Democracy at Dawn: Notes from Poland and Points East / Edition 1

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1997 Hardcover New in New jacket Quinn's account puts a human face on the struggles of these changing societies, allowing the reader to eavesdrop on conversations with everyone ... from government officials to sidewalk vendors practicing embryonic entrepreneurship. He describes the confusion among nations' leading scholars and politicians, as governmental and judicial habits held over from communist regimes, lack of equipment and supplies, shortages of food and services, and, in the case of the Chechen Republic, a devastating civil war all conspire against the formation of pluralistic democracies. 6x9. 272 pp. 15 b&w photos. Index. Read more Show Less

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Overview

From the sweeping changes of democratic reform to the bloody conflict of the Chechen Republic, 1993-95 was a tumultuous and critical time for Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics. During that two-year period, Frederick Quinn toured the former Soviet empire as head of the rule of law programs of the Warsaw Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). His primary task was to help the new nations of the region write new constitutions and rebuild their judicial systems. Keenly aware of the uniqueness of the history he was witnessing unfold, Quinn took notes of his experiences. The result is Democracy at Dawn—a personal, firsthand account of hope and nascent political and social freedom in a drab, confused, confusing, and often seemingly hopeless part of the world.

Quinn recounts the difficulties of many of the countries, as governmental and judicial habits and thought patterns held over from communist regimes, lack of equipment and supplies, shortages of food and services, and, in the case of the Chechen Republic, a devastating civil war all conspire against the formation of popular, pluralistic democracies. He also cites frustrating bureaucratic problems, both with the various host governments as well as with the administration of ODIHR. Quinn also recalls in fascinating detail his encounters with the new leaders of the region, such as Georgia's Edouard ... and ... Vaclav Havel.

At the core of this powerful memoir is Quinn's admiration for the many people he encountered, from working men and women to the functionaries at the highest levels of government, who share a desire for democracy and constitutionality—alien concepts that they nevertheless desperately want to realize. And, despite daunting obstacles faced by the former communist-bloc countries, Quinn asserts that the case for democracy may be more hopeful than it might at first appear. Public discussion about new forms of government is widespread; intense media scrutiny has helped keep the ambitions of authoritarian leaders in check; nongovernmental civic organizations are growing; and the international community has taken increased interest in holding the new states to treaty commitments involving human rights, free elections, and the creation of independent judiciaries.

Engaging and informative reading for the general reader interested in the new Eastern Europe, Democracy at Dawn also offers sociologists, historians, and political scientists a valuable inside look at the rise of democracy in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain. It will be of interest as well to judicial scholars concerned with the development of constitutional judicial systems in new democracies.

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Editorial Reviews

A.E. Dick Howard
"The book should take its place alongside such modern classics as Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon and Robert Kaplan’s Balkan Ghosts."—A. E. Dick Howard, University of Virginia
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This is a very personal memoir by a career foreign-service officer, who has also served as head of the Warsaw-based Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights rule of law programs, which helped set up new constitutions and judicial systems in the region. He has traveled in, and writes about, the entire belt of former Soviet satellites, or provinces, in eastern Europe and the Caucasus. For the most part, though, he concentrates on Poland. Generally, his views are upbeat and optimistic about the future of these new states. However, he does not spare the confusion, corruption, and disorganization in many areas. For example, crime in Warsaw is rampant, and the young police force, purged of communists, barely able to cope. In Ukraine, a potentially rich country, the economy is in a shambles. Farther south, in the Caucasian and central Asian states, some of which are still part of Russia, the situation is even worse, as in Kazakhstan, where the minimum wage is just $7 a month. Justice in some of these new countries has become atavistically brutal if Quinn's examples are anything to go by. Quinn, one of the first noncombatants to enter the Chechen Republic and the editor of The Federalist Papers Reader, is a cogent observer of the area. If the book has any weakness, it is in the tendency to jump around geographically. 15 b&w photographs. (Feb.)
Library Journal
In 1993, Quinn, an American career foreign service officer, began a two-year stint as head of the Rule of Law Programs in Warsaw. His task was to assist the nations of Eastern Europe with constitutional and judicial reforms, but he quickly became bogged down in the bureaucratic frustrations of everyday life in the former communist states. His book is an episodic account of his travels and meetings, told in a diary format that creates a revealing sociological ethnography of those emerging nations. Although Quinn devotes many pages to the transitional struggles in Moldova, Georgia, Albania, and the embattled Chechen Republic, his observations of life in Poland are the most telling. Polish crime and corruption dominate his reports, yet there is an optimism among the people that he finds contagious. A valuable addition to the literature of postcommunist Europe; highly recommended for most libraries.Thomas A. Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, Pa.
Jonathan Yardley
Quinn is a graceful writer with a keen eye for the revealing touch. -- Jonathan Yardley
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Product Details

Meet the Author

FREDERICK QUINN is a career Foreign Service officer, writer, and ordained Episcopal minister who received his Ph.D. in history from UCLA in 1970.

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