From Goulash-Communism to Goulash-Authoritarianism?

Some Comments on Political Discourse and Regime-Building in Post-Transition Hungary[1]

The present situation in Hungary is a challenge for the model that has shaped the political life of Western Europe since WWII. The way the European Union handles the Hungarian issue has a significance that reaches well beyond the individual case of a minor East Central European state and might become an indicator of the direction European political culture will take in the decades to come.

An election poster of Viktor Orban, leader of Hungarian opposition party Fidesz, is reflected in a puddle of water in central Budapest

The recent European debate on the political developments in Hungary, erupting after the controversial constitutional reform and the contested governmental practices of the Orbán-government, which came (back) to power in Spring 2010, has focused on roughly four issues. The first is the relationship of political rhetoric to the prime minister’s alleged penchant for Realpolitik. To put it bluntly, when he talks – usually in front of a domestic audience – about the national community being constituted by blood ties, about the decline of Western civilization and the concomitant rise of China as the new model (as well as expressing manifest sympathy towards the political elites of Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan), or about the return to a European order based on work and prayer, does he really ‘mean’ what he says? If so, this set of values seems to be at odds with the mainstream political culture of the European Union, which stresses civic rather than ethnic elements in the constitution of political communities, seeks to preserve the European social and economic ‘model’ that combines efficiency with human rights, and – while not negating the cultural importance of religion – separates religious norms and practice rather strictly from the political sphere. There are, however, many observers who point out that such claims form part of the common political toolkit of the new generation of populist politicians all over Europe, which ultimately caters to a certain type of electorate, but that apart from these propagandistic performances the Hungarian politician is a pragmatist who can be engaged in the usual ‘tit for tat’ mechanisms of European institutional politics.

The second issue concerns the purported logic of post-WWII European political system, according to which the alternation of governing parties gravitating toward the center conflicts with the apparent “systemic” aspirations of Orbán and FIDESZ. Is the unusual two-thirds governmental majority, which makes it possible to alter practically any rule of the political game (and, most importantly, to reshape electoral law so that, with 40 percent of the votes, it is possible to get over 60 percent of the places), an anomaly that will be corrected by the next election? Will the pendulum eventually swing back, sooner or later bringing a complete change of government? Or are we faced with the emergence of a political system comparable to Putin’s “sovereign democracy”, which respects the principle of democratic elections pro forma but, via administrative measures and media dominance, in reality makes it impossible for the opposition to overturn the government?

The third issue concerns the politics of the European Parliament, where, especially in the first two years after 2010, voting concerning Hungary drew a surprisingly rigid line between, on the one hand, the left and liberal parties and, on the other, the center-right and radical right. The discussion focused on the compatibility of FIDESZ with the European “family” of People’s Parties. Is FIDESZ merely a more emphatic and – for some Western neo-conservatives, more daring – edition of the centre-right popular party, in the context of the partial dismantling of the welfare state, or is it a radical right-wing formation that has nothing to do with the ideological tradition of Adenauer, Schuman and De Gasperi?

Last but not least, the debate on Hungary has once again posed the question of the European relevance of anti-communism, both in terms of memory politics and also with regard to the stance of the European political framework toward the pre-1989 continuities in the political system of most transition countries. Is anti-communism a constitutive element of the envisioned all-European political culture, in a similar way as anti-fascism, and if so, does it legitimize the fervent anti-communist rhetoric used in the struggles for power in the former Eastern Bloc countries after 1989?

In order to find adequate answers to these dilemmas, it is imperative in my opinion to offer a context-sensitive reconstruction of the configuration that emerged in the first decade of the twenty-first century in Hungary. It is also important to stress that while the radicalism of some of the ideological tenets professed by the political and cultural circles around the Hungarian government might be not typical in European comparison, most of the constitutive elements of their rhetoric can be found in other national contexts as well. It thus becomes obvious that the emergence of this ideological configuration is part of a more general collapse of “consensus politics” characterizing the East Central European transition countries.

The late 1990s and early 2000s have been considered a period of social and political stabilization of the “Other Europe”, marked by a growing economic and institutional convergence with the Western part of the continent. At the same time, paradoxically, the ideological conflict between different political forces did not lose its intensity. Obviously, the “consensus politics” forced mainly by the prospect of European integration should not be confused with harmony. Already during the emergence of the new democratic system, deep ideological conflicts ravaged the political life of these countries. Nevertheless, in the early 1990s, personal and political cleavages notwithstanding, a relatively large segment of the new political elite, left and right, post-communist and anti-communist, still shared a common commitment to the necessity of the institutional reforms stipulated by the ‘transition paradigm’. This entailed the consensual aim of ‘getting closer’ to European structures and adopting European institutional practices, with their respect for democratic procedural rules, since they seemed to command social support and were also legitimized by the manifest historical victory of “Western” liberal democracy over “Eastern” communism. Most importantly, it entailed a certain propensity for “self-restraint” – both in terms of not using the full scale of administrative pressure available to a governmental party for reshaping the political system at the expense of the opposition and also in terms of a certain reluctance to develop the inflexible antipathies and ideological divisions that characterized the political cultures of these countries in the interwar period.

This democratic and Europeanizing “minimal consensus” was also linked to a critical stance toward pre-communist authoritarian political traditions and entailed the rejection of the personality cult of leader figures, even though it did not prevent the emergence of a number of semi-authoritarian leaders, propelled to power by a combination of skillfully instrumentalized anti-elitism, a feeling of national and social insecurity, and the increasing popular frustration at institutionalist, and thus rather immobile, political arrangements. Simultaneously, most political forces stemming from the communist party were also eager to subscribe to some sort of liberal democratic ideological minimum – at least when the offer of European integration became a tangible incentive. This liberal framework seemed to be so dominant that, notwithstanding the quick disappearance of explicitly liberal political forces in most countries, many observers spoke of a liberal hegemony in East Central Europe. However all this became increasingly precarious in the late 1990s and, from the turn of the millennium onwards, the search began for a new ideological framework.

