Eastern Europe is currently a hotbed for authoritarian leaders, even in the aftermath of the Cold War. We focussed particularly on situations in Poland and Hungary and how their political systems have not evolved into the Liberal Democracy of the West.
The discussion in today’s lecture established that this because neither countries had a real transitional process from part of the Eastern Bloc, to part of a united Europe.
Furthermore, both countries have been subjected, throughout the 20th century alone, to numerous invasions. This has created a heightened sense of nationalism at a time where they have full control over their country. This is the reason Hungary’s Orban is almost declaring war on immigration and Poland has reignited its quest against Anti-semites. Both countries wish to have full control over their country and ensure that these multiple invasions (whether it be by immigrants or tyrannical leaders) do not happen in the 21st century.
The role of the EU is interesting in Eastern Europe. Both Poland and Hungary are part of it but both are going against the fundamentals of western democracy; Hungary is trying to close the European University in Budapest as it encourages the influence of liberalism Judaism, and Poland have dramatically limited free speech and thinking. Yet the EU continues to let these policies thrive. People do fear that a stand-off between Western Europe Liberal Democracies and Eastern One-Party states could lead to the break up of the EU.
On reflection, although it may seem wrong to Westerners that they are rejecting Liberal Democracy in favour of Authoritarianism, I think their reaction is unsurprising; the political parties in power want to take hold of their own destiny rather than be at the hands of others (although both are undoubtedly influenced by both the US and Russia- more considerably the latter). This is a clear example where it is important to understand the history of a country to fathom the direction it is now going in. Both countries are reacting to the 20th century in order to find their path for the 21st.