In This Review

Fantasies of Salvation: Democracy, Nationalism, and Myth in Post-Communist Europe
Fantasies of Salvation: Democracy, Nationalism, and Myth in Post-Communist Europe
By Vladimir Tismaneanu
Princeton University Press, 1998, 210 pp
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If anyone harbored the illusion, Eastern Europe may not turn out to be the best new hope for spreading liberal democracy. Old demons revived and spun into reworked myths by a rich variety of anti-democrats, says Tismaneanu, threaten the region's often still weak democracies. Given the harsh dislocations of the moment, people are susceptible to the salving but often malignant slogans and promises of leftover elites struggling to find new legitimacy. Their "fantasies of salvation" undermine the value placed on the individual by Enlightenment thought, essential to democracy but increasingly abandoned to the increasingly disregarded hero-dissidents of the pre-1989 period. In its place, he argues, these new-old myths substitute a "communitarian vision" laced with a nasty, sometimes lethal, ethno-nationalist aggressiveness. Tismaneanu's essay has passion and an abundance of labels and ideas, but it comes across as disembodied. Precisely out of what the mythology grows is never fully shared. More telling in its absence is any clear sense of how serious and where specifically the threat is, other than in the former Yugoslavia.