Beyond the inherent thrust toward political polarization, the erosion of post-1989 consensus politics can be linked to a series of divisive collective experiences in the respective political communities. The pervasive pro-Western European stance characterizing the early, naive stage of the transition, which was combined with very limited interaction with Western institutions, gradually started to change in the process of negotiation and adaptation to EU structures. Various frustrations with the pace and direction of the transformation came to be linked to perceived or real pressure from “the West”. This was coupled with increasing disaffection with the workings of a market economy, which, contrary to expectations, resulted in dramatic social differentiation and a marked disappearance of national sovereignty in the economic sphere in the face of the powerful multinational companies and transnational financial structures.

The transition societies also carried a number of unresolved historical traumas: the dramatic instability of state borders and the experiences of massive population transfers and displacements, especially during and after the Second World War; the Holocaust; the destructive effects of the socialist transformation with its concomitant campaigns of collectivization, “de-kulakization,” and forced industrialization; and, finally, the outbursts of mass terror as well as the complicated dialectics of compromise and resistance characterizing both the interwar authoritarian and the post-war communist regimes. In the heat of the search for future-oriented solutions in the early 1990s, these traumas remained to a large extent suppressed, but continued to feed the divergent ‘private histories,’ which could coagulate into competing alternative representations of the twentieth century that could be eventually played out against each other.

Naturally, the ideological components of this “politics in a new key” were drawn from different pre-existing reservoirs, ranging from the interwar constructions of national authenticity to the ideological debates of the anti-communist opposition circles. Thus, the new ideology questioning the legitimacy of the post-transition regime inherited some elements from the anti-communist discourse of the early 1990s but in many ways also went beyond it. Most importantly, it not only turned against the heirs of the communist power structures, but even more so against those former dissidents who abandoned the anti-communist platform and chose either to enter into an actual coalition with post-communist political forces or concluded that the post-transition context posed new challenges, foremost that of ethno-nationalism, and that the fight against the vestiges of the communist regime was no longer the most important task.

In contrast to the anti-communism of the early transition years, which stemmed from the fear of restoration and was rooted in a liberal, anti-totalitarian framework that functioned as a legitimizing factor for the new democratic regime, the new anti-communism was markedly anti-liberal and came to serve as an ideological framework questioning the legitimacy of the whole transition process. Significantly, the emerging intellectual formulations of this new anti-communism did not necessarily come from people who had been the most radical anti-communists during the earlier phase.

Another important aspect connected to all this was the seemingly paradoxical development triggered by the advancement of European integration and the dissolution of self-restraint on the part of political elites. Once the formal democratization criteria were met and the integration of most of East Central Europe into the European Union became irreversible, a majoritarian understanding of democracy and a concomitant zero-sum perception of political struggle became dominant in the political cultures of the region. All this led to the growing aggressiveness of political discourse, culminating in constructed and sustained radical visions of mutual elimination – mobilizing one’s own camp by accusing the ideological opponent of aiming at one’s total destruction. The struggle was thus not framed in terms of political competition within a procedural framework of democracy which could allow for the clash of different visions of the future but would also make it possible to change direction over time. Instead, politics became represented as the clash of fundamentally incompatible Weltanschauungen that both aim at changing the outlook, and often the very composition, of the political community once for all. From this perspective, it became legitimate to prevent the breakthrough of the opponent by any means, including the subversion of the procedural structures mentioned above. The radicalization was also linked to the change in the horizons of expectation of the political community: while in 1989-90 a major factor of moderation was the fear of civil war between communists and anti-communists, the vestiges of this fear completely disappeared by the 2000s. What remained was a discourse of “secret deals”, “embezzled transition”, and the “betrayal” of the society by the transition elites.

The rejection of ‘transition liberalism’ on the basis of cultural, political and socio-economic arguments and the search for a new ideological framework putting the whole transition period into brackets became a central theme of public discourse in Hungary, which seemed to be the most eminent ‘pupil’ of Westernization in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This development can be followed in the shifting political discourse of intellectuals linked to FIDESZ, a party that in 1989-93 combined radical anti-communism with a liberal democratic vision of politics. By 1998, when Viktor Orbán became the prime minister of a right-wing coalition government, the liberal democratic element was minimized and the ideologists close to the leadership started to experiment with a right-wing republican discourse. They used the notion of ‘citizen’ as the central normative concept – not in the sense of the citoyen conscious of his/her civic rights but as a counter-concept of socialism. It was inspired by communitarianism, stressing organic social links in contrast to the ‘mechanistic’ social engineering of really existing socialism, combined with a dose of neo-liberalism, envisioning a new middle class not relying on the welfare system of the state but seeking to realize itself within the new framework based on private property. While ‘citizen’ was obviously meant as a counter-concept to the ‘subject’ of the communist regime and thus entailed a rejection of the recent past, it had limited historical referentiality. As this framework turned out to be unable to provide mass support for the government (due to the relatively high level of nostalgia for the welfare system of really existing socialism), Orbán and the intellectual circle around him opted for a more history-centered strategy of legitimization. This was indicated by the pompous celebrations in 2000 commemorating the millennium of Hungarian statehood. It also meant a powerful turn back to archaic symbols, pre-eminently the Holy Crown, which from a venerated but antiquated object was upgraded to serve as the official symbol of national unity and state continuity.

