chapter  10
10 Pages

Conclusions: facing the future?

ByAlison Stenning, Michael Bradshaw

As more than ten years have passed since the collapse of the state socialist regimes of east central Europe (ECE) and the former Soviet Union (FSU), it is possible to look back and begin to assess the meaning and long-term implications of the reforms and restructurings implemented and experienced across the region. As many of the chapters have demonstrated, the high hopes and great expectations of 1989 (and 1991) have rarely been fulfilled. There has been dramatic change in the region, across all spheres of life, as we have documented here, but for many the costs have been considerably greater than the gains. Each of the chapters has drawn attention to the fragmentation of experience, contrasting with the apparent (though often not actual) uniformity of life under socialism. People, institutions, regions and countries have had different experiences of postsocialism. Whilst some regions, for example, have attracted significant levels of foreign investment and transformed their economies (Bradshaw and Swain, Stenning, this volume), within these regions, and others, some social groups find themselves marginalised by the processes which encourage such success (van Hoven, Hörschelmann, this volume). In each of the spheres discussed in this book – employment, the environment, health, education, gender relations, rural lives, etc. – we have been able to point to complex processes of change, hard to generalise and difficult to keep up with. Many of the challenges currently faced by the post-socialist states have parallels in the global South and it is important to place the findings of our analyses within the broader global context; after all, this book is part of a series sponsored by the Developing Areas Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) (Simon and Närman 1999). Looking back over a decade, what is clear is that post-socialist transformations have been far from the straightforward and relatively brief process of change many optimists suggested (in a Russian context, see Layard and Parker 1996). They have been marked by social, spatial and temporal differentiations.