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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