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   Course Title    Political Reforms in East and Central Europe
Lecturer    Kaire Kroos
Institution    Estonian Business School
Country    Estonia

Course objectives

This course offers an introduction to the fascinating, but complex and constantly changing, world of post-communism in what used to be known as Eastern Europe and the USSR. The course analyses the political developments in the whole region from the establishment of the communist regimes to the emergence of democratic nation states and after. Special emphasises is put on problems associated with economic transition and democratisation. The course is planned as a two-credit course, meeting once a week throughout the Spring semester.


The final grade will be placed upon:

  • Position Papers, Participation in the Seminars: 50%
  • Comparative Country Presentation: 15%
  • Final Essay: 35%

Teaching methods

Position Papers, Participation in the Seminars

As the teaching is multidisciplinary, comparative and problem – oriented, students are encouraged to participate actively in every class. There are five seminars where students can discuss and debate their ideas. In order to assure that students have read assigned readings prior to the class, everyone has to hand in a brief one-page position paper by 4 o’clock on Friday prior to the class.

Comparative Country Presentation

In order to give you a chance to get a better understanding of the region, you have to make comparative country presentations. You are asked to work in the groups of two and compare two countries in some aspect from the region of East and Central Europe and previous USSR and give an oral presentation in the class. It is very important to agree on the selection of the countries beforehand and confirm your choice with me to avoid presentations on the same choice of countries.


Due to the young nature of transition studies, there is no concrete book to build the course upon, therefore the reading material for the course is put together from various contemporary journals, books and manuscripts. To make your life easier, I have put together a selection of the literature to a reader. For every topic covered in class there is selection of texts by various authors, which I have considered important. You are asked to read them prior to the class and for the seminar write a position paper based on what you have read.

Final Exam

Instead a final exam there you are asked to write final essay. The length of the essay is 10 pages, (1,5 spacing Times New Roman or Arial). You can choose the topic of your essay on your own, but you have to confirm it with me.

Tentative course schedule

Class 1

February 6 Introduction to the course, terminology, methodology

Class 2

February 13 The Socialist System in Historical Perspective, the Nature of Communist Regimes

Class 3

February 20 Creaks in the System: Polish Disturbances, Hungarian Revolution , Prague Spring

Class 4

February 27 East European End Games

Class 5

March 6 Seminar: Why did the revolutions occur in 1989?

Class 6

March 13 Introduction to `Post-Communism`: Economic Reform Package

Class 7

March 20 Privatisation, the consequences of shock therapy

Class 8

March 27 Seminar: `Shock Therapy` versus `Gradualism`

Class 9

April 3 The Formation of Democracy, Parties, Party Systems and Civil Society

Class 10

April 10 Institution-Building: From Interest Group Movements to the Formation of New Parties

Class 11

April 17 Who are the Winners and Losers of Transformation?

Class 12

April 24 Nationalism, Citizenship and Ethnicity

Class 13

May 8 Seminar: the Case of non-Estonians in Estonia

Class 14

May 15 Concluding Remarks

Class 15

May 22 Seminar: Why Have Some Countries Done So Much Better Than Others in the Transformation Process?

Course Literature:

Here is a selection of books used during the course:

Åslund. A., (ed.) Russia’s Economic Transformation in the 1990s, London and Washington: A Casell Imprint, 1997.

Balcerowicz, L., Socialism, Capitalism, Transformation. Budapest: Central European University Press, 1998.

Crampton, R. J., Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century and After, New York: Routledge, 1997.

Hutchinson, J., and Smith. A., D., Nationalism, Oxford: Oxford University Press,1994.

Holmes, L., Post-Communism: An Introduction, Polity Press: Cambridge, 1998.

Lauristin, M. and Vihalemm, P. Return to the Western World: Cultural and Political Perspectives on the Estonian Post-Communist Transition, Tartu: Tartu University Press, 1995.

Tismaneanu, V., (ed). The revolutions of 1989, London and New York: Routledge, 1999.

Schöpflin, G., Politics in Eastern Europe 1945-1992, Oxford and Cambridge: Blackwell, 1998.

Soros, G., Opening the Soviet System, Budapest: Central European University Press, 1990.

Stark, D., Bruszt, L., Postsocialist Pathways: Transforming Politics and Property Rights in East Central Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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