Social Movements after Communism

Authored by: Ondřej Císař

The Routledge Handbook of East European Politics

Print publication date:  August  2017
Online publication date:  August  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138919754
eBook ISBN: 9781315687681
Adobe ISBN:


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In spring 2016, demonstrations took place in Prague in opposition to public displays of xenophobia in the Czech Republic. Warsaw and other Polish cities were engulfed by demonstrations against the winning party in the 2015 parliamentary elections and its conservative policies. Anti-government protests marked Bulgarian politics in 2013–2014. These are just some examples, but there are dozens of protest events going on everywhere all the time against or in support of various causes. From the perspective of the political system as a whole, the mobilisation of the populace is believed to have contributed to the demise of the pre-1989 communist regimes in some East European countries, most notably Poland, but in a different manner also, for example, Czechoslovakia (Glenn 2003) and Romania (Nistor 2016). Social movements and mobilisation also played an important political role after 1989. In countries such as Slovakia (1998) and Serbia (2000), they were able to help topple populist leaders and dictators (Bunce and Wolchik 2011); in others, such as Hungary (2010), they helped install populist rulers aspiring to become dictators in a new post-liberal age (Greskovits and Wittenberg 2016). Although civil society and social movements in post-communist countries have often been regarded as weak, they have nevertheless existed in all of them and have evolved in different forms (see Ekiert and Kubik 2014, and later). Along with other political agents such as political parties, they have been visible actors in both supporting and resisting democratisation in the post-communist region. And even though they continue to be overlooked or downplayed in some branches of political science, it is impossible to make sense of political developments without examining social movements (Císař 2015).

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