Freedom's Ordeal: The Struggle for Human Rights and Democracy in Post-Soviet States

Freedom's Ordeal: The Struggle for Human Rights and Democracy in Post-Soviet States

Freedom's Ordeal: The Struggle for Human Rights and Democracy in Post-Soviet States

Freedom's Ordeal: The Struggle for Human Rights and Democracy in Post-Soviet States

Synopsis

Fifteen countries have emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Freedom's Ordeal recounts the struggles of these newly independent nations to achieve freedom and to establish support for fundamental human rights. Although history has shown that states emerging from collapsed empires rarely achieve full democracy in their first try, Peter Juviler analyzes these successor states as crucial and not always unpromising tests of democracy's viability in postcommunist countries. Taking into account the particularly difficult legacies of Soviet communism, Freedom's Ordeal is distinguished by its careful tracing of the historical background, with special attention to human rights before, during, and after communism. Juviler suggests that the culture and practices of despotism may wither wherever modernization conflicts with tyranny and with the curtailment or denial of democratic rights and freedoms.

Excerpt

Three interests of mine have shaped this book: the fulfillment of human rights under the rule of law, the democratization associated with human rights, and Soviet communism as system and legacy. Together, progress and regress in human rights and democratization have shaped the ordeal of freedom in the post-Soviet states. That ordeal means a difficult time for freedom there and for their inhabitants. the “universality” of human rights is more sorely tested in post-Soviet states, generally, than it is in the post-communist states of Eastern Europe.

The rise of Nazism and Soviet communism raised questions as to whether totalitarian regimes did not reflect a human yearning to “escape from freedom” in times of economic crisis and personal insecurity, such as those that again beset most post-Soviet states. Totalitarianism prompted warnings of a possible future without freedom in such negative utopias as Eugene Zamyatin’s We and George Orwell’s 1984. But then, as now, the outcome of the crisis has been disputed. Before Orwell published his grim scenario of total nonfreedom in 1948, George Kennan wrote back from Moscow that communism, if contained by a cordon of recovered capitalist democracies, was doomed to mellow or collapse under the weight of its own repression of human creativity and initiative. Walter Rostow in 1961 dismissed communist totalitarianism as a passing “sickness of the transition” of industrialization, even while Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, asserted that the future belonged to communism. the military defeat of Germany and Japan had cleared the way for freedom and democracy in Western Europe and parts of Asia. the emergence of new non-Western, “third world” countries, and their difficulties, prompted debate that continues to this day about the universality of human rights and democracy in our culturally diverse world of sovereign states. the debate gained a new lease on life when “democracy’s third wave” swept into Spain and Portugal, Latin America, Asia, and Eastern Europe during the 1970s and 1980s.

The collapse of Soviet communism and the breakup of the ussr added a new dimension to the debate and prompted the writing of this book. Do the cultural and institutional legacies of communism and prior des-

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