Continuity and Change in Eastern Europe: Strategies of Post-Communist Politics
A few years ago when the communist governments of East Europe fell, the mood about the prospects of the region tended toward optimism. Although a few voices of caution, or even of doom, made themselves heard, studies of "transition" from authoritarianism to democracy and from socialism to capitalism proliferated, and at least one author gained temporary fame by predicting the advent of a liberal millennium and a "Hegelian end of history." 1
Such optimistic forecasts were largely the products of the understandable euphoria of the historical moment. But in good measure they also reflected on a nostalgic, perhaps propagandized, but in any case overly romanticized view of an "old Europe" that had never really existed yet that was now fondly recalled by many on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Winston Churchill, whose forceful rhetoric bequeathed the very term to posterity, was an early and effective propagator of this view, depicting Europe in his famous Fulton speech as a closely integrated cultural and historical entity, now torn asunder by brute force and the sheer vagaries of power politics. In this view, adopted by many after Churchill, the eastern, "captive" part of Europe was cast in the role of Dornröschen from the German fairy tale, a flawlessly beautiful creature immobilized by trickery yet always ready to resume normal life, should the sleeping beauty be delivered from the curse by some miraculous occurrence. In 1989, the moment appeared to have arrived, with some willing to cast the West in the role of the prince of the fairy tale, with whom the sleeping beauty would enter into union and live happily ever after in marital bliss.