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When We Was Red: Good Bye Lenin! and Nostalgia for the “Everyday GDR”

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In former Eastern Bloc nations, nostalgia is often seen as a dangerous pining for days under totalitarian regimes in the face of rocky transitions to democratization. This paper questions these judgments and instead proposes that the complexities of waxing nostalgic in post-communism will help us understand these transitions better. East German culture, in particular, has been at the forefront of post-communist nostalgia through its ostalgie movement. Wolfgang Becker's film Good Bye Lenin! has been touted as the most representative example of ostalgie, and is used here as a text to examine the complex questions about looking back on everyday life during communism's fall. Through its use of nostalgic themes, the film simultaneously embraces and derides the Western values that became an indelible part of the post-1989 landscape, and thus serves as a reminder that a distinct East German identity may still exist.

Keywords: Eastern Europe; GDR; Good Bye Lenin!; Identity Politics; Memory; Nostalgia; Post-Communism

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2009

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