Central-Eastern or Post- Communist Europe? Always behind the West? Paweł Boski Institute of Psychology Polish Academy of Sciences Keynote address at the Conference on From Totalitarianism towards Democracy in Central-Eastern Europe Warsaw, November 18-20

Post communist europe always_different_from_the_rest

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Central-Eastern or Post-Communist Europe? Always behind the West?

Paweł BoskiInstitute of PsychologyPolish Academy of Sciences

Keynote address at the Conference onFrom Totalitarianism towards Democracy in Central-Eastern Europe

Warsaw, November 18-20

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I acknowledge great help from my student, Marcin Nagraba, in obtaining and processing EuroStat data, essential in analyses presented in this lecture

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Plan of my talk

• A brief historical account of stunning differences between Eastern and Western parts of Europe;

• East – West comparisons in socio-economic indices during the last 10 years;

• East – West comparisons in standings on culture’s psychological dimensions and a model of relations between socio-economic and psychological variables.

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Europe: A divided subcontinent

Europe: A small piece of land, craddle of an important civilisation, with many languages and fluctuating nations (their numbers not known exactly) in perpetual war conflicts, counterbalanced by unifying forces.

This definition stands for the past and for the present. Often, in this context, the roots of European civilization

are characterized by: • Greek philosophy and science;• Roman law and;• Judeo-Christian religion;• [French would add 18th century Lumière- the

Enlightenment ideals of universalism and modernism]

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South – North: The first historical split When we move to the ancient period of our history, a

clear split in Europe becomes very noticeable:• Civilized South, i.e. Greek and then Roman empirevs• “Barbarian” rest.

In fact, the boundaries of Europe were equivalent with the area of Roman influence.

This dividing line was the most crucial axis until the end of ancient times. Later, it lost that prime importance but remains of a noticeable relevance today.

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Early East – West Division• The grains of a new split were seeded with the division of

Roman Empire (Constantine, Diocletian) into its Western and Eastern (Bizantine) branches in 4th Century.

• With the recognition of Christianity, this split became religious, contrasting the Pope and Roman-Catholic church with Bizantine Patriarch and Orthodox church; it was sealed with the 11th century schism. Interestingly, Constantinopole and then Moscow were called 2nd and 3rd Rome, respectively.

• The Holy Roman Empire (of the German Nation) reached its end only after 1806 after the battle of Austerlitz, from victorious Napoleon Bonaparte.

• Latin language and alphabet vs. eastern cyrillic script became equally important elements of cultural heritage.

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End of Medieval era: The West starts showing the edge• During the medieval times, Constantinople was the largest

city in Europe, and with the Golden Age in the Balkans (Serbia, Bulgaria), the Eastern part did not lag behind the West.

• Capture of Constantinopole by the Turks (1453), and the Renaissance revival in the West became the turning points in the history. Since then, Western Europe entered the path of dynamic growth, while its South-Central part entered the period of stagnation and subjugation to Ottoman and Russian empires.

• Since Renaissance, Western centers became the beacons or models of cultural, scientific and later, with – the onset of protestantism - of economic development.

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Western Dominance

• On the long run, the Western dominance it is a matter of the last 550 years;

• On the short run (which will be the subject of empirical evidence for this paper), it is the period since WWII.

• It is not easy to establish what has been of greater importance for our times: 500 years- 1450-1945? or the last 45 years- 1945 - 1990?

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Modeling after the West: Polish examples (importing)

• Polish cities founded by German laws (Magdeburg);• Renaissance in architecture and art brought by Italians (the

Sforzas);• Baroque style in architecture, arts, literature , and lifestyles in

17th century – mainly influenced by French aristocratic culture;

• Classisistic period of 18th century (seen on streets of Warsaw) – mostly Italian influence;

• French was the language and culture of educated Poles in 19th century. Polish universities were modeled after German counterparts.

• More generally, Westernization became a big political issue in the region, including Russia, since at least 18th century.

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Modeling after the West: Polish examples (studying abroad and early ‘brain drain’)

• Nicolas Copernicus (in 15th c.) and Maria Sklodowska-Curie (in 19th ) are the best known world class scientists in the span of 400 years. The former studied in Padua, while the latter in Sorbonne.

• To achieve any success in science, arts and humanities, it became obligatory to study in the West and to stay there or bring back the acquired knowledge and skills.

