Regime and Society in Eastern Europe (1956 – 1989)

The ambition of this project rests on the long-established tradition of the comparative politico-historical and interdisciplinary studies of the totalitarian regimes and on the theoretical efforts to elucidate the social dynamics and social change in Eastern Europe during the so called “real socialism”. It will deal with the relations between regime and society in an attempt to highlight the growing tensions between them.

Without neglecting the important role of the geopolitical confrontation and the dissident movements, this work will search the key factors for the disintegration of communist societies in the common peoples’ modes of conduct. While the regime followed the same guiding principles till its end, individual and community ways kept changing and these shifts affected the whole society. Therefore we should study and critically analyse the evolving motives behind individual and group everyday behavior, their new moral orientations, as well as the changes in the regime practices and the characteristics of the dominant type among party functionaries. The communist regime loses support among social groups, which it favours and considers its social basis. This could be construed as the beginning of its end.

The project involves one principle investigator who will organise and supervise the work of four senior researchers from the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and the GDR while each of them deals with the local aspects of the issue. The PI will study these phenomena in Bulgarian context and at the same time will provide a comparative narrative linking all five case studies.

The comparative analyses of different social practices and dynamics in similar political environments will help us in our endeavor to understand the various courses Eastern-European countries took in the processes of overcoming their communist past. From this perspective, the proposed project will be open-ended: its outcomes can serve as a basis for a follow-up research of the democratic transformation process.