Skeletons in the Closet: Transitional Justice in Post-Communist Europe

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Skeletons in the Closet: Transitional Justice in Post-Communist Europe (Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics)
By Monika Nalepa
Cambridge University Press, 2010
336 pp. $25.99

Among the various puzzles raised by the way the once socialist countries of eastern Europe transitioned to another model, one of the more interesting concerns retribution against those from the upper ranks of the ancien régime. Why did the retribution not come quickly and harshly? And why, when it eventually came, was it in most cases comparatively gentle? Mobilizing a good portion of political science's methods and theoretical forms, Nalepa offers a simple but far from obvious explanation. Outcomes were the result not of popular pressures but of careful calculations on the part of old, successor, and oppositional elites. Oppositional elites trod warily because of "skeletons in the closet," that is, for fear of exposing who among them had collaborated with the old regime -- the Polish president Lech Walesa, who allegedly was a police informant from 1970 to 1976, being a prime example. Successor elites, when back in power but facing its loss, crafted limited lustration laws to preempt something more severe in the future.

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