Democracy in Eastern Europe

October 8, 1999 • Volume 9, Issue 38
Are ex-communist nations making the transition?
By Kenneth Jost

Introduction

An estimated 100,000 people massed in Belegrade's central square on Aug. 19 to protest Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. (Photo Credit: Dragan Kujundzic, Reuters)
An estimated 100,000 people massed in Belegrade's central square on Aug. 19 to protest Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. (Photo Credit: Dragan Kujundzic, Reuters)

After World War II, the Soviet Union sequestered most of Eastern Europe behind an Iron Curtain of communist rule. Then in 1989, popular discontent toppled communist governments in rapid succession. Today, 10 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, most of the former communist nations are functioning democracies with free elections and multiparty political systems. In the former Yugoslavia, however, ethnic-religious rivalries have spawned bloody conflicts and thwarted efforts by the United States and NATO to help establish peaceful democracies. Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, however, democracy appears secure although the public in many of the countries are unhappy with specific government policies.

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