Buyer's Remorse? Twenty Years after the Post-Soviet Transition

By Kohut, Andrew; Wike, Richard | Harvard International Review, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Buyer's Remorse? Twenty Years after the Post-Soviet Transition


Kohut, Andrew, Wike, Richard, Harvard International Review


The recent 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's collapse provided an opportunity for many to revisit the heady days of 1989--the era of Walesa, Havel, and jubilant crowds literally and figuratively smashing longstanding barriers between East and West. With communism in tatters, Eastern Europeans eagerly embraced democracy and capitalism. Two decades later, post-communist publics still support democratic institutions and free markets, but their initial enthusiasm has waned and public frustrations with democracy and the free market are evident in most countries.

Struggling with an economic crisis and disheartened by the current state of politics in their countries, many Eastern Europeans are in a grim mood. There is a widespread consensus that political and business elites, not ordinary citizens, reaped most of the benefits from the transition. And while there is conceptual support for multiparty governance, many people have yet to fully accept democratic values, or accept them but are frustrated with the way democracy works. At the same time, the global recession has made acceptance of the free market economy particularly difficult.

The most heartening development in the region is that life satisfaction has improved substantially in all former communist nations over the past two decades. Younger people have registered the greatest gains in well-being, and perhaps as a consequence express the strongest commitment to democracy and the free market in former communist countries.

These are some of the major findings from a fall 2009 survey by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project that included nine former Eastern bloc nations. The survey repeated a number of questions from one of the first cross-national polls conducted in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain, a 1991 study by the Times Mirror Center (a forerunner of today's Pew Research Center). Then, as now, the region served as an important laboratory for studying public opinion toward democracy and free market economics.

Life Satisfaction Up

First, the good news: people in post-communist societies say they are living better lives than they were in 1991. For example, when asked to rate their lives on a 0-10 scale, where zero represents the worst possible life and 10 the best possible life, 49 percent in the Czech Republic now rate their lives at least a seven, whereas in 1991 only 23 percent of Czechs (those living on the Czech side of what was then still Czechoslovakia) gave their lives a rating of seven or higher.

There has been even more change in Poland, where 44 percent say their lives merit a 7-10 on the scale, compared with only 12 percent in 1991. Big gains have also occurred in East Germany, Slovakia, Lithuania, Russia, and Ukraine (at the time of the 1991 poll, East Germany had been incorporated as part of a reunified Germany, while Russia, Ukraine, and Lithuania were still republics within a rapidly decaying Soviet Union). Hungarians and Bulgarians offer somewhat more glum assessments--only 15 percent in each country assign their lives a high rating, but even these numbers represent an improvement.

Today, younger Eastern Europeans tend to see their lives more positively than older people. Consistently, those under age 50 are more likely to rate their lives a seven or higher. The well-educated also give their lives higher marks. These gaps were largely absent in the 1991 survey--still struggling with the aftermath of communist rule, few people placed themselves at a high spot on the scale, regardless of age or education status.

Democracy and Capitalism: Curbed Enthusiasm?

When asked whether they approve of the shifts to democracy and capitalism that occurred two decades ago, Eastern Europeans generally say they do. However, the share of the public who approve has shrunk since 1991 in most of the nations surveyed, and there are vast differences among nations. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Buyer's Remorse? Twenty Years after the Post-Soviet Transition
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.