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Václav Klaus (left) in June 1992: He had just become the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the Czech Republic (photo: Dave Brauchi/Sygma/Corbis)

In the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, we are currently remembering the 25th anniversary of the fall of Communism.Communism, one of the most irrational, oppressive, cruel and inefficient political systems in history, ceased to exist suddenly and relatively quietly. It fell simultaneously in Central and Eastern Europe, and a little later in the Soviet Union too, in spite of the many differences among the countries of the former Soviet bloc. This proves that our common features — even though we all supposed that we were unique — were stronger than our differences.

This radical and far-reaching breakthrough brought us many positive improvements. We were happy,  joyful, full of hope. We were fascinated with ourselves, and praised by our friends and supporters in the rest of the world. We enjoyed their approval and our rapid acceptance into the community of free nations. The overwhelming majority of our citizens have no doubt that they now live in a much better world. 

It is also the appropriate time to say that when we became part of the free world we had mixed feelings. We realised that the world did not quite understand us, our fate, our experience, our dreams and our ambitions. The lack of freedom, the irrationality of the Communist system and the oppression we had to go through were severely underestimated. But our understanding of the free world, which we were not part of for such a long time, our ability to behave quite normally, our level of education, and our knowledge of our common European culture proved to be greater than most people in the West expected. Despite long-lasting Communist propaganda and indoctrination, we knew more about the capitalist West than the non-Communist world knew about us. I am afraid this asymmetry persists even now.

Communism still remains misunderstood. It ceased to be discussed and analysed too quickly, especially its later stages, its gradual weakening and softening, as well as its complete failure to defend itself or, luckily, to fight back. In the final stages of Communism, practically nobody believed in the original pillars of its ideology. If we do not correctly interpret the later, in many respects milder, stages of Communism we cannot understand its sudden and bloodless end, comprehend all the tenets of the post-Communist transition, and focus more intensely on the present era.

The Communist regime was in many respects already an empty shell. As a result, Communism melted away; it was not defeated. There are people who don't like this interpretation of events, and claim that they defeated Communism. It isn't true. I don't want to diminish anybody's merits, but Communism in 1989 needed just one last straw. The subsequent chain reaction of millions of people happened spontaneously and automatically.

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