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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: August 2019

5. - Reverberations


The collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union was felt across the world. The very idea of the victory over Communism, and of the natural congruence between liberal democracy and the market that Eastern Europe’s transformation embodied, became central to the post–Cold War constitution of the West. Such ideas became embedded in the everyday practice of politics: in the enforcing of new forms of conditionality that stressed democracy, rights, and a smaller state on Africa and in the continued belief in the export of this model – sometimes by force – to the Middle East, Africa, and post-Soviet space. Some Eastern European elites adopted such interpretations and practice as part of the projection of their region’s geopolitical identity. Yet 1989 would be interpreted elsewhere very differently, particularly in those authoritarian socialist states where transformation did not happen: in China, 1989 became a decades-long warning about the excesses of reform and the Western understanding of global transformation rejected. From Cuba to North Korea to Africa, the Eastern European revolutions were rather seen as the revival of a traditional Western imperialism and the reconstitution of a white Global North.