Is Democracy Dying?
The Atlantic’s October issue examined the current democratic crisis—in America, and in the world.
October’s special edition asks whether democracy is dying. Reading of the challenges we face, it is hard not to feel a sense of despair. However, I would like to offer some hope from a part of the world where democracy is far from a given: the countries of the former Soviet Union. Yes, this is a region where numerous autocracies are doing their best to both crush civil society at home and destabilize democratic institutions abroad. However, it is also a region where many have not given up on the ideal of living in a free society and are risking their all to achieve it. What strikes me is that no matter how tarnished democracy’s reputation may be, its fundamental promises of freedom, dignity, and accountability remain an ideal for many. Take Armenia’s surprise velvet revolution in defiance of its cynical kleptocracy this year. Armenia is stuck in a frozen conflict, has few friendly neighbors, and is reliant on the whims of Russia for its security. Yet its citizens risked a bloody crackdown, Russia’s wrath, and a reignition of war in taking to the streets and peacefully protesting for the removal of its corrupt leaders. Questioning the health of democracy in the West is good and necessary, but let’s not be trapped by doom, gloom, and introspection. As long as people continue to stand up for democracy, it will always have a chance.
Executive Director, Prague Civil Society Centre
Prague, Czech Republic
The October issue of The Atlantic is a literary and civic tour de force. Nowhere have I read—in one succinct and powerful publication—a better explanation of and warning about the ills besetting American democracy. This issue is a call to arms for all who care about America and its problems and possibilities—past, present, and future.