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When I reached the topic of the student protests in the spring of 1989, I used several photos of Tiananmen, including the ones referenced in the Solidarity stamps that I would later show them.For Solidarity itself, I took a similar long view, beginning with the rise of the labor union in the 1970s, the economic shortages and declaration of martial law in the early 1980s, and then culminating with the peaceful “Roundtable Talks” in February 1989.I used this stamp set in a world history survey, as part of a lecture covering the fall of Communism.
Citizens more readily believed rumors than newspapers, radio, or television, which were inherently compromised by state censorship.
It is increasingly hard for students in our media-saturated era to envision a society in which text-messaging was not immediately available.
Read another, it is a reminder of the victims of Communism globally or an appeal for American financial assistance.
However, to uncover all of the dimensions in this stamp does take substantial preparation.
I laid out the lecture considering two paths toward reforming Communist regimes-one economic as in China, the other political as in Poland with the rise of Solidarity.
For China, I prepared the events in Tiananmen in the spring of 1989 by discussing such events as Nixon’s “opening”of China in the 1970s, the Chinese “Most Favored Nation” trade status with the United States, and the rising student protest movement.As we had discussed the media and the control of information several times throughout the course, my students became highly suspicious of the selection of the images, and which opened a more general discussion about which events of 1989 should be commemorated, and how we could represent them to an audience that had not lived through them.While I was pleased with the interpretations offered by my students, I was surprised they had missed some of the more puzzling features of the stamps.In the end, I find the stamps a powerful tool for uncovering the complexity of the events of 1989.Read one way, it reveals Polish ideas about their own victory against Communism as a great success story.Although China is located quite far from Eastern Europe, dissidents in Eastern Europe identified with the struggles by opposition leaders in China and used images of the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising to reinforce memories of resistance in Eastern Europe.Unofficial sources of information became an essential tool for survival inside each of the Communist countries of Eastern Europe.In the aftermath of the events of 1989, the newly-elected government in Poland, led by Solidarity, issued a set of commemorative stamps to highlight some of the important struggles in the recent past.One set of these stamps memorializes the events of Tiananmen Square.I made it clear that these stamps were issued after Solidarity had assumed the political leadership of Poland, and that these were ordinary stamps used for everyday mail, much like the U. might issue Star Wars or Olympic commemorative stamps.After the brief background, I asked the students to discuss what the meanings of these stamps were. What was their emotional reaction to the stamp images, with their violence, horror, and also bravery (in particular, the lone man on the bottom right-side taken from a very well-known image of Tiananmen)?