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The Puzzle of Slovenia and Estonia in the Post-Communist Era: How Deliberated Nationalism Explains Reform and Consensus-Driven Transition

  • Li Bennich-Bjorkman

Praised by international organizations, Slovenia and Estonia constitute the most successful post-communist economies. These two states are likewise success stories when it comes to democratic consolidation and state-building. Slovenia has opted for gradual market reforms guided by social justice while Estonia quickly reformed its Soviet economy into one of the most liberal in the world. Still, I argue that their roots of success coincide. Crucial opportunities of civil initiatives were never repressed in Slovenia and Estonia during the Communist period as in several other Yugoslav and Soviet republics. Distinct national identities continued to form and re-form during these decades and became deliberated rather than repressed, later strengthening reform capacities in decisive areas. In Estonia, national identities were further emphasized by ethically dubious processes that locked large Russian-speaking minorities out of citizenship.

Li Bennich-Björkman is Johan Skytte professor in political science at University of Uppsala, Sweden. She has published on the organisation of creativity, Organising Innovative Research, (Elsevier/Pergamon Press, 1997), on educational policies, integration and political culture. A dominant theme in her present research on Eastern Europe and post-Soviet States has been how historical and cultural legacies relate to the divergent post-communist trajectories. A particular focus has been on the three Baltic States. Within this framework, Ukraine has been included. Recent research activities have concerned the impact of the European Union on elite values and political culture in Ukraine, Bulgaria and Romania. Her latest publication is a monograph published with Palgrave/Macmillan, Political Culture under Institutional Pressure. How Institutions Transform Early Socialization, (2007), dealing mainly with the Estonian Diaspora. Articles have appeared in the Journal of Baltic Studies (2006), East European Politics and Societies (2007) and Nationalities Papers (2007) as well as Higher Education Quarterly (2007). Comparative state-building in Estonia and Latvia was addressed in a recently published volume on Building Democracy East of the Elbe (Routledge/Sage:2006).