Two Periods of the Peripheric Capitalist Development: Pre-Communist and Post-Communist Eastern Europe in Comparison

By Norkus, Zenonas | Polish Sociological Review, April 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Two Periods of the Peripheric Capitalist Development: Pre-Communist and Post-Communist Eastern Europe in Comparison


Norkus, Zenonas, Polish Sociological Review


Abstract: In the long term perspective two post-communist decades in the Eastern Europe were most recent attempt to close the economic development gap with the West after the communist "detour from the periphery to the periphery" (Iván Berend). The 1989 revolutions involved the restoration of capitalism and new integration into the capitalist world system. The paper compares the performance of post-communist capitalism in the reduction of the economic disparity with that of the pre-communist capitalism in 1913- 1938. For almost all countries covered by the long-time diachronic comparison, the periods of catching up alternated with those of falling behind. All Eastern European countries except Romania decreased during pre-communist period their GDP gap separating them from the capitalist world system hegemonic power (U.S.). The catching-up performance of post-communist countries widely varies: best performers during post-communist time performed better than the best performers in the 1913-1938 period, while the worst failures under post-communism performed worse than the weakest performers in 1913-1938.

Keywords: Eastern Europe, catching-up development, pre-communism, communism, post-communism.

Introduction

The comparison of two historical periods, separated in time by half a century, may not seem like a sane contribution to the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the end of communism in Poland. However, the comparing the post-communist period with that of interwar independence is an integral part of the celebration of the most important national holidays in the post-communist Baltic States-Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Only in 1918-1940 could all three Baltic nations use the institutions of the modern state to foster the development of national "high cultures" in the vernacular languages. In Soviet times, national cultures and languages were perceived to be endangered because of the the policies of russification of the Soviet authorities and mass immigration from other Soviet republics.

Therefore, to begin with, the post-communist transformation in the Baltic States was about the restoration of the independent nation-state. The assumption of legal continuity grounds the much disputed citizenship laws in Estonia and Latvia that granted citizenship rights only for people who had such rights by 1940 and their descendants (Pettai 2010). The principle of restoration was implemented most consequently in Latvia, which is living under the Constitution (Satversme) of 1922. This may be the reason why Latvian scholars were pioneers in the comparative work on the period before World War II (WW II) and post-communism. They published several ground-breaking contributions (Seleckis 2000; Krastins 2001; Zile 2001) in the late 1990s and early 2000, celebrating the anniversary of the first decade after communism, drawing its critical balance and using achievements of the first decade of interwar independence from 1918 to 1928 as the benchmark. Estonians followed in 2008, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Estonian independence (Valge 2008), with Lithuanian researchers joining with the comparison of the two twenty year periods of interwar and post-commmunist Lithuania (Norkus 2014).

The aim of present contribution is to demonstrate that the "Baltic approach" to post-communist transformation (diachronic comparison with pre-communist period) may also be useful for the audit of post-communist achievements for those Eastern European countries which were independent national states before World War I (WW I) and remained at least nominally sovereign independent states under communism. I will apply "Baltic approach" by comparing the economic performance of the restored capitalism in the Eastern European countries during the post-communist and pre-communist periods of similar length.

While rich advanced countries seem to be already mature for alternative ideas of the well-being and indexes of the economy's performance (cp. …

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