. Ideocracy – rule of reasonable concepts/ideas.
10. These are the victims of the concentration camps that were invented during communism, as a way to strengthen the dictatorship of proletariat. They date from the time of Lenin, around 1917/1918. It is believed that around 90 million people have been sentenced to death within the Eastern Cold Coast…
11. “Архипелаг Гонимых Умов, Логических Альтернатив и Гипотез. Другой ГУЛАГ” (see:
12. After an eight year long Golgotha around Stalin’s camps and the fierce opposition to Soviet Union’s totalitarism, Alexandar Isaevich Solzenicyn put his intellect, patriotism and revolt into his hybrid work, “Archipelago Gulag”, a three volume chronicle of Stalin’s concentration camps and cleansing. Because of his dedication to human thought, humanism and moral justice as fundamental values of the modern society, this great Russian writer, dissident and Nobel Prize winner, one of the most distinguished names of the literary resistance to totalitarism, was posthumously given the award of the Ohrid Academy of Humanism.
13. The Book of the Books project was posted on the Internet on 21 April 1998, although Mikhail Naumovich Epstein founded the interdisciplinary associations of the humanist intelligence in Moscow as early as the 1980es. Since 1990 he has been living and working as a professor in Theory of Culture and Russian Literature at Emory University in the USA.
14. In 1918 Mikhail Bakhtin founded the famous Bakhtin’s circle which was made by Pavel Medvedev and Valentin Voloshinov, his closest associates, who were handed the authorship of his books because of ideological reasons: The Formal Method in Literary Science (1928) and Marxism and Language Philosophy (1929). In 1936, Voloshinov died of tuberculosis and two years later Medvedev was arrested and killed by Stalin’s people. In 1940, Bakhtin finished his Ph.D. thesis on Rabelais, but he was not allowed to defend it until 1947. It was only in 1951 that he was given the Ph.D. title…
15. ГУЛаг (Главное Управление исправительно-трудовых Лагерей).
16. “He is an author with a chaotic bibliography along political and personal reasons at the same time. He made his students follow Socrates ways, more orally than by writing; his students are those that published his first books that explain his thoughts – that is why he hid behind pseudonyms. Then he was convicted by the Soviet government and deported; he continued to think, but he did not publish all the time. His texts appeared decades later or even after his death. It makes approach to his thinking quite difficult…” says Tzvetan Todorov in the book Должности и наслади: еден живот на минувач (разговори со Катрин Портвен), Фондација за македонски јазик „Небрегово“, Скопје, 2004, p. 132.
17. In his book Идеологијата и поединецот (The Ideology and the Individual), Branislav Sarkanjac speaks of two situations of ideology. The first one is the one that prepares the revolution and makes the individual aware. It is Promethean. The second one is the one after the revolution. It is Epymeic. “If the first one is a state of heroic optimism, and even, a manifestation of love of men, the second situation of the ideology…is a situation of suffering, regrets, seeing the naïve optimism of the mistake… The guilty Prometheus becomes Epymeteus”, says Sarjanjac in his book (2009: 260). Of course, this does not apply to “comrade” Stalin, but rather to his victims…
18. More on this phenomenon in my essay „Тимос или Логос: субјектот и идеологијата, човекот и власта“(Timos or Logos: Subject and Ideology, Man and Power), included in this book.
19. The text was published in the French magazine Debat in 1983, and the English translation in The New York Review of Book in 1984. In Yugoslavia it was first translated and published in Zagreb magazine Gordogan in 1985, no. 17-18.
