Political Change in Eastern Europe since 1989: Prospects for Liberal Democracy and a Market Economy

By Robert Zuzowski | Go to book overview

is less obvious. Before World War II the term denoted a backward area of the European continent, at its eastern end, of which Czechoslovakia was not a part.

In the wake of World War II, the term's meaning changed somewhat; it became a political phrase denoting the area of Europe that fell under communist rule, including part of Germany. Thus Finland, though geographically farther east than many former Soviet bloc states, has not been deemed an Eastern European country, whereas Czechoslovakia was despite being farther to the west. Should the Czech Republic be considered an Eastern European country after the fall of communism? Not considered a country within Eastern Europe before the outbreak of the last world war, it became one only in the war's aftermath. What is it now? How should it be classified?

To give a clear-cut answer is not an easy task, and in this particular case it seems not to be important. The country appears to have recovered swiftly from the communist experience. Its political leaders and citizens in general are presently more concerned about economic prosperity and democracy than about a label attached to their country. And so be it.

The point is that the Czechs are more efficient or more pragmatic than the rest of the nations of the region not as a result of some superior blueprint for systemic change but, rather, because of a better and thorough implementation of it. In turn their skill stems from their previous familiarity with the democratic method and with a competitive economy or market. Had it not been for the latter, they would not have obtained so much in such a short time. The Czech example demonstrates that fundamental transformation is usually an evolutionary process rather than an abrupt occurrence, despite many claims to the contrary.

Although the Czechs made more progress than others, it must be pointed out, they did not have to start from scratch in terms of skills or habits; instead they made a U-turn, figuratively speaking, to a not-so-distant and well-remembered past. This, above all, is what makes the difference between them and all other former communist countries with regard to establishing a firm, liberal democracy and a viable economic system based on market forces.


NOTES
1.
Country Report: Czech Republic, 3rd quarter 1996 ( London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 1996), p. 15, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline, 26 January 1998.
2.
Ibid, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline, 12 January 1998.

-115-

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Political Change in Eastern Europe since 1989: Prospects for Liberal Democracy and a Market Economy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Eastern Europe After the Collapse of Communism 13
  • Notes 40
  • 3 - Russia: Carpetbaggers' Country 47
  • Notes 65
  • 4 - Poland: Spin-Doctors' State 71
  • 5 - Czech Republic: Czechs Are Different 97
  • Notes 115
  • 6 - The West's Approach to Postcommunist Eastern Europe 119
  • Notes 137
  • 7 - Conclusion: Eastern European Prospects for Liberal Democracy and a Market Economy 141
  • Notes 147
  • Selected Bibliography 149
  • Index 161
  • About the Author 166
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