Regime Transitions and Variation in Post-Communist Europe

Paul Kubicek

in Political Science

ISBN: 9780199756223
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:
Regime Transitions and Variation in Post-Communist Europe

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The collapse of communism opened up prospects for political change in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Many leaders and parties in the region touted democratization as a top priority. However, successful creation of new democratic political systems was by no means assured. Economic reform, namely movement to a more market-based system, was also on the agenda of post-communist reformers, and some argued that the pressures of simultaneous political and economic reform would be hard to manage. Additionally, some states were new creations, necessitating state-building. In other cases, the fear was that the end of communism would reanimate nationalist forces, which could undermine prospects for political liberalization. Approaches that suggested some sort of teleology to the post-communist transition process (e.g., “transition to democracy”) have, over time, given way to those that emphasize indeterminacy and the range of outcomes observable throughout post-communist Europe. In some cases, mostly in East Central Europe and the Baltic states, there was rapid adoption of democratic reforms, and, by the end of the 1990s, one could say that countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, and Estonia had made a successful “transition” to democracy and capitalism. Other countries, such as Romania, Bulgaria, and Croatia, were reform laggards, although by the 2000s they too had made substantial progress. Some, such as Albania and Ukraine, have seen the emergence of “hybrid regimes” that exhibit both democratic and nondemocratic features. Last, in some cases one has seen little reform or movement to democracy (e.g., Belarus) or, in the case of Russia in the 2000s, movement away from democracy. Numerous factors have been suggested that can help account for the variance in the timing, pace, and success of regime transitions in post-communist Europe (defined here to include the western states of the former Soviet Union; for coverage of the entire range of post-Soviet states, see Comparative Politics of Eurasia). These variables include legacies of the previous regime, socioeconomic conditions, institutional choice, political culture, ethnic diversity and conflict, and policies of external actors such as the European Union (EU) (see Post-Communist Democratization). Some of the works on the region draw upon the wider literature on democratization in comparative politics (see Democratization). This article surveys both general literature on regime transformation in the region as well as country-level analyses that describe and explain political outcomes.

Article.  19907 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Comparative Politics ; Political Institutions ; Political Methodology ; Political Theory

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