PRAGUE — The collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe 15 years ago brought vast and positive democratic changes. But in 2006, after more than a decade of striving for acceptance by the West, the moral and political vacuum left by communism was fully exposed. Can a new balance between the democratic ethos and the undertows of the region’s political history and culture be found?

In Poland, for example, the prevailing mix of Catholicism and nationalism made society particularly resistant to communism (certainly in comparison with the egalitarian, social-democratic ethos of prewar Czechoslovakia). But these anticommunist antibodies also worked against the universal acceptance among Poles of liberal democracy.

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