The end of the Cold War and the abrupt lifting of the Iron Curtain in Europe during 1989 brought into focus for the first time since shortly after the Second World War real prospects for the establishment of democracy in Eastern Europe. Exactly 200 years after the upheavals of the French Revolution, which placed the idea of popular sovereignty and mass democracy firmly on the political agenda, the defeat of absolutism in Western Europe was commemorated by a similar dismantling of communist dictatorship in the east of the continent. However the progress of democratisation since the late eighteenth century has not run an even course. It has come in several waves, the timing of them varying slightly according to the account given by different writers. For Robert Dahl the key periods have been 1776–1930, 1950–9 and the 1980s.1 Huntington refers to the period from the 1820s to the post-First World War years, 1945–60, and from 1974 (with the end of the Greek and Portuguese dictatorships) to the 1980s.2 The involvement of Eastern Europe in the most recent wave of democratisation reflected developments that were rapid and unexpected, as well as carrying implications that were highly significant for the nature of the post war global order and even certain aspects of the character of political life in the modern world.3


Civil Society Social Movement Early Modern Period Solidarity Movement Political Pluralism 
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© International Council for Soviet and East European Studies, and Paul G. Lewis 1992

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  • Paul G. Lewis

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