When red turned to green …
Nature changed everything. This project’s main purpose is to detail a multimedia product (film, book, transmedia) that critically gathers in its pages the environmental tragedies in communist Europe. Its main focus will fall on the environmental movements in Central and Eastern Europe before the collapse of the Soviet Bloc.
It is an international project that uses multimedia and electronic arts in order to get the public acquainted with a topic less frequently discussed in the context of totalitarian regimes. The Communist/Stalinist terror in Eastern Europe has not manifested itself only via extermination and abusive nationalizations, but also through the systematic destruction of habitats, of the environment and of local communities. Our aim is to register the testimony of the most vulnerable victims of forced industrialization, re-think their personal and their communities’ experiences in the context of the core values of our side of the world: freedom, democracy, environmental sustainability and human rights. The researchers are especially interested in how forced industrialization and systematization of villages affected the formation of world-views, value systems and identities in new environmental contexts.
This is a project uniting different generations, from former deportees to children of post-communism, for one common purpose: telling, remembering and sharing experiences that reveal the senselessness of totalitarian regimes, in order to document and reflect at the victims of forced industrialization, and to expose humanist choices of environmentalist dissent.
Undoubtedly, environmental disasters do happen in liberal democracies and capitalist societies, however communist regimes, besides their loose environmental standards and obsession with heavy industrialization, have doubled crimes against nature and communities with periods of secrecy, lies, and fear. Emissions, spills, contamination, littering, discharges or disposals did not poison earth, air or water as did terror and fear. Slow death of both, spirit and bodies, was imposed as an imperative condition of accepting the victory of socialism and the false reality of development and job creation.
There is a tight relationship between environmental concerns and human rights (as expressed in the European Convention on Human Rights). Along its rather short history after the world war, Europe has envisioned the link between enjoyment of human rights and quality of the environment, and how the rights protected by the Convention could be used to promote environmental goals, whereas, on the other side of the „iron curtain“, forced industrialization was curbing destinies and destroying nature and communities.
Far from being a green haven, today’s development and ecological strands are shaped by European policies; Water Framework Directive that is about to be adopted this year, a successful Habitats Directive and altogether a new framework in which Europe is functioning, requires respect for the environment, for local communities, promotes sustainable development and subsequently citizens’ better lives and health.
None of the environmental destruction and their consequences during communism would have been possible if citizens were empowered to take part in democratic life, to participate in public decision making or to express freely.
Copsa Mica, Ampoi River and Zlatna, Bals, Maramures in Romania, Srednogorie in Bulgaria, the “Black Triangle” in Poland, Czechoslovakia and DDR, Daugava dam projects in the Baltics (the list is virtually endless) – these names don’t sound as familiar as extermination projects such as Aiud prison, Siberia, Danube-Black Sea channel, yet each one of them was the scene of a similar story of terror. They will be the locations and, at the same time, the four chapters of our research.
These places had spectacular destinies. They used to be small petit bourgeois towns or quiet countryside communities and their fate changed approximately at the same time, along with the socialist industrialization. As overnight factories and industry facilities were built, they have become the scenes of a long and silent massacre.
Conversely, anticommunist opposition and samizdat had a significant green component; environmentalist movements dug deep at the rancid roots of an oppressive regime almost all over Central and Eastern Europe.
Five strands of stories will lay the structure of a set of short films and photography; each of them will advocate a specific “crime against Nature”:
- the crime against Air
- the crime against Water
- the crime against Earth
- “systematization” of villages; the crime against Soul
- …and people’s dissent.
People, locals, will tell us about the way the industrialization defined their life, about the early deaths in their community, the endemic illnesses and all the hidden atrocities behind the glorious mask of a fake and criminal “progress”.
We will hear stories from widows, orphans, mothers which lost their sons, we will hear testimonies of physicians and doctors about the havoc which industrialization and corruption of the environment provoked in these communities. We will visit cemeteries where the average age of death is far lower than it should be.
We will let the Nature tell its story…