In the eyes of conservative Poles in the days of the Cold War, Western societies were normal because, unlike communist systems, they cherished tradition and believed in God. As a result, Central and East Europeans are becoming mistrustful and resentful of norms coming from the West.
Ironically, as we shall see below, Eastern Europe is now starting to view itself as the last bastion of genuine European values.
Forces of Divergence
East Europeans often relieve their normative dissonance—say, between paying bribes to survive in the East and fighting corruption to be accepted in the West—by concluding that the West is really just as corrupt as the East, but Westerners are simply in denial and hiding the truth.
A liberal revolution of normality was not thought to be a leap in time from a dark past to the bright future. It was instead imagined as a movement across physical space, as if all of Eastern Europe would be relocating to the House of the West, previously seen only in photographs and films. Explicit analogies were drawn between the unification of Germany realized after the Wall came down, and the idea of a unified Europe.
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In the early s, in fact, many East Europeans burned with envy at the astonishingly lucky East Germans, who had overnight collectively migrated to the West, waking up miraculously with West German passports in their hands and so some thought deutschmark-stuffed wallets in their pockets. If the revolution was a regionwide westward migration, then the main question was which East European countries would arrive first at their shared destination. On 13 December , General Wojciech Jaruzelski declared a state of emergency in Poland, and tens of thousands of participants in the anticommunist Solidarity movement were arrested and interned.
A year later, the Polish government proposed to release those willing to sign a loyalty oath as well as those prepared to emigrate. In response to these offers, Adam Michnik penned two open letters from his prison cell. Solidarity activists should not swear loyalty to the government because the government had broken its faith with Poland.
As for why the jailed dissidents should shun emigration, Michnik thought this required a more nuanced answer. A dozen years before, as a Polish Jew and one of the leaders of the March student protests in Poland, Michnik had been distressed to see some of his best friends leave the country. He also watched as the communist regime tried to persuade ordinary people that those who left had done so because they cared nothing about Poland: Only Jews emigrate—that was how the government had tried to turn Pole against Pole.
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By , Michnik was no longer angry at his friends who had left the country fourteen years before. Leaving would also undermine the democratic movement and help the communists by rendering society too easily pacified and by associating the opposition cause with selfishness and disloyalty to the nation.
By deciding not to emigrate, Michnik argued, the imprisoned activists would also give meaning to those who had decided to emigrate earlier and were supporting the Polish resistance from abroad.
Freedom itself means that people have a right to do what they want. Only by choosing to remain in jail instead of taking up the attractive offer of personal freedom in the West could they earn the trust of their fellow citizens, upon which the future of a free Polish society depended. If in emigration was an act of betrayal, that is not how it seemed in When no magic and instant Westernization came, many took their families and left for the West.
The personal choice to decamp to Western Europe could no longer be stigmatized as disloyal to nations devoted to becoming like the West. A revolution that had made imitation of the West its goal could give no strong reasons against westward emigration. Revolutions as a rule force people to cross borders—moral borders if not territorial ones. When the French Revolution broke out, many of its enemies decamped. When the Bolsheviks set up their dictatorship in Russia, millions of White Russians left the country and lived abroad for years with suitcases packed in hopes of a Bolshevik collapse.
In these cases, however, the defeated enemies of the revolution were the ones who left. The contrast brings out the historical anomaly of After the velvet revolutions, it was the winners—not the losers—who moved away. Those most impatient to see their countries change were also the ones most eager to plunge into the life of a free citizenry. They were the first to go abroad to study, work, and live in the West, taking their pro-Western inclinations with them. It is hard to picture Leon Trotsky, after his Bolsheviks won, deciding that it was time to go study at Oxford.
And they had good reasons to do so. Unlike the French and Russian revolutionaries, who believed that they were building a new civilization hostile to the old order of throne and altar, and that Paris and Moscow were where this future was being forged, the revolutionaries of were strongly motivated to travel to the West in order to see up close how the normal society they hoped to build at home actually worked in practice.
Every revolutionary wants to live in the future, and if Germany was the future of Poland, then the most heartfelt revolutionaries might as well pack up and move to Germany. The dream of a collective return to Europe made such a choice both logical and legitimate. Why should a young Pole or Hungarian wait for his country one day to become like Germany, when he could start working and raising a family in Frankfurt or Hamburg tomorrow? After all, it is easier to change countries than to change your country. When borders were opened after , exit was favored over voice because political reform requires the focused cooperation of many organized social interests, while emigration requires only you and yours.
This brings us to the refugee crisis that struck Europe in and Today, openness to the world, for large swaths of the Central and East European electorate, connotes not freedom but danger: immigrant invasion, depopulation, and loss of national sovereignty. What Central and East Europeans realized in the course of the refugee crisis was that, in our connected but unequal world, migration is the most revolutionary revolution of them all. The twentieth-century revolt of the masses is a thing of the past.
We are now facing a twenty-first—century revolt of the migrants. Undertaken anarchically, not by organized revolutionary parties but by millions of disconnected individuals and families, this revolt faces no collective-action problems. It is inspired not by ideologically colored pictures of a radiant, imaginary future, but by glossy photos of life on the other side of the border. Globalization has made the world a village, but this village lives under a kind of dictatorship—a dictatorship of global comparisons. People these days no longer compare their own lives only to the lives of their neighbors; they also compare themselves to the most prosperous inhabitants of the planet.
