How differ the democracies of Estonia and Lithuania from a comparative perspective?

A comparison - using Estonia and Lithuania - of the development of two states and their form of government after their separation from the Soviet Union

Term Paper, 2020

17 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Literature review

3. Theoretical approach

4. Methodology

5. Empirical Analysis

6. Discussion

7. Conclusion

8. Bibliography

1. Introduction

1990 the USSR as one of the largest state constructs of the 20th century disintegrated. As Russian influence decreased, and a part of the former Soviet states moved closer to Western policy - especially European Union and NATO - these countries paved their own way to­wards self-determined nations. Apart from their shared history, there were other similarities, but also vehement differences, which had various effects from country to country - and led to the current partly democratic states. From a Western European perspective, it is of course particularly interesting to analyse and compare the development of democracy in those coun­tries that are now part of NATO and the European Union and to find out key variables in which they might differ. Proven hypotheses like that „party governments in the region have been relatively unstable“ (Grotz 2012: 699), the fact that ,,the electoral volatility in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) is still remarkably high“ (Engler 2016: 278) or also the recog­nizable „negative relationship between corruption and political trust“ (Engler 2016: 279) are good examples of the assumption that certain factors in these countries still require closer examination. Moreover, for a long time arguments were legitimate such as that “even in the cases where democratization had been on the agenda, rapid backsliding was expected“ (Greskovits 2015: 29), which points out the importance of still having a closer look on pre­vious developments and indicators for upcoming changes in these countries. Accordingly, such a review is also extremely important for the prognosis of future developments. Since 2013 ten CEE states are members of the European Union and by 2015 five of them have joined the European Monetary Union. The Baltic States are particularly interesting in this respect, as they allow the European Union to have direct continental borders with Russia. This paper deals with two of these countries, Lithuania and Estonia, as these countries, to­gether with Latvia, have come very close to the Western idea of Europe, despite or perhaps even because of their proximity to Russia. I have chosen these two states in particular be­cause they are with regard to the dependent variable the least likely to differ within the Baltic States, which are naturally very similar in many aspects. This leads to the following research question: How differ the democracies of Estonia and Lithuania from a comparative perspec­tive? Within the framework of this comparison, insights are to be gained which may be help­ful for future dealings with other nations which are turning towards the European idea. For this purpose, similarities and differences between the two selected states will be elaborated - especially with regard to the prevailing understanding of democracy there and the variables particularly relevant for this, which is of great importance for the European Union. This term paper follows the proven structure of first reviewing the available literature and then ex­plaining the theoretical and methodological approaches around the decoding of the relevant independent variables that contribute to the Democratic transition and finally to the current perception of democracy (the dependent variable which is clearly defined before starting further analysis) in the two countries to be compared. Based on these identified approaches the empirical analysis itself is then carried out. Subsequently the findings can be discussed. The paper ends with the conclusion to what extent Estonia and Lithuania are stable democ­racies, what variables influence this and what predictions could be drawn for other states which want to get closer to the European idea - or what future advanced studies should con­sider in order to be able to make these predictions.

2. Literature review

With regard to the available literature, a wide range of information can be accessed. As one of the most formative events of the 20th century with repercussions to the present day, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independent states that emerged from it have been sci­entifically researched on many levels. Particularly in the historical context monographs as well as anthologies on certain states and in the context of democratization in CEE countries can be found. In this case especially works on Lithuania and Estonia were interesting, often Latvia was also mentioned together with these countries because of their similar develop­ment in many aspects and their shared designation as Baltic States. In order to be able to analyse the development of a democratic state based on certain variables in the context of this paper, it is necessary to draw on well-founded scientific surveys and the datasets par­tially created from them - a research basis which fortunately is already available on the subject of Eastern European states and can be easily accessed - even though this literature base will continue to grow due to the partly continuing topicality of the subject matter. In addition, there are further significant approaches considered in order to analyse and compare the political change in these countries. For example, “Transworld” is a thinktank under the initiative of the European Commission which connects universities worldwide in the context of research on transatlantic relationships. Since the end of the Cold War and the disintegra­tion of the Soviet Union had a decisive influence on the transatlantic balance of power and, in addition, the Eastern countries, which have since acted as sovereign states, raised new questions in this context, this factor must also be taken into account when comparing these countries. In general, the inclusion of thinktanks like “Transworld” helped to make the sub­ject matter fully accessible. Most of the information, however, can be found in journals, which is very common in this field of political science. Variousjoumals recognised in inter­national research deal with certain aspects which are fundamental for the perception of de­mocracy in Eastern European countries. Factors were analysed from various angles, specific countries were considered separately and conclusions for further research approaches were drawn. In the process of indexing these sources, it also became clear that the comparison made in this paper is a logical complement to the present state of research - especially from a European perspective. The only Internet source used was provided by the official German Federal Agency for Political Education. It dealt with the eastern enlargement of the EU and the euro zone. Thus it can be concluded that the available sources already cover a large part of the topic, but in the context of this paper a consolidation of independently analysed aspects and further processing must take place.

