The collapse 1 of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989 caught everyone by surprise, 2 but now, with the benefit of hindsight, it is possible to appreciate the fact that the changes that occurred were harbingers of the defeat of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The deconstruction of Soviet power in Eastern Europe was a watershed as far as the New Europe was concerned, since it marked the historical divide of one era from another. 3 This indeed was a "Great Transformation."
The collapse of the Iron Curtain, symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, meant that the newly emerging democracies in Eastern Europe could hope for a return to Europe and a reunion with what Gorbachev referred to as the common European home. Having been incorporated into the Soviet sphere of influence for over four decades since the end of the Second World War, these countries hoped that they could be reintegrated with the western half of Europe. However, the euphoria of the spring of 1989, the "Year of the Miracle," quickly gave way to the harsh reality of the winter of 1990. 4 Reality meant the responsibility of governing society, as the new regimes faced the task of recreating democracy, developing a market economy, and reorienting their foreign policies. The post-Communist societies that emerged from the grip of a totalitarian past found themselves facing economic and political difficulties that they had not anticipated. 5 The transition from Communism to liberal democracy turned out to be much harder than anyone ever thought possible. 6 It became apparent that there was no guarantee that democracies