The recovery of Civil Society in Eastern Europe 1989-2009 - An Overview

The collapse of the communist regime in Eastern Europe, including Russia since 1989 has brought about a tremendous overall change in the history of the world in general, as well as of each country in the area in particular. In twenty years after the downfall of the Berlin Wall, the Eastern Europe has been undergoing a painful transition from totalitarian dictatorship into democracy. The communist legacy is indeed a heavy burden in the patrimonial heritage of the countries in the region that it takes a long time to fully dismantle that deep rooted politico-cultural system, and to rebuild anew the country with totally decent and adequate structures politically, legally, economically as well as culturally and spiritually.
Let’s take the case of the colossal Soviet Union at the demise of the communism in the early 1990’s, when it broke down into 15 separate countries. The state practice regarding state succession between these ex-communist countries with Russia has still been settled with thorny issues of ethnic minorities, migration/repatriation of large number of displaced persons, even the territorial disputes, the liquidation of the former All Soviet Union apparatus etc…
Certainly, there is all the time the other side of a medal. The democratic transition that we are observing and analyzing for this study will show how complex and challenging is the task of nation-building for each and every country of the region in the post-communist era. In some cases, the victims of the communist oppression/persecution in the recent past have become themselves victimizers against the weaker groups/individuals as they now have power or opportunity to do so. The vendetta, reprisal is also frequently observed among various groups/ethnicities at the dramatic change of fate during this uncertain and unstable situation.

While much has been written about the political transformation of the area at the 20th Anniversary of the Berlin Wall Collapse (1989-2009), the re-emergence of the Civil Society requires more of a study in depth, covering not only the socio-political, legal, economic etc…, but also the cultural, religious and spiritual dimensions as well. As we all know, the Civil Society is one of the three components of the “Social Space”, the two other being: the State and the Marketplace. So that one can conveniently put this definition into the following simple equation:
“The Social Space = The State + The Marketplace + The Civil Society”. In principle, these components are distinctive operational units but forming together a harmonious co-existence aiming at the service of the whole community in any certain geographical area, be it at the local, regional or national, even global level. But practically, within a totalitarian dictatorship as under the communist regime, the party extends its monopoly not only in the government, but also in the economic domain as well as in the cultural/spiritual area, thus minimizing and manipulating without mercy the third sector that’s the Civil Society. Now as the communism collapses, the people are allowed to regain their right of self-determination in the reorganizing of not only the Administration, but also the Economy and particularly the Civil Society.
To simplify the presentation, we would like to propose this content for the study of the post-communist Civil Society in Eastern Europe in the 1989-2009 period as follows:

I – The Legal Framework of the nation – rebuilding.

11 – The Constitutional/Political Reform
12 – The Market Economy Re- Establishment
13 – The Legislation regulating the Third Sector.
II – The Revival of the NGO/NPO (Non-Governmental/Non- Profit Organizations)

21 – Some typical cases: The Youth movement, The Red Cross, The Humanitarian Organizations etc…
22 – The Intelligentsia/Academia
23 – The Connection with Overseas Groups/Organizations .
III – The Revival of Churches and Religious Groups.

31 – The Restitution of Church properties and The Resuming of Faith-based Action Program
32 – The Inter-Faith Dialogue/Co-Operation
33 – The Communication with Universal Churches./