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Historical Legacies of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe
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Book description

This book takes stock of arguments about the historical legacies of communism that have become common within the study of Russia and East Europe more than two decades after communism's demise and elaborates an empirical approach to the study of historical legacies revolving around relationships and mechanisms rather than correlation and outward similarities. Eleven essays by a distinguished group of scholars assess whether post-communist developments in specific areas continue to be shaped by the experience of communism or, alternatively, by fundamental divergences produced before or after communism. Chapters deal with the variable impact of the communist experience on post-communist societies in such areas as regime trajectories and democratic political values; patterns of regional and sectoral economic development; property ownership within the energy sector; the functioning of the executive branch of government, the police, and courts; the relationship of religion to the state; government language policies; and informal relationships and practices.


'In the aftermath of revolutionary change, whether after the French revolution or the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, scholars have invariably launched heated debates about whether the new order is indeed new or if it demonstrates some continuities with the past. In sharp and welcome contrast to these usually ambling discussions, this edited volume takes a rigorous approach to the assessment of historical legacies by defining the term in a precise way that makes the phenomenon both testable and falsifiable and by identifying factors and mechanisms that account for when, where, how, and to what extent such legacies have shaped the institutions and practices of post-communist Europe and Eurasia.'

Valerie Bunce - Aaron Binenkorb Professor of International Studies and Professor of Government, Cornell University

'A quarter-century after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the nature and the very existence of legacies of Soviet-type communism continue to evoke lively, and thus far inconclusive, debate among scholars. Mark Beissinger and Stephen Kotkin have moved the debate forward in this book by putting together a collection of original essays on particular thematic areas, all of them addressing multiple post-communist states. The chapters are richly researched, elegantly written, and framed through an impressive variety of theoretical lenses.'

Timothy J. Colton - Professor and Chair, Department of Government, Harvard University

'Since the demise of the ‘transition paradigm', the study of post-communist transformations has taken a decisively historical turn. With this splendid collection of essays … our understanding of historical factors shaping the regime transformations and their outcomes across the post-communist world took a large stride forward. The editors have assembled a stellar cast of scholars and experts on the region and produced an analytically coherent and empirically rich account of the role communist legacies play in various countries and institutional domains. This collection adds much-needed analytical precision to research on historical legacies and advances our knowledge of how history in general and communist experience in particular matter to current political and economic outcomes in the region. This book is a must-read for those who are interested in the origin of institutions and policies and in the cross-national variation of regime change outcomes.'

Grzegorz Ekiert - Director, Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies and Professor of Government, Harvard University

'Mark R. Beissinger and Stephen Kotkin have assembled a who’s-who of scholars on Eastern Europe and Eurasia, many of whom made their careers in the era after the end of communist rule. The authors are therefore particularly adept at separating ‘historical legacies’ from plain history - examining the precise ways in which the habits of the past may (and may not) matter in such diverse areas as policing, property rights, and economic performance. This book reminds us why edited volumes - carefully crafted around a common theme - are still indispensable vehicles of scholarly communication.'

Charles King - Georgetown University, author of Extreme Politics: Nationalism, Violence, and the End of Eastern Europe

'Total system state socialism is gone, but polities across Eurasia continue to contend with Leninist legacies. And no wonder: state socialism was an earth-changing experiment in social engineering. Historical Legacies of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe takes careful stock of how these legacies matter (and, alternatively, how they fade from significance). Representing the best of historically informed social science, this book is conceptually innovative, empirically grounded, contextually sensitive, and intellectually provocative. Its wide range of cases invites serious thinking about how the socialist period will continue to shape our world.'

Edward Schatz - University of Toronto

'With Historical Legacies of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe, a leading political scientist (Mark Beissinger) and a top historian (Stephen Kotkin) bring together an all-star group of academics to help crystallize a growing research agenda on historical legacies in countries that have made transitions from communist regimes … this is an important volume that will likely leave an important scholarly legacy of its own.'

Henry E. Hale Source: Slavic Review

'This volume is a must-read for anyone interested in the topic of post-Communist transitions in particular, and of transitions from authoritarian rule in general. While this work will mostly appeal to scholars and graduate students, the essays are written in such a way that they are accessible to advanced undergraduates as well.'

Christopher Marsh Source: The Russian Review

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