This is particularly the case in countries where sizable numbers of people rate their lives better than they did in surveys two decades ago. But in countries where people do not register as much progress since , there is much less unanimity about the benefits of the free market. The survey also shows substantial differences in acceptance of democratic values among people in former communist countries. While majorities in most countries approve of the transition to a multiparty system, it remains a rocky transition in many countries.
The appeal of a strong leader over a democratic form of government is evident in Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Hungary. The embrace of political rights and civil liberties is also varied and disparate across countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. On every dimension studied, more people say they value these rights and liberties than say they enjoy them. A fair judiciary is the value most prized in the former communist countries surveyed. And in every country in the region, large numbers say that right does not prevail.
Freedom of speech, a free press and even honest elections are given somewhat lower priority in most societies, especially Russia. Frustrations with the democratic experience are clearly evident in a number of countries. In Hungary, relatively large numbers prize the ability to criticize the state and want press freedom and honest elections, but only small percentages say these conditions prevail.
In Ukraine, where support for democracy is tenuous by many standards, very few say that honest elections or a fair judicial system describe their country well. There is a good deal of agreement across former Eastern bloc publics concerning the major problems facing their countries. As might be expected, large majorities express negative views of their economies, but this also is the case for Western Europeans and Americans.
Beyond the economy, crime, corruption and drugs are widely seen as major problems in each of the former communist countries surveyed. The environment, the poor quality of schools, and the spread of AIDS and other infectious disease are also common concerns in all countries. Concerns about people leaving the country are especially high in the former East Germany, Bulgaria and Lithuania.
Throughout Eastern Europe, people generally express more concern about emigration than immigration. However, relatively few Russians cite emigration as a major problem. The Russians express greater concern about terrorism than any other Eastern European public. Conflict among ethnic groups is viewed as a problem in several former communist countries, especially Russia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
These tensions are reflected in the relatively large percentages that hold unfavorable opinions of minority groups within their countries. However, in almost all nations, less hostility is expressed toward most minority groups and other nationalities than in The Roma, or Gypsies, continue to stand out as the most widely disliked ethnic group. Many of the expressed antagonisms reflect historic enmity with neighboring peoples, or long-standing dislike of religious or ethnic minorities.
Czechs are well liked in Slovakia and vice versa. Dislike of minority groups is not limited to Eastern Europeans. Views of Russia differ widely across the surveyed countries. In the Czech Republic, Hungary and Lithuania, pluralities see the Russian influence on their countries as a bad thing. In Western Europe, the balance of opinion is that Russian influence is negative, although many in Spain and Britain have no opinion on the subject.
The long-existing transatlantic divide in attitudes toward the role of the state in society has grown over the past two decades.
Only in Britain and Italy have the proportions expressing this view increased. However, Italians and the British are still more supportive of an active role for the state in society than are Americans. Similarly, while Europeans are generally less fatalistic than they were in , Americans remain far more individualistic than Europeans. Majorities in 10 of the 13 European countries surveyed think they have little control over their fate.
Publics in nine of the 13 European nations surveyed are more individualistic today than they were in European opinion of the European Union is generally good, but, in the wake of the recent economic crisis, there is some evidence of disgruntlement. British wariness of the Brussels-based European Union persists and could be worsening. Unsurprisingly we are living with the disparate corollaries of today. The leaders declared the Cold War over — almost 45 years from Yalta to Malta. Many hoped European peace was secured.
The Warsaw Pact was dissolved in after Gorbachev had won the Nobel Peace Prize the year before, mainly due to his popularity in the West. But what drove the events of ? Was it solely the desire of oppressed populations to vote freely and express opinions openly? Or a response to increased media access which, despite state censorship, showed another world outside? Czech Pavel Kamenicky thinks not.
A year-old veteran of the Prague Spring protests of he remains a socialist. If Brezhnev had listened we could still be living with socialism. So whether the protestors had clear outcomes in mind is questionable. Many, doubtless, were democrats, others free-marketeers, while others simply wanted to live lives unencumbered by the state.
But this lack of an ideological goal gave rise in many ways to a political free-for-all. But its rapidity left a gaping political void. Perhaps Western free-market democracies assumed unfettered capitalism would fill it. If so, they and those who attempted to adopt it are probably — in part — disappointed. Eastern Europe remains, after 30 years, measurably poorer than the west.
Of course, the most obvious manifestation of was the reunification of Germany.
On 3 October , less than a year after the fall of the wall, it became a single nation once more. And in Czechoslovakia the opposite happened. In the so-called Velvet Divorce, on the last day of two countries bolted together following the First World War — Slovakia and the Czech Republic — became individual states. Not everybody would agree though. Our leaders failed communism.
Is what we have now any better? It argues that communism made life secure and more predictable.
Democracy, while welcome, is no guarantor of prosperity. Conversely, it does — or should — offer freedom from state oppression. Whatever the legacy, in the end it happened quickly. Which brings us to today. Britain is arguably living through a consequence of right now. There is a link from the overthrow of communism in eastern Europe to the expansion of the European Union as nations looked westward for political and economic influence.
As Gerhard Schumann watched a pickaxe crashing into concrete in November we can presume he had no expectation that nearly 30 years later it would contribute to a vote by Britons to leave a European Union so many of his fellow protestors would be so keen to join….
End of Communism Cheered but Now with More Reservations
You can find our Community Guidelines in full here. Want to discuss real-world problems, be involved in the most engaging discussions and hear from the journalists? Try Independent Premium free for 1 month. Independent Premium Comments can be posted by members of our membership scheme, Independent Premium. It allows our most engaged readers to debate the big issues, share their own experiences, discuss real-world solutions, and more. Our journalists will try to respond by joining the threads when they can to create a true meeting of independent Premium. The most insightful comments on all subjects will be published daily in dedicated articles.
Special Info for
You can also choose to be emailed when someone replies to your comment. The existing Open Comments threads will continue to exist for those who do not subscribe to Independent Premium. Due to the sheer scale of this comment community, we are not able to give each post the same level of attention, but we have preserved this area in the interests of open debate.
Please continue to respect all commenters and create constructive debates. Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? Try Independent Premium free for 1 month to access this feature. Find your bookmarks in your Independent Premium section, under my profile. Final Say. Long reads. Lib Dems. US Politics.
The Collapse of Communism
Jeremy Corbyn. Robert Fisk. Mark Steel. Janet Street-Porter. John Rentoul. Chuka Ummuna. Shappi Khorsandi. Gina Miller. Our view. Sign the petition.