The democratization of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe since 1989 stands in marked contrast to the travails of democratization seen in the region during the 1920s and 1930s. While this observation is self-evident to any casual observer of the region’s history, trying to actually pinpoint these differences has so far rested largely on narrative-historical comparisons. This paper will attempt to pinpoint these differences more precisely by scrutinizing the structure of democracy in these countries during the two periods in question using the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) dataset. The paper finds that the period effect of the early 1990s (as opposed to the inter-war period) is strongly visible in the V-Dem data. Moreover, this effect is relatively even across different dimensions of democracy. Post-communist democratization in Central and Eastern Europe has clearly been more variegated and hence undergirded than it was in the 1920s.
Vello Pettai is Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Tartu. He is also head of the V-Dem Regional Center for Eastern Europe and Russia. Alongside working on post-communist democratization, he is co-author (with Eva-Clarita Pettai) of Transitional and Retrospective Justice in the Baltic States (Cambridge University Press, 2015), and author of Elections in Estonia, 1990 – 1992: Transitional and Founding (Sigma, 2012). Originally from the United States, Vello Pettai earned his doctoral degree at Columbia University before moving to his ancestral Estonia in the mid-1990s.