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The Divergent Paths of the Ethnic Parties in Post-Communist Transitions

  • Society, History and Culture
  • Published:
Transition Studies Review


This article provides a comparative analysis of the evolution of ethnic parties in the three most important ethnically divided societies in post-communist Europe (not including the former Yugoslav republics): Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia. The starting point of the analysis is the fall of communism, when ethnicity re-emerged as a salient issue in each of these three states and a potential source of conflict. In these contexts, the ethnic parties formed by each of the most important minorities in these states became crucial actors of transition, but also highly relevant at the level of highly volatile party systems. In contrast with the wide majority of the literature, which focuses on single case studies, this exploratory study allowed for a comparative multi-dimensional account of the development and evolution of several ethnic parties, paying attention to the national contexts. Rather than reaching major conclusions that can be generalized for ethnic parties in general, this article provides a good base for further comparative studies on ethnic parties as crucial actors in divided societies.

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  1. This definition has its own shortcomings. “Overwhelming” is a vague term, while the expression “serves the interests of that group” is too idealistic. Nevertheless, it is a good working definition for the purpose of this paper.

  2. In the context of the Muslim religion, names are sacred, because Allah calls each person by name after death. Thus, a change in name is regarded as endangering the believer’s chances for eternal life (Zhelyazkova 2001, pp. 62–63).

  3. The Revolution began with the protests in Timisoara sparked by the house arrest of Hungarian Protestant priest Tokes Laszlo.

  4. See [], accessed on December 26th, 2006.

  5. The first right-wing Hungarian government passed a Constitution in which the Hungarian state declares itself responsible for the faith of Hungarian communities living across the borders. Moreover, important politicians at that time asked for the annulment of the Trianon Treaty, signed after World War One, which led to massive territorial losses for Hungary, including Transylvania, parts of Vojvodina (in Serbia) and what is today Southern Slovakia.

  6. The first article of the Romanian Constitution is “Romania is a nation state, sovereign and independent, unitary and indivisible.” The italics are not employed in the original text.

  7. The NSF broke into two—PD and FDSN. The latter then changed its name into PDSR and was again renamed PSD in 2001, following several mergers with smaller parties. Throughout the paper, NSF, FDSN, PDSR and PSD stand for the same party.


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Correspondence to Sergiu Gherghina.

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Jiglau, G., Gherghina, S. The Divergent Paths of the Ethnic Parties in Post-Communist Transitions. Transit Stud Rev 18, 445–457 (2011).

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