With Vladimir Putin back in the Kremlin, Russia has led a regionwide assault on independent political and civic activity in Eurasia over the past year. Autocratic regimes from Tajikistan to Belarus have responded to perceived threats to their rule with a combination of new laws, increased enforcement of existing controls, and violent or extralegal tactics. Meanwhile, economic pressures in the more democratic states of Central Europe have brought down a series of governments. Although these relatively free systems have allowed orderly rotations of power, it remains unclear whether they can satisfy growing demands for reform and economic security.

Nations in Transit is Freedom House’s annual assessment of democratisation from Central Europe to Eurasia. It is the only comprehensive, comparative, and multidimensional study of reform in the former Communist states of Europe and Eurasia. It tracks the reform record of 29 countries and administrative areas and provides Freedom House's most in-depth data about this vast and important region.

The theme of this year's report is 'Authoritarian Agression and the Pressures of Austerity'.

As explained by Sylvana Habdank-Kołaczkowska and David J. Kramer of Freedom House, the study found that in 2012, many autocratic regimes in Eurasia fought the threat of democratic change by introducing new—and arguably redundant—measures to further constrain dissent. This resulted in dysfunctional, less independent, and in some cases corrupt, governmental institutions. In Central Europe, public backlash against unpopular austerity measures destabilised several governments in 2012, testing the durability of democratic institutions.

Below is a podcast of the discussion, including audience Q&A.

The conversation was moderated by Anne Applebaum, Director of Global Transitions for the Legatum Institute, with commentary from The Economist’s International Editor, Edward Lucas.

About the Speakers
David J. Kramer is President of Nations in Transit, Freedom House's annual survey of democratic governance from Central Europe to Central Asia. Prior to joining Freedom House in October 2010, Kramer was a Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF). He was an Adjunct Professor at the Elliott School for International Affairs at the George Washington University.  Before joining GMF, Kramer served as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour from March 2008 to January 2009. He also was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, responsible for Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus affairs as well as regional non-proliferation issues.

Sylvana Habdank-Kołaczkowska is the Project Director of Nations in Transit, she serves as a Central Europe analyst for both Freedom in the World and Freedom of the Press. Before joining Freedom House, Sylvana worked as the Managing Editor of the Journal of Cold War Studies, a peer-reviewed quarterly based on archival research in the former communist world.

Edward Lucas is International Section Editor at the The Economist; he has also covered the central and east European region for over 25 years. His postings included stringing for The Economist in communist-era Czechoslovakia and later in the Baltic States, as well as being Editorial Director of the Economist Intelligence Unit in Vienna. In 1996 he became Berlin correspondent and in 1998 Moscow Bureau Chief. After leaving Russia in 2002 Lucas covered education and transport for the Britain section until 2005 when he moved to the International section. He is also a regular broadcaster on international and British outlets, including the BBC's 'Today' programme, 'Start the Week' and 'Newsnight'.

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