Economic Transformation in Central and Eastern Europe
As the countries of Central and Eastern Europe proceed with market-oriented reforms, a complex set of factors -- historical, political, economic, and social -- determine the pace and results of their efforts. This essay focuses on the political economy of systemic transformation in these countries, including a detailed examination of the three that are clearly in the lead in the transition: Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia.
Prior to 1990 "Central and Eastern Europe" (CEE) was a geopolitical term, defining eight small and medium-size communist countries: Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia. The CEE-8 had a total population of about 140 million and a total gross national product (GNP) roughly the same as that of France or the People's Republic of China.
Today the definition of CEE is unclear, given the disappearance, disintegration, birth, or rebirth of countries in the area. A dramatic, multidimensional process of nation-state transformation has been taking place since 1989.
The CEE region has been a mosaic of peoples and ancient cultures of different origins whose varied historical experiences were often marked by bitter conflicts. This is a region of the world where the idea of a people has rarely been synonymous with a nation-state. For centuries, states and like entities have come and gone, often being superimposed on the peoples of the region by various historical forces.