How Women Survived Post-Communism (and Didn’t Laugh)


Glucklya and Tsaplya_2014_C_Valerij Ledenev

Glucklya and Tsaplya (2014)


The situation for women in societies caught up in the post-’89 transition is complicated, notes Slavenka Drakulic. On the one hand, they now stand to lose rights that were, at least formally, established during the communist regime. On the other hand, women’s position in society has been undermined everywhere in Europe – in East and West alike. The financial crisis has struck hard, and – as so often – women have been struck harder.

In 1992, I published a book called How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed. It was one of the first accounts of women’s life under communism in Eastern Europe. Now, after more than two decades, it is high time to cast another look in the same direction. This time around, the question is slightly different: How have women survived the transition from one system to another and are they really laughing?

Europe recently celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of totalitarianism in Eastern Europe. Many memories were evoked and many problems addressed – from the dreams of Europe of those long gone times to corruption, disappointment and distrust in politics and politicians. But one topic – curiously enough – was absent, or at least barely present: How has the dramatic change affected women? Does the new system, democracy, really work for both sexes in the same way?

The answer is no, it doesn’t! There is much research to show that women in Eastern Europe are hit harder than men by problems to do with social status, political representation and health. (See e.g. the OECD Gender Equality initiative)

And yet, while there are studies on specific countries, there is no comprehensive picture of the impact of the transformation on women. This is probably because Eastern European women – at last – no longer feel that they belong to a single block. And yet it is that very experience – their experience of communism – that still glues them together, because it has significantly influenced their lives after 1989.

* * *
I did survive communism and even laughed. But I’ve stopped laughing many times since then. First of all, of course, because in former Yugoslavia the collapse of the old system brought wars. What used to be our advantage over the countries in the Soviet block, a kind of soft totalitarianism, turned out to be a disadvantage. It meant that there was no democratic political opposition except nationalists ready to take over after the collapse of communism.

Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, many people stopped laughing simply because post-communism turned out to be something other than what they had dreamed. It depends on the country, of course – Poland can’t be compared to Albania – but many people in Eastern Europe have found themselves in a situation of growing poverty and insecurity. While poverty was nothing new, the growing gap between rich and poor was. Our world today might look like a supermarket full of goodies, but most of us are left looking through the shop window. A character from my book A Guided Tour Through the Museum of Communism, a mole from East Berlin, describes consumerism and its new churches thus:

“This is how it works, and it has not changed, from November 9, 1989, to this day: Every Shopping Mall (as well as even the tiniest Supermarket) is supervised by slot machines called cash registers. These machines are positioned not at the entrances but at the very exit of the church. When a believer approaches the machine with a basket full of desired goods to quench his or her thirst for possessions, the machine scrutinizes the person in question. I imagine that the reason is to perform some sort of test of faith; it lets you pass and get out only if you are a true believer. That you have to demonstrate by either pushing a plastic card into the slot or by giving symbolic paper or metal tokens to the person, usually a female, sitting behind the cash register. Men who fail the test have to give back all the fabulous goodies they collected, and then they get very, very sad.”

Before I return to my attempts back then to find out how we survived communism, let me first quote György Konrad, whose letter To Cave Explorers from the West from 1988 will give you an idea of how we felt Westerners saw us:

“We are the needy relatives, we are the aborigines, we are the ones left behind – the backward, the stunted, the misshapen, the down-and-out, the moochers, parasites, con-men, suckers. Sentimental, old fashioned, childish, uninformed, troubled, melodramatic, devious, unpredictable, negligent. The ones who don’t answer letters, the ones who miss the great opportunity, the hard drinkers, the babblers, the porch-sitters, the deadline-missers, the promise-breakers, the braggarts, the immature, the monstrous, the undisciplined, the easily offended, the ones who insult each other to death but cannot break off relations. We are the maladjusted, the complainers intoxicated by failure.
We are irritating, excessive, depressing, somehow unlucky. People are accustomed to slight us. We are cheap labour; merchandise may be had from us at a lower price; people bring us their old newspapers as a gift. Letters from us come sloppily typed, unnecessarily detailed. People smile at us, pityingly, as long as we do not suddenly become unpleasant.
As long as we do not say anything strange, sharp; as long as we do not stare at our nails and bare our teeth; as long as we do not become wild and cynical.”

But my gaze from behind the “Iron Curtain” was a different one. In 1990, right after the collapse of communism, I travelled around Eastern Europe for Ms., a feminist magazine from the US. I went to Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania – and, of course, drew on my own experience of communism in former Yugoslavia to describe the life of women in my part of the world.

