In social science research on post-Soviet society, two general types of interpretation are usually offered:

1 The empirical findings are declared to be new, an outcome of the changed general nature of society, and related to economic, social and political transition. This approach was typical during the first years of post-Soviet research, when the abundance of new trends and rapid changes were hard to grasp and the direction of development difficult to analyse. A lack of theoretical alternatives resulted in explanations that were mostly influenced by a polarised model of transformation, seeing the former socialist society and centrally planned economy as being on its way to some kind of Western modernity and capitalism (see Häußermann 1995). Confronted with the huge variety in processes of transition in eastern Europe, political scientists, economists and sociologists had to admit, however, that the new social and economic conditions could not be explained by a linear, polarised model of democracy and market economy versus centrally planned, authoritarian regimes.