On the political level, there were two main competing elites. An alternative political elite emerged out of parties and movements that challenged the existing regime on a combination of pro-democracy and strong nationalist agendas. They confronted the existing Communist nomenklatura that was keen to preserve its power and accompanying privileges. Both these elites had fundamental shortcomings. The post-Communist elites shed their erstwhile ideological commitments and professed allegiance to new slogans of democracy and nation state, but were structurally predisposed to resisting necessary democratic and free-market reforms. They were also well-placed to translate their pre-existing administrative power into control over the most important economic resources, thus laying the ground for the plutocratic (or oligarchic) character of the new regimes. The weaknesses of the newly emerging elites lay in their lack of political experience, insufficient organisation, and over-emphasis of the nationalist agenda, which could have alienated ethnic minorities. The electorate saw the nomenklatura as a force for stability and moderation, while the new elites saw it as standing for change and reform. The turbulence of the early post-Communist years inclined them to give preference to the values of stability.
A 30-page paper by veteran Georgian commentator Ghia Nodia, with input from Denis Cenușă (Moldova) and Mikhail Minakov (Ukraine), looking at the democratic and governance systems of their three countries, which are all wrestling with the dilemma of how (and how much) to get closer to the EU while Russian troops occupy parts of their territories. I found it a very refreshing antidote to the usual take on the region, which prioritises geopolitical competition and elite internal dynamics over boring but essential things like party structures and popular perceptions of government. I know Georgia and Moldova fairly well, Ukraine less so, and found the analysis of all three countries convincing and enlightening as well as sober and sympathetic. This is the sort of analysis I used to work on when I was with the International Crisis Group, and I'm glad that someone is still doing it and that my other former employers at the Centre for European Policy Studies are publishing it.