20. One of the most famous protests against the communist government was the big Hungarian rebellion of 1956, when the imposed Soviet patronage in the Eastern bloc countries was shaken for the first time. Although it had started as a spontaneous, student reaction to support the Polish reformers, this protest grew into a (counter)revolution, supported by the Hungarian Prime Minister and reformer Imre Nagy, and it was cruelly ended in front of the Budapest parliament. The Soviet tanks brutally attacked the revolutionaries: 13,000 people were detained and more than 200,000 left their homes. Hungary remained within the big Soviet totalitarian empire… Many European intellectuals, such as Albert Camus, understood the meaning of the Hungarian rebellion, trying to wake European consciousness since there was not specific support from Europe. The Hungarian revolution was a great temptation for the Yugoslav leadership, secret services and the Yugoslav diplomacy at the time…
21. „Ideology – it is such a social language: it has its synonyms, antonyms, homonyms, relations that change much faster than in the national language. For example, the words ‘socialism’ and ‘democracy’ have sounded like synonyms for a long time, while ‘communism’ and ‘fascism’ as antonyms. The names ‘Stalin’ and ‘Lenin’ were also synonyms; ‘Stalin’ and ‘Hitler’ antonyms. Today, ‘communism’ and ‘fascism’ sound more and more like synonyms, and ‘socialism’ and ‘democracy’ like antonyms” – from Epstein’s essay “Lenin-Stalin. 1988*” (see
22. Here I would add the experience of the Polish philosopher Leszek Kołakowski, one of the East European dissident icons, who was thrown out of the university in 1968, being accused of revisionism, only two years after he had been expelled from the party, when secret police members attended his academic lectures. He was one of the first people in Poland to question the Marxist dogma (the term democratic socialism for him was “as contradictory as the term fried snow ball”). After he had emigrated in 1968, his works were prohibited in Poland, although he became famous in Oxford with his trilogy Main Currents of Marxism… Or the experience of the Hungarian dissident György Konrád, who was prohibited in the one-party communist system from 1974 to 1988 to publish his books (only as samizdat, the own editions of works censured by the government, could reach a certain group of readers) – but then I would also have to mention the great dissident names of the former Soviet Union: Alexandar Solzenicyn, Josef Brodsky, Ana Ahmatova (the list if long)…, even the experience of the former Yugoslav dissident Milovan Gjilas (victim of the system that he had created himself!), but in this way I would open another delicate theme that implies a different approach and a more thorough elaboration. I will therefore only give several quotations of the exceptional Комунистичка интима (Communist Intimacy) by Jasna Koteska, who thoroughly scans the Yugoslav socialist-realist experience (and more specifically, the Macedonian one), via the personal experience – a bitter, metarealistic story about her father, the poet Jovan Koteski, a victim of communism and political anaesthesia. This is what she says: “The studies of the political prisoners in Macedonia show that dissidentship is less ideological and more national, but it does not mean that these two are mutually exclusive. The debate about the values and illusions of the communist system, which is not on-going only in Europe, but in Macedonia as well, has to break via the analysis of the political files. When facing the past, in Macedonia we will see a view on out most recent history which will not be attractive at all. We will see “Stalins in the souls” of the people who used to build our culture. We will face the root of the permanent, subtle and perfidious censorship that lasted for decades, leaving much more awful consequences than the direct political censorship. The prohibition was executed by movements of the threat rather than as a direct conflict. Here there was no real prohibition (not even) of books, but it was the people that were prohibited, those that might have had the power to create such works, their thought was prohibited before even becoming a book (Котеска; 2008: 71-72 – my cursive). And even more: “’Our innocent’ communism turned out to be more awful than ‘their’ east European experience. Ivo Banac was right when he asked in his book ‘Stalin against Tito’ (1990) for the first time in Yugoslavia, that we accept the simple fact – that the Yugoslav version of communism in the first years of its existence was more rigid than the other countries of the eastern bloc, despite the paradoxical fact that Yugoslavia used to be one of the softest communist dictatorships, and DDR was the harshest – the paradox is in the ideological chaos of the ‘freest’ regime, which opened an even more perverse space for senseless ideological sacrifices” (Котеска; 2008: 111 – my cursive). And even more: „…Yugoslavia for the leftist intellectuals from the West, besides Cuba and Nicaragua, was kind of a dream come true, a “liberated” territory, “liberated” both from Stalinist dictatorship and inhumane capitalism… For the western leftists, Yugoslavia was Arcadia, there were no free elections, but there was no consumer society, people travelled freely, had the access to western books and films, did not wait for visas in front of embassies, had cheap electricity, but the issue was if this excluded totalitarian power? If you had worked as an editor of a magazine in 1980es in Yugoslavia, and you had asked for advice from the authorities if you were allowed to publish something, they would respond: “We are a self-managing society, think with your own head!” This usually meant – think with our heads. Censorship was concealed, but the political dictatorship on the individual thought was nevertheless rigid – self-censorship therefore, was the main driving force that moved the system. Yugoslavia did not even have the liberalising period that could have been similar to the Czechoslovakian historiographical renaissance of 1964-69, when the Czechoslovaks openly spoke about their gulags and cleansing. Yugoslav historians could not publicly admit the gulags and political prisoners until the mid-1980es… Tito destroyed the opposion in a Soviet style and only Yugoslavia did not have a ‘modest’ transition phase to socialism, typical of the other Eastern Europe countries between 1945 and 1947” (Котеска; 2008: 100-101 – my cursive). After Koteska, there is nothing smarter to add to this topic…
23. “The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law” from Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, 1789.
24. With respect to the meaning of “today” which is ascribed to it by Jacques Derrida: „Today is the first word of Postponed Democracy. Even if it is not the last – and of course that it is not – it might be related to what strangely echoes in Paul Valéry’s exclamation, given in the beginning of Other Direction, repeated from time to time. What will you do TODAY? “ (Дерида; 2001: 10).
25. Just as a reminder: Epstein started with his Internet project in 1998, and Derrida published “Postponed Democracy” in 1989, the same year when Sir Berner Lee started his WWW-advanture. Another small, perverted symbolic of the historical 1998, which announced good-by to the totalitarian awareness.

2018-08-21T17:22:47+00:00 September 2nd, 2012|Categories: Literature, Essays, Blesok no. 85|0 Comments