Capitalism, democracy lose favour in ex-Soviet bloc

9th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, research by the Pew Research Center showed the percentage of people behind the old Iron Curtain approving of democracy was markedly lower compared to a similar 1991 poll.

Washington -- Capitalism and democracy have lost popularity in the former Soviet republics of Eastern and Central Europe where many people felt better off economically under communism, a poll showed Monday.

Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, research by the Pew Research Center showed the percentage of people behind the old Iron Curtain approving of democracy was markedly lower compared to a similar 1991 poll.

The biggest change was in Ukraine where there was a massive 42 percent drop in support: only 30 percent of Ukrainians asked said they now approved of the move from communism to the multiparty system, down from 72 percent in 1991.

Eighty-five percent of respondents in East Germany supported the change to democracy, but even this was down six percent from 1991. The figure dropped 24 percent in Bulgaria, 20 in Lithuania, 18 in Hungary and eight in Russia.

Poland and Slovakia bucked the trend with four percent and one percent rises respectively.

"East Germans are the success story in terms of accepting democracy," said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. "The real problem child is Ukraine."

Disenchantment with capitalism was also in evidence. The share of those now approving of the transfer to a market economy plummeted 34 percent in Hungary and 26 percent in Lithuania.

Ukrainian respondents gave capitalism the lowest approval rating, with only 36 percent in favour, down 16 percent from 1991.

Only the Poles (47 percent) and the Czechs (45 percent) said the economic situation was better today than under communism, and as many as 72 percent in Hungary said they believed the opposite was true.

Despite those figures, most countries generally looked back approvingly on the fall of communism, and the percentage of people satisfied with life rose across the board with the exception of West Germany.

"Basically people do find life is better but not quite as good as they expected it to be," said former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, a co-chair of the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

"There is real disappointment in political leadership. There is a lack of trust in political institutions but an overall approval of democracy."

Membership of the European Union was widely seen as positive, except in Hungary. NATO was also popular apart from in Ukraine and in Russia, where 59 percent of those polled gave a negative opinion of the military alliance.

Russia was considered by all countries except Bulgaria and Ukraine to be exerting a negative influence.

A large majority of Russians said they felt the end of the Soviet Union was a "great misfortune" and nearly half, 47 percent, agreed it was "natural" for Russia to have an empire.

The poll, conducted between August 27 and September 24, surveyed around 1,000 people in each country.

AFP/Expatica

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