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Nordic Russian and Eastern European Studies Conference
Intentions, Interactions and Paradoxes in Post-Socialist Space
24-25 May 2013 in Helsinki, Finland


Li Bennich-Björkman (University of Uppsala, Sweden)
Post-Communist Paths of State-Building, Democratization and Social Transformation: Assessing the Second Decade

When the huge Soviet experiment lasting for a major part of the 20th century ended in 1991, fifteen successor states rose out of the former empire. How has the unprecedented experience of modern dictatorship of Soviet totalitarianism and post-totalitarianism affected political developments in these states, and why has the modern state, combining democratic rule with state capacity, been so hard to achieve in this part of the world? These are fundamental, and demanding, questions that for many years to come will continue to require joint contributions from historians, political scientists, economists, sociologists and others in order to be more satisfactory explored and understood. In my lecture, the aim is to provide an assessment of the most central post-communist developments during the second decade after the collapse of the Soviet empire: the Baltic exceptionalism, the rise of the business state and the increase of inequality and changing structure of life opportunities.

Li Bennich-Björkman is Johan Skytte professor in political science at University of Uppsala, Sweden and research director at the Uppsala Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies (UCRS). A dominant theme in her present research on Eastern Europe and post-Soviet States has been how historical and cultural legacies relate to the divergent post-communist trajectories, processes of state-building, policy-making and party politics, as well as diasporas and integration in a comparative perspective. Among her recent publications are Baltic Biographies at Historical Crossroads (Routledge, 2011), and Political Culture under Institutional Pressure. How Institutions Transform Early Socialization, (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2007). Articles have appeared in the Journal of Baltic Studies (2006, 2012), East European Politics and Societies (2007), Nationalities Papers (2007), Higher Education Quarterly (2007), Comparative European Politics (2012), Baltic Worlds (2009, online 2010).