Mapping Right-Wing Extremism in Central and Eastern Europe


Central Europe represents a fertile ground for extreme right-wing ideologies, some of which are openly preaching intolerance and even violence. Similar to the western part of Europe. Central Europe has been affected by global dynamics related to the expansion of populism and XRW to a considerable extent. There are, however, also some specific conditions in the formerly communist Central Europe that are setting the region aside from other parts of Europe. These conditions are historical, economic, and ethnic in nature.

With most of the region subjected to foreign communist domination during the second half of the 20th century, nationalism, sometimes in extreme forms, remains a strong under-current within the nations of Central Europe. With interwar Czechoslovakia (1918-1938) being historical exception, Central Europe had practically no tradition of democracy prior to 1989. Also, whilst most of Western Europe went through the period of cultural changes in the 1960s, the Communist states of Central Europe were stuck on the wrong side of the iron curtain and isolated until 1989. Finally, although Central European nations are often historically heterogeneous, there is little experience of recent migrations into the region, especially from the outside of Europe.

Whilst democratic transitions in the formerly communist Central Europe were achieved relatively smoothly, these processes were considerably helped by the international context and the conditionality of NATO and EU enlargements. For much of the current post-Cold War history Central Europeans were guided through the process of post-communist transitions by externally imposed criteria and requirements. The process was entirely voluntary as Central Europeans were keen to join the EU and NATO, hence, ready to meet the conditions set out by these institutions. Most importantly, this conditionality were also supporting stability and predictability of the domestic transitions in Central European states. However, this inevitably led to some shallowness of the process with the candidate states hurriedly setting up institutions and mechanisms that would satisfy NATO and EU. Today, with these countries being members of the EU and NATO, the stabilizing role that the conditions during the accession processes played is no longer available while democratic norms and institutions remain very fragile.

The combination of all these factors means that XRW ideologies have find sizable constituencies in Central Europe. The salience of the phenomenon is compounded by the relative inexperience and sometimes the lack of legal instruments to address this issue in the states of Central Europe. In this report we chose to focus on four middle and smaller size Central European nations: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia. Three of the four were formerly parts of the Austro-Hungarian empire whilst Bulgaria spent half of the previous millennium under Ottoman domination. All the four were members of the Soviet block until 1989 (Czech Republic and Slovakia as a one state) and today all are members of the EU and NATO. Although XRW movements remain outside mainstream politics in all four countries, all have powerful populist movements which tend to operate in symbiosis with the respective XRW movements.

Read more in the report below.