Featured weekly article: Post-communist extremism in Eastern Europe: The nature of the phenomenon

Post-communist extremism in Eastern Europe: The nature of the phenomenon

By Othon Anastasakis

Volume 1, Issue 2, pages 15-26

Abstract

The recent electoral gains of extreme right parties in many countries of Europe have made European citizens realise that the extreme right is not to be regarded exclusively as a fringe phenomenon but as a force that can penetrate mainstream democratic politics. The resilience and occasional rise of the radical right poses a serious challenge for social scientists and policy makers. Social scientists are called upon to examine the nature of the phenomenon, the factors conducive to the existence and resilience of the forces of extremism and the impact of far right political mobilisation within national societies and Europe, at large. Governments and policy makers for their part explore ways to marginalise these forces in order to sustain, in Western Europe- and consolidate, in Eastern Europe, democracy in the continent. But while there is ample analysis of the West European experience, there is an inadequate understanding of the conditions and circumstances that breed extreme right forces in Eastern Europe. In what follows, the paper will attempt to address the academic debate on the causes and nature of the contemporary East European extreme right. It will assess the relevance of a western oriented approach in the East European context. The article mostly refers to extremism in countries like Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania. These countries are, by and large, functioning democracies, where extreme right parties compete in elections and in some of them are quite influential. All of these countries are applying to become members of the European Union, and this membership is subject to strict political criteria, requiring democratic principles, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

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