Transitions to Capitalism and Democracy in Russia and Central Europe: Achievements, Problems, Prospects

By M. Donald Hancock; John Logue | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13
Law and Civil Society in Postcommunist Transition

Rolf H. W. Theen

He who does not steal robs his own family.

--Common saying in Eastern Europe

New Russians, same old thieves.

--New Russian proverb

Let's drink to the success of our hopeless cause.

--Popular Russian toast

Privatization entails the transformation of public property into private property, or the transfer of public, that is, state-owned enterprises and other economic assets, such as buildings and land, into private ownership. Since in modern political systems law regulates ownership, both public and private, privatization by its very nature involves a fundamental change in the relationship between private or civil law and public law. Legal reform is thus an essential prerequisite for the success of privatization. This is especially so since in all communist countries, including even China, economic and political principles dictated by Marxist-Leninist ideology and the political objectives of their regimes were superimposed on the system of Romanist civil law they had inherited from the past. 1

In spite of their multidimensional diversity, the institutional structure of the communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe and elsewhere shared a "common core," which in addition to de facto, if not de jure, political centralization included the operation of a state-owned, centrally planned, and state-run economy -- an economy in which all segments and institutions of society were

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