POPREBEL (Populist Rebellion Against Modernity) aims at taking stock of the recent rise of populism – in its various forms – in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), including the Western Balkans. Its trajectory is not just interesting in and of itself: it is also the harbinger of a possible future for the whole continent. It is urgent for Western Europeans to look into the CEE mirror, just as it is urgent for the CEE region to understand itself. We describe the phenomenon, create a typology of its various manifestations, reconstruct trajectories of its growth and decline, investigate its causes, interpret its meanings, diagnose its consequences, and propose policy solutions. Our focus is on the CEE region, but we will engage in comparisons with populisms in other parts of the world, particularly Western Europe.
The present wave of populist mobilizations in Europe is more politically consequential than any of the previous waves and it has already produced an ‘extraordinary’ [Brubaker 2017a, 2017b] reconfiguration of the political map of Europe. Populist parties have become significant political players in several countries, including Italy, Holland, Austria, France, UK, and Germany, and their number has almost doubled since 2000 (from 33 to 63) [Eiermann et al. 2018]. Brexit vote in the UK might have gone the other way had it not been for the campaigning by the populist UKIP.
At the beginning of 2019, right wing populist parties govern in two countries of the region – Hungary and Poland – and in several others populists have emerged as serious contenders for political power. ‘Populists are the strongest in Eastern Europe,’ concludes a recent comprehensive report [Eiermann et al. 2018]. We propose, therefore, to study the rise of populism in this part of Europe in order to draw lessons that will be applicable also to other countries. No doubt Eastern Europe has some specific features, but since the phenomenon is so intensely pronounced in that part of the continent we believe it is easier to diagnose the causes of its emergence, reconstruct its basic features, and formulate policy recommendations that may be helpful also in other contexts. We will, however, rely also on comparisons with other parts of Europe and the world when our specific tasks call for them.