The Soviet Legacy and Post‐Communist Civil Society in the Caucasus

by Huseyn Aliyev

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: Soviet; legacy; civil; society; post-communist; Caucasus
Record ID: 1301133
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/5033


This study argues that the weakness of civil society in the post-Soviet Caucasus is not only a result of post-communist political and economic problems but is also due to the effects of historical legacies which continue influencing both formal and informal civil societies of the Caucasus’s countries, weakening their ability to facilitate democratization. Two decades after the break up of the USSR, democratization continues to present a challenge to all non-Baltic former Soviet states. The failure of most post-Soviet governments to overcome autocratic patrimonial habits of governance and to embark on democratic institution-building has been a characteristic of the former Soviet Union for the past two decades. Among many other malaises of post-communism, the inherent weakness of civil society has been observed in virtually all post-Soviet regimes. Unlike civil sectors of post-communist Central Europe or even the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, civil societies of ex-Soviet countries remain underdeveloped, ineffective and weak. In contrast, the entrenchment of authoritarian regimes, failures of institutional reforms, in conjunction with the continued reliance of ruling elites on informal structures rather than formal institutions is on the rise in most countries of the post-Soviet region. All of the above is most notable in the former Soviet region of Caucasus. Throughout the entire post-communist period, the political and civil actors across the Caucasus have shown themselves incapable of shedding the old forms of governance, which led to further growth of authoritarianism and weakening of independent civil society. So why does the Caucasus’s civil society fail to facilitate democratic state-building and institution-building processes, invigorating civil mobilization and serving as a balance between the state and society? This thesis examines the relationship between the weakness of civil society and the legacy of Soviet public and private spheres in the post-Soviet Caucasus. Starting from the assumption that the analysis of ‘civic traditions’ of formal and informal civil association inherited from the Soviet period can provide explanations as to why the present-day civil sector is weak, this study seeks to reveal the significance of the former regime’s legacy for contemporary civic institutions. Using qualitative methods of inquiry, this thesis conducts an in-depth examination of both Soviet and post-communist formal and informal civic association, offering fresh insights into our understanding of Soviet civic legacy and of how and why ‘civic traditions’ continue. The findings of this thesis emphasize, among others, that the antecedent regime’s institutional norms and individual attitudes can have long-lasting effects not only in particular countries but also trans-nationally.