Staunton, November 11 – Thirty years on, Andrey Medushevsky says, the era of post-communism as an ideological construct has come to an end, with the hopes it inspired at its beginning replaced by disappointment and a sense among many that it has led to just as much a blind alley as communism did.
In an almost 10,000-word essay, the Moscow historian says that in many ways, it failed because it represented something like “’communism in reverse,’” an image of a single wonderful future without much allowance for the differences among the countries where communism had existed and was now being replaced (liberal.ru/globalization/7690).
Moreover, it had the unintended effect of treating the entire former bloc as one single place where a common agenda would work. And it thus failed to take into account the powerful and often very different impact of events taking place beyond that world, including in the first instance globalization.
For all three of these reasons, ever more people in the region and elsewhere now view the post-communist experiment or at least the assumptions on which it was launched as something “inadequate” and in need of replacement, Madushevsky continues. And that has led to a variety of attempts to answer the challenges these states now face.
Many of these attempts involved the recovery of nationalism and the rise of populism, but the patterns of these two varied enormously among the three different components of the former Soviet bloc, the countries of Eastern Europe, the non-Russian republics, and the Russian Federation.
For the East Europeans, there was a growing sense that the post-communist ideology threatened them with “a loss of national identity under conditions of globalization, European integration, and the migration crisis.”
For most of the former non-Russian republics, the challenge of modernization was wrapped up with the problem of choosing whether to orient themselves toward the European Union or some other outside power like the US and China or defer to Moscow.
And for Russia, the central issue that displaced post-communism was the question of restoring its dominance over the former Soviet space and thus in the process finding a new and valued self-identification.
As a result, the Moscow historian says, “the key slogan of East European populists was more independence and decentralization within the EU, of the post-Soviet elites – a timely adaptation to changing global and regional trends and of the Russians, more imperial unification and centralization.
Those slogans led to the rise of different groups in each region: In East Europe, is led to the coming to power of constitutional populists, in the former Soviet republics, to one that has been involved in redistributing influence within the countries and between them and Moscow, and to one in Russia committed to holding power for the existing elite.
If those who want to promote liberalism are to be successful, they must recognize both the failure of the post-communist ideological agenda and the differences among the countries in the former bloc. Otherwise, they are likely to achieve little and may very well exacerbate the problems that liberals would like to solve.