CES: A Day in the LIfe of Post-Communist Europe


Wednesday, December 17, 2014, 12:15pm to 1:45pm


Adolphus Busch Hall, Cabot Room
Nowhere - not even in Italy, with its storied mafioso past and present - are the roles of mafioso boss and his mob cronies being as faithfully reenacted as in today’s Eastern Europe. Ex-leaders and other holdovers from the Communist regime are running states from their armchairs, shuffling about the pieces in a veritable game of high-stakes chess as they see fit. And business is good: Many former Communist countries have yet to let go of their Communist past; true, they’ll happily call the current system capitalism, and yes, former Party leaders have successfully fashioned themselves into capitalist patrons, but look closer, and it’s plain to see how little has changed. With the collapse of Communism, the communist leaders and their offshoots managed to pocket a quick fortune through privatization and to hold on to their position as a social elite. A number of them bought stock issues - the means through which privatization was achieved - from the workers and used them to become a wealthy corporate elite. Ask them and they’ll tell you it has nothing to do with politics; theirs is a rags-to-riches success story. It therefore comes as no surprise that they’re also self-styled philanthropists, doling out small, symbolic scholarships to the children of those very workers who, about twenty years ago, were duped into selling their ownership stakes at fire sale prices. My life to date has been fairly evenly divided between communism and capitalism. Thus, I have decided to put my thoughts about a post-Communist East European society on paper. My article A Day in the Life of Post-Communist Europe presents a number of everyday scenes from this “post-Communist” world. However, I do not depict only how I am experiencing the situation- the story lines presented in the paper are also those of my friends, colleagues and acquaintances, and their dilemmas and thoughts.
Alenka Kuhelj Visiting Scholar, CES, Harvard University
Contact: Arthur Goldhammer, art.goldhammer@gmail.com