If Konrad’s was a bird’s eye view, mine was the view from below, a frog’s view if you want. I was interested in the relationship between politics and everyday life. And above all, life experienced by women, who, down at the bottom, carried the biggest burden, taking care of children and the elderly and the whole household – all while working in full-time jobs. Each and every woman I spoke to, whether in Bulgaria or Poland, in Czechoslovakia or Hungary, could point out where communism had failed them: from shortages of food and disposable diapers to a scarcity of apartments and toilet paper. It was these banal, everyday things that defeated communism, long before 1989, and not, I am sorry to say, people’s desire for freedom, human rights and democracy.

Emancipation from above – as I call it – was the main difference between the lives of women under communism and those of women in Western democracies. Emancipatory law was built into the communist legal system, guaranteeing to women all the basic rights –from voting to property ownership, from education to divorce, from equal pay for equal work to the right to control their bodies. But, as Ulf Brunnbauer writes in his 2000 essay From equality without democracy to democracy without equality?:

“Proclamations of gender equality never corresponded to social reality. Patriarchal values and structures were not eradicated, but the ‘family patriarch’ was replaced by the authoritarian state – emancipation was not an end in itself, but an instrument for wider political goals, as defined by the party.”

The formal equality of women in the communist world was observed mostly in public life and in institutions. The private sphere, on the other hand, was dominated by male chauvinism. This meant a lot of unreported domestic violence, for example. It also meant that men usually had no obligations at home, which left women with less time for themselves. It was not only the lack of freedom – and time – that prevented women fighting for changes but, more importantly, a lack of belief that change was necessary. Someone else up there was in charge of thinking about that for you. And because change came from the powers that be, women were made to believe there was no need for change or room for improvement.

If, however, there were any minor problems resulting from women’s specific needs, then there were women’s organizations that were supposed to take care of them. However, these were only instruments of communist party power and were concerned less with women and their needs and more with ideology. Feminist consciousness didn’t exist. Since women were emancipated, there was no need for a discussion about women’s rights, so the argument went. It was as if women lived in an ideal world, but were not fully aware of it, or failed to appreciate the fact. And those who tried to enlighten them about the real situation were seen as “suspicious elements”. Women who attempted to publically discuss feminism in Yugoslavia in the 1980s were accused by the authorities of “importing foreign, bourgeois ideas”.

The first group of Yugoslav feminists, mostly young students and academics (women academics typically got involved because they could claim to have a purely scientific interest in the subject) came together in 1978 at an international conference in Belgrade. This conference was seminal because it marked the start of the organization of women’s networks, even if these could still only exist under the roof of official organizations such as the Sociological Society of Croatia, because independent organizations could not be registered.

This 1978 conference must have been a shock for our foreign guests – as it was for us. Not because of the radical ideas of Betty Friedan or Germain Greer, we were already familiar with those. The reason we were shocked – on both sides – was the way we looked! Most of the Yugoslav participants were wearing high heels and rather heavy makeup – while the foreign feminists from Germany, France and Italy wore no makeup and had on flat shoes and rather baggy dresses. It was as if they wanted to confirm the prejudices about them. I remember that there was even a workshop on high heels, such was the importance of appearances to the ideology of feminism.

We tried to tell our colleagues, among them Dacia Maraini, Alice Schwarzer, Helene Cixous, Christine Delphy and Maria Rosa Cutrufelli, that makeup was important to us because it was hard to come by. But, as we learned later, the split went much deeper than appearances. Our experience of emancipation from above and their grassroots fight collided. These different perceptions became one of the topics of my book How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed.

I also remember the conference “Sisterhood is Global”, held on Rhode Island, USA, in 1983. It was the beginning of an international feminist network and women from all continents participated. Still, there were very few of us from the communist world. That conference gave birth not only to the Sisterhood Is Global Institute, but later also to the Network of East-West Women (NEWW), an important instrument for international assistance across geographical borders and political divides.

At that time, Eastern European women speaking publicly would typically introduce themselves by saying “I am not a feminist, but…” Of course, they were afraid of being ridiculed. Today, one reads that numerous feminist NGOs were formed in Eastern Europe shortly after 1989, but that was not at all my experience. During my travels for the magazine Ms., trying to find feminists was like looking for a needle in a haystack. There were good reasons for this. For a long time, even after 1989, women in former communist countries did not want to be identified as feminists, even if they were. If anything, to be a feminist was considered to be a kind of a dissident. Prejudices against Western, and especially American feminists were spread by the press; not only were they men-haters too ugly to find a husband, but they were also burning bras! I personally think that this bra-burning “argument” was most effective in precisely that part of the world where it was hard to find a good bra.

If, as Turkish writer and journalist Ece Temelkuran recently argued, the life of women is the best indicator of a country’s political and social situation, then how much did 1989 really liberate women?

Recently, I had yet another reason to stop laughing. Abortion has again become an issue in my country, Croatia, the newest, twenty-eighth member of the European Union. Or, to be more politically correct: a pro-choice controversy has broken out there.

You might not think that abortion is important enough to cause one to stop laughing. I do. I think that the right to choose whether or not to give birth is the cornerstone of women’s emancipation, and that efforts to deny or restrict this right, in any society, point to a lot of other problems in the political, social, economic and legal position of women.

Don’t be afraid, I’m not going to bore you with a confession of my own abortion, I will leave this for one of my novels. The problem is bigger and concerns hundreds of thousands of young women, whose situation says something about other transitional countries as well.

At the end of 2014, the media reported that more and more gynecologists in public hospitals in Croatia were refusing to perform abortions. If you are a pregnant in Croatia and have decided not to have the child, things get very complicated. It is not enough that, for the majority of women, terminating a pregnancy is an agonizing decision. Nor is it enough that, unless you can pay extra, it is a painful procedure. In Croatia, you will be turned away from one hospital only to discover that, in another, doctors don’t perform the operation either. You might have to travel fifty kilometres or more to find a willing gynecologist. All that in a country where abortion has been legal since 1969. But, since 1996, doctors, nurses and pharmacists are able to object to abortions on the grounds of conscience. In this case, a public hospital must provide another doctor for you.

In April 2015, a similar attempt was made to limit women’s freedom of choice, this time by restricting the sale of the so-called “morning-after pill”. The minister of health issued instructions to pharmacists that these pills, which according to EU rules require no prescription, can’t be sold unless the woman fills out a special form. The pharmacist is required to ask her a series of intimate questions, beginning with her last menstruation and ending with the last time she had sex. This humiliating procedure was said to be in the interests of women’s health, since the pills contain hormones. Not only does it treat women like irresponsible children incapable of making informed decisions or reading instructions, the procedure is often performed at the counter, in range of everybody present. The aim, of course, is to discourage women from using the pill.

What is astonishing about this whole bizarre situation, apart from the fact that a secular state with a socialist government is so obviously acting under the influence of the Catholic Church, is that there has been no protest or reaction by women themselves. Women’s voices have been absent in the debate. Yes, a letter signed by a few NGOs was sent to the minister of health, who then reminded the hospitals that they are obliged to provide a doctor who doesn’t object to abortion (performing abortions privately is illegal). A few women journalists also wrote about it. But the majority of women, especially young women who should be most concerned, simply did not react. There was no mass protest, as one might have expected, either on city squares or in the social media. Is this not strange in a democratic, post-communist country? Why did the new generation of women, born into a democratic system, not respond to what can only be described as a clear infringement of their rights?

Croatia is a country that prides itself on having a female president. And there is good reason to be proud, considering that there aren’t many women presidents around – in fact, there are only 15 in the whole world. So a female president seems like a considerable victory for women, a defiance of the political glass celling. But, as we all know, female political leadership doesn’t necessarily mean an improvement in the situation of women.

Kolinda Grabar Kitarović was born in 1968. She grew up in communist Yugoslavia and was therefore guaranteed equal rights (at least formally). This made her emancipation possible. Historically, like in many other feudal countries in Eastern Europe, the great majority Croatian women were illiterate. In 1869, only 150 years ago, 86 % of the women couldn’t read or write. Women weren’t even able to sign their names. They couldn’t inherit property, divorce or choose not to have baby. They only got the right to study 110 years ago. Our president’s grandmother, probably born some time in the mid-1920s, would never even have dreamed of a political career before the communist government gave her the right to vote in 1945. However, this was something that the president avoided mentioning in her speech at the UN conference on women in March this year. Because if she had, she would have had to admit that it was her communist education that had enabled her to reach the highest political position in the new, democratic Croatia.

From a disenfranchised grandma to a future president growing up with equal rights – this is an example of the changes brought by communism in a very short time. It is, indeed, a demonstration of what communism did for women by emancipating them from above.

But to come back to the abortion issue. These young women’s disinterest in their own situation and their ignorance of the past is frightening. I really wonder if they are aware that what is going on is the limitation of their right to choose by roundabout means. Perhaps they don’t understand that such a drastic violation of rights actually concerns them. Or, if they do understand, then perhaps they don’t react because they think that abortion is not what a woman does nowadays in Croatia.  According to the latest opinion poll, however, 51.2 % of female students are pro-choice.

The post-communist revival of conservative values, nationalism and religion is having an effect on the behaviour of women not only in my small country. Their passivity and disinterest is not hard to understand. When everything around you is changing so dramatically, then you tend not to embrace the new circumstances, but to cling to habits, values and ideas that were there before –before communism. Unfortunately, this means a radical backlash, the return to a feudal value system. After the collapse of communism, most countries in the region experienced a renaissance of nationalism and religion – precisely the two things that were suppressed under communism. It was all that remained from the pre-communist past. Patriarchy, which seemed to have disappeared, reared its head again, looking healthier than ever. Patriarchy after Patriarchy – as Karl Kaser wrote. But is it only temporary?

So, for women in Eastern Europe, the freedom regained in 1989 has brought unexpected limitations on economic, social and even reproductive rights. Women were hit by cuts in public spending and seen as an inferior category of employee, causing mass female unemployment. Poverty was feminized. With the political focus on economic transformation and the building of democratic structures, women’s rights weren’t a top priority. As a result, fewer and fewer women worked (although we now know that many, between 30 to 50 %, were part of the informal economy). More and more stayed at home, avoiding politics and public life, being persuaded that this was the right thing to do.

And yet, no women’s movement was born. There is no sense of mutual interests. The idea that women should support women to achieve common objectives simply doesn’t exist. The ideology of collective solidarity belongs to the past. Women in government do not recognize gender as a political issue. The biggest barrier to women’s political participation may not be legal but cultural.

There is another important reason, besides the return of patriarchal values, for why women who grew up after communism do not react to the obvious wrongdoings that affect them. An authoritarian mentality, inherited from the communist system, prevails across society as a whole. People expect solutions to come from someone else – a party, an institution, a leader, an authority – and not from ordinary citizens. For decades, solutions always came from above. Where is the democratic know-how supposed to come from? Certainly not from the totalitarian tradition.

And yet, young women today happily enjoy the benefits of that very same heritage, such as the right to divorce, to sexual freedom, to co-habit outside marriage, and now even same-sex relationships. They take these rights and freedoms for granted, without reflecting on how they came about.

Ultimately, young women in the former communist countries have also been emancipated from above. Like their mothers and grandmothers, they enjoy, at least formally, the rights that women in the Western democracies had to fight hard for. But on the other hand, it is exactly this kind of emancipation that makes them so passive.

It should be clear by now that the situation for women in societies caught up in the post-’89 transition is complicated. On the one hand, they now stand to lose rights that were, at least formally, established during the communist regime. On the other hand, women’s position in society has been undermined everywhere in Europe – in East and West alike. The financial crisis has struck hard, and – as so often – women have been struck harder.

What has happened in Western Europe in the last 25 years is certainly not encouraging. In the West, women fought for their rights over decades of grass-root activism, struggle and mass-protests. Sure, hard-won privileges are more persistent than those bestowed upon you. But women in the West also suffer from under-employment, pay inequality, the glass ceiling, loss of status. In the West, too, women engage less in politics. All that has got worse over the past decade. The financial crisis is indeed a common denominator. It has hit all of Europe and everyone in it, East and West, men and women.

So, why focus on women when, as the argument goes, men have also got a bad deal? True, loss of work and social status pose real problems to men and their masculine identity. But while men have problems, women are facing crisis. Youth unemployment is highest among women; the majority of people that are laid off, the majority on social benefits, the majority of those on sick leave, the majority of the poor –all are women.

From job segregation to the feminization of poverty and the paradox that fewer women are in work despite more women having qualifications – the statistical data for Europe (East and West) are clear. The latest report (2014) on gender equality by the EU Commission states that the overall employment rate for women in Europe is around 63 %, compared to around 75 % for men aged 20 to 64. On average, women in the EU earn 16 % less per hour than men. The gender pay gap varies across Europe. It is below 10 % in Slovenia, Malta, Poland, Italy, Luxembourg and Romania, but wider than 20 % in Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and Estonia. Although the overall gender pay gap has narrowed in the last decade, in some countries it has grown, for example in Hungary and Portugal.

The gender pay gap exists even though women do better at school and university than men. On average, in 2012, 83 % of young women reach at least upper secondary school in the EU, compared to 77.6 % of men. Women also make up 60 % of university graduates in the EU.

The impact of the gender pay gap is long-term, since it means that women earn less over their lifetimes, which results in lower pensions and a risk of poverty in old age. In 2012, 21.7 % of women aged 65 and over were at risk of poverty, compared to 16.3 % of men.

For women, the most worrying consequence of the financial crisis is the dismantling of the welfare state. This also affects women more than men, for example when governments terminate or significantly reduce social benefits intended to bring women into employment.

And here we come back to the issue of – abortion! We live in an economic system dominated by the principle of the maximization of profit and minimization of cost. This is one reason why women experience financial and economic crisis differently to men. Women are a more expensive work force! They are the last to get employed and the first to lose a job. The main reason is that they have the capacity to give birth. Once mothers, they are dependent on help from society in the form of special benefits, such as maternity leave. They will be more likely to use sick leave in order to attend their sick children. In a welfare state, they are also entitled to other benefits, costly both to the state and private employers. Therefore, if a private employer is able to choose between two equal candidates, a man and a woman, he is very likely to choose the man. In other words, he will not exercise equal opportunity if he is not forced to. Or the woman will be obliged, through a secret contract, to abstain from having children in the next five to ten years, especially if she is hired for a high position. The result is that more women work in insecure jobs with temporary contracts. Many decide not to have children at all.

In societies dominated by capitalism, having children is increasingly treated as an individual responsibility. At the same time, it is not only nationalists that warn that Europe is dying out and that we need more children. Religious leaders are saying the same thing. Political leaders – not only conservatives – in impoverished former communist countries tell women that they are responsible for the “death of the nation”. So, which is it? Is a woman’s decision whether or not to have a child a private matter, or is it a question of her duty to society?

Romania under Ceausescu was an example of a communist society that treated women as birthing machines. Abortion was forbidden and menstruation closely monitored through obligatory examinations. In many post-communist societies today, a woman’s body still does not belong entirely to her, since it represents a means for the reproduction of society. Yet the more the state wants to control reproduction, the less it wants to pay for it. As a result, women’s basic right to choose can be revoked at any time. One of the first acts of the first democratically elected Polish government was to abolish the entitlement to free abortion. In other words, to control women’s bodies.

Ever since the introduction of mass contraception, biology has ceased to be destiny. However, women should not forget that socio-economic downturn can cause a backlash and return women to the past. This is why abortion is a basic right, that, having been won, must be guarded vigilantly. Because yes, we can easily step back into the past. Decades after the fall of communism, women must watch out for their rights more than ever.

In fact, it seems to me that it is even more important than before for women to understand that their rights are equal to their political interests. Women can’t fight for their rights without realizing that there is a fight to be fought, without an awareness formed by information and knowledge, without an articulation of the precarious status of women and their different needs. Are women aware of that? And are they willing and capable of mobilization?

Eighty-two year old Gloria Steinem, a representative of what is now called vintage feminism, once wrote that women get more radical the older they get. Certainly, the experience of inequality motivates one to voice one’s opinions and demands. But to wait for today’s generation to grow old doesn’t seem to me to be a viable option; it would mean to start from scratch all over again.

So, what if women don’t even recognize the dangers they face and consequently feel no need to fight for equality? What if values have changed so much that women increasingly see their subordinate position as normal?

Indeed, one of the dangers facing new generations of women is the post-feminist credo that the struggle for equal rights has been won. In an episode of the popular US TV show Good Wife, a young trainee in a lawyer’s office is getting married and will be leaving the office. “But why?” asks an older female colleague, “You are good, you should work”, she says. “Maybe it was important for your generation to work, but my generation doesn’t have to prove itself”, says the bride to be.

Well, she is wrong. Women’s struggle for equal rights was not only about proving oneself, it was about making sure that other women don’t have to face the same discrimination.

A hundred years after the first International Women’s Day on 8 March, research by a British clinic for helping female rape victims found that a quarter of young women between 18 and 24 believed that they had been responsible for being raped. There has been a considerable increase in domestic and sexual violence: sex slavery, rape, trafficking – it has all gone up. Do we want to break through the glass celling? Yes of course. But at the same time, we need to defend our achievements and regain what, in some countries, has already been lost.