3. Theoretical approach

From World War II until the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1991, the Baltic States were part of the Soviet Union. The states covered in this paper - Lithuania and Estonia - bothjoined the European Union in 2004. Since the existence of stable institutions guaranteeing democracy and the rule of law, a functioning market economy able to cope with competitive pressure within the Union, and respect for and protection of human and minority rights are basic conditions laid down by the Copenhagen criteria for a country's accession to the European Union (Steenbrecker 2002: 1) the inclusion of countries such as Estonia and Lithuania shows the dramatic changes they must have gone through in just over a decade. With the great eastern enlargement of the European Union in 2004, the division of Europe was considered no longer to exist (Bundeszentrale fur politische Bildung 2019). Estonia adopted the euro as its currency in 2011 and Lithuania in 2015. Their entry into the euro zone probably com­pleted the integration process of the two. The transition to internationally acknowledged democratic states is a process that can be observed and analysed with varying degrees of success in the former foreign-controlled states. So the prevailing perception of democracy in a particular country today is the dependent variable underlying this term paper. Based on the criteria derived from democracy research, this variable can indeed be formulated as a score, which is at least a reliable reference point for assessing the state of democracy in a country. In 2019 this score was 7.9 for Estonia and 7.5 for Lithuania (Hoey 2020: 30). To explain in which context these numbers should be considered is part of the empirical analysis of this paper. Furthermore, it has been shown that this index can change from year to year for a country, as it is calculated from defined factors. But finding out what exactly causes the change in these factors themselves is one of the main tasks in democracy research. Various research studies have investigated the influence of different factors in this process. Based on this preliminary work, independent variables can be identified and their influence on the two cases in this comparison evaluated. At first glance, the two Baltic States under investigation, Lithuania and Estonia, appear to be very similar cases as they have a very alike starting point geographically and historically. However, if one goes beyond this superficial first impression, differences can also be seen in these segments, which are underestimated in some studies (Pilia 2017: 13). Taking this knowledge into account, those studies which deal with certain factors in more detail can be viewed in a broader context, which allows the identification of independent variables that most significantly influence the democracies of Lithuania and Estonia. The level of analysis is clearly qualitative, since the intended com­parison can be made on the basis of existing elaborated research findings. The question of potential influencing factors is answered by considering the literature base. To achieve this, it is first necessary to examine the factors to be taken into account for the development of democracy in general. This includes not only the political system itself, its institutions and the economic power of the respective state, but also aspects of freedom and the rule of law as well as the rather more difficult to define concept of the legitimacy of a state (Pickel 2006: 79). These factors together form the condition or perception of democracy in the respective states and thus make the dependent variable itself tangible - a key requirement for all subse­quent research. Once this basis has been established, the search for independent variables specific to Estonia and Lithuania can continue. A deductive approach is essential for this. Therefore, it is first of all necessary to identify the factors that might endanger democracy. Subsequently, the state of research on Central and Eastern European states can be used to assess the possible manifestation of these factors. Finally, a classification of the two coun­tries to be compared can be made in this context and accordingly independent variables can be identified, which have significantly influenced democracy especially in Estonia and Lith­uania. This could be the economic situation (Pilia 2017: 13), the challenging demography of these countries (Linz 1996: 403), the continuing and sometimes fluctuating significance of corruption (Engler 2016: 279), the existence of "combinations in which hollowing and back­sliding threaten the East Central European democracies" (Greskovits 2015: 28), "the sub­stantial dynamics of postcommunist party systems" (Grotz 2012: 735) and in this context also the differences in the party system compared to longer existing democracies (Rovny 2015: 43), if not even “skepticism concerning a resurgent Russia” (Bunde 2014: 10). These are some of the most important factors that have been studied in relation to the states formerly under the influence of the Soviet Union and have thus been added to the puzzle that is supposed to represent the development of democracy in those states. The influence of these individual factors on the development of democracy in Eastern Europe - and beyond - has been researched and proven in numerous works. However, what applies to which country in concrete terms is very varied and requires closer analysis in this specific context. This paper aims to show how Estonia and Lithuania fit into this puzzle of potential factors and possible developments, which of them play a role as independent variables for these two countries, where their similarities and differences ultimately lie and what can be concluded from this. Within the theoretical framework, it is also important to consider the potential extent of the knowledge gained. The comparison of the development of democracy in Estonia and Lithu­ania can well be put into the context of the other CEE countries. But beyond that, the knowledge gained in this field of research can also help to better assess the development of democracy in other countries, since based on these experiences, decisive factors are more easily identifiable. In a specific case, this can help to identify negative developments earlier or to take certain factors into account in sufficient time. In addition, the insights gained from this paper will not only help to solve the puzzle of the different development of democracy in different countries in general but can also be used primarily for the two exemplary coun­tries - Estonia and Lithuania - to assess the process they have gone through so far. Since the field of research can become very extensive in such a context, it is important for this paper to take up factors for which a relevance to the development of democracy in the CEE coun­tries has already been proven - a state of research which fortunately is already sufficiently present so that it can be built upon in the context of this work. This paper is in line with a whole series of comparisons already existing on different levels and contributes to the com­pletion of this state of research and also serves the interests of a broad field of research, especially comparative political science, but also international relations. It is to be expected from this specific comparison that Estonia and Lithuania, despite their possible initial clas­sification as very similar cases, could show major differences. This will become apparent in detail in the empirical analysis of the sources considered in this study, as the more or less prominent influence of certain factors on one or two of the two countries will then become apparent - right up to their current development situation. Nevertheless, it can also be as­sumed that these two Baltic States have more in common in the independent variables rele­vant to them than in the overall context of the CEE countries. These findings will not neces­sarily come as a surprise either, but if these two countries have been compared so far, then either only in the context of a larger study covering all CEE countries or in direct comparison with each other, but on a much more superficial level, disregarding findings already present in the state of research. This gap is to be closed by bringing together the state of research in the empirical analysis, applied to this specific comparison.