• There has been basic asymmetry in cultural exchange over the times, only with shifting centers- from Western cities to American – more recently.

• This tendency is well known in other countries of the region.

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Central – Eastern Europe as West Bis

It is amusing when we enumerate a long list of locations and names in our region coined after Western originals:

• Constantinopole and Moscow as 2nd and 3rd Romes;• Bydgoszcz, Pultusk, Olsztyn – towns in Poland are Venice(s) of the

North;• Royal Palace of Wilanów (in Warsaw) is known as Polish Versaille;• Bucarest = Paris of Romania;• Krynica (a small Polish mountain resort) = Polish Davos;• Łódź (Polish industrial city) used to be known as Polish Manchester; • A wife of a political leader, and a presidential contender is called

Polish Carla Bruni;• Highest scientific awards are nicknamed Polish Nobel Prize

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West is better than the East within the same country or even in capital cities!

• Western Germany > Eastern (former DDR);

Western Poland > Eastern Poland;

Czechia > Slovakia (in the former Czecho-Slovakia);

Slovenia & Croatia > Serbia and other former Yugoslav republics;

Western Hungary and Romania > Eastern parts of both countries

• Western=Royal {Kiyiv, Warsaw, Buda, Prague, Berlin, Paris, London} > Eastern districts of these cities.

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Historical Backwardness of Central and Eastern Europe?

• For the last 600 years there has been a well documented East European lag in technological, artistic, and economic advancement vis a vis the West;

• This pervading fact of backwardness can not be reduced to the 50 years of communism but goes much deeper.

• Ideas and capital travel East;• People go West.

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What was the impact of Communism?• Freezing socio – economic development in the

region during the time of unprecedented growth period in the West after WWII;

• Increasing the preexisting differences on the continent;

• Creating perpetual shortages of all goods and services

• Devastating non-economic factors of psychological nature, such as: fear, vengeance, low social capital (mistrust), cynicism vis-a-vis official propaganda, conformity, and low life satisfaction.

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East vs West in XXI century:Empirical Comparisons (Part I)

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Databases and Analyses• Our analyses will be based on EuroStat data for the

last 10 years; • These are macroeconomic and socio-political indices

(all standardized before running analyses);• I will first compare two categories of EU countries:

those which belonged to the Soviet block, and the these without communist past.

• [Analyses performed separately for year 2000 and ≈10 years later gave the same results, thus the two scores were averaged across measures.]

• Later, results of cluster analyses and of multidimensional scaling will be presented.

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Economy & ProductivityGDP/cap (PPS)

GDP growth (2000-09)

GDP (s.d) growth in decade

Governt. debt



Price food index

No-commun-ist past (n=20)

.474 -.390 -.345 .293 .605 .322 .536


-1.021 1,190 .963 -.653 -1.111 -.539 -1.095

F(1,28); η²

29.28***; .511




43.05***; .623



Post-communist countries are less affluent but they have been growing much faster – in the last decade - than the rich West, though with ups and downs. They are less productive with lower employment rates, and cheaper alimentation; governmental debt is lower too.

[Among 20 non-communist countries are Norway, Switzerland and Iceland which do not belong to EU]

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Quality of Social LifeCountry category

Human Dev. Index (2007)

Democracy ~Corrupt. Soc.protect expend. & fertility

Educat. Expendit.

Crime (police reported)

No-Communist past (n=20/+1)

.629 .544 .515 .430 .503 .324


-1.100 -,906 -.879 -.997 -.976 -.732

F(1,31); η²

77.12***; .713



42.73***; .596



A s measured by HDI, practices of political democracy, non-corruption practices, educational and social protection expenditures (and their consequences in number of university students and fertility rates), quality of life is much lower in Post-Communist countries.

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Life and deathCountry category

Life expect. at birth (2007)

Longevity (and infant ~mortal.)

Suicides (2005-2008)

Homicides (2000 – 2009)

Deaths in traffic accidents (2000)

No-commun-ist past (n=20/+1)

.638 .532 -.421 -.431 -.567


-1.116 -1,096 .702 .780 .945

F(1,31); η²

85.38***; .734




37.17***; .553

In the post-communist countries human life is considerably shorter (starting from higher infant mortality); death takes its toll by higher suicide and homicide rates, and traffic accidents. Russia is an outlier in these statistics.