This discourse was radicalized even further after 2002, when FIDESZ unexpectedly lost the elections. Challenging the legitimacy of the socialist-liberal coalition government with an ethno-nationalist rhetoric (claiming that “the nation cannot be in opposition”, which implied that the actual left-liberal government was a historical anomaly), the right-wing political and cultural elite sought to regain power by a wide-ranging social mobilization. The emergence of a national conservative parallel polis, based on local voluntary associations, the so-called “civic circles” – polgári körök –entailed among other things the creation of a concurrent cultural infrastructure (ranging from ideologically committed media to an alternative art academy) that would “re-conquer” the public sphere from the representatives of “alien interests”. The underlying political discourse was a combination of fervent anti-communism, anti-liberalism, cultural traditionalism, statism, and an increasing ethno-nationalism targeting Hungarians living outside of Hungary as constitutive members of the Hungarian political community. In some ways they were described as more authentically Hungarian – since they have been protecting their identity from the dangers of assimilation for decades – than the “unconscious” Hungarians in the mother country.

After almost a decade of political mobilization and increasingly violent mass politics following 2006, the 2010 elections brought an absolute majority to Viktor Orbán’s FIDESZ in Parliament (the party received 52 percent of the votes but, due to the electoral system, won 68 percent of the seats). The most important reason for this victory was arguably the gradual delegimitization of the socialist government, which had sought to implement a Blairite ‘third way’ agenda in the absence of a solid and relatively broad middle class, while also becoming involved into a series of corruption scandals which undermined the entire rhetoric of public sector reform. Another major blow was obviously the gradually deepening global economic crisis, which reinforced the already tangible signs of economic downturn. As a result, the socialists lost most of their lower middle class electorate in the economically crisis-ridden areas of Eastern Hungary, where especially the population of the impoverished former centers of heavy industry, unable to profit from the conditions of market economy, had become increasingly alienated from the government and turned massively towards the extreme right. Rather than promising constitutional change, FIDESZ campaigned with an anti-corruption rhetoric and promised immediate measures to curtail unemployment to increase public security. After the victory, however, the election was reinterpreted as a fundamental break, a “polling booth revolution”, supposedly ending two decades of corruption and disorientation and opening up the possibility of the creation of a completely new political-social order, which received the somewhat Orwellian name of “System of National Cooperation”.

The Hungarian context is particularly interesting since it also entailed the internationalization of a local conflict. When European political actors and institutions began to criticize the controversial measures of the Orbán government, such as the media law or the introduction of a new basic law with a heavily ideological preamble, its propagandists sought to ‘explain’ to the Western public the underlying agenda of the government. They emphasized Orbán’s anti-communism, referred to his carefully cultivated image of a radical revolutionary of 1989, and described his measures as the emancipation of the country from the political and economic dominance of (post-) communists.

The ‘cultural turn’ of the regime’s ideological legitimization abroad coincided with the appearance of Orbán in the European Parliament facing the disapproval of socialist and green MPs, with the most fiery criticism being formulated by Daniel Cohn-Bendit. In response, Orbán started to talk about a fundamental cleavage between him and his critics, claiming to represent the “forgotten Europe” of Christianity, the family and national pride, which had been undermined by the Western 68ers as much as by Eastern Communists.

On the ‘home front’, the binary opposition of a ‘cosmopolitan’ Left composed of former dissidents and post-communists, allegedly representing the past, and a ‘national’ and future-oriented Right, became a central element of the official ideology of the “System of National Cooperation”. It also provided discursive self-legitimization for the extreme right, concentrated in the parliamentary party Jobbik, that received almost 17 percent of the vote in 2010. This makes it possible for Jobbik to assume a complex political position – to criticize the government not for its program but for not pursuing the implications of its ideological commitments “consequently enough”, thus providing a possible Hinterland for ideological mobilization in certain conflict situations. In contrast to the international self-legitimization of the Orbán government, which claims that the victory of FIDESZ saved the country from the rule of the extreme right, in reality there is a strong ideological entanglement between the two political forces, even though Jobbik is evidently provocative exactly in the areas (such as anti-Semitism) where the government is under the most obvious external pressure to comply with “European norms”, at least rhetorically.

A distinctive factor of the system emerging in Hungary is the conscious mobilization of civil society even after the return to power of FIDESZ; this contributes to the atmosphere of “permanent revolution”. As a matter of fact, these developments provide clear proof of the profound ambiguity of the notion of civil society, which in the context of the Eastern European transitions has for a long time been perceived as a key agent of democratization. On the contrary, what the last decade has shown is the immense power of a profoundly anti-liberal civic mobilization that has created an anti-democratic and often ethno-nationalist “parallel polis”. Based on voluntary participation (albeit reinforced by the skillful management of mass demonstrations, using state money to transport the demonstrators to the right place, etc.), the membership of these associations were kept in a permanent state of mobilization via parallel channels of communication, collective rituals and symbols (usually linked to the interwar tradition of ethnic nationalism), and particular patterns of sociability and solidarity, and could thus be converted into the power bases of the government when their charismatic leader eventually came (back) to power.

An obvious link also exists between the discourse about the corruption of the transition elites, which supposedly subordinated the national interest to the promotion of global integration (in practice this meant dependence on foreign “financial circles”), and the current measures aiming both at the creation of a national entrepreneurial elite close to the government and the complete dismantling of pro-Western cultural and educational frameworks. The professed aim of the educational reforms implemented in the last 3 years is to produce a new generation which accepts a much more hierarchical order, which internalizes traditional religious and gender norms, and which valorizes physical fitness over critical thinking. It is telling that, in a recent speech inaugurating the new school year, the secretary of state in charge of primary and secondary education recently stated that the most important teacher in the school is the gym teacher.

Overall, the neo-conservative ideological framework emerging in Hungary has come to question the entire transition process while seeking to offer a “more stable” framework of authority and identity. It has sought to replace the goulash-communism of Kádár with a new system that promises to “take care” of the needs of its subjects, in return for their relinquishing of democratic political control. This is so much so that during the last few years criticism of the communist regime as such has been considerably quieter than the criticism of the transition years. In a way it seems as if Kádár’s paternalist, authoritarian socialism is more akin to the self-image of the “System of National Cooperation” than the “anomic” political life of pluralist democracy. This impression is reinforced by the government’s co-opting of a number of symbolic and less symbolic figures of the communist regime (such as the “national communist” reformer and high-ranking member of the leadership of the 1980s, Imre Pozsgay, but also many rank and file bureaucrats, including the above-mentioned secretary of state with a strong Catholic-conservative agenda, Rózsa Hoffmann, who was not only member of the Party but also served as a senior bureaucrat of the ministry of education in the 1970s).

