The Prague spring started on 5 January 1968 with the election of Alexander Dubcek as first secretary of the Communist Party and ended with the Warsaw Pact invasion on 21 August 1968. The Velvet Revolution was sparked off by a student demonstration on 17 November 1989, and culminated in the election of dissident playwright Václav Havel as president on 29 December. Twenty-five years on, Havel is the unequivocal symbol of the revolution, while Dubcek is still the man from ‘68. This article recounts the story of the Prague Spring and the Velvet Revolution and explains why the 1968 elites failed to make an impact in 1989 despite the fact that they organised early and that the memories of 1968 played an important symbolic role in the events leading up to, and during, the Velvet Revolution.
Drawing on cross-national public opinion surveys from the spring of 2014, this article analyses popular support for democracy in the three Baltic states – more specifically the attitudinal differences between the ethnic majorities and the Russian-speaking minorities in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It assesses the democratic political culture of the three countries 25 years after the fall of communism in Europe, 10 years after EU membership, a few years after the global financial crisis, and in the midst of the recent Russian–Ukrainian crisis. The data demonstrate widespread public dissatisfaction with democracy throughout the region, especially in Latvia, the country hardest hit by the crisis in 2008–2009. As a rule, the Russian-speaking minorities in the three Baltic states tend to be more critical of democracy than ethnic Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians.
In this paper we compare the ideological positions of political parties in Eastern and Western Europe. As the Communist regimes collapsed and new democracies began to emerge in Eastern Europe, historical and cultural differences in relation to Western Europe could be seen not least among the political parties. When the West European parties initiated contacts with potential sister parties in the East, notable differences were revealed. In general, the eastern parties appeared to be more nationalist, more populist and less tolerant of minorities than their Western sister parties. The question raised in this paper is whether or not these differences have faded during the 25 years since 1989. The three largest and most influential party families are selected for study: the Christian Democratic EPP, the Social Democratic PES and the Liberal ALDE. Departing from election manifesto data compiled by the Comparative Manifesto Project, we carried out a time series analysis ranging from 1990 to 2013. Here, the Eastern parties are compared to their Western sister parties within each party family – first, along the general left–right dimension, and, second, on specific issues conceived as sensitive: the view on the EU, nationalism and multiculturalism.
Based on a theoretical perspective linking international actors with domestic elites, this article explores how Ukraine’s process of democratization in the 2000s should be understood in terms of international pressure from the European Union (EU) and Russia squeezing the domestic elites into two alternative roadmaps for Ukraine. Ukraine, as a “swing-state” of democratic progress and problems, is assumed to have great impact on the regional democratic landscape. The contemporary hybrid nature of Ukraine’s political regime is a consequence of Ukraine being located geopolitically between the authoritarian Russia and the democratic member states of the EU, leading to competing political elites with alternative visions for the future of Ukraine.