After the fall of communism in 1989 in the Soviet bloc, there remain today five self-proclaimed communist states: China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam. Belarus and Venezuela can also be added to the mix as they meet the criteria for a communist state – even though they don’t officially invoke ideology. So right now the number is seven. The question is, now that capitalism is the engine of the Chinese economy, what is communism today? And if the number of communist states is set to increase in the near future, as some predict, what does this prospect mean for democracy?
My interest in communism goes beyond my work as a historian – it is personal. I was born and raised in Communist Poland in the 1970s and 1980s. It was a gray country where people seemed to have lost all hope. All basic necessities, including shoes and coffee, were rationed. But ration cards didn’t mean you would get what you wanted or even needed. Queuing for hours – sometimes even days – to buy anything that had just been delivered to a store was a common occurrence.
I am convinced that my education has shaped my life and inspired my career. My research has focused on modern Central and Eastern Europe, nationalism and language politics – particularly in totalitarian and authoritarian regimes in the region over the past two centuries.