While the inspiration is most probably subconscious, the observer might also find a certain resonance, one that goes beyond the conceptual overlap, between the “Peace Marches” organized by a nominally civil society organization copiously funded by the current government and the “Peace Struggle” of the 1950s. Whereas the latter was a key trope of mass mobilization in Stalinist Eastern Europe, targeting the imperialist aggression of the West, the former brings together hundreds of thousands of Orbán’s supporters by using an increasingly militant anti-colonial rhetoric aimed both against the internal traitors who want to “sell the country once again” to foreigners and against the European Union, which is presented as a new colonial empire that has taken the place of the Turks, Habsburgs and Soviets in suppressing Hungarian independence.

Of course, the more explicit historical model is the interwar period: references to the Horthy-regime as a period of stability and normality (after the “chaos” of the democratic revolution of 1918 and the communist takeover of 1919) are increasingly central to the self-legitimization of the government and its intellectual entourage. One of the most obvious parallels consists in Orbán’s positioning of himself as a “dominant center” marginalizing both the left and the extreme right. In the interwar period, it was allegedly the mainstream national conservative elite that performed the same feat (at least until the late 1930s, although in the emerging official narrative the Horthy regime is credited with preserving the rule of law until the German occupation in March 1944, a historical artifice which ultimately seeks to avert responsibility for the persecution of the Hungarian Jews away from the Hungarian authorities). However, similar to the 1920-30s, the discourse and political agenda of this “dominant center” is more akin to that of the radical right than to the left and the symbolic dividing line is drawn between the “national” and “anti-national” forces.

Taking all this together, I would argue that it makes more sense to look at the system emerging in Hungary in systemic terms rather than as a set of disparate statements and improvised outcomes. By building a new institutional and ideological framework, the power elite seeks to perpetuate its power and to implement a social transformation that creates a new reality fitting the “new world order” it projects into the near future. While the central transmitters of this discourse are skillful politicians seeking to fabricate a charismatic type of legitimacy, these tropes are also the projections of certain intellectual subcultures that seek to realize their wish for cultural-institutional hegemony by opting for a symbolic-political discourse of fundamental renewal in which a new hierarchy will put an end to the period of liminality characterizing the transition.

Of course, as shown by the rise and fall of many politicians in the region and beyond in the last two decades, the intention to build a new system should not be confused with the actual creation of a lasting and sustainable framework. In every personalized political regime there are many unpredictable factors and occurrences which might completely reshuffle the power balance. Nevertheless, in my opinion is mistaken to see ideological developments in Hungary as a combination of cynical populism that serves mobilization but does not really reflect institutional practices, or as a set of individual “violations” of the European legal norms. One should take the avowed intentions of the Hungarian government seriously in the sense that it is indeed the government of the “System of National Cooperation”. This system entails a certain view on the past and the future and a set of socio-economic and anthropological insights about the human being as being embedded in “warm” biopolitical communities (family and ethnic nation) and in need of a certain hierarchy to organize his/her life. Its socio-economic vision is rooted in the rejection of the market as a legitimate regulator of economic behavior, a task it delegates to the state bureaucracy. In this framework, curbing the influence of trade unions and limiting the legal provisions that protect employees (which could be seen as typical neo-liberal measures) combines with economic protectionism and a penchant for corporatism, via the establishment of various chambers representing different branches of the economy and the state sector with compulsory membership and strong ideological control.

Last but not least, the system also entails a peculiar understanding of democracy – not in the sense of popular participation in government by means of representative institutions, nor in the sense of envisioning a possible change of government as a result of popular vote, but in the tradition of the nineteenth-century Eastern European variation on the theme of the volonté générale, conceived as an emanation of the national spirit, embodied in the charismatic national awakeners who represent the “true self” of the nation and who understand the true interests of the nation better than individual citizens.

All these elements are deeply rooted in the local political culture, carrying as it does the trauma of dependence on external imperial structures and “great powers”, and are shaped by the experience of three long-lasting paternalistic-autocratic regimes over the last 160 years, in contrast to the volatile democratic periods of 1848-49, 1918, 1945-47 and the post-1989 decades. Francis Joseph, Horthy and Kádár all established their rule with terror and all became “fathers of the nation”, playing a key role in perpetuating the imperial dependence of Hungary but at the same time conferring the illusion of relative independence. This is evident in the curious duality of political communication, which both raises the eventual possibility of exiting the “oppressive” European Union but at the same time seeking to lobby as much as possible from the structural funds of EU, which is legitimized by a discourse stressing that it is not Hungary that has abandoned European norms but rather that it is the European Union that has betrayed the “real” European values.

In this sense, the most important point of divergence from the previous instances of authoritarian regimes is doubtlessly the current international context; despite all the crisis talk surrounding it, the EU is still a framework eminently capable of defending certain elements of liberal democracy in Hungary. Of course, this is not entirely unambiguous, since ultimately it requires going beyond a merely economic and legalistic understanding of the task of European institutions and acting according to a moral imperative posited “behind” these institutions. The Hungarian situation also poses questions about the limits of pro forma democratic sovereignty, the relationship between an ethnic and a civic understanding of the nation, as well as the acceptability of the manifest economic protectionism of member states in the shadow of the global economic crisis. And finally it raises the problem of the sustainability of the model that shaped the political life of Western Europe after WWII, one based on self-limiting political and ideological struggle. Seen from this perspective, the way the European Union handles the Hungarian issue has a significance that reaches well beyond the individual case of a minor East Central European state and might become a powerful indicator of the direction European political culture will take in the decades to come.


