Rethinking the Democratic future: Lessons from the 20th Century

Categories: NewsPublished On: 2019 November 2

Beginning of project: October 1st of 2019 (18 months)

Lead partner: Open Lithuania Foundation (OLF) (non-governmental organization promoting progressive change towards an open society through joining forces and executing advocacy initiatives, visibility campaigns, joint projects, monitoring and training programs).  

Partners: Res Publica Foundation (a Warsaw-based publishing house and a think-tank focused on Central European region – ideas and values, politics, innovation and culture) and the Jan Nowak-Jezioranski College of Eastern Europe in Wroclaw (KEW) (an NGO specializing in international politics, culture and society).  

Background/project goal and aims: The democratic revolutions and the following democratic transition in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), the “Autumn of Nations” erupted despite the constrains for active citizenship by the oppressive regime. They emerged as bottom up movements, balancing between the active citizen and the forms of civil disobedience. With democratic rule facing new challenges, including disintegration of active citizenship, internal hostility, open assaults on rule of law and democracy, with digital age presenting unique challenges for active citizenship, this project aims to commemorate the democratic revolutions.

The key goal of this project is to commemorate the legacy of the democratic revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe, by re-evaluating various forms of active citizenship, reflecting critically of their relevance to contemporary Europe, reimagining the forms for a meaningful political involvement in the digital age.

The project aims to (1) commemorate the democratic revolutions and facilitate cross-country, regional learning from diverse democratic revolutions in the context of current democratic decline; (2) critically and accurately reflect on democratic transition in the region to counter non critical, misinformed use of history; (3) draw lessons from the democratic revolutions, its intellectual heritage for active citizenship in digital age.

The activities and scope: Through diverse type of activities (study visits, international public debates, non-formal education) and targeted yet wide dissemination of results the project will propose meaningful political participation through learning from the democratic revolutions in digital age.

Implemented by 3 partners covering 4 countries (Lithuania, Poland, Latvia and Hungary) with wide regional reach to European countries (extending the scope up to 7 countries through international events). The project will create synergy through wide partnership of cultural/political journals, civil society organizations, think-tanks and academics, involving up to 250 -330 people directly, including young people. Indirectly through digital and print platforms with wide regional reach it will reach 30 000 people.

Activities are separated into 4 work packages:


lt includes a kick off meeting, brainstorming on the legacy of democratic revolutions. The meeting will be aimed at detailed planning of the project activities, aliening it to the work partners and the events related to commemoration of democratic revolution memories in countries. This is of crucial importance in order to find a common ground for evaluation of varied process of democratic transition and its success across the focus countries. 


The project will be launched following the partners meeting at public event focusing on 1989 and following democratic transition (in Vilnius, Lithuania) in order to generate the public awareness and interest in the project. Further, study tours covering 4 countries will be concluded (Poland and Lithuania+Hungary and Latvia). They will consist of wide consultations with various stakeholders (NGOs, think-tanks, civil society groups, academics, participants of the democratic movements, 25 participants in each study tour) to experience and evaluate experiences on the state of memory about the democratic revolutions, their relevance for current political discourse, as well as contemplate the differences and similarities faces by active citizenship during the revolutions/transition. During this phrase we will gather critical reflections on the democratic revolutions and transition in CEE.


One summer school (in Poland) organized for youth, contemplating the past forms of active citizenships and the paths for civil engagement and resilience towards the manipulation of memory organized for representatives from 4-6 countries (25 people in total). An international conference organized in the last quarter of 2020 reflecting on the past and contemplating the ways towards active citizenship today (it will include participants from 7 countries, 51-75 people). 

Workpackage 4: DISSEMINATION OF THE RESULTS (ongoing)

We will prepare special reports based on the study tours. Information also will be disseminated though social media and though partner websites. We will also prepare the special issue devoted to the memory of the democratic revolutions and their lessons on the platform of “New Eastern Europe”.

The European dimension will be sustained though transnational learning and sharing of ideas on democratic rule and active citizenship in Europe. Through actualized and problematized reflections on revolutions in the region, the project will offer a valuable perspective on democratic deficit and new ways for meaningful democratic participation.

Expected outcomes:

(1)  Inter-cultural dialogue through better understanding of diverse historical memory of democratic transition strengthened across at least 4 countries of Central and Europe Europe (25-50 representatives of various fields, including civil society, youth organizations, political think-tanks, academics, activists, etc per each country);

(2) The critical understanding of the past is promoted though open, transnational debate countering the missuses of the past for political gain and presented to European audiences across different countries, the resilience to propaganda misusing the memory of the revolutions increased as lessons in active citizenship and sustainability of the democratic rule across the European countries (general public across European countries, estimated 30 000 citizens in total).

(3) The lessons in democratization and active citizenship drawn, rethought and reapplied to democratic governance in Europe in the digital age (the representatives working on active citizenship and democratic politics in Central and Eastern Europe have better understanding on the forms of active citizenship, 25 young people are educated on paths to active citizenship).

Financial support: European Commission through Europe for Citizens Program