Pre-Communist and Communist Developmental Legacies

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This article discusses two distinctive approaches for thinking about historical legacies in the post-communist context. The first approach, which builds on the work of Ken Jowitt, emphasizes the distinctiveness of Leninist socioeconomic and political legacies, while the second approach, rooted in the writings of Andrew Janos, highlights the significant and resilient pre-communist, communist, and post-communist diversity of the countries of the former Soviet bloc. The empirical evidence reviewed in this paper suggests that both types of legacies continue to matter after a quarter-century of post-communist transitions. Thus, whereas we can still discern a distinctive and fairly uniform communist imprint in areas such as primary education and the importance of the state sector in the economy, in other areas of socioeconomic development, either communism was unable to reverse longer-term intraregional differences (e.g., with respect to GDP/capita or the size of the agrarian sector) or its initially distinctive developmental imprint has been fundamentally reshaped by post-communist economic reforms (as in the case of the massive increase in income inequality in a subset of ex-communist countries). In political terms, there is an interesting contrast between institutional trajectories (such as regime type), which largely follow pre-communist developmental differences, and individual political attitudes and behavior, where communist exceptionalism generally trumps post-communist diversity.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)391-408
Number of pages18
JournalEast European Politics and Societies
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 11 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


  • communist development
  • Eastern Europe
  • historical legacies
  • post-communist transition


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