Waves of Democracy Compared: Europe in 1989 and the Arab World in 2011


Wednesday, April 27, 2011, 4:10pm to 5:30pm


124 Mt. Auburn Street, Suite 200-North, Cambridge, MA

Jacques RupnikJacques Rupnik, Sciences Po (Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris)
Co-sponsored by the Harvard History and Policy Seminar, HKS

About the Seminar
Is it 1989 all over again? There are obvious parallels in the breathtaking speed with which dictatorships can collapse in a chain reaction of non-violent popular mobilizations as well as in the unpredictability of the outcome of the Arab revolutions of 2011. Neither had been predicted or anticipated by analysts and social scientists which is both an invitation to modesty and a call to address some of the rapidly emerging issues of democratic transition. And this is where differences as well as lessons learned matter. Middle Europe is not the Middle East: there are historical, cultural, and sociological differences as well as different legacies of dissent and opposition to the Old Regime which matter for the shaping of new political elites and their commitment to democratic values. No less importantly, in both cases the withdrawal of superpower backing (“It’s 1989, but the West is Soviet Russia”) helped regime change but also opened a period of regional instability with very different geopolitical implications. Beyond comparisons there are lessons learned from different experiences of democratic transitions in Eastern Europe (the constitutional moment, nationalist secessions, and the need for an external European anchor for democratization) which can be of relevance to the forthcoming transitions on the Southern shore of the Mediterranean.

About Jacques Rupnik
Jacques Rupnik is director of research at CERI at Sciences-Po, Paris, and professor at the College of Europe in Bruges. He completed his master’s degree in soviet studies (Harvard, 1974) and his Ph.D. in history of international relations (Sorbonne, 1978). Rupnik was a member of the Independent International Commission on Kosovo (1999-2000) and the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation in The Hague (2010). His recent work focuses on democratization and European integration of East-Central Europe and nationalism and post-conflict reconciliation in the Balkans. He is currently completing a work on the “great transformation” of Central and Eastern Europe (1989-2009) and plans to start a new project on the borders in (and of) Europe.