ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 2012 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.

Volume 58, No.1 - Spring 2012
Editor of this issue: Laimonas Briedis

Book Review

Janušauskienė, Daina. Post-Communist Democratisation in Lithuania: Elites, Parties, and Youth Political Organisations, 1988–2001. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2011. 173 pages. ISBN 978-90-420-3249-1.

Based on her dissertation written in Warsaw, this work of political science is not a casual read. A scholarly work meant for social scientists, Daina Janušauskienė adapted her research to various theories about elites and democratization. She contends that Lithuania is undergoing a “Western type” of democratic development, in which elites and nationalism are the major forces of modernization, making elite theory more useful than class theory for studying Lithuanian democratization. Often having to introduce the reader to these theories, she also spends much time explaining her methodologies. Using numerous interviews, seventy-nine tables, and four appendixes in one hundred and sixteen pages of text within three chapters, Janušauskienė’s data and statistical evidence will be demanding for the nonprofessional. In spite of the claim made on the back cover, Janušauskienė does not use a transnational approach in this work. One wonders how Lithuania’s “transformation” compares with other post-Communist countries.

Chapter One is almost solely devoted to the theoretical frameworks and methodologies of the study of elites and democratization. Steeped in the theories of Phillipe C. Schmitter, Terry L. Karl, Vilfredo Pareto, and a host of other social scientists, Janušauskienė believes the changes “from above” implemented by elites augers well for the future development of democracy in Lithuania. The next two chapters also rely on the paradigms of social scientists such as Michael Burton, Richard Gunther, and John Higley. To be sure, Perestroika begat Sąjūdis, which were made up of elites, but could these elites sustain what some have termed the Baltic Revolutions? Janušauskienė rejects the term revolution because of its class-based character (p. 3), but her definition of revolution seems overly narrow. She contends that old and new political institutions have merged into a consolidated democracy that she and other social scientists have termed “transformational.” She also links this transformation with the development of a market economy. Janušauskienė’s second assumption, “that elites and nationalism are the major forces of modernisation” (p. 1), seems reasonable, but she does not explain how “nationalism accelerated the formation of the Lithuanian political elite” (p. 7).

Janušauskienė proceeds to explain the role of the Lithuanian Communist Party (LCP) in Lithuania’s transformation from authoritarian rule to democracy. Primarily made up of native Lithuanians, the LCP played a mediating role in this transformation. However, Janušauskienė makes several contradictory observations. Lithuanians learned to conform to Communism and did not see it in ideological terms. Janušauskienė then summarizes the love-hate relationship of Sąjūdis and the LCP of the late eighties and early nineties, in which these parties split and morphed into other parties. She then concludes that neither the electorate nor the party system have stabilized, owing in part to a low level of trust in political parties. For all of her empirical data, Janušauskienė falls back on homespun assumptions that “Lithuanians are a nation of pessimists... and look backward for ‘stability’” (p. 45). Herein lies Janušauskienė’s ambiguity. She admits that the low level of trust in political parties is a sign of immaturity, but then does an about-face and declares that “it may indicate the critical thinking of the citizen” (p. 49). Much has changed since 2001, including political party alignments, leadership, and the electorate. Having delineated her framework, the analysis has historical value, but one has to question the optimistic conclusions that Janušauskienė draws. The issue becomes how predictive of the future are conclusions based on data from only ten years ago.

Undoubtedly, Lithuania is a democracy today, but the electorate still seeks simplistic political solutions to complicated problems. In various surveys, the Lithuanian parliament often comes in last place as an institution worthy of trust. Factors unrelated to elites or political youth organizations, such as the economic recession and mass emigrations, may have more to do with the further development of a “Western type” of democracy in Lithuania.

Chapter Three deals with “Rising New Elites: A Case of Youth Political Organisations,” where Janušauskienė examines the attitudes and perceptions of members of youth organizations and their roles in the political process. Some of the author’s observations about political youth seem rather obvious: “Young people bring vitality and new ideas when they enter politics” (p. 59). Obviously, sons and daughters will replace their parents, and the experiences of today’s youth will differ from those born and raised under Communism. Janušauskienė’s heavily documented empirical data, however, can be summarized in Section Ten of Chapter Three. She points out that political youth groups often have similar goals, such as spreading their ideology, organizing social events, or affording a stepping-stone toward a political career. Janušauskienė then goes on to differentiate these organizations along party lines and analyzes six youth groups. However, in 2008 the Christian Democrats, the Home Union, the Union of Political Exiles and Prisoners, and the Nationalist parties merged into the Home Union-Lithuanian Christian Democratic party, thus shifting the political landscape. Coalition governments shift and come and go, but it seems that, increasingly, the political parties drift towards two alternatives: Conservative or Social Democratic. Political youth groups still seem to conform to these trends, yet Janušauskienė’s research reflects only the period from 1988 to 2001.

The series “On the Boundary of Two Worlds: Identity, Freedom, and Moral Imagination in the Baltics,” of which Post-Communist Democratisation in Lithuania is volume twenty eight, is the most serious and scholarly body of works ever produced in the English language about the Baltic States. However, this series of books, much like Janušauskienė’s, are often marred with writing errors that go beyond spelling differences between British and American English.

Virgil Krapauskas