Balázs Trencsényi, Ph.D., is Associate Professor at the Department of History, CEU. His research focuses on the comparative history of political thought in East Central Europe and the history of historiography. He is co-director of Pasts, Inc., Center for Historical Studies at CEU and Associate Editor of the periodical East Central Europe (Brill). He was a Junior Visiting Fellow at IWM Vienna and at Collegium Budapest, a Andrew W. Mellon-Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and a Junior Visiting Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study Sofia. He is the author of the monograph, The Politics of ‘National Character’: A Study in Interwar East European Thought (Routledge 2012), as well as co-editor of Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1775–1945) (CEU Press 2006-7); Narratives Unbound: Historical Studies in Post-Communist Eastern Europe (CEU Press 2007); Whose Love of Which Country? Composite States, National Histories and Patriotic Discourses in Early Modern East Central Europe (Brill 2010); and Hungary and Romania beyond National Narratives: Comparisons and Entanglements (Peter Lang 2013).

© Author / Transit 2013

[1] The present text draws on parts of the essay, “Beyond Liminality? The Kulturkampf of the early 2000s in East Central Europe,” to be published in the forthcoming special issue of boundary2 (Duke University) on Eastern Europe. I would like to thank the editors of boundary2 for agreeing to my use of these excerpts.

Tr@nsit Online Authors

  • Bradley F. Abrams

    History, Stanford University
    Read more

  • Thomas Ahbe

    Thomas Ahbe studierte Philosophie, Ökonomie und Soziologie. Seit 1998 wirkt er freischaffend als Sozialwissenschaftler und Publizist. Seine Arbeitsschwerpunkte sind Diskurs- und Kulturgeschichte der deutschen Zweistaatlichkeit und der ostdeutschen Transformation sowie die Generationengeschichte der DDR und Ostdeutschlands.   Print

  • Karl Aiginger

    Karl Aiginger is Director of WIFO (Österreichisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung), Professor of Economics and Coordinator of the project A new growth path for Europe within the 7th European Framework Program.   Print

  • Huercan Asli Aksoy

    Ph.D. candidate in Political Science, University of Tübingen
    Read more

  • Sorin Antohi

    Sorin Antohi is Professor of History at Central European University, Budapest.   Print

  • Timothy Garton Ash

    History, Oxford
    Read more

  • Roumen Avramov

    Program director for economic research at the Center for Liberal Strategies, Sofia
    Read more

  • Adam Baczko

    PhD Candidate in Political Science, EHESS, Paris
    Read more

  • Rainer Bauböck

    Rainer Bauböck is professor of social and political theory at the European University Institute in Florence. In 2006 he was awarded the Latsis Prize of the European Science Foundation for his work on immigration and social cohesion in modern societies. Among his many publications are Immigration and Boundaries of Citizenship (1992), Transnational Citizenship: Membership and …
    Read more

  • Steven Beller

    Geschichte, Cambridge
    Read more

  • Naja Bentzen

    Freelance journalist, Wien
    Read more

  • Luiza Bialasiewicz

    Professor of European Governance, University of Amsterdam
    Read more

  • Muriel Blaive

    Advisor to the Director, in Charge of Research and Methodology, Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Prague
    Read more

  • András Bozóki

    Professor of Political Science, Central European University, Budapest
    Read more

  • José Casanova

    Professor für Soziologie, New School for Social Research, New York
    Read more

  • Daniel Chirot

    Soziologie, Seattle
    Read more

  • Robert Cooper

    Robert Cooper ist britischer Diplomat und derzeit als Sonderberater des Europäischen Auswärtigen Dienstes (European External Action Service, EEAS) tätig. Er ist zudem Gründungsmitglied des European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).   Print

  • Peter Demetz

    Sterling Professor Emeritus of German and Comparative Literature, Yale University; Korrespondierendes Mitglied des IWM
    Read more

  • James Dodd

    Associate Professor of Philosophy, Special Advisor to the Dean on Faculty Affairs, New School for Social Research
    Read more

  • Martin Endreß

    Martin Endreß ist Professor für Soziologie an der Universität Trier.   Print

  • Mischa Gabowitsch

    Mischa Gabowitsch ( is a research fellow at the Einstein Forum in Potsdam. He is the author of Putin kaputt!? (Suhrkamp, 2013), a study of the 2011-13 Russian protests for fair elections, and maintains, which collects academic resources for the study of protest in Russia.   Print

  • Charles Gati

    Charles Gati is Senior Acting Director of Russian and Eurasian Studies and Foreign Policy Institute Senior Fellow at the School of Advanced International Studies at the Johns Hopkins University, Washington, D.C.     Print

  • Dessy Gavrilova

    Dessy Gavrilova is the founding Director of The Red House – Center for Culture and Debate in Sofia, Bulgaria.     Print

  • Keith Gessen

    Keith Gessen is a freelance writer living in Cambridge, MA.   Print

  • Gerhard Gnauck

    Warsaw correspondent for Die Welt
    Read more

  • Katya Gorchinskaya

    Managing Editor for Investigative Programming, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (REF/RL), Kyiv
    Read more

  • John Gray

    John Gray is Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics.   Print

  • Rainer Gries

    Rainer Gries lehrt und forscht als Universitätsprofessor am Historischen Institut der Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, am Institut für Publizistik- und Kommunikationswissenschaft der Universität Wien sowie an der Sigmund Freud PrivatUniversität Wien. Zu seinen Forschungsschwerpuntken zählen u.a. die Gesellschaftsgeschichte Deutschlands und Österreichs im 20. Jahrhundert und die Geschichte des Konsums in Europa.   Print

  • Eva Hahn

    Read more

  • Gábor Halmai

    Professor of Law, Department of European Studies; Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
    Read more

  • Elemer Hankiss

    Professor für Politikwissenschaft, Eötvös Lorand Universität, Budapest; Korrespondierendes Mitglied des IWM
    Read more

  • Miklós Haraszti

    Miklós Haraszti is a writer, journalist, human rights advocate and university professor. He served the maximum of two terms as the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media from 2004 to 2010. Currently he is Adjunct Professor at the School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia Law School, New York. Haraszti studied philosophy and …
    Read more

  • Sabine Hark

    Sabine Hark forscht an der Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftlichen Fakultät der Universität Potsdam, Professur für Frauenforschung.   Print

  • Annemieke Hendriks

    Freelance journalist, Berlin
    Read more

  • Charles Hirschman

    Charles Hirschman is Boeing International Professor at the Department of Sociology and the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, Washington University.     Print

  • Jennifer L. Hochschild

    Jennifer L. Hochschild is Professor of Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and Professor of African and African-American Studies at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University.   Print

  • Yaroslav Hrytsak

    History, Central European University Budapest
    Read more

  • Richard Hyman

    Richard Hyman ist Professor für Politikwissenschaft an der London School of Economics.   Print

  • Vladislav Inozemtsev

    Professor of Economics at Higher School of Economics; Director, Centre for Post-Industrial Studies, Moscow
    Read more

  • Bruce P. Jackson

    Bruce P. Jackson is the founder and President of the Project on Transitional Democracies. The Project is a multi-year endeavour aimed at accelerating the pace of reform in post-1989 democracies and advancing the date for the integration of these democracies into the institutions of the Euro-Atlantic. Jackson has written extensively about the engagement of Russia …
    Read more

  • Tom Junes

    Visiting Researcher, Warsaw University, and Visiting Lecturer in Polish history, KULeuven, Belgium
    Read more

  • Alex J. Kay

    Alex J. Kay holds a PhD in History from the Humboldt University Berlin.   Print

  • Anatoly M. Khazanov

    Anatoly M. Khazanov ist Professor für Anthropologie an der University of Wisconsin, Madison.   Print

  • Cornelia Klinger

    Professor of Philosophy, University of Tübingen
    Read more

  • Gudrun-Axeli Knapp

    Professor of Social Sciences and Social Psychology, University of Hannover
    Read more

  • Jacek Kochanowicz

    Jacek Kochanowicz is Professor for Economic History at Warsaw University.       Print

  • Michal Kopecek

    International Relations, Charles University Prague
    Read more

  • János Kornai

    János Kornai is Prof. em. for Economics  at Harvard University and Permanent Fellow at the Collegium Budapest – Institute for Advanced Study. He is a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Academia Europeae, and Foreign Member of the American, British, Bulgarian, Finnish, Russian and Swedish Academies. He has served as President of …
    Read more

  • Bilyana Kourtasheva

    Post-Doc in Theory and History of Literature, New Bulgarian University, Sofia
    Read more

  • János Mátyás Kovács

    IWM Permanent Fellow
    Senior member of RECET, Institute of East European History, Vienna University; Professor of Economic History, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
    Read more

  • Ivan Krastev

    IWM Permanent Fellow
    Chair of the Board, Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia
    Read more

  • Yustyna Kravchuk

    PhD candidate in Film and Media Studies, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Kyiv
    Read more

  • Jacek Kucharczyk

    Jacek Kucharczyk ist Head of Programs am Institute of Public Affairs in Warschau.   Print

  • Aleksander Kwasniewski

    Aleksander Kwasniewski war Präsident Polens. Seine Amtszeit verlief von 1995 bis 2005 über zwei Legislaturperioden.   Print

  • Mladen Lazic

    Professor of Sociology, University of Belgrade
    Read more

  • Claus Leggewie

    Professor für Politikwissenschaft, Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen
    Read more

  • Mark Leonard

    Co-founder and Director, European Council on Foreign Relations
    Read more

  • André Liebich

    Honorary Professor of International History and Politics, Graduate Institute, Geneva
    Read more

  • Burkhard Liebsch

    Burkhard Liebsch ist Professor für Philosophie an der Ruhr-Universität Bochum.   Print

  • Michal Luczewski

    Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, Warsaw University
    Read more

  • Charles S. Maier

    Charles S. Maier ist Direktor des Center for European Studies, Harvard University.   Print

  • Andrey Makarychev

    Andrey Makarychev ist Professor und Research Fellow am Institut Osteuropäische Studien an der Freien Universität Berlin.   Print

  • Michał Maciej Matlak

    Ph.D. candidate, Department of Political and Social Sciences, European University Institute, Florence
    Read more

  • Erik Meyer

    Erik Meyer ist seit 2000 wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Sonderforschungsbereich ‘Erinnerungskulturen’ an der Justus-Liebig Universität Gießen.   Print

  • Krzysztof Michalski

    IWM Founding Rector
    Read more

  • Hans J. Misselwitz

    Hans-Jürgen Misselwitz ist ein deutscher SPD-Politiker und Gründungsmitglied des Instituts Solidarische Moderne.   Print

  • Alessandro Monsutti

    Alessandro Monsutti is an associate professor of anthropology and development sociology at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, as well as research associate at the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford. He worked as a consultant for several nongovernmental and international organizations, icnluding UNHCR. His book War and Migration: Social Networks …
    Read more

  • Jan-Werner Müller

    Professor of Politics, Princeton University

    Visiting Fellow
    (September 2016 – August 2017)
    Read more

  • Rainer Münz

    Professor für Bevölkerungswissenschaft, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin; Korrespondierendes Mitglied des IWM
    Read more

  • Sighard Neckel

    Professor of Sociology, Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main
    Read more

  • Katherine Newman

    Katherine S. Newman is the James B. Knapp Dean of The Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. She is a widely published expert on poverty and the working poor who led major interdisciplinary initiatives at Princeton and Harvard universities.     Print

  • Pierre Nora

    Pierre Nora lehrt Geschichte an der École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris.   Print

  • Tereza Novotna

    Political Science, Boston University
    Read more

  • Ewald Nowotny

    Ewald Nowotny is Governor of the Austrian National Bank.   Print

  • Thomas Nowotny

    Thomas Nowotny teaches Political Science at the University of Vienna. He has been Austrian diplomat, private secretary to Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, senior political counselor to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and consultant to the OECD.   Print

  • Vlad Odobescu

    Freelance journalist, Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism, Bucharest
    Read more

  • Andrzej Paczkowski

    Professor für Geschichte, Institut für Politische Studien, Polnische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Warschau
    Read more

  • Emilia Palonen

    Politics, University of Essex
    Read more

  • Irina Papkova

    Irina Papkova is a Research Fellow of Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. She spent five years teaching at the Department of International Relations and European Studies at Central European University, Budapest.   Print

  • Agnieszka Pasieka

    Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from the Martin Luther University, Halle/Saale
    Read more

  • Gleb Pavlovsky

    President, Center of Effective Policies; Member, Public Chamber of the Russian Federation; Editor-in-Chief, The Russian Journal, Moscow
    Read more

  • György Péteri

    Professor of Contemporary European History, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim
    Read more

  • Tanja Petrovic

    Tanja Petrovic works at the Scientific Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Ljubljana.   Print

  • David Petruccelli

    PhD candidate in History, Yale University
    Read more

  • Alexander von Plato

    Alexander von Plato ist ein deutscher Philosoph und Historiker. Er gründete das Instituts für Geschichte und Biographie an der Fernuniversität Hagen, das er bis 2007 leitete. Von 1996 bis 2000 war er Sekretär der International Oral History Association, von 2006 bis 2008 deren Vizepräsident. Er ist Mitherausgeber und Redakteur von BIOS – Zeitschrift für Biographieforschung, Oral …
    Read more

  • Andrei Pleșu

    Andrei Pleșu ist Rektor des New Europe College, Bukarest. 1989- 1991 war er rumänischer Kulturminister und 1997- 1999 rumänischer Außenminister.   Print

  • Martin Pollack

    Martin Pollack, geb. 1944 in OÖ, studierte Slawistik und osteuropäische Geschichte. Er war von 1987 bis 1998 Redakteur des “Spiegel” in Warschau und Wien und lebt heute als Schriftsteller und literarischer Übersetzer in Wien und Bocksdorf im Südburgenland. 2011 erhielt er den Leipziger Buchpreis zur Europäischen Verständigung und 2012 den Stanislaw-Vincenz-Preis. Zuletzt erschien von ihm …
    Read more

  • Krzysztof Pomian

    Krzysztof Pomian is Professor of History at the Nicolaus Copernicus University (Toruń) and Academic Director of the Museum of Europe in Brussels.   Print

  • Romano Prodi

    Romano Prodi war von September 1999 bis November 2004 Präsident der Europäischen Kommission.   Print

  • Lipin Ram

    PhD candidate and teaching assistant in Anthropology and Sociology of Development, Graduate Institute, Geneva
    Read more

  • Mykola Riabchuk

    Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Political and Nationalities’ Studies, Academy of Sciences, Kyiv
    Read more

  • Edelbert Richter

    Edelbert Richter ist deutscher Theologe, Politiker und war Mitglied des Deutschen Bundestages.   Print

  • Paul Ricoeur

    Paul Ricoeur ist Philosoph und war Professor Emeritus an der University of Chicago und an der Sorbonne. Er war Mitglied der Académie Francaise und Mitglied des Wissenschaftlichen Beirats des IWM. Er starb 2005.   Print

  • Michel Rocard

    Michel Rocard, former First Secretary of the French Socialist Party and a member of the European Parliament for 15 years, was Prime Minister of France from 1988 to 1991.   Print

  • Akos Rona-Tas

    Akos Rona-Tas is professor at the Sociology Department of the University of California, San Diego and a research associate at Met@risk, INRA, Paris. He is the author of the books Plastic Money: Constructing Markets for Credit Cards in Eight Postcommunist Countries (with Alya Guseva, 2014) and Surprise of the Small Transformation: Demise of Communism and …
    Read more

  • Lew Rubinstein

    Lew Rubinstein lebt als Poet und Essayist in Moskau. Nach dem Studium der Philologie war er als Bibliothekar tätig. Seit Ende der 1960er-Jahre verfasst er poetische Arbeiten, seit 1974 serielle Textzyklen als so genannte Kartotheken. Zusammen mit Andrej Monastyrskij, Dimitrij A. Prigov und Vladimir Sorokin gilt er als wichtigster Vertreter des Moskauer Konzeptualismus. Print

  • Jacques Rupnik

    Geschichte und Politikwissenschaft, Paris
    Read more

  • Claudia Šabic

    Claudia Šabi? ist Politikwissenschaftlerin und Ethnologin. Seit 1998 ist sie Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin an der Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main. Print

  • Ranabir Samaddar

    Distinguished Chair in Migration and Forced Migration Studies, Calcutta Research Group
    Read more

  • Paul Sanders

    Paul Sanders is a historian and management scholar. He is a full-time professor at Reims Management School in Reims, France. He has published across the disciplines of history, international relations and leadership.   Print

  • Karl Schlögel

    Karl Schlögel war Professor für Osteuropäische Geschichte zuerst an der Universität Konstanz, dann an der Europa-Universität Viadrina in Frankfurt/Oder. Nach seiner Emeritierung arbeitet er an einer Archäologie des Kommunismus und einer Geschichte des Wolgaraumes. Zurzeit ist er City of Vienna/IFK Fellow am IFK in Wien.     Print

  • Thomas Schmid

    Thomas Schmid is the publisher of the WELT Group, Berlin. He worked for various newspapers, among them as editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. From 2006 to 2010 he was Editor-in-Chief of Die Welt.   Print

  • Margit Schratzenstaller

    Margit Schratzenstaller is senior researcher at the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO) and is currently coordinating (together with Karl Aiginger and Stefan Ederer) ‘WWW for Europe’, a 4-year research project within the 7th Framework Program funded by the European Commission.   Print

