East-Central Europe: The Morning After

Horia Sima, Ion Antonescu, and Romanian monarch Miguel I onstage at the parade celebrating Romania's signing of the Tripartite Pact, 1940. National Digital Archives

Eastern Europe is now east-central Europe. The political earthquake that occurred in 1989 has shifted the region's six former Soviet allies away from the East and closer to the West. All are now independent and all now embrace the concept of free enterprise. The countries often identified as central European-Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and what was East Germany-have already adopted democratic institutions. Farther to the south, in the Balkans-in Bulgaria and especially in Romania-democracy has yet to be won.1

Like most things hyphenated, east-central Europe is absorbed in an ardent and arduous search for a new identity. The euphoria of 1989 has given way to the painful awakening of the morning after. The magnificent display of common purpose and the simple clarity of last year's peaceful revolutions-us versus them, the people united against the communist proprietors of power-have been replaced by confusion, division and disappointment.

There is confusion because the struggle is no longer only between "us" and "them," but among us. Wherever the communists submitted to the popular will and lost, new divisions have come to impede the work of some of the freely elected, noncommunist governments. In Poland, the impressive unity of Solidarity is gone. With pressure for Slovak autonomy rapidly growing, Czechoslovakia has already been renamed the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic. In Hungary, there is an intense struggle under way between those concerned foremost with the fate of millions of ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries, especially in Romania, and those whose main priority is the shaping of a political and economic order that Europe will welcome. Only in the Balkans do old dividing lines remain largely intact. Election results in both Bulgaria and Romania reveal a puzzling divergence between city-dwellers, who voted against the communists, and the rural population, who returned them to power.

Confusion and division have sparked disappointment as well. Anxious and impatient, many people ask: Was not the new democratic order supposed to be economically advantageous, politically harmonious and morally uplifting? Must the transition be as slow

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