Free at Last – April 25, 2013
1. Ukraine – Before the First World War, Ukraine was a part of the Austrian Hungarian Empire. They were merely a pawn between them and Russia for many years and the Ukrainian traditions were stifled to keep them from rising up against those in charge of them. Many revolutions and political parties were formed to create independence for Ukraine but none of them strong enough to create their own independence. For many years Ukrainian civic tradition was destroyed and many intellectuals murdered. Bolsheviks fought for the cities and Ukraine went to war with Poland. Eventually Ukraine was split into two where part became part of Poland and the other part of Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. I think the lack of political democratic tradition in Ukraine and the destroying of any civic culture hindered Ukraine’s possibility of a democratic tradition post Soviet era. Even now Ukraine’s politics is very fragmented and inefficient with lots of corruption.
2. Poland – Poland has a long history of democratic tradition even though they have been occupied by other nations for lots of their history. The large amount of intelligentsia in Poland helped to keep this tradition alive. However, before Soviet rule, Poland was unable to have their own independence. Part of the country was under German rule and part was under Russian rule. After WWI, Poland became a puppet state for 2 years but was never fully realized. In 1918 Poland became an independent state called the Second Polish Republic. In 1939 Poland was invaded by the Nazis. Poland during these years though became major European centres with lots of intelligent free thinkers. During the first years, Poland was a Parliamentary Democracy. In 1935 it became authoritarian. The strong legacy of an intelligentsia class, strong civic culture and democratic institutions helped Poland become a strong democratic country post Soviet era.
3. Romania – Before Soviet rule in Romania, there was a constitutional monarchy between 1881 and 1947 called the Kingdom of Romania. However, during these years Romania became nationalist, then dedicated to peasants, then replaced by 25 different parties within 10 years. There was a lot of unrest and unemployment during these years. No one had true power and it affected the future of the country as it fell into the hands of socialists. After the fall of communism in Romania, there was still lots of unrest and many were doubtful of how well democracy could be imposed. Romania is a rural country and this affected the civic culture greatly. The government was plagued by fraud and corruption. Romania has since joined the EU which I think is good for the country to try to keep democracy.
4. Bulgaria – Bulgaria was also an agrarian country. During the early 20th century it became more modernized. It became free from Turkish rule and in 1878 and in 1908 it became a Constitutional Monarchy. it became engaged in the Balkan Wars. There was huge social problems. There was a lack of civic culture because the country was comprised of poor farmers and few landowners. Because the country was so lacking in civic culture and had backwards economies, the transition to democracy was a lot harder than expected. Many Bulgarians remain dissatisfied with their governments and many have moved away, creating a brain drain. There is a lot of corruption and governments have a hard time retaining power.
5. Czechoslovakia – After the collapse of the Habsburg Empire in WWI, Czechoslovakia became a Parliamentary Democracy, a rare success in Eastern Europe. The civic culture was strong, especially in cosmopolitan cities like Prague, and politics were stable. The economy grew strong during these years and they had lots of industry. Czech citizens were never very fond of communism and protested. In the early years of the democratic transition were fair elections, but then the country split into two. The strong traditions of political culture and civic culture have continued to mean that stability is popular and people enjoy their freedoms in the process of democratic traditions.