4. Methodology

Since the aim of this paper is to find out which variables in particular are responsible for the development of democracy in Estonia and Lithuania, this work is a qualitative study with two cases. Of course, the selection of cases was not random, but is based on the fact that the two Baltic states, despite their geographical proximity to Russia and Belarus, have a democ­racy index well above the average of the CEE countries. Estonia leads the ranking in the category "Eastern Europe" and Lithuania is the closest Eastern European country, which can be compared well with the other Baltic state with a value only slightly worse (Hoey 2020: 30). Furthermore, the two states are considered to be fully integrated into the European eco­nomic and values community (Bundeszentrale fur politische Bildung 2019). Therefore, the development of explicitly these states is of particular interest for further democracy research, as the positive influence of certain independent variables can also be explicitly analysed here. Lithuania and Estonia are therefore very well suited for a most similar case study since they not only seem to be equal enough for this type of comparison, they also comply with the minimum basic criteria for carrying out this study (Seawright 2008: 304). Most of the data available for this analysis are taken from research on specific variables. For this purpose, the democracy index (Hoey 2020: 10ff) can be referred to on the side of the dependent var­iable, which makes the consequences of the political development of a state numerically tangible - both for the analysis of the political situation of the state itself and in the overall context. On the side of the far more numerous indirect variables, it is possible to refer to research projects which have investigated and worked out the influence of certain factors on the CEE countries. A distinction can be made between general factors such as ethnic distri­bution (Pilia 2017: 13) or economic power (Bundeszentrale fur politische Bildung 2019) and specific factors whose influence has been explicitly investigated and assessed on the basis of the development of the CEE countries, such as corruption (Engler 2016: 279ff), govern­ment stability (Grotz 2019: 699ff) or even party competition (Rovny 2015: 41ff). The meth­odological approach, taking into account the variables identified and the sources available for them, is to first classify the political systems of Estonia and Lithuania and then to carry out a descriptive analysis of the influence of the independent variables on these two states, comparing them within the process and, for better categorization during the discussion of the findings, placing them in the overall context of the political development of the CEE states. This methodological approach will now be used for the empirical analysis and the subsequent discussion.


Excerpt out of 17 pages


How differ the democracies of Estonia and Lithuania from a comparative perspective?
A comparison - using Estonia and Lithuania - of the development of two states and their form of government after their separation from the Soviet Union
Helmut Schmidt University - University of the Federal Armed Forces Hamburg  (Politikwissenschaft)
Political Systems of Central and Eastern Europe
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
The paper shows the ability of the student to narrow down the research question and to develop a solid structure of a comparative empirical study. Other positive elements concern the case selection and usage of democracy index to explore the differences between the two countries. However, several aspects could still be improved in the future work: (1) The literature review […] (2) the theoretical mechanisms believed to be in operation between the independent and dependent variables should be specified more explicitly […] (3) a more structured empirical analysis […] (4) the use of paragraphs.
comparative perspective, Vergleichende Politikwissenschaft, Vergleichende Regierungslehre, Estonia, Estland, Lithuania, Litauen, democracy index, democracy, Demokratievergleich
Quote paper
Felix Mentele (Author), 2020, How differ the democracies of Estonia and Lithuania from a comparative perspective?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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