[Here Russia and Ukraine are included.]

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The differences are not everywhere we lookAlthough substantial in some vital aspects of socio-economic and political life, the differences between the two categories are not perennial. Post-communist and other countries do not differ in:

• Rates of marriages and divorces;• Number of prisoners;• GINI index;• Degree of economic freedom;• Government investments;• Patent applications;• Practicing physicians;• Computer skills and internet users;• Gender distribution at educational levels;• Population parameters; • Early school dropouts are lower in post-communist countries .

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Cluster analysis on socio-economic indices (set 1): Dendrogram of linkages between EU countries



West - North

Post-communist region is separate from the rest of Europe; but also, geographical-historical sub-regions are reflected by our empirical data

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Cluster analysis on socio-economic indices (set #2): Dendrogram of linkages between European countries





Another sets of indices renders a similar solution. This time Russia and Ukraine are included but Russia as an ‘outlier’ does not appear on the dendrogram. The two economically most prosperous countries of this cluster: Czechia and Slovenia are out from the post-communist camp.

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Multi-dimensional scaling on socio-economic indices (set 1): A map of Europe spread on two dimensions

Dimension_1: Prosperity & Life Quality

P-Comm. < ~Comm.F(1,28)=58.06***, η² =.675

Longitude, r(30)=.455*











e, l






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Multi-dimensional scaling on socio-economic indices (set 2): A two dimensional map of Europe (with Russia and Ukraine included)

Dimension_1: Econ.Prosperity & Life Quality

P-Comm. < ~Comm.F(1,30)=39.62***, η² =.569


: V




th (


Longitude, r(32)=.614***







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East vs West in XXI century:Empirical Comparisons (Part II)

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Non-Economic Macro-level indices and comparisons

• Though introduced by economists and demographers, macro-level indices, are no more a monopoly of these disciplines among social sciences;

• Obviously, sociologists have their share too (e.g. indices of social structure, mobility, etc);

• Finally, cross-cultural psychology has moved in the field, studying values, beliefs, practices, attitudes, life-styles, and life-satisfaction world-wide and for comparative purposes.

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Culture’s Psychological Dimensions: Beginnings

• For historical purposes, Geert Hofstede should be mentioned. His Culture’s Conseguences (1980-2001) was the first large project proposing dimensions of subjective culture;

• Yet, Hofstede’s data-base is 40 years old, and his dimensions plagued with theoretical confusion and empirical errors, rendering the project unsuitable for mapping the world today.

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World according to cross-cultural psychologistsFor East – West (Non vs. Post-Communist) comparisons, I will use data from some of the best known contemporary projects:1. GLOBE (2004; a 62 country study on cultural

values and practices);2. Schwartz Value Project (an ongoing study with

available data from 78 countries);3. Big Five Personality Project (5 traits measured

by NEO-PI-R in 51 countries);4. Subjective Well-Being (measured by Diener’s

SWLS, Veenhoven’s LS and Inglehart’s Survival – Self-expression).

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Cross-cultural GLOBE project: From 9 dimensions of cultural practices a simpler model of two MD scales


• Performance orientation• Future orientation• Uncertainty avoidance• Institutional collectivism

Traditional Communality• Humane orientation• Familism • Non-Assertiveness• Low Gender Equality

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D_1: Effectiveness


: Tr



al c





World according to GLOBE project: Two dimensions grouping 61 countries

Low High



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Non-Comm. Post_comm. Poland













Culture level effectiveness: Non–past_Communist Post_communist - Poland

West-European (non-pastCommunist) cultures score significantly higher on Effectiveness scale than the post-Communist cultures. That is, West is higher on practices of future planning, nonambivalent rules, achievement standards, and institutional collectivism.

F(1, 17)=6.81**; η²=.206

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Schwartz’s cross-cultural research project on values : Two culture-level dimensions (out of 7 types)

(-) Embeddedness vs. Autonomy (+)

• Embeddedness (low)• Autonomy (high)• Harmony• Egalitarianism

Dynamism - Passivity• Mastery

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D_1: Embeddedness - Individual autonomy


: D






Mapping the world (77 countries) with two value dimensions from Schwartz’s project

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Non-Comm. Post_comm. Poland








Embeddedness – Individual Autonomy: Non-communist Europe – Post_communist - Poland

Kultura Europy zachodniaejcharakteryzuje się znacznie wyższą autonomi jednostki niż świat post-komunistyczny a Polska zajmuje pozycję poniżej średniej dla swego regionu.

