The Power of Power, a Blog Post about the Velvet Revolution and the Cold War
In this project, my class and I learned about the Cold War and then were tasked with creating a comic book about a certain aspect of it.
I was never really interested in the conflicts and tensions themselves but I enjoy learning about the social and cultural consequences of the events within conflicts such as the Cold War. The Cold War is an especially interesting conflict to study because of the ideological polarity of the two sides and the cultural consequences that came out of it.
For the first week of this project, we learned about the Cold War, mostly learning about the major conflicts between the Western (capitalist) and Eastern (communist) governments. We then learned about comic book techniques which helped me in my understanding of how to write a good comic book.
After enhancing my understanding, it was time for us to choose the topics of our comics. I wanted to do something close to my family, so my options were either East Germany or Czechoslovakia. I decided the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia would be a cool topic to do. The reason I picked this event was because I knew I would be able to tie in the Prague Spring. By doing this, I would be able to show how the authoritarian system in the Warsaw Pact nations worked. I would also be able to show how Gorbachev’s actions led to the dissolution of the Iron Curtain and the USSR.
I had three main goals for my graphic novel about the Velvet Revolution:
1. To show how the communist government worked
2. To show how every day life was back then
3. To portrait facts surrounding the Velvet Revolution in a compelling way.
It was easiest to achieve my second goal, seeing as I was creating a fictional story about someone who was living in Czechoslovakia at the time. I mixed many situations that people living in communist Czechoslovakia would find themselves in. I could also make the Prague Spring relevant to the reader and use that to integrate more information into the story. This information was not only historical, but also shined a light into the politics of the Warsaw pact and it’s member states.
I wanted to help the reader understand that the totalitarian system in the USSR with her vassal states – essentially puppets (until Gorbachev) which were dictated top down, and the autocracy of the USSR which means that the ruler of the USSR had extremely few checks on his power while everybody else only had to obey the communist party member positioned above them. I find that I was quite successful in my effort to display these facts in my comic.
I think that I created a good story despite my limited artistic skills. Understanding the Czech language and being able to talk to first hand witnesses was very helpful and educational. I have learned a lot about a country I thought I knew quite well and about the people lived in a completely different system to the one I live under. I have used facts and also typical jokes of that era. With all this information, I did not make time to draw fancy pictures which I find are not very useful as I think that historical graphic novels like the one I wrote should have lots of information and text, interesting storytelling, funny details, while the images play a secondary role.
I think that I told a good story while making the history clear to the reader in a way that shows how well I understand this topic, especially after delving into research and talking to the people who took part in the Velvet Revolution. I have also been reading “The Power of the Powerless” by Vaclav Havel and find the worldview of the writers to be quite interesting and their message hopeful for a democratic and good world.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoy the freedom of expression/speech that we have in the free world.