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Which Past Matters? Communist and Pre-Communist Legacies in Post-Communist Regime Change

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Abstract:

Contrary to the early optimistic expectations of a uniform transition from Communism to Western-style democracies, the changes of the last fifteen years suggest a growing divergence among the former Communist “comrades.” The paper uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative evidence to trace the different regime trajectories of post-communist countries to differences in Leninist and pre-Communist legacies.
The first part of the paper puts the ex-communist countries in comparative perspective (especially with respect to Western Europe and Latin America) and finds that a distinct Leninist legacy is still noticeable in the prevalence of non-civic popular attitudes, the weakness of civil society organizations and the instability and shallow institutionalization of political parties, and an overall democracy deficit.
The second part of the paper analyzes the roots of the remarkable diversity of post-communist political trajectories despite the shared experience of several decades of Leninism. This diversity is due to the survival of several important and strongly correlated cross-country legacy differences with respect to cultural/religious traditions, degrees of modernization and state and nation building challenges. These historical legacies date back to the pre-communist period and have proven to be remarkably resilient despite half a century of Communist economic, social and political experiments. The paper argues that the failure of communist policies to reverse (or at least to reduce significantly) the great intra-regional differences in economic and political development is due to the neglect and/or reinforcement of traditional cultural patterns and ethnic tensions, which were further complicated by the economic distortions of communist industrialization. In the process, communist rule produced societies with a unique and highly uneven developmental profile, which combines traditional and modern elements. Therefore, under the veneer of large-scale modernization and industrialization the former communist countries were still divided by fundamental cross-country differences in culture, social norms and power relations. Judging by the regime transformations of the past 16 years, the persistence of these long-term historical legacy differences has undermined the democratic promise inherent in the region’s rapid communist-era modernization progress and is likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Most Common Document Word Stems:

communist (189), polit (135), countri (115), post (68), legaci (62), democraci (60), region (54), post-communist (50), democrat (49), ethnic (41), europ (39), soviet (39), develop (37), regim (36), differ (35), even (35), east (35), ex (32), transit (31), compar (29), former (29),

Author's Keywords:

Democratization, Post-Communism, Historical legacies
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Name: American Political Science Association
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MLA Citation:

Pop-Eleches, Grigore. "Which Past Matters? Communist and Pre-Communist Legacies in Post-Communist Regime Change" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Marriott Wardman Park, Omni Shoreham, Washington Hilton, Washington, DC, Sep 01, 2005 <Not Available>. 2013-12-17 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p40464_index.html>

APA Citation:

Pop-Eleches, G. , 2005-09-01 "Which Past Matters? Communist and Pre-Communist Legacies in Post-Communist Regime Change" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Marriott Wardman Park, Omni Shoreham, Washington Hilton, Washington, DC Online <PDF>. 2013-12-17 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p40464_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Contrary to the early optimistic expectations of a uniform transition from Communism to Western-style democracies, the changes of the last fifteen years suggest a growing divergence among the former Communist “comrades.” The paper uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative evidence to trace the different regime trajectories of post-communist countries to differences in Leninist and pre-Communist legacies.
The first part of the paper puts the ex-communist countries in comparative perspective (especially with respect to Western Europe and Latin America) and finds that a distinct Leninist legacy is still noticeable in the prevalence of non-civic popular attitudes, the weakness of civil society organizations and the instability and shallow institutionalization of political parties, and an overall democracy deficit.
The second part of the paper analyzes the roots of the remarkable diversity of post-communist political trajectories despite the shared experience of several decades of Leninism. This diversity is due to the survival of several important and strongly correlated cross-country legacy differences with respect to cultural/religious traditions, degrees of modernization and state and nation building challenges. These historical legacies date back to the pre-communist period and have proven to be remarkably resilient despite half a century of Communist economic, social and political experiments. The paper argues that the failure of communist policies to reverse (or at least to reduce significantly) the great intra-regional differences in economic and political development is due to the neglect and/or reinforcement of traditional cultural patterns and ethnic tensions, which were further complicated by the economic distortions of communist industrialization. In the process, communist rule produced societies with a unique and highly uneven developmental profile, which combines traditional and modern elements. Therefore, under the veneer of large-scale modernization and industrialization the former communist countries were still divided by fundamental cross-country differences in culture, social norms and power relations. Judging by the regime transformations of the past 16 years, the persistence of these long-term historical legacy differences has undermined the democratic promise inherent in the region’s rapid communist-era modernization progress and is likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

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Document Type: PDF
Page count: 35
Word count: 10292
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Which Past Matters? Communist and Pre-Communist Legacies and Post-Communist Regime Change Grigore Pop-Eleches Princeton University gpop@princeton.edu Paper prepared for delivery at the 2005 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association Washington DC September 1-4 2005. I. Introduction and overview In the almost sixteen years of regime transformations in the countries of the former Communist bloc a substantial academic literature has emerged in an effort to explain the political transformations of the successors to the one-party regimes of Eastern
Belarus Ukraine Turkmenistan Georgia Uzbekistan Yugoslavia Moldova Tajikistan 60 Estonia Macedon Kyrgyz Latvia Bosnia 40 Kazakhstan 50 60 70 80 90 Main ethnic group 1930


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