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date: 05 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The totalitarian nature of communist states is generally understood to exclude the existence of a public sphere sufficiently independent of the state to allow the expression of a range of opinions. However, popular opinion, if not a public sphere, did exist and it was monitored extensively by these states, since leaders needed to know about popular responses to their policies and campaigns. This essay explores the limits on the expression of popular opinion in the Soviet Union, China, and Eastern Europe, and the ways in which those limits shifted—and were challenged—over time. If it may be argued that the transformation of popular opinion into a ‘public sphere’ followed the collapse of communism in Poland, and possibly Hungary, ‘civil society’ was relatively insignificant in the collapse elsewhere (or indeed its persistence in the case of China).

Keywords: public sphere, popular opinion, civil society, Soviet Union, China, Poland, Hungary, collapse of communism

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