An End to Patience? The 2008 Global Financial Crisis and Political Protest in Eastern Europe

Citation:

Beissinger, Mark R., and Gwendolyn Sasse. 2014. “An End to Patience? The 2008 Global Financial Crisis and Political Protest in Eastern Europe”. In Mass Politics in Tough Times: Opinions, Votes, and Protest in the Great Recession, ed. Larry Bartels and Nancy Bermeo. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press , p. 334-370. Copy at http://https://tinyurl.com/y6mk9448

Abstract:

Based on an event analysis of 967 protest events, this paper explores the dynamics of economic protest across 18 countries in Eastern Europe in the context of the Great Recession. While the initial period of post-communist transition in the 1990s has been characterized as one of "patience" and quiescence, the 2008 economic crisis called this pattern into question, altering the level and nature of economic protest in the region. But there was considerable variation across the post-communist countries experiencing significant economic contraction. The countries that proved most vulnerable to high levels of economic protest were those that had been in the forefront of reform in the 1990s. They exhibited high levels of dependence on the global economy, and the transition and EU integration process generated public expectations about improving living standards that were dashed during the crisis. A number of other factors shaped protest responses among those states that experienced economic contraction: 1) levels of public sector employment; 2) IMF rescue packages; 3) public trust in government in the run-up to the crisis; and 4) political party mobilization. The essay further illustrates the causal processes underlying differential patterns of protest through paired comparisons of Latvia and Estonia on the one hand and Hungary and Ukraine on the other.