Thus if you seek an economically secure life for your children, the best thing you can do is to make sure that they will be born in Denmark, Germany, or Sweden, with the Czech Republic or Poland as perhaps second-tier options. The combination of an aging population, low birth rates, and an unending flow of outmigration is the ultimate source of demographic panic in Central and Eastern Europe, even though it is expressed politically in the nonsensical claim that invading migrants from Africa and the Middle East pose an existential threat to the nations of the region.
Immigration anxiety is fomented by a fear that unassimilable foreigners will enter the country, dilute national identity, and weaken national cohesion.
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This fear, in turn, reflects a largely unspoken preoccupation with demographic collapse. The number of Central and East Europeans who left their home region mostly bound for Western Europe as a result of the economic crisis exceeds the total number of refugees who came to Western Europe from outside Europe, including the refugees from Syria.
About 3. Three-quarters of these Romanians, moreover, were 35 or younger when they left. The threat that confronts Central and Eastern Europe today resembles the prospect of depopulation that East Germany faced before the communists put up the Berlin Wall. It is the danger that working-age citizens will leave the East to pursue lives in the West. The magnitude of the post migration out of Central and Eastern Europe explains why there has been such a deeply hostile reaction to the refugee crisis across the region even though hardly any refugees have relocated to it as distinguished from transiting across it.
Fear of diversity is at the core of the rise of European illiberalism, but it has a different meaning in the East than in the West. In Western Europe, illiberalism is born of the fear that liberal societies are unable to cope with diversity. In the East, the question is how to prevent diversity from arising in the first place. Only 1. The trauma of people pouring out of the region explains what might otherwise seem mysterious—the strong sense of loss in countries that have benefited from the political and economic changes since Across Europe, the areas that suffered the greatest hemorrhaging of population in recent decades have been the ones most inclined to vote for far-right parties.
In his remarks at Columbia University last week, President Putin called on American scholars to bury once and for all Sovietology, yet the actions of his government are contributing directly to the resurgence of this form of imperfect analysis from afar, without access to information about how decisions are made in the Kremlin. Most ominously, the Kremlin has intervened egregiously to influence the electoral process, removing without just cause candidates in regional elections, including the upcoming election for governor in Chechnya in which there is now, thanks to the Kremlin, only one real candidate , and limiting the flow of information about the next parliamentary vote in December.
Putin of course did not personally orchestrate all of these democratic rollbacks.
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But he also has done nothing to reverse them. The campaign to erect managed democracy has had serious negatives consequences for the quality of democracy in Russia. The destabilizing consequences of this campaign, however, are less apparent. Above all else, there is no demand from society for a more liberal, democratic order.
This form of government could be in place for a long time in Russia. The Relationship between Russian Democracy and U. National Security. Why should this Committee or anyone else in American care about the future of Russian democracy? It is their problem right? And even if we did want to help, do we have the means to do so? Do the Russian people even want us to help? At the most general level of analysis, there should be no question that the United States has a strategic interest in fostering democratic regimes abroad, and especially in large, powerful countries like Russia.
Democracies do not attack each other. This hope about the relationship between domestic regime type and international behavior centuries ago has become an empirical reality in the twentieth century. Today, every democracy in the world has cordial relations with the United States.
No democracies are enemies of the United States. Not all dictatorships in the world are foes of the United States, but every foe of the United States — Iran, Libya, North Korea, Cuba, and possibly in the future, China — is a dictatorship. With few exceptions, the countries that provide safe haven to non-state enemies of the United States are also autocratic regimes.
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With rare exceptions, the median voter in consolidated democracies pushes extreme elements to the sidelines of political arena. Democracies also are more transparent, which makes them more predictable and less able to hide hostile activities, such as the production of weapons of mass destruction for non-state actors. Logically, then, the expansion of liberty and democracy around the world is a U. In the first half of the last century, imperial Japan and fascist Germany constituted the greatest threats to American national security.
The destruction of these tyrannical regimes followed by the imposition of democratic regimes in Germany and Japan helped make these two countries American allies. In the second half of the last century, Soviet communism and its supporters represented the greatest threat to American national security. The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and then the Soviet Union has greatly enhanced American national security.
The emergence of democracies in East Central Europe a decade ago and the fall of dictators in South Eastern Europe more recently have radically improved the European security climate, and therefore U. So long as unreconstructed communists ruled there, the USSR represented a unique threat to American security. When the communist regime disintegrated and a new democratically oriented regime began to take hold in Russia, this threat to the United States diminished almost overnight.
Regime change insider Russia was not the sole cause of the sea change in Russian behavior internationally. Russia today is much weaker, militarily and economically, than the Soviet Union was at the time of its collapse. Even if Russia wanted to underwrite anti-American movements in third countries or construct anti-NATO alliances, it may not have the means to do so. And yet, power capabilities are not the only variable explaining the absence of balancing against the West, any more than the military equation was the only reason for Soviet-American enmity during the Cold War.
Russian foreign-policy intentions have changed more substantially than Russian capabilities.