rotest exploded across the socialist world in 1989. Some of
regimes survived; others moved swiftly toward re-
form; and some collapsed. Fifteen years later, social scientists
still wonder what propelled this epochal movement. In studies
of many socialist countries in the 1980s, one finds evidence of
economic stagnation, declining confidence in Marxist-Leninist
ideology, resentment of ruling elites, and recognition that the
system was failing to keep up with the West. Dissent and even
popular opposition to Communist rule appeared in many so-
cieties. Nevertheless, the ‘‘crisis of Leninism’’ (Chirot 1991) had
remarkably di√erent origins and trajectories in places as di√er-
ent as Beijing and Berlin.
In some Communist societies, popular unrest in 1989 ce-
mented a transition that had already been in the making. In
Poland, seeking a political pact that might lead the way out
of the country’s political stalemate, a broad coalition of anti-
regime forces born in the Solidarity movement of 1979–1980
negotiated with party pragmatists desperate to stabilize the
economy. In Hungary, reform Communists initiated political
transition, promoting opposition forces and nascent business
interests in liberalizing the country. As the former Hungarian
party boss Karoly Grosz conceded, ‘‘The party was shattered
not by its opponents but—paradoxically—by the leadership’’
(Przeworski 1991: 56). In both Poland and Hungary in 1989,
pragmatic elements of the ruling elite worked with moderate
dissidents to instigate liberal reforms and conceded to demands
for free elections.
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