David Merryman

Civil Society and Transitional Justice in Post-Communist Central Europe


Since the third wave of democratization swept the globe beginning in the 1970’s, how states deal with their authoritarian pasts as well as civil society’s contributions to  democratization have been extensively studied.  The transitional justice literature initially emphasized the supply side of policy formation, focusing on structural factors such as previous regime type, mode of transition, and balance of power between regime and opposition, while later work incorporating actors examined elite preferences and strategic considerations. Recent scholarship has begun to examine institutional factors and how demand from the public influences policy choices of actors. This project studies transitional justice from the demand side by examining the role in which civil society played in the adoption of these policies. While some analysts have made note of the role that civil society played in transitional justice policies in South Africa and Latin America, there has been little explicit examination of the relationship. The post-communist states faced unique challenges because the nature of their former totalitarian regimes’ destructive impact on civil society, which makes the existing analyses less applicable to states in this region. This project attempts to fill a gap in the literature by examining the role that civil society played in transitional justice polices in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, all states in which civil society played an important role in the transition to democracy.

Faculty Mentor: Heather Tafel, Political Science

Page last modified July 29, 2009