Transformational Challenges in Central and Eastern Europe and Schools of Public Administration

By Newland, Chester A. | Public Administration Review, July-August 1996 | Go to article overview

Transformational Challenges in Central and Eastern Europe and Schools of Public Administration


Newland, Chester A., Public Administration Review


Two dimensions of changes in Central and Eastern European countries formerly dominated by the Soviet Union are considered here: (1) obstacles to transformations away from strong state domination and (2) contrasting approaches in public administration education to facilitate democratic development in these countries. Hungary, Moldova, and Poland are analyzed as examples. Varied images of the contemporary state are emerging among them, and their approaches to changes in public administration have differed.

Old Obstacles to Successful Changes

Four sets of obstacles to successful changes that stem from Communist-era and earlier theories and practices in Central and Eastern Europe constitute special challenges. These are (1) country/regional border strategies and multiculturalism, (2) "smokestack/insulated" organizational design as a control mechanism, (3) workplace "social connectedness" and reciprocity, and (4) centralized control by the apparatus of a party elite.

Country Border Strategies and Multiculturalism

Following World War One, in efforts to cope with predatory state traditions, some nationalities were divided among political jurisdictions (newly aligned countries, not "nations" in a sense of nationality identifications). The breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the limitation of German power were among the principal purposes. Within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Russia used a similar strategy (along with population transfers) so that, if republics sought independence, each would be subject to its neighbors' territorial claims. Among Eastern Bloc countries after World War Two, this strategy also served Russian purposes. Throughout the region, it was reinforced by Marxist theory that nationalism was an ephemeral byproduct of capitalism.

Today, each of the countries studied here is in search of a new definition as a state. All are more-or-less troubled by discrepant boundaries among political jurisdictions and nationalities living within and outside them. None presently experiences anything like the struggles that plague the former Yugoslavia, where combatants cling to old ethnic and strong-state ideologies. Two face major problems of nationalism and multiculturalism, however. Out of these challenges, different state images are emerging.

Hungary and its neighbors are the more widely known examples. There, a successful search for a new image of the state was disclosed in 1995 movements toward ethnic comity with Slovakia and Romania. When Russian domination ended, countries neighboring Hungary expressed concerns that Magyar minorities (2 million in Romania, 400,000 in Serbia, and nearly 600,000 in Slovakia) wanted reannexation of the lands where they live back to Hungary, from which the Treaty of Trianon separated them in 1920. Hungary regularly disavowed ambitions for expansion of political boundaries, but it did assert some responsibility for Hungarian minorities in other countries, and it demonstrated interest in cultivating Magyar as well as broadly shared European cultures, along with regional economic and social development. In short, political boundaries became less important than culture and commerce, and Hungarian public administrators helped to facilitate these interests.(1)

In Moldova, political and public administration challenges arising from boundary and multicultural/nationalist conflicts are more grave. Moldova announced its independence from the former Soviet Union and proclaimed its sovereignty on August 17, 1991. It also communicated intentions to pursue constitutional democracy, a market economy, and a Western international orientation. Moldova's location, surrounded on three sides by the Ukraine and on the west by Romania, gave it regional importance, but that became secondary to American decisions to support Russia and to deal with Moldova for assistance purposes as one minor part of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), even though the new republic strongly resisted pressures to join the CIS. …

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