Nick Stokes


Upon the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia that had hitherto lived behind the Iron Curtain inherited new independence and uncertain political futures. Since then, the world has watched a political entity that once covered 8.6 million square miles shatter into 15 new nation-states, each with the potential to throw off the shackles of the past and forge new democracies. Fifteen years after the fall, we see elections at state and local levels, multi-party systems, and constitutions touting freedoms of press and religion. While these elements are vital to the survival of any sustainable democracy, their presence alone in no way proves democracy’s existence. Despite claims of democratic rule, the region today has a lengthy record of human rights abuses, intimidation of political opposition and, what is more, flawed and fraudulent elections. The former Soviet states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are the obvious successes of the region, given their integration into both the European Union and NATO in 2004. Conversely, the other former Soviet states have not been so lucky, as evidenced by the fact that five of the region’s countries have not seen a shift in political power since the early 1990s. With politically-appointed leaders, constitutions revised on a whim, and landslide pageant-elections, is there hope for democracy in the future of the countries of the former Soviet Union?

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