The New Elite in Post-Communist Eastern Europe

By Vladimir Shlapentokh; Christopher Vanderpool et al. | Go to book overview

Epilogue
Post-Communist Elites Who Will Guard the Guardians?

Suzanne Keller

The curtain closing on the key elites of Eastern Europe was arguably the most momentous event of the late twentieth century. The demise of elites has enormous consequences (often underestimated by democratic societies) on the functioning of society and the population as a whole. With the body politic decapitated, anomie and anarchy permeate the social atmosphere. Russian society is in a suspended state, its institutions in disarray, its idols broken. In the years since the fall of communism, the world has witnessed the fascinating, if perilous, process of a new elite phoenix struggling to rise from the ashes of the former communist system. This process has been the main focus of this book.

If I had to select one persistent refrain that was sounded by many of the authors, it would be that of the vacuum left as one set of elites abandoned the historic scene while another struggled to gain a foothold. The papers presented in this book remind us of Pareto's observation that elites lose their right to live when they lose their will to live. This loss, in the case of Russia, is a fascinating and instructive topic to explore.

The essays set themselves two ambitious goals. One was to sketch an outline of the elites of postcommunist societies by ascertaining the pattern of their social backgrounds, educations, modes of ascent, and public influence. The second was to draw out, however provisionally, the implications of these patterns for today's political, economic, and cultural landscape.

Despite variations in interests and specific aims, there was general agreement that postcommunist societies have been in a state of crisis manifested in the nature of their elites. The transitional nature of this leadership, ranging from the charismatic to the demagogic, was evident

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