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Democracy in History

Democracy in History will complement and enrich the work of the other groups of the Democracy Institute by creating a broad historical perspective and opening up the research field toward the humanities.  It seeks to focus both on the emergence of democracy as a sociocultural practice and as an ideational framework. Thus, it will engage both with the long-term roots of democratic patterns in pre-modern societies (from political philosophies of classical antiquity and political theology of medieval universities to the medieval communes and early modern noble republicanism) and their modern and contemporary manifestations and legacies (such as debates on the relationship of democracy to constitutionalism, liberalism, or republicanism).

By analyzing various patterns of democratization, our group is aware that this is not a “one-directional” teleological process. Therefore, it will pay special attention to the study of earlier and recent crises of “de-democratization.” Thus, we seek to put contemporary debates into a broad historical framework, but also look at previous instances of de-democratization and processes of democratic revival while having in mind our current problems. Thus, the historical study of the rise of autocratic/totalitarian regimes in past times is relevant to current political discussions and it allows for a critical examination of the dominant civilizationist discourse. In connection to studying patterns and processes of democratization and de-democratization, this research group will also explore the history of “thick” and “thin” ideologies, such as liberalism, socialism, anti-liberalism, nationalism, populism, fascism and their impact on social and political changes.  

We will explore questions such as: How to map comparatively national, meso-regional, and global patterns of democratization and de-democratization if we want to go beyond the Huntingtonian “waves,” and consider the backlash of the last decade? Can we use populism as a trans-historical category of internal challenges to democratic regimes going back in time, or is it a recent phenomenon? What is the role of history (politics of remembrance, populist reinterpretation of medieval and recent past, erecting and reinterpreting monuments, rewriting of schoolbooks) in this process?  How and when did civil society function as an agent of democratization or of democratic backsliding? How was the creation of autonomous communities instrumentalized by monarchical and state power for various purposes? In order to address these issues, we also plan to involve colleagues working at the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (OSA) on the history of transition to team up with Democracy Institute researchers and run common projects.

Website: DI Democracy in History



Balazs Trencsenyi Lead Researcher / CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Professor
Zsolt Cziganyik Research Fellow
Iva Dimovska Post-doctoral Fellow
Ferenc Kanyo Junior Research Fellow
Agnes Kelemen Research Assistant
Gabor Klaniczay CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Professor
Laszlo Kontler CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Professor
Daryna Koryagina Research Assistant
Andras Kovacs CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Professor
Almira Ousmanova Research Affiliate
Daniel Palm Research Fellow
Zala Pavsic Post-doctoral Fellow
Vladimir Petrovic Research Affiliate
Marsha Siefert CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Associate Professor
Katalin Szende CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Professor
Renata Uitz Senior Research Fellow
Jordan Voltz Junior Research Affiliate


Thiago Amparo on the Budapest Pride

The Budapest Pride turns the city into an island against the authoritarian regime, our Research Fellow Thiago Amparo writes in his article in Folha de S. Paulo.

Balazs Trencsenyi on the Unissued Diplomas Exhibition

“The basic cathartic experience is that any of these Ukrainian students who are here in Budapest now could have been on that wall,” Balazs Trencsenyi, lead researcher of our Democracy in History Workgroup said to RTL about the Unissued Diplomas exhibition.

Zsolt Enyedi and Balazs Trencsenyi Awarded by CEU

Congratulations to our Senior Research Fellow Zsolt Enyedi for the CEU Research Excellence Award, and Balazs Trencsenyi, lead researcher of our Democracy in History Workgroup for the CEU Community Service Excellence Award!

Radio Free Europe Highlights CEU in Budapest

"It is part of the illiberal recipe book that these systems do not like representative democracy, freedom of thought, academic freedom, university freedom," our Co-Director Renata Uitz said to Szabad Europa (Radio Free Europe).

Zsolt Enyedi, Laszlo Kontler, Laszlo Bruszt and Andras Bozoki on CEU in Budapest

Our colleagues were interviewed by Szabad Europa (Radio Free Europe) for a report about CEU in Vienna and Budapest, and they also talked about our programs.


History as Democracy

RevDem assistant editor Bence Bari interviews László Kontler, Research Affiliate of the CEU Democracy Institute’s Democracy in History workgroup and lead researcher of the project “History as Democracy.”

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins About Liberalism

Kasia Krzyzanowska interviews Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, a faculty member in History Department at Dartmouth College, on the future of liberalism, especially post-Cold War liberalism as envisioned by American intellectuals.