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The purpose of this volume has been to bring together a group of scholars with diverse areas of topical and geographical expertise to analyze variations over time and across country in regime trajectories in postcommunist Europe and Eurasia since the collapse of communism two decades ago. Our interest in this subject was motivated by our collective desire to address three puzzles posed not just by the postcommunist experience, but also, more generally, by regime transitions around the globe.
First, what explains the wide range of regime-types that formed after communism – a dynamic that is particularly surprising in view of a shared communist past and the extraordinarily invasive nature of the communist experiment? Although some new regimes in the region were fully democratic and some fully authoritarian, the dominant tendency in the early years after communism was the rise of hybrid regimes that straddled democracy and dictatorship and that reflected a compromise between authoritarians and democrats, with neither player able to dictate their preferred version of the rules of the political game. This is precisely the pattern, moreover, that we have seen in other countries that experienced transitions from authoritarian rule at the same time or later in the third wave of democratization.
Democracy and Authoritarianism in the Postcommunist World examines three waves of democratic change that took place in eleven different former Communist nations. It draws important conclusions about the rise, development, and breakdown of both democracy and dictatorship in each country, providing a comparative perspective on the post-Communist world. The first democratic wave to sweep this region encompasses the rapid rise of democratic regimes from 1989 to 1992 from the ashes of Communism and Communist states. The second wave arose with accession to the European Union (from 2004 to 2007) and the third, with the electoral defeat of dictators (1996 to 2005) in Croatia, Serbia, Georgia, and Ukraine. The authors of each chapter in this volume examine both internal and external dimensions of both democratic success and failure.
The experiences of postcommunist Europe and Eurasia over the past two decades contain important lessons about democratization – not just the rise, development, and cross-national spread of democratic orders, but also, just as importantly, the limits of democratic change, the sources of democratic breakdown, and the resilience of authoritarianism. This region is ideal for enriching our understanding of both regime stability and change because it provides the ingredients we need to assess hypotheses and draw generalizations. Thus, although this region shares the important commonality of a communist past, it is also composed, at the same time, of an unusually diverse set of countries, and the differences among them relate precisely to the areas that have figured prominently in debates about the rise and sustainability of democracy. For example, the twenty-nine states that compose this region include both old and new states (with the newest recruits being Montenegro in 2007 and Kosovo in 2008); culturally heterogeneous and homogeneous societies; states with stable borders and states whose borders have been contested since the transition began; national economies that fall into all four categories of development used by the World Bank (low-income, lower-middle-income, upper-middle-income, and high-income states); and both economic and political regime types that run the gamut from “fully free” to “not free” (to use the designations, respectively, of the Wall Street Journal and Freedom House).
It is probable that ‘The Farm Beneath the Sand’ will come to stand for a revolution in archaeological investigation. The authors show that a core of soil from an open field can provide a narrative of grazing animals, human occupation and their departure, just using DNA and AMS dating. In this case the conventional archaeological remains were nearby, and the sequence obtained by the old methods of digging and faunal analysis correlated well with the story from the core of ancient ‘dirt’ DNA. The potential for mapping the human, animal and plant experience of the planet is stupendous.
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