The Post-Communist Generation in the Former Eastern Bloc

  • January 20, 2010
  • By Juliana Menasce Horowitz

Pew Global Attitudes survey conducted in fall 2009 finds that members of the post-communist generation, who are now between the ages of 18 and 39, offer much more positive evaluations of the political and economic changes their countries have undergone over the past two decades than do those who were adults when the Iron Curtain fell. The younger generation is also more individualistic and more likely to endorse a free market economy than are those who are age 40 or older.

Throughout 2010, the Pew Research Center will release a series of reports that explore the values, attitudes and behavior of America's Millennial Generation, which first came of age around the time of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and played an important role in the election of President Barack Obama. The Pew Research Center's Global Attitude Project's contribution to this project focuses on a somewhat different age group: the post-communist generation in the former Eastern bloc. The older members of this generation came of age as their countries began to transition away from communism toward democracy and capitalism, and its youngest members were just being born as communism was collapsing. Their political socialization has taken place under a context that is drastically different from that of their older peers, who came of age under totalitarian regimes.The former Eastern bloc publics were surveyed as part of a Pulse of Europe study that included 13 countries in Eastern and Western Europe as well as the United States.

The generation gap on attitudes about democracy and capitalism in Eastern Europe reflects a divide between the past, present and future. Both young and old express concerns about the way things are going in their country, especially with regards to the economic situation. But while the older generation looks back longingly, often saying that people were better off financially under communism, the younger generation expresses more confidence that democracy can solve their countries' problems. This is a hopeful sign for the future, as the post-communist generation becomes the next leaders and decision-makers in Eastern Europe.

Read the full report The Post-Communist Generation in the Former Eastern Bloc on the Pew Research Center's Web site.