Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bolek and Lolek: Cultural Artifacts From Communist Poland

Bolek i Lolek Polish Cartoon

In the Communist bloc, Poland was advanced in their music and in some of their visual art as well . Polish jazz as well as rock music were as good as much of what was produced in the west. Like any communist country, art was subordinated to the needs of the state. That still left a vast apolitical domain in which artists and musicians could function with some sense of personal integrity.
Poland, like Hungary, had a notable private sector. Like most of the satellite countries in the eastern bloc, Poland made material and political concessions to make obedience to Moscow a less burdensome proposition for the common people. Subsequent history has shown that the concessions did not suffice to rescue communism from the proverbial dustbin of history.
Like Rubik's Cube from Hungary Lolek i Bolek captured the hearts of viewers far and wide outside of Poland. The series produced by Wladislaw Nehrebecki with the help of German Alfred Ledwig and Leszek Mech appeared on Nickolodeon under the names Jym and Jam as well as Bennie and Lennie. It was actually approved for viewing on Iranian TV at a time when most cartoons from the west did not pass muster with the censors.
There was a lot of positive creative activity under communist regimes. It is common knowledge that fiction authors would insert three page speeches praising socialism into a novel to ease it past the censors. The discerning reader was able to gloss over the speeches and read the story as the author intended. To get a sense of this style of critical reading under communism, it is best to imagine going to the bathroom during commercials on television.
Communist rule cast a shadow for forty years over Eastern Europe and seventy years in the former USSR. Looking at their art and entertainment helps to create a more vivid picture of the peoples who lived through this chapter in the world's history. I am grateful that so much has been preserved for posterity from Eastern Europe during the years under communism. I am grateful to YouTube and blogger.com for enabling me to share these memories with my readers.

Bolek i Lolek in Wikipedia

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