It is a complicated issue involving historical, cultural, economic and political factors. We will use the reference to the experience of the transition region, such as the Former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe while considering the course material and other sources for the analysis and synthesis of data to address a given question effectively (Shleifer et al., 92). Some critical determinants of diversity in the democratic progress of former communist states are discussed in this paper.
The historical heritage of communism is one of the principal factors defining the environment for democracy. It is remarkable that in the CEE countries such as Poland or Hungary, countries passed the rule of democracy with minor difficulties because of the active opposition movements and soft-dictatorship (Berger). However, in the FSU, nations like Russia and Belarus experienced more chaotic transitions with power conflicts and weak civil society. Course readings have highlighted the impact of the depth of communist control and the nature of the transition process on the democratic trajectories of post-communist countries.
Democratic consolidation has chiefly revolved around economic development and the transition to market-oriented economies. The Czech Republic and Estonia were some countries that introduced market economies, paving the way for political liberalization (Ngo). Nevertheless, struggling nations battling economic problems, like Ukraine and Moldova, have had difficulties building democracy. Another big issue we are talking about is income inequality. Inequality is high; hence, it can undermine social cohesion and trust in democracy.
Cultural issues such as strong civil society and public participation, which are essential for democratic development, were amongst the factors that contributed to the differences even post-communism. Some countries had already developed active civil societies, for example, the legacies of pre-communist civil activism and efforts to restore democratic traditions in some post-socialist countries of CEE (see, for example, Osa, 2003). On the other hand, some FSU countries possess more fragile civil societies arising from over a century of authoritarian rule, making it difficult for the countries to cultivate civic participation (Kostelka, 118). According to materials, ethnically diverse societies have a unique challenge, with inter-ethnic tensions being able to weaken the democratization drive.
In the process of democratization, the role of external actors is crucial. The transformative power of the EU cannot be denied in CEE. It was why Poland or the Baltic states wanted to embark on democratic reforms so that they could be part of the EU. On the contrary, the FSU states, especially those inside the Eurasian Economic Union, have faced Russia’s interference that typically thwarted Western democratization tendencies. Various readings discussed these external forces that have influenced democratic development.
However, the type of leadership and quality of political institutions can determine the level of democracy in a country. For instance, leaders for democracy have seen a relatively smooth transformation process, such as Vaclav Havel in the Czech Republic. Instead, authoritarian heads of state, like Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus, have impeded democratization. Political institutions, primarily electoral and party systems, have also been significant in determining this outcome. For instance, the course readings indicate that elections can potentially promote or limit political pluralism.
The development of democracy in the country requires an active and independent media sector. The development of independent media and open speech in CEE has significantly contributed to the emergence of a well-informed public sphere. On the other hand, the media is controlled by the government, or the false news freely spreads across some FSU countries, which complicates the process of democratic consolidation. This phenomenon has often been featured in our lectures.
It is an essential factor of the prevailing political culture in a society. It is essential to have respect for democratic values and norms and to be ready to participate in the democratic processes. CEE countries that were post-communist and experienced democratic traditions before communism possessed a pro-democratic political culture.” On the other hand, FSU states, which had an ingrained authoritarian tradition, had to put more effort into developing a democratic political culture.
Such decisions, once taken, never disappear. As examined in our course texts, the policies and decisions taken in the formative years of transition lead a country onto a definite trajectory. The success story of democratic transformation in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has been attributed mainly to reforms meant to establish the rule of law, protect property rights, and promote political pluralism. On the other hand, some FSU states have experienced incomplete or reversed reforms.
Therefore, the differentiation in democratic development within post-communist countries of the transition region is the outcome of diverse historical, economic, cultural, political, and international components. Although the countries had an ordinary communist past, specific issues and decisions made during the transition have been the reason behind varying pathways to democracy. Studying the factors mentioned above and their impacts helps to understand why some countries have remained democratic, others partially, and others completely democratic.
Berger, Arthur Asa. Political parties: A sociological study of the oligarchical tendencies of modern democracy. Routledge, 2017.
Kostelka, Filip. “The state of political participation in post-communist democracies: Low but surprisingly little biased citizen engagement.” The State of Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe. Routledge, 2017. 105–128.
Ngo, Vinh-Hoa. “How a Socialist Country’s Transition towards a Market Economy Impacts Political Reform: The Case of Vietnam.” Unpublished master’s thesis]. University College London (2018).
Shleifer, Andrei, and Daniel Treisman. “Normal countries: the east 25 years after communism.” Foreign Aff. 93 (2014): 92.