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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
Thiago Amparo Research Affiliate
Nikita Bogachev Junior Research Fellow
Zsolt Cziganyik Research Fellow
Iva Dimovska Post-doctoral Fellow
Anna Grutza OSUN Doctoral Fellow
Ferenc Kanyo Junior Research Fellow
Nurzhamal Karamoldoeva 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
Noemi Levy-Aksu Research Affiliate
Almira Ousmanova Research Affiliate
Daniel Palm Research Fellow
Zala Pavsic Post-doctoral Fellow
Lourdes Peroni Research Fellow
Vladimir Petrovic Research Affiliate
Istvan Rev CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Professor / Director of Open Society Archive
Marsha Siefert CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Associate Professor
Katalin Szende CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Professor
Renata Uitz Co-director / CEU Professor
Jordan Voltz Junior Research Affiliate
Alexandr Voronovici Research Fellow


Call for Applications: Fully Funded PhD Fellowship in the Gerda Henkel Research Program “Democracy in East Central European Utopianism”

Central European University invites applications for a fully funded PhD Fellowship starting in the 2022/2023 academic year in the Gerda Henkel research program "Democracy in East Central European Utopianism" hosted by the CEU Democracy Institute (Budapest).

Andras Kovacs on Anti-Semitic Prejudices in Europe

“The number of serious acts of violence and the degree of anti-Semitic prejudices are essentially unrelated,” our Research Affiliate Andras Kovacs said to, referring to the results of a survey conducted in 16 countries.

Gabor Klaniczay on the Social Impact of Pandemics

There were many who said it was a lie, just like anti-vaxxers today, our Research Affiliate Gabor Klaniczay said in an interview with about the plague in the Middle Ages.

DI Joins Project on Illiberal Constitutionalism

We are happy to announce that the CEU Democracy Institute joins a multidisciplinary team of scholars in a new research endeavor "Towards Illiberal Constitutionalism in East Central Europe: Historical Analysis in Comparative and Transnational Perspectives."

New Lecture Series: Urban Governance and Civic Participation in Words and Stone

Our Democracy in History Workgroup, the Department of Medieval Studies at CEU, the Department of History of Art at Birkbeck, University of London, and the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Erfurt launches a new lecture series.


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.