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Between Utopia and Disillusionment: A Narrative of the Political Transformation in Eastern Europe

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Volume 1

Contemporary European History

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Between Utopia and Disillusionment

A Narrative of the Political Transformation in Eastern Europe

Henri Vogt

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320 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-57181-895-9 25% OFF! $120.00/£85.00 $90.00/£63.75 Hb Published (November 2004)

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


"Vogt listens, and he does it brilliantly thus providing the reader with a truly unique narrative that is both analytically deep and enjoyable to read…Thanks to Vogt's confident, forceful and lucid style, the narrative never loses its grip on the academic debate; it incorporates an enormous body of the relevant literature in political science, philosophy, cultural anthropology, and social psychology. Yet, the text clearly gives priority to what makes this study exceptional: the live experiences of Eastern Europeans."  ·  Kosmopolis. The Finnish Journal of Peace, Conflict and Global Politics Research


Scholarly interpretations of the collapse of communism and developments thereafter have tended to be primarily concerned with people’s need to rid themselves of the communist system, of their past. The expectations, dreams, and hopes that ordinary Eastern Europeans had when they took to the streets in 1989, and have had ever since, have therefore been overlooked – and our understanding of the changes in post-communist Europe has remained incomplete. Focusing primarily on five key areas, such as the heritage of 1989 revolutions, ambivalence, disillusionment, individualism, and collective identities, this book explores the expectations and goals that ordinary Eastern Europeans had during the 1989 revolutions and the decade thereafter, and also the problems and disappointments they encountered in the course of the transformation. The analysis is based on extensive interviews with university students and young intellectuals in the Czech Republic, Eastern Germany and Estonia in the 1990s, which in themselves have considerable value as historical documents.

Henri Vogt is Professor of International Politics at the University of Turku, Finland. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford, and has previously worked, inter alia, as Visiting Professor of European Studies at the University of the Saarland, Germany, and Senior Researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. His other books include A Responsible Europe? Ethical Foundations of EU External Affairs (coedited with Hartmut Mayer; Palgrave Macmillan 2006).

Subject: Postwar History
Area: Central/Eastern Europe


List of Figures and Tables


  • Background
  • The Rejection of Utopia
  • Empirical Sources and Narrativity
  • The Structure of the Study
  • Concluding Remarks

Chapter 1. Narratives of the Revolutions

  • Estonia – the Singing Revolution
  • The German Democratic Republic – die sanfte Revolution
  • Czechoslovakia – the Velvet Revolution
  • By Way of Conclusion

Chapter 2. Revolution as a Utopia

  • The Notion of Utopia
  • Freedom
  • Future
  • Concluding Remarks

Chapter 3. Utopia Not Yet Fulfilled: Ambivalence after the Revolutions

  • Post-revolutionary Ambivalence
  • Postmodern Ambivalence
  • Concluding Remarks
  • Excursus: Ambivalence in Ivan Klíma’s Poslední stupenv du° vevrnosti

Chapter 4. Utopia Not Fulfilled: Disillusionment

  • Material Reasons for Disillusionment
  • Atomisation
  • Alienation
  • Excursus: Diachronic and Synchronic Alienation in Post-communist
  • Novels
  • Acceptance: Sacrifice
  • Concluding Remarks

Chapter 5. Individualism as a Utopia

  • The Notion of Individualism
  • Individualism and Communism
  • Individualism and Post-communism
  • Individualism, Politics and Democracy

Chapter 6. Collective Utopias: From National Independence to Europe

  • Nationalism and Communism
  • The Idea of the Nation: Present and Not Yet Present
  • The Utopian Struggle
  • National Identity: Universal or Particular?
  • Concluding Remarks

Conclusion: Politics between Utopia and Disillusionment

  • Understanding Post-communist Politics
  • The Utopia of Politics
  • Final Remarks


  1. The Interviews and the Method of Analysis
  2. Themes of the Interviews
  3. Themes for the Czech essayists
  4. President Lennart Meri’s Speeches Analysed in Chapter 6.
  5. Translations of the German Interview Passages


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