The Government and Politics of Postcommunist Europe

By Andrew A. Michta | Go to book overview

1
POLAND

THE COMMONWEALTH OF POLAND-LITHUANIA AND THE SECOND REPUBLIC

The historical Polish state, the largest of the Western Slavic kingdoms, dates back to A.D. 966 when Christianity was brought to the country through the marriage of Polish Duke Mieszko I to Czech Princess Dobrava. The millennium of the Polish state witnessed the country's rise to the pinnacle of power in Central Europe in the late fifteenth century, after its union with Lithuania established the multinational Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania, including the territories of Poland proper (the so-called Crown) and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, encompassing also present-day Ukraine, Belorussia, and the southern parts of Latvia. Nurtured by grain exports from its vast estates worked by enserfed peasants, the Polish nobility prided itself on the country's administrative decentralization and the "golden freedoms" that severely circumscribed the executive powers of the king. 1

By the Middle Ages the country had created a unique parliamentary system, whereby the nobility enjoyed a wide range of civil rights, including the right to elect the king. The parliament (Sejm) was the principal institution of the country's government. The nobles (szlachta) elected their sovereign and voted on taxes in peacetime and in war according to the precept of "nothing about us without us." The "golden freedoms" of the Polish nobility were ultimately guaranteed by the right of liberum veto, by which each citizen could stop legislation deemed detrimental to his rights. Increasingly an anachronism in European politics at a time when centralized state power and absolute monarchy

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The Government and Politics of Postcommunist Europe
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • I - East Central Europe 7
  • 1 - Poland 9
  • 2 - The Czech Republic and Slovakia 29
  • 3 - Hungary 55
  • II - The Balkans 69
  • 4 - Romania 71
  • 5 - Bulgaria 87
  • 6 - Yugoslav Successor States and Albania 103
  • III - The Baltic Rim 125
  • 7 - Lithuania 127
  • 8 - Latvia 147
  • 9 - Estonia 165
  • IV - East European Periphery 181
  • 10 - Belarus 183
  • 11 - Ukraine 197
  • Conclusion: Postcommunist Europe in the New European Order 211
  • Selected Bibliography 221
  • Index 227
  • About the Author 237
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