The New Freedom: Living with Hope, Skepticism and Irony

The New Freedom: Living with Hope, Skepticism and Irony

The young people who earlier joined the youth branch of the party primarily for social purposes were often joining local churches during the early 1990s—not because they necessarily were becoming religious but because they were looking for institutions that could provide settings and occasions for social gatherings and activities –much as young people in the United States often do. The older Estonians and Hungarians were also often joining the newly emerging political parties to establish or, in many instances, sustain friendships. Given the small population and size of Estonia, the existing friendship patterns have been particularly important in establishing the new parties. As one of our interviewees noted, the many small parties that littered the political landscape of Estonia during the 1990s were nothing more than the blending and extension of friendship patterns and business alliances. Perhaps the invention of Skype in Estonian exemplifies this strong desire for connectedness (even if it is now done digitally).

Berne Weiss and I found that the urge to join was related not just to a desire for connections. It was also related to a more practical, economic motivation. Older men and women joined the Communist party in order to get a job, hold a job, or obtain a promotion. Our interview with a new Estonian diplomat, for instance, revealed that “in the past [Soviet era], in order to get a better job, or to get an apartment, or to go as a tourist to other parts of the country or abroad , or to go on a business trip, one must be a member of the Communist party.” Things did not change after the Soviet collapse. Ironically, many of the privately ambitious and most entrepreneurial of the citizens in both Hungary and Estonia were members of the supposedly collective-oriented, anti-individualistic Communist party. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that by the middle of the 1990s many of the most successful free market” entrepreneurial capitalists in both countries (as well as other former Communist countries) were former members of the Communist party. As one of our observant interviewees noted:

You know the changes are not like throwing out the ones who are not needed and keeping the good ones. I mean it was a smooth development or a smooth procedure when those guys were replaced . . . . Those who were active members of the party, they are still in high positions in some companies.

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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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