Learn about the former communist countries’ transitions to democracy immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union, and see where they stand today.
More about Power and Politics: The Prisoner’s Dilemma ~ Democratization
Democratization: Transferring Power
Democratic transition in the former Soviet Union and other communist states was not the easiest of tasks. The economies of these countries were in serious decline, which led to continued civil unrest despite the fall of communism. Rapidly liberalizing these economic systems through “shock therapy,” as prescribed by American economist Jeffrey Sachs, resulted in massive unemployment, high inflation and growing income inequality. Additionally, new governments faced the immense challenge, not only of transforming their economy to a capitalist system, but also transforming their citizens into capitalists.
The degree of the success of transition varied from country to country. Several countries, including Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic states, transitioned well and fast enough to apply for EU membership within a decade (the EU takes into account levels of democratic governance and strength of economy in its ascension criteria). In contrast, the wars in the Balkans delayed the possibility of successful democratic transition there. Slowly, they are improving; Croatia joined the EU in 2013, and the EU is helping with the transition process in other countries in that region. However, Russia and the southern Eurasian former Soviet republics have yet to really successfully transition from their immediate post-Soviet governments and economies (see Freedom House reports below).
So how can we tell what countries are democratic, or free?
Freedom House is a non-governmental organization that promotes and keep tracks of indicators like freedom of the press, democratic governance, the role of civil society, and gives countries a rating (free, partly-free, not free) based on their indicators. Likewise, the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal jointly publish an annual ranking called the Index of Economic Freedom that rates countries based on economic indicators of how easy it is to do business in a country. Corruption and bribery, high tariffs, and other forms of economic protectionism can severely limit the ease of doing business, thereby hampering economic growth.
How do the countries of the former Soviet Bloc rank on these indicators? What about the United States?
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