This undergraduate honors thesis examines the common causes of democratic transitions in Poland, Latvia, and Ukraine. One purpose of this honors project is to discern why certain countries like Poland and Latvia have successfully transitioned to and consolidated stable democratic institutions, while others like Ukraine have not. One central question examines the degree of influence that foreign actors exerted in promoting democracy movements in Eastern Europe. A theoretical framework will be established by combining parts of the models of Samuel Huntington, Juan Linz, and Alfred Stepan. The research project will place special scrutiny on Huntington’s theory of foreign actors affecting democratic change. This thesis will examine how changes in the approach to foreign affairs by the Soviet Union, the Vatican, and the U.S. influenced Eastern Europe during the “third wave” of democratization. More specifically, these changes will be linked to the rise of civil society in the region, like Solidarity in Poland. Other causes and aspects of democratic transformation will also be examined, like demographics in Latvia and the deep-rooted problems of corruption, economic stagnation, and dependence on Russia that continue to plague the Ukrainian democracy. At the end, implications of the study will be explored in light of resurgent Russian aggression in Eastern Europe and around the world. Questions surrounding the Trump administration and the future of transatlantic security and stability will be addressed.

Semester/Year of Award

Spring 5-6-2017


Kerem Ozan Kalkan

Mentor Professional Affiliation

Government and Economics

Access Options

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Bachelor Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars

Degree Level




Department Name when Degree Awarded

Government and Economics