I General Trends and Regional Patterns

What Has a Quarter Century of Post-Communism Taught Us About the Correlates of Democracy?

M. Steven Fish

The post-communist region furnishes students of democratization with a fertile field for investigation. Countries of the region span almost the entire spectrum of possible outcomes in terms of political regimes. Three decades ago, all of Eurasia and Eastern Europe slumbered in a hyperauthoritarian deep freeze. Now the region includes some of the world’s most open polities (e.g. Estonia) and some of its most closed (e.g. Uzbekistan), as well as everything in between.

The region’s countries also differ widely in terms of conditions that might influence trajectories of regime change. While post-communist space is geographically contiguous, creating the appearance of a real region, the only thing that unifies it is a recent history of a particular type of authoritarian regime. Only the nature of the antecedent authoritarian regime and the timing of its collapse are “controlled for”; everything else varies. Deeper historical and cultural commonalities are largely absent. Latin Americanists who wish to study the effects of religion on paths of regime change (or anything else) must foray outside their area, since Catholicism predominates in every major country in Latin America. The same may be said about Islam in the Middle

M.S. Fish (*)

University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© The Author(s) 2017

Fish, Gill, Petrovic (eds.), A Quarter Century of Post-Communism Assessed, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-43437-7_2

East and North Africa (MENA). The post-communist region is different. Not only do countries diverge in terms of religion, but also on other potential causal variables that might influence political regime type, such as level of economic development and geographical proximity to democracies outside the region.

Thus, countries in post-communist space exhibit variation in both outcomes and predictors of political regime, which facilitates fruitful cross-national, within-region analysis aimed at uncovering the correlates of democratization.

Numerous studies have investigated regime outcomes in the region. There is no consensus on the formula for success or failure of transition; scholars differ over even whether structural variables or more proximate factors that are the product of human design and action serve as the main drivers of regime outcomes (e.g. M0ller 2009; Petrovic 2013; Pop-Eleches 2007).

The available data do not allow us to make strong statements about causation. I aim only to offer observations and raise questions about how the first quarter century of post-communism might help inform our thinking about democratization.

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