Mon, Feb 23, 2015: Backlash in East-Central Europe: What Happened to the Promise of 1989?

A free public lecture by John Feffer
Director of Foreign Policy, Institute for Policy Studies

Feb 23, 2015, 4:00 – 6:00 pm
Department of Sociology, University of Toronto,
Room 240, 725 Spadina Ave, Toronto ON M5S 2J4 All welcome.

The transformations of 1989 in East-Central Europe were, by many standards, successful. The region enjoys modest economic growth and comparatively stable democratic institutions. Most of the countries are now part of the European Union and NATO. The wars in former Yugoslavia have been over for 15 years, and such large-scale conflicts are a thing of the past.

Given these successes—particularly in comparison to the “color revolutions” and the “Arab Spring“—why has so much of the region soured on the political and economic model of liberalism adopted after 1989? Polls in a number of East-Central European countries indicate that a majority of people believe that they lived better under Communism. Nationalist parties in the region have surged in the polls. Skepticism toward Brussels is growing. The leader of Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has declared his intention to refashion the country along the lines of Russia or China. And a number of other political leaders and parties in the region are looking to Hungary’s new “illiberal state” as a potential model of political and economic development. Is East-Central Europe on the verge of another profound transformation?

John Feffer travelled to the region in 2012-3 as an Open Society Fellow to track down and re-interview many of the opinion leaders and activists he talked to in 1990 (the first 250 of these interviews are available at johnfeffer.com). He will draw from these conversations to try to explain the widespread dissatisfaction with the legacy of 1989 and what comes next for East-Central Europe.