Religious and economic transformation in Eastern Europe

One of the striking features of cultural landscape of twenty-first century Europe is the great variation in economic success of post-communist regimes. While a number of explanations have been put forward to account for these differences, a key variable that is often overlooked is religion. Thus, while it is well known that religion played a significant role in undermining the legitimacy of certain communist regimes (e.g. Catholicism in Poland), less attention has been paid to the ways in which previously suppressed religious traditions and values have contributed to, or inhibited, economic growth in the post-communist era.

Specifically, it might be the case that a lack of religious freedom and an overwhelming state apparatus generated closed religious systems that have stunted the economic development. Moreover, it seems plausible that different religious confessions - say, Orthodoxy vs. Catholicism - vary in the way in which they have either supported or inhibited free market economies.

The main question of the project, then, is to ask whether religious freedom and religiosity are important factors in the transformation of ex-communist countries from socialist economic systems to free market capitalism. The question will be explored by an empirical analysis, focusing specifically on Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania. While it is clear that patterns of religious freedom and religiosity in Eastern Europe affect the systemic transformation of these countries in a non-linear way, our thesis may be that there are strong connections between these phenomena.

The project will analyze each country's regulatory mechanisms of religious freedom, considering both the legal framework and financial support (subsidies, grants etc.) for different denominations, with a view to determining whether they may generate, unofficially, a religious monopoly and a close relationship with the state.