F(1, 26)=20.29***; η²=.438

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Citizens’ Personality: Two dimensions of modal personality based on Big Five model in 51 countries

Social maturity• Agreeableness• Conscientiousness• Extraversion

Creativity• Openness to experience• Emotional stability

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Big Five: Two dimensions of citizen’s personality in 51 countries

D_1: Social maturity (Agree.+ Conscient.)









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Non-Comm. Post_Comm. Poland-0.6









F(1, 17)=4.42*; η²=.206


Citizens’ social maturity: No-Past_Communist– Post_Communist - Poland

Kultura Europy zachodniej charakteryzuje się znacznie wyższą dojrzałością społeczną obywateli niż świat post-komunistyczny a Polska zajmuje pozycję poniżej średniej dla swego regionu.


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Roman - South

West –North

Cluster analysis of European countries on psychological dimensions of cultures. Dendrogram of linkages between 12 countries with complete data

Post - communist

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NonComm.EU Post_commun. Poland








Subjective Well-Being (combined: Diener’s SWLS, Veenhoven’s LS, and Inglehart’s post-materialist):

~Comm. Past – Post_commun. - Poland

Western European nations highly exceed post-communist countries in SWB. This is a very strong effect, and not fully accountable for by economic factors.

F(1,32)=70.79***; η²=.702

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Post-CommunismEconomic Prosperity & Life Quality Culture’s Psychological Dimensions

Post - Communism

Economic Prosperity & Life Quality












Culture’s Psychological Dimensions



Social maturity(Big Five)


(Big Five)

Subjective Well-Being(Diener, Veenhoven, Inglehart)


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Model fit

• Chi-square = 6,385• Degrees of freedom = 14• Probability level = ,956

• NFI= .982• CFI= 1.00• RMSEA= .000

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SWB: 1 ( green) = highest; 2 (blue)= second best; 3 (violet)= moderate; 4 (orange) = low; 5 (red) = lowest

The World Map of Happiness in 177 countries (Happy Planet Index, 2006)

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Objective (HDI) and Subjective (SWLS) indices of life quality in 177 countries grouped in 17 regions

of the world













T -



1. Scandinavia (n=5); 2. Anglo-world (6); 3. Germanic (6, Benelux); 4. Latin Europe (7, Cyprus, Malta); 5. Far Eastern Asia (5, Hong-Kong, Singapore); 6. European post-communist (21, Caucasian republics); 7. South America (11, only continent); 8. Arab peninsula (8, emirates, ‘oil countries’); 9. Antilles-Karraibeans (14); 10. Central America (8, from Mexico to Panama); 11. North Africa/Middle-East (11, Israel); 12. Central Asia (8, post USSR republics, Mongolia, Iran); 13. Oceania (6, Pacific islands and archipelagos); 14. South-Eastern Asia (17, from Pakistan to Indochina, and Indonesia); 15. South Africa. (15, south from Congo); 16. Eastern Africa (6, from Djibuti to Tanzania); 17. Western and Central Africa (26, from Capo Verte Islands to Sudan and Congo).

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1. The findings presented in this talk come from many different sources and from leading international projects. This is the best what social sciences can offer today. My role in the whole enterprise was modest: limited to secondary analysis and interpretation.

2. The results which came from these activities are strong, clear and pessimistic in their message.

3. 20 years after, the post-communist countries trail after the ‘Old EU’. These differences are stable even that considerable leaps have been done in economic growth.

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Conclusions – contd.

4. Subjective well-being became nowadays one of the crucial indices to worry about. It has been documented beyond reasonable doubt that the post communist countries suffer in this area irrespective of their level of objective prosperity , and indirectly through such consequences of objective life quality as lower autonomy, lower effectiveness, and social maturity.

5. Prospects for hope? – Well nothing is eternal in human history. Bulgaria, Serbia, Poland, Czechia and others had their Golden Ages in the past, perhaps they will return. The problem is that no clear regional strengths have been discovered to become the vehicle of change.