This article explores the causes for the pervasive sentiment in contemporary Eastern Europe to the effect that “it is democratic but it isn't”. It begins with a discussion of the differences between “procedural” and “substantive” democracy, and finds that the institutions of procedural democracy have proven surprisingly robust in the post-communist period. It then examines three variants of substantive democracy: liberal, national, and egalitarian. Each links democratic government to a particular social and economic order, none of which fully describes the actual situation within most states in the area. Finally, these distinctions between types of democracy are employed to illuminate the dynamics of both policy choices regarding restitution and privatization and electoral outcomes in the past half-decade.

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