In One’s Own Right: Party Competition and Ideological Control in Post-Communist Hungary and Poland
Division: Social Sciences
Dept/Program: Political Science; Slavic Languages & Lit
Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research
Mentor(s): Mitchell Orenstein
Date of this Version: 28 March 2017
In their 1997 paper “Are Transitions Transitory?”, Milada Vachudova and Timothy Snyder predicted that the ethnically homogenous states of post-communist Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) would experience an uncomplicated democratic transition. At once the scholars predicted that three other states, Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovakia, would fail to democratize, particularly because they were not characterized by these three factors. The key differentiating factor in the paper, and in turn what the three factors were expected to correlate with, was the degree of ethnic nationalism in each state’s respective politics. By contrast, the situation in 2017 looks decidedly different. Hungary under Viktor Orbán has sunk to Romania- and Bulgaria- levels of democracy, and Poland’s recent re-election of the populist Law and Justice (PiS) seems to signal the emergence of an analogous trend in that state. Further, both of these parties have at once mobilized ethnic nationalist rhetoric in order to legitimize their own political ambitions. The aim of this paper, then, is to answer two questions relating to Vachudova and Snyder’s 1997 formulations. The first aims to respond to why, contrary to the expectations of these scholars, Hungary and Poland have seen the emergence of ethnic nationalist politics. The second question aims to explain why Hungary, though seemingly identical to Poland in its initial democratic conditions, has seen the mobilization of ethnic nationalism to a far more extreme and anti-democratic degree.