Public discussion: A post-revolutionary hangover: Is revolution always followed by disappointment?

Date:  October 19, 2020 at 5 PM – 6:30 PM (CET)


  • Jogilė Ulinskaitė, political scientist, Institute of Internstional Relations and Political science, Vilnius University;
  • Aleksejs Grigorievs, vice chair of the Board of the Baltic to Black Sea Alliance, journalist, formerly member of the Supreme Council of Latvia
  • Maksimas Milta, Head of Communications and Development Unit at the European Humanitarian University;
  • Volodymyr Yermolenko, Ukrainian philosopher, writer and journalist, chief editor at, lecturer at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.

Moderator: Simona Merkinaitė, Open Lithuania Foundation.

Participation: the event was viewed by 73 people from Belgium (2), Poland (6), Romania (1), Bulgaria (1), Germany (1), Czech Republic (1), Latvia (1), Lithuania (44), UK (2), Switzerland (1), Ukraine (5), Belarus (2) and other countries (6).

The discussion explored the meaning of revolution and the links between the movements for freedom from 1989 to 2020. Is revolution always followed by disappointment? How to achieve structural/regime change after the popular uprising? How 1989 inspired and failed us: the work of reconstructing a state after the revolution. The aftermath of Euromaidan - what is created and what it destroyed? The events of Belarus: what comes next? Are the revolutions we are witnessing a new phase of revolutions of dignity or continuation to unfinished work of 1989, dismantling of post-Soviet politics?

Looking at today‘s Central Eastern Europe, we feel that inspiring history of democratic revolutions in the region are still relevant. The echoes of Solidanosc, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Baltic Way could be sensed in the various protests for freedom and human rights in Belarus, Poland, Hungary. So, the new civic movements may reflect our memory of previous turning points of the history.

The witnesses of Ukrainian Euromaidan recall understanding that they have no other choice than go to protest and the state met them with the brutal actions of force. Coercion in the hands of state structures is like a threshold beyond which the consensus between government and citizens inevitably begins to disintegrate. What we have seen in the protests of the last few years in the post-Soviet countries on the European Community side can be described as an attempt to redraw the line between the powers of government and civil life. The current Polish example is particularly vivid as probably the majority of protesting people are not the abortion enthusiasts but rather believing that abortion is the question of personal choice and should not be the issue for the government. Such civic movements are never homogenous but their common denominator is the desire to address the fundamental issues of their own lives. It is now not easy to say to what extent this wave of civic resistance is a return to political rhetoric that ignites new differences between different identities and views, arguing that communication between them is impossible, and forcing choices. Or maybe it is the struggle of citizens against the politicization of all possible aspects of human life.

Another emerging difficult issue requires our attention. It is the freedoms and their limits. To what extent is the protest a demand for government control and accountability, or maybe it is driven by conspiracy theories and an attempt to “wash out” the foundations of the democratic system itself? Where and how to draw the line between freedom of opinion and offensive language and fantasies? Perhaps considering these issues is the most meaningful meaning of our own path to freedom.

The video of discussion:

Read more about the event: 

A living memory between the past and the future (Article in Lithuanian)

Public discussion: Women in Revolt: from 1989 to 2021

Date: March 9, 2021, 8 PM - 9.30 PM (CET)


  • Shana Penn: scholar, author of Solidarity's Secret: The Women Who Defeated Communism in Poland;
  • Elena Gapova: Professor, Department of Sociology, Western Michigan University;
  • Marta Lempart: Polish activist, initiator of the All-Poland Women’s Strike;
  • Klementyna Suchanow: Polish writer, activist, initiator of the All-Poland Women’s Strike.

Moderator:  Simona Merkinaitė, Open Lithuania Foundation.

Participation: There were 114 people watching the event live online mainly from Poland (104) and other countries (10).

In 2020, the women’s role in Belarus protests captured the world’s attention, while in Poland the women’s protests reached the scale of public protests unseen since 1989. Women play a key role in political resistance and change movements – from the Solidarity movement to today, yet the key and unique role and the impact that women’s self-organization plays in historic events is overlooked and understudied. The webinar Women in Revolt: from 1989 to 2021 was designed to shed light on the role women’s movements play in civil organization, democratic reform, and life in Central and Eastern Europe. 

Video record of the discussion:


Date: November 27, 2020
Participants: 30 civil society activists from Poland (8), Lithuania (5), Romania (3), Belgium (3), Latvia (2),Slovakia (2),Hungary (2), Germany (1), Bulgaria (1), Czech Republic (1), Albania (1).

One of the key takeaways of the project was the decisive role of civil mobilisation and civil disobedience. Citizen capacity for meaningful participation in the democratic process in many countries remains limited. Many self-organising groups during the previous system – such as workers’ or ecology movements – emerged in response to the inaction and ignorance of the state, and it was natural that these groups of people stood in opposition to the government. In contrast, in a democracy, we still need to learn to treat civil society as equal partners in governance, not only as watchdogs of the government, picking up the slack.

For the past few years, we have been witnessing the reemergence of civilian mobilisation and civil disobedience in response to the growing abuse of powers and corruption. The arrival of tech-savvy generations poses new challenges to various tactics of civil power and civil liberties, providing the much-needed hope for self-mobilising citizens reassuming political power.

While 1989 can offer limited lessons here, it does suggest the need for leadership that, beyond protests and civil disobedience, would transform the demands of people into policies. This means that the role of civil society is more important than ever, undertaking the challenge of civil education and democratic participation.

Visegrad Insight’s original, interactive design thinking and mind-mapping methods brought together a diverse group of independent and distinguished voices in a scenario-building workshop which generated a number of recommendations that civil society and decision-makers at the policy level should consider when programming their activities.

First, civil society overall – often captured by the anti-political sentiment – must reconsider its historical path and ask itself whether democracy in 1989 would be possible if activists decided to keep their distance from interacting with politicians and building up non-partisan constituencies in support of the cause. Today, more often than not, civil society hosts refugees from the awful world of politics. But the political world ignores the considerations of those who do not speak up and eventually tends to expand beyond what we recognise as legitimately democratic limits of power. Civil society’s duty must be to keep this political expansion in check and that often requires crossing set and seemingly-safe boundaries.

Throughout the meetings, we could observe how important the role of memory about past democratic achievements is in civil education, and that this education is not currently being delivered nor is it building bridges between the past and future as it ought to. With this in mind, a bold proposal emerged to redesign civil education from scratch and initiate such programmes at the primary school level.

Obviously, civil society organisations (CSOs) always look at practicalities and many voices raised the need to adapt funding schemes from public resources. Activists pointed out that, especially due to the pandemic, the needs for social projects are dynamically changing and that mental health seems to be one of the future key areas to work in.

Another strong voice that came from the sector of CSOs concerned private donors, which not often enough encourage collaborative funding schemes. The example of the Visegrad Fund and the European Commission programming could significantly improve the situation by encouraging to consolidate and coordinate many partners instead of inducing them for fundraising rivalry.

Finally, we have to stress the importance of the local community level and focus more attention on the trends and ideas that shape our democracies from the bottom up. Just like democracy needs the local press, it also needs local activism to keep delivering on its promises of equal rights and individual freedoms.

Read more: 

Visegrad Insight report