The national foundations of postcommunist transitions
This thesis addresses the divergence of postcommunist transitions in terms of political regime types. The literature on democratisation proposes three principal factors as determining the unveiling of developmental paths in transition states: elite power configurations, economic policies, and international relations. While these factors indeed explain the success of some postcommunist democratisations, they cannot account for the array of political trajectories across the region. The thesis proposes nationalism as the principal factor behind such divergence. It suggests that the forms of nationalism available to and adopted by political elites were behind the variation in postcommunist regime development. The thesis reveals a specific postcommunist type of nationalism, egalitarian nationalism, which is ethnically inclusive but anti-liberal. It proposes that the prevalence of pro-European liberal or collectivist egalitarian nationalism determined the evolution of postcommunist transition types towards democracy or authoritarianism respectively. The argument is developed through the analysis of the historically longest and the most stable case of postcommunist transition reverted from a democratic to an authoritarian path: the post-soviet development of Belarus. The country's elites' effectiveness in formulating policies in national ideological terms proved consistent with their political success or failure, and thus determined the direction of Belarusian development. During the democratisation period, liberal nationalism was pursued in a way that had little resonance with inherited identities and was inconsistent with the European developmental model that its protagonists purported to profess. As such, it discredited and undermined the democratic development of Belarus. The more egalitarian national ideology, on the contrary, was upheld in a socially resonant way, and was consistent with the policies advanced in other spheres of social development. As such, egalitarian nationalism underpinned the construction and consolidation of an authoritarian regime. The main contention of the thesis is that political ideologies, and national ideologies in particular, remain a key determinant of social development in the present day world.