As we have seen, the revolutions of 1989 were a surprise to Kremlinologists, because their models of change overestimated the staying power of ruling Communist elites, and underestimated the ability of civil society to form the alternative political cultures that could undermine the legitimacy of the socialist order. The revolutions were the result of a prolonged systemic crisis of Communism, combined with the unwillingness of Gorbachev to use force to maintain the East European regimes. Civil society lost its fear of the repressive apparatus of the Communist system as the ruling elites became increasingly disunited as to how best to respond to the crisis. The revolutions throughout Eastern Europe also had a contagious effect, spreading from Poland to Albania.
After the revolutions, other surprises were in store as the transition unfolded and the process of democratic consolidation encountered unanticipated obstacles. Consequently, it became evident that it was premature to believe that history had ended, and that the authoritarian model of political rule had disintegrated in Eastern Europe in 1989. The establishment of rule based on the model of liberal democracy was not a foregone conclusion. Instead of an immediate transition to democracy as an ideal type of polity, it became clear that the process of transition could suffer reversals, as had happened in other cases of democratization, and indeed, might take generations to complete.