Ukraine’s Convoluted Transition: Between Dysfunctional Democracy and Unconsolidated Authoritarianism

May 26, 2011
10:00 am - 11:30 am

Highlights – Mykola Riabchuk Presentation from National Endowment for Democracy on Vimeo.

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Mr. Mykola Riabchuk
Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow

With comments by

Dr. Nadia Diuk
National Endowment for Democracy

Twenty years after Ukraine emerged as an independent state from the shackles of the collapsed Soviet Union, it still remains stuck in a grey zone between late communist authoritarianism and full-fledged democracy. Neither a success story nor a complete failure, the hybrid regime in Ukraine seems to fluctuate between two political syndromes that Thomas Carothers has described as “feckless pluralism” and “dominant power politics.”

Since 1991, political developments have brought no real change in terms of institutional efficiency, governmental accountability, or political participation. State institutions remain dysfunctional and corrupt, while Ukrainians remain highly distrustful of political leaders and largely alienated from the political process beyond voting. This deficient democracy evokes nostalgia for “law and order,” facilitating the victory of authoritarian leaders in essentially free and fair elections.

In his presentation, award-winning Ukrainian journalist and scholar Mr. Mykola Riabchuk examined the main causes of the country’s incoherent development and explored the potential to break this vicious circle and push the stalled transition towards democratic consolidation. Dr. Nadia Diuk provided comments.


Mr. Mykola Riabchuk is a senior research fellow at the Ukrainian Center for Cultural Studies in Kyiv and co-founder and a member of the editorial board of Krytyka, a leading Ukrainian intellectual magazine. An activist in the underground movement of the 1970s, he gained prominence as a literary critic and publicist during the perestroika period in the 1980s. He has published six books and numerous articles on civil society, national identity, and political transition in the post-Soviet states, primarily in Ukraine. He was awarded an Antonovych Prize in 2003 for outstanding achievements in the humanities and a Polish-Ukrainian Capitula Award in 2002 for his contribution to Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation.

Dr. Nadia Diuk is vice president for Africa, Latin America, and Eurasia programs at the National Endowment for Democracy.