Scholar Interviews

What is difficult to understand about the "Common European Home" speech?


What’s difficult today is that this Common European Home concept doesn’t faze anybody anymore because they have this EU thing that everybody’s become accustomed to and nobody bats an eye at. The first time I read this, I thought this was like amazing and new and, you know, who had thought up this concept, but they’re completely, jaded. So trying to, rescue the sense of novelty in it is very difficult and I don’t think there’s any way to really do it because it’s sort of fake to say to a student, “imagine, you’ve never heard of this concept.”

And also that there’s certain absences in the speech and it’s very hard for students to do the kind of reading between the lines and the thinking about, well, what would be in a Soviet speech generally speaking and what’s missing from it? So it’s hard to pick up on some of the subtleties. So, for instance, the fact that the United States comes up once in the whole speech is a big deal and generally people don’t pick up on that.

One thing that is hard to wrestle out of a speech like the Gorbachev speech is the larger context in which it was produced. I mean, the speech was a live speech, so it had a certain audience in mind, you know, an intended audience and people interpreted it in a certain way when they were in the room versus when they were reading it in the Washington Post versus Pravda. And in what way in, say, Poland, Hungary, Romania. So to give the students a sense of both the kind of immediate context of intended audience and the actual audience, you know, the fact that he’s giving this speech in Strasbourg is important but they don’t necessarily pick up on that immediately and so one has to talk about kind of painting a picture of what would it be like to be in a room there listening to this. What do you think that he’s trying to convey? Is he speaking for the people in the room or for the cameras that are filming it and therefore is he creating a record for posterity or is this sort of like in a moment of engagement with the audience?

How to Cite

Maria Bucur, interview, "What is difficult to understand about the "Common European Home" speech?" Making the History of 1989, Item #605, (accessed May 28 2021, 3:25 pm).