By Green, Elena
The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs , Vol. 12, No. 3
The overriding and perhaps overwhelming theme of this issue marks the twentieth anniversary since the fall of the Soviet empire. You'll find, however, that our emphasis lies not on the fall itself, but on the period thereafter. As of this year, the former states of the so-called Eastern bloc have undergone two full decades of democratic development; during this time they have donned a new look and attitude and even name: the (so-called) states of Central and Eastern Europe. Superficially, this transformation has obscured the connection between these new democracies and their communist-era counterparts of yesteryear. Take, for example, the cosmetic surgery that shrunk the name and borders of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic into the Czech Republic.
But as our authors reveal, no amount of exogenous remaking and reshaping, or external pinning and tucking, can make democracy function at full capacity. For a democratic state requires not only a specific form of government, but a specific state of mind, i.e., the participation of a civically minded and engaged citizenry. Jiri Pehe, director of New York University's Study Abroad Program in Prague, highlights this catch-22: despite the presence of well-established democratic institutions (ex., an independent judiciary), Czechs do not exhibit the civic virtues and values that a real democracy necessitates.
Pehe's observations are affirmed in the quantitative research that Martina Klicperova-Baker presents in "The Political Psychology of the Czech Nation." A senior research scholar at Prague's Academy of Sciences, Klicperova-Baker acknowledges the Czech's lack of enthusiasm and dissatisifaction towards democracy, but concurrently affirms that all hope is not lost. While a certain nostalgia for communism exists amongst the older generation, one cannot expect changes in mentalite to occur over night. …