Reformers had high hopes that the end of communism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union would lead to significant improvements in legal institutions and the role of law in public administration. However, the cumulative experience of 25 years of legal change since communism has been mixed, marked by achievements and failures, advances and moves backward. This special issue of the journal Communist and Post-Communist Studies documents the nuances of this process and starts the process of explaining them. This introductory essay draws on the findings of the articles in this issue to explore the impact of three potential explanatory factors: regime type, international influences, and legal (or political) culture. Regime type matters, but allows for considerable variation within authoritarian and democratic states alike and the possibility of reversals. The influence of international organizations (like the European Union) is also far from predictable, especially once states have joined the organization. Finally, legal cultures and political traditions play a large role in explaining developments in individual countries, but there is nothing inevitable about their impact.

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