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Challenges of studying East Europe as a region

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Challenges of studying East Europe as a region The collapse of the communism in East European countries has created an environment of aspirations, opportunities and threats. The last ten years of 20th century have been the witness of radical changes in European architecture which conducted to a huge process of political, social and cultural transformation. Limited regional European studies existed prior to the fall of the Iron Curtain, mostly after 1970 when Europe started perhaps to gain interest in spite of other regions of the world. Katherine Verdery (1996) mentions that "few anthropologists had worked in Europe, being our own society it had low prestige. Many books dealt with Oceania, Africa or native America - with primitives". Thinking specifically of East Europe, the same author mentions that almost no fieldwork therefore anthropological research has been done due to the lack of access in the region. The fall of the totalitarian communist regimes and gain of unrestricted access of researchers in the region created an abundance of information unthinkable before '90s. This abundance was characterized by Fleron and Hoffmann (1993) overwhelming. During the last almost fifteen years not only that the subject hasn't been exhausted but the process of transformation of the region is providing new challenges for researchers. Katherine Verdery (1996) mentions that there are at least three categories of opportunities which would drive further interests in the region: to fully understand what the socialism was, to better understand what is happening in the region, to broaden a critique of Western economic and political forms through the eyes of those experiencing their construction. As Bernard (2002) ...read more.


Simultaneously with the entrance of new economic variables, the East European states were rapidly confronted with political issues such as formation of parties, campaign financing, reforms of legislative and judicial systems, government reforms and organization of free elections. In the same time if not earlier the new bureaucrats and elites formed. The Western model of abundance and individual rent seeking came easily on the "scene" and due to scarce benefits there was only one easy way to achieve it. The old habit of bribery from communist era when everyone tried by all means to get a "piece of meat" became a regional disease named corruption. The East European fieldwork became more complex, additional study has been required in order to eradicate corruption, reduce crime, organize free elections. What ideal is driving these societies towards transformation? The answer is quite simple: democracy. Does the democracy exist in pure form? This answer might be more difficult. Carothers (2002) defines a so called "Gray Zone" of countries where basic principles of democracy have been achieved in different proportions. Perhaps one can define "shades of gray" depending on level of consolidation: lighter, therefore more close to the consolidated democracy as Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Estonia and Slovenia (Carothers, 2002) and darker, reflecting somewhat less progress for Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria. The same author argues that "the process of democratizations can go backwards, stagnate or move forward along the path". Few of the scholars are making interesting parallels between Latin-America, Africa and East Europe processes of democratization which proves once more the increased researchers "appetite" to conceptualize the re-design of the region. ...read more.


A decline took place in the development of Eastern Europe for which many find the explanation in Turkish conquest of Kingdom of Hungary. Even the neighbor states like Valachia and Moldavia (parts of actual Romania) which fought for autonomy had to pay tribute in products (mostly grains) or gold. While Industrial Revolution was pursued in England and Social and Political Revolution in France, the Balkans fell economically behind (e.g. Romania continued to have an agrarian economy during the first four decades of 20th century). Political argument is also convincing: after communist insurgency failed in Greece and created the Eastern Western state, World War II and Yalta Treaty provided to the region, according to Berend (1986), " a gloss for Russophile". Beside the political influence of former Soviet Union over the satellites, the socialist economic model prevailed in a desperately hope to overcome the gap with the west capitalist countries. The fall of the communist regimes in early 90s has just re-emphasized the differences between East and West. East Europe concept became applied as itself and/or more like sub-regions: Central Europe when we speak about Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, South East Europe represented by Romania and Bulgaria, Baltics when we speak about Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and Commonwealth Independent States when we refer to the republics of the Former Soviet Union. I believe that the collapse of the communism did not undermine at all the rationale of study East Europe as a region, furthermore the transformation of the region together with the evolution of East Europe concept provided additional thrust to the study. ...read more.

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