  • Dieter Segert

    Dieter Segert ist Professor für Transformationsprozesse in Mittel-, Südost- und Osteuropa am Institut für Politikwissenschaft der Universität Wien. Seit September 2007 ist er Mitglied des Vorstandes des IDM Wien, seit Juni 2008 Mitglied der Leibniz-Sozietät der Wissenschaften zu Berlin.   Print

  • Victoriya Sereda

    Sociologie, Ivan-Franko-Universität, Lviv
    Read more

  • Michel Serres

    Michel Serres ist Philosoph und Mitglied der Académie Française.   Print

  • Anton Shekhovtsov

    PhD in Political Science
    Read more

  • Marci Shore

    Associate Professor of History, Yale University

    Visiting Fellow
    (July 2020 – June 2021)
    Read more

  • Sławomir Sierakowski

    Director, Institute for Advanced Study, Warsaw; Founder, "Krytyka Polityczna" movement
    Read more

  • Sara Silverstein

    Ph.D. Candidate in Modern European and International History, Yale University
    Read more

  • Ondřej Slačálek

    Assistant Professor of Political Science, Charles University, Prague
    Read more

  • Aleksander Smolar

    Political Science, Paris
    Read more

  • Timothy Snyder

    IWM Permanent Fellow
    Richard C. Levin Professor of History, Yale University
    Read more

  • George Soros

    George Soros is a pioneer of the hedge-fund industry, investor and philanthropist, he is the author of many books, including Financial Turmoil in Europe and the United States: Essays (2012), The Soros Lectures: At the Central European University (2010), The Crash of 2008 and What it Means: The New Paradigm for Finance Markets (2009).   …
    Read more

  • Robert Spaemann

    Robert Spaemann ist Professor em. für Philosophie an der Universität München.   Print

  • Pawel Spiewak

    Associate Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology and Philosophy, Warsaw University
    Read more

  • Wilfried Stadler

    Wilfried Stadler ist Unternehmensberater, Wirtschaftspublizist und Honorarprofessor an der Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien. Bis 2009 war er Vorstandsvorsitzender einer österreichischen Spezialbank für Unternehmensfinanzierung.   Print

  • Rudolf Stamm

    Rudolf Stamm war von 1975 bis 1988 Korrespondent der Neuen Zürcher Zeitung für Osteuropa und Österreich, anschließend bis 1999 für Italien, dann bis zu seiner Pensionierung 2002 für die USA mit Sitz in Washington D.C. Er starb 2010 in der Schweiz. 1985 erscheinen seine NZZ-Reportagen aus Osteuropa in dem Band Alltag und Tradition in Osteuropa. …
    Read more

  • Paul Starr

    Paul Starr ist Professor für Soziologie an der Princeton University und Mitherausgeber von The American Prospect. Er ist Pulitzer-Preisträger.   Print

  • Martina Steer

    ÖAW APART Fellow (History)
    Read more

  • Kristina Stoeckl

    Research Director
    APART Fellow, Austrian Academy of Sciences; Department of Political Sciences, University of Vienna
    Read more

  • Roman Szporluk

    Roman Szporluk is Professor em. of Ukrainian History at Harvard and Professor em. of History at the University of Michigan. He is a foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences in Kiev, Ukraine. His research focuses on modern Ukrainian, Russian, and Polish history, and on Marxism and nationalism in Eastern Europe.   Print

  • Charles Taylor

    IWM Permanent Fellow
    Professor em. of Philosophy, McGill University, Montréal
    Read more

  • Maria Teteriuk

    PhD candidate in Mass Communications and senior lecturer in Media Studies, National University of 'Kyiv-Mohyla Academy', Ukraine
    Read more

  • Philipp Ther

    Junior Professor of Polish and Ukrainian Studies, Europa-Universität Frankfurt / Oder
    Read more

  • Maria Todorova

    Professor of History, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
    Read more

  • Balázs Trencsényi

    Balázs Trencsényi, Ph.D., is Associate Professor at the Department of History, CEU. His research focuses on the comparative history of political thought in East Central Europe and the history of historiography. He is co-director of Pasts, Inc., Center for Historical Studies at CEU and Associate Editor of the periodical East Central Europe (Brill). He was …
    Read more

  • Stefan Troebst

    Read more

  • Marius Turda

    Lecturer in the Education Abroad Program, Eötvös Lorand University, Faculty of Humanities, Budapest
    Read more

  • Andreas Umland

    Andreas Umland ist Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Institut für Euro-Atlantische Kooperation Kiew sowie Herausgeber der Buchreihe Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society, ibidem-Verlag Stuttgart. Print

  • Victoria Vasilenko

    Assistant Professor of Contemporary History and International Relations, Belgorod National Research University
    Read more

  • David G. Victor

    David G. Victor is a Professor at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego, where he directs the Laboratory on International Law and Regulation.   Print

  • Harald Welzer

    Harald Welzer ist Forschungsprofessor für Sozialpsychologie an der Universität Witten/Herdecke und Direktor des Center for Interdisciplinary Memory Research am Kulturwissenschaftlichen Instituts Essen.   Print

  • Karolina Wigura

    Adjunct of the History of Ideas, University of Warsaw; Co-Editor of Kultura Liberalna
    Read more

  • Volodymyr Yermolenko

    Volodymyr Yermolenko is a Ukrainian philosopher and essayist. He has a degree in Political Science from the EHESS, Paris, and teaches at Kyiv Mohyla Academy in Kyiv. He is the author of the book Narrator and Philosopher: Walter Benjamin and his time (2011, in Ukrainian). Print

  • Oksana Zabuzhko

    Free-lance writer, Kiev
    Read more

  • Tatiana Zhurzhenko

    IWM Research Director, Russia in Global Dialogue and Ukraine in European Dialogue
    Read more