The process of the collapse of communism began in Poland in mid-1989. Soon it spread to other East European countries and, by the end of 1991, to the Soviet Union itself, a country where communism had its birth. Shortly afterward three multinational states in the area, namely, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union, ceased to exist. The Soviet empire, the last surviving colonial power, crumbled almost overnight and without much bloodshed. In its place, many new independent nation-states emerged, some for the first time.
The fall of communism, the demise of the Soviet empire, and the breakdown of the Soviet Union itself constitute some of the most important events in twentieth-century political history and beyond. Although communism is dead in this part of the world, the region's political and economic future is not a foregone conclusion, notwithstanding many claims to the contrary. This book is about political change in Eastern Europeafter the collapse of communism; it comprises the period from the late 1980s to the late 1990s. The detailed discussion that follows a general examination of the region is narrowed down to three countries: Russia, Poland, and the Czech Republic. The analysis is limited to a few countries only because to examine the entire region country by country--over two dozen states--would make for tedious reading and an overlapping and rather superficial text.