When the Iron Curtain disintegrated, the newly freed lands of what was once the Soviet empire had to start from scratch. The civil structure of our societies was devastated, our political structures perverted, our perceptions distorted, our economies in shambles. In five short years, we have managed to nurture a new civic consciousness, to build the basic framework of democracy, to lay the foundations of a viable economy. There is so much to praise, so much of which to be proud. That is the real story: the success of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech and Slovak Republics, in rebuilding free and democratic societies.
As a Czech I would like to speak only of our successes—to play the role of the bard who sings the praises of the polis. But I am not only a Czech; I am also a philosopher. Philosophy since Socrates’s time has played the role of the gadfly, consolidating freedom by pointing to its faults and flaws. In that spirit, I want to examine the difficulties confronting democratization in the newly freed lands....
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