Democracy at Dawn
Notes from Poland and Points East
Cold War
6 x 9, 256 pp.
15 b&w photos., Map.
Pub Date: 01/01/1998
Eugenia & Hugh M. Stewart '26 Series
Price:        $29.95


Published by Texas A&M University Press

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Named one of the International Books of the Year (1998) by TLS (Times Literary Supplement, London, thanks to Eugene Weber, professor of modern history at UCLA, who had written a glowing review for the Phi Beta Kappa publication Key Reporter) ("Sixty-one writers select the books that impressed them most in 1998.")

Democracy at Dawn

Notes from Poland and Points East

By Frederick Quinn

From the sweeping changes of democratic reform to the bloody conflict of the Chechen Republic, 1993-95 was a tumultuous and critical time for Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics. During that two-year period, Frederick Quinn toured the former Soviet empire as head of the rule of law programs of the Warsaw Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). His primary task was to help the new nations of the region write new constitutions and rebuild their judicial systems. Keenly aware of the uniqueness of the history he was witnessing unfold, Quinn took notes of his experiences. The result is Democracy at Dawn—a personal, firsthand account of hope and nascent political and social freedom in a drab, confused, confusing, and often seemingly hopeless part of the world.

Quinn recounts the difficulties of many of the countries, as governmental and judicial habits and thought patterns held over from communist regimes, lack of equipment and supplies, shortages of food and services, and, in the case of the Chechen Republic, a devastating civil war all conspire against the formation of popular, pluralistic democracies. He also cites frustrating bureaucratic problems, both with the various host governments as well as with the administration of ODIHR. Quinn also recalls in fascinating detail his encounters with the new leaders of the region, such as Georgia's Edouard ... and ... Vaclav Havel.

At the core of this powerful memoir is Quinn's admiration for the many people he encountered, from working men and women to the functionaries at the highest levels of government, who share a desire for democracy and constitutionality—alien concepts that they nevertheless desperately want to realize. And, despite daunting obstacles faced by the former communist-bloc countries, Quinn asserts that the case for democracy may be more hopeful than it might at first appear. Public discussion about new forms of government is widespread; intense media scrutiny has helped keep the ambitions of authoritarian leaders in check; nongovernmental civic organizations are growing; and the international community has taken increased interest in holding the new states to treaty commitments involving human rights, free elections, and the creation of independent judiciaries.

Engaging and informative reading for the general reader interested in the new Eastern Europe, Democracy at Dawn also offers sociologists, historians, and political scientists a valuable inside look at the rise of democracy in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain. It will be of interest as well to judicial scholars concerned with the development of constitutional judicial systems in new democracies.

FREDERICK QUINN is a career Foreign Service officer, writer, and ordained Episcopal minister who received his Ph.D. in history from UCLA in 1970.

What Readers Are Saying:

“The book should take its place alongside such modern classics as Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon and Robert Kaplan’s Balkan Ghosts.”--A. E. Dick Howard, University of Virginia

“The book should take its place alongside such modern classics as Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon and Robert Kaplan’s Balkan Ghosts.” --A. E. Dick Howard, University of Virginia

“Seldom does one find an engrossing and literary account of moments in history that change the world. This book, a personal narrative of the inner process of democratization of the East Bloc by the man who helped them write their new constitutions and rebuild their legal systems, is one. Charming reading, to boot!” --Georgie Anne Geyer, syndicated columnist and author, Universal Press Syndicat

“ . . . a revealing sociological ethnography of those emerging nations. . . . A valuable addition to the literature of postcommunist Europe; highly recommended for most libraries.” --Library Journal

“Quinn . . . is a cogent observer of the area.” --Publishers Weekly

“ . . . what is most engaging about Democracy at Dawn is the portrait it paints of a world caught in a time warp and struggling to get out of it. Quinn is a graceful writer with a keen eye for the revealing touch . . .” --Jonathan Yardley

“In a captivating and important new book, Democracy at Dawn, Frederick Quinn provides an engrossing account of the struggle for constitutional supremacy he witnessed in post-communist Eastern Europe. . . . These turbulent times are vividly captured by Mr. Quinn, whose book will be a benchmark against which to measure future societal change in Central and Eastern Europe.” --The Washington Times

“Quinn, a talented writer and former USIA FAO, has captured the look, smell, and feel of a part of the world now trying to catch up to the West. . . . Quinn . . . has a sharp eye for the ironic juxtapositions that this mix produced.” --Foreign Service Journal

“. . . the book is interesting and colorful.” --Choice

“This is the most vividly substantial book that I have read in years. It should be required reading in college courses, Foreign Service academies, and everywhere the prevarications, equivocations, deceptions, dodges, and downright lies of international relations are still engaged in with a straight face.” --The Key Reporter

“Frederick Quinn has produced a valuable record of the transition of the New Independent States from Soviet dictatorship to governments which, however primitive, may prove to be stages on the road to democracy. Quinn, a talented writer and former USIA FSO, has captured the look, smell, and feel of a part of the world now trying to catch up to the West.” --Foreign Service Journal


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