The Centre for Research into Post-Communist Economies

Lessons from History


It is twenty years since the Berlin Wall and other edifices of Communism were destroyed. Dealing with the past in many post communist countries is still underway. Many questions had remained unanswered. But as more secrets from the past are now being revealed, there is increased public pressure on bringing those responsible to justice. Even more important is that the truth should be told.

As Professor Lovro Sturm writes:

"Europe rests on the ashes of totalitarian regimes. The area of freedom, security and justice we know today covers countries which in the 20th century this entry of ideologies, bore witness to what was then the greatest political, national and ideological system and violence in all human history."

We at the CRCE are very much aware of this, and both the interest of the students at the and the hearings in Brussels on totalitarian regimes have inspired us to add these Lessons from the Past to our website.

Many of the transition countries have seemed to do rather well. However, as Ljubo Sirc has tirelessly revealed, the Communists have kept a strong grip albeit with different names and often in the background but still pulling the strings. Also, instead of admitting to past evils, they have generally “forgotten” them. The authorities have put obstacles in the way of those who seek to redress the balance.

There were for example great objections to the setting up the House of Terror Museum in Budapest. At a CRCE seminar Sebestyén v. Gorka gave a very clear picture of the way the post-communist government in Hungary has behaved (see The Nation-State v. The Federalists & Fellow Travellers, CRCE Briefing How the East was Won, 2005).

It has taken great determination by individuals to ensure that we shall not forget. Among them are Dr Joze Dezman and his colleagues at the Museum of Contemporary History in Ljubljana, where there is an excellent display about Yugoslavia/Slovenia during the Second World War and after. Furthermore, Dr Dezman has collated it a comprehensive list of mass graves in Slovenia, and you will find this list here.

Charles Crawford, who served as British Ambassador to Sarajevo and Belgrade writes about Slovenia:

"It played the goody-two-shoes in communist Yugoslavia. Tip-toeing from the carnage as Yugoslavia collapsed, its cunning, bland communist elite helped Slovenia slip smoothly into modern 'social-democratic Europe' while making as few concessions as possible to its countless deep dirty secrets. Slovenia hosts amazing numbers of mass graves of communist massacres after WW2, which are still being unearthed." [You can read more from Charles Crawford on ]

Many of the experiences we are posting come from Slovenia with which we know well. However, these experiences are common to so many of the transition countries as was recognized in June 2008 when the Parliamentary Senate of the Czech Republic initiated the Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism -- see the CRCE Newsletter Spring 2009.

In CRCE Conferences the issues of both past and present have been discussed. To inform and illuminate these problems much conference material is available in CRCE Briefing Papers (can be downloaded from the website) and books. The series of books are available from the CRCE; see below and also on the publications page.

Looking Forward to the Past - The Influence of Communism after 1989, Contributors include Professor Richard Pipes of Harvard, CRCE, London, 2003

Encouraging Entrepreneurship in Eastern Europe, Contributors include Ljubo Sirc & Andrzej Brzeski, CRCE, London 2006

The Problems of Communist Countries in the Context of the European Union, Contributors include: Tim Congdon and Victoria Curzon-Price, CRCE, London, 2007

The Future of Capitalism after the Collapse of Communism, Contributors include: Philip Hanson & Jan Winiecki, CRCE, London, 2008

1984: The CRCE is born.

Lord Harris of High Cross* wrote:

"When conflicts between East and West are fraught with such momentous dangers, international understanding may be the only alternative to mutual destruction. All the more timely is the establishment of the Centre for research into communist economies. Its single-minded aim is to educate the public by research into the economic policies of countries with communist governments. In a world so beset by prejudice based on rival propaganda and ignorance, the centre has a vital role to play in spreading knowledge based on research and education..."

*(The late Lord Harris was General Director, Institute of Economic Affairs and a founding Trustee & Chairman of the CRCE)

1989: The Year the Walls Came Down.

On Christmas Eve 1989 the Sunday Times commented: "It was a year, like 1789 and 1914, whose numerals will forever evoke the ponderous closing of a door on one of history's numberless rooms. Suddenly, nobody wanted to be a communist. All over Eastern Europe the people marched, and their governments capitulated... throughout the year the collapse quickened but it was the breaching of the Berlin Wall the most potent symbol of the Cold War, that set the seal on a momentous year." Almost two decades later there have been immense changes in Russia & central and Eastern Europe. Some nations were beset by war and have still not recovered.

Other articles in the series: