How Populists Challenge Liberalism in Central Europe, with Keith Prushankin

Jakub Ferencik
4 min readNov 22, 2023

I have recently had the exceptional Keith Prushankin on my podcast, “Loosely Eastern Europe” to talk about some of his dissertation research at Free University Berlin, where he is now in the final stage of completing his Ph.D.

In particular, we talk about Keith’s paper and presentation recently given on “How To Break A State: How Populists Challenge Liberalism In Post-Communist Central Europe.” This is largely based on his dissertation thesis.

This is the second time Keith has been on the podcast, always a thrill to talk.

We talked about all things related to populism in the Visegrad Group — also known as the V4 (that is, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary).

So, I thought I’d highlight some of the questions on my blog in case my readers were interested. Keith truly is an expert on post-communist countries with wide expertise in the regions in question. I couldn’t recommend this interview (despite the fact that I am obviously biased) more.

The link to the interview.

Now on to some of the questions I asked Keith.

Photo by ConvertKit on Unsplash

Bio: Keith Prushankin

Keith Prushankin is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the Free University Berlin, a researcher at the“Contestations of the Liberal Script” Cluster of Excellence, and a former Europaeum Scholar. He is also lecturing at Free University Berlin in a seminar on US-Russia Relations. His research interests include populism, authoritarianism, and nationalism in post-communist countries.

The Interview Questions

Small note: We do not get into all the questions here and we touch on some that are not listed as the conversation evolved naturally. This is just a general outline of some of the themes.

  • First can you give a run-down of your thesis here. You propose this formula that you use to explain some of the populist party successes in the region: Successful Challenge = Demand + Opportunity + Activation; would you explain that briefly to listeners?
  • How do you think about 1989 in retrospect, in what ways were the Visegrad states hopeful for the future?



Jakub Ferencik

Author of “Up in the Air,” “Beyond Reason,” & "Surprised by Uncertainty" on AMAZON | MA McGill Uni | RA for EUROPEUM Prague | 700+ articles with 1+ mil. views