Back in 2004, the Parliamentary Assembly of the EU issued a series of recommendations to the governments of Central and Eastern Europe, including that they take measures against unemployment, the gender pay gap, discrimination, the reduction of childcare facilities, violence against women, and women’s under-representation in politics. Countries were also encouraged to raise awareness of the legal rights of women. The paper concluded by underlining the necessity that gender equality be integrated into everyday life in countries undergoing post-communist transition. All very sensible, all very useful, and accepted with acclamation. But nothing has changed…

What remains as a strategy? We should remind ourselves that, in a democracy, citizens – that includes women – have the power to change laws. Gender democracy is an essential part of democracy: no participation from women – no real democracy. That is the situation we are in today, not only in Eastern Europe. We need an emancipation after emancipation.

Let me not end on this pessimistic note – after all, we are talking about the glass celling while only 500 years ago the Catholic Church was still discussing whether the woman was indeed a human being, whether she had a soul. Well, there has been some progress, I suppose!

Slavenka Drakulic is a Croatian fiction and non-fiction writer, who lives in Zagreb, Vienna and Stockholm.

This is a considerably extended version of a speech held on May 29, 2015 at the Fellows Meeting at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) in Vienna.

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    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
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  • 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
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  • 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 …
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  • Tom Junes

    Visiting Researcher, Warsaw University, and Visiting Lecturer in Polish history, KULeuven, Belgium
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  • 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
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  • Gudrun-Axeli Knapp

    Professor of Social Sciences and Social Psychology, University of Hannover
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  • Jacek Kochanowicz

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

  • Michal Kopecek

    International Relations, Charles University Prague
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  • 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 …
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  • Bilyana Kourtasheva

    Post-Doc in Theory and History of Literature, New Bulgarian University, Sofia
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  • 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
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  • Ivan Krastev

    IWM Permanent Fellow
    Chair of the Board, Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia
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  • Yustyna Kravchuk

    PhD candidate in Film and Media Studies, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Kyiv
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  • 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
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  • Claus Leggewie

    Professor für Politikwissenschaft, Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen
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  • Mark Leonard

    Co-founder and Director, European Council on Foreign Relations
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  • André Liebich

    Honorary Professor of International History and Politics, Graduate Institute, Geneva
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  • Burkhard Liebsch

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

  • Michal Luczewski

    Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, Warsaw University
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  • 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
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  • Erik Meyer

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

  • Krzysztof Michalski

    IWM Founding Rector
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  • 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 …
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  • Jan-Werner Müller

    Professor of Politics, Princeton University

    Visiting Fellow
    (September 2016 – August 2017)
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  • Rainer Münz

    Professor für Bevölkerungswissenschaft, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin; Korrespondierendes Mitglied des IWM
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  • Sighard Neckel

    Professor of Sociology, Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main
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  • 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
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  • 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
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  • Andrzej Paczkowski

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

  • Emilia Palonen

    Politics, University of Essex
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  • 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
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  • Gleb Pavlovsky

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

    Professor of Contemporary European History, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim
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  • 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
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  • 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 …
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  • 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 …
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  • 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
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  • Mykola Riabchuk

    Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Political and Nationalities’ Studies, Academy of Sciences, Kyiv
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  • 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 …
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  • 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
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  • 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
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  • 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
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  • Michel Serres

    Michel Serres ist Philosoph und Mitglied der Académie Française.   Print

  • Anton Shekhovtsov

    PhD in Political Science
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  • Marci Shore

    Associate Professor of History, Yale University

    Visiting Fellow
    (July 2020 – June 2021)
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  • Sławomir Sierakowski

    Director, Institute for Advanced Study, Warsaw; Founder, "Krytyka Polityczna" movement
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  • Sara Silverstein

    Ph.D. Candidate in Modern European and International History, Yale University
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  • Ondřej Slačálek

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

  • Aleksander Smolar

    Political Science, Paris
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  • Timothy Snyder

    IWM Permanent Fellow
    Richard C. Levin Professor of History, Yale University
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  • 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).   …
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  • 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
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  • 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. …
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  • 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)
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  • Kristina Stoeckl

    Research Director
    APART Fellow, Austrian Academy of Sciences; Department of Political Sciences, University of Vienna
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  • 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
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  • 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
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  • 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 …
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  • Stefan Troebst

    Read more

  • Marius Turda

    Lecturer in the Education Abroad Program, Eötvös Lorand University, Faculty of Humanities, Budapest
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  • 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
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  • 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
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  • 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
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  • Tatiana Zhurzhenko

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