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A nation must think before it acts.
Many of the new democracies that have been formed since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 lack what had long been understood as preconditions for the democratic project: an earlier history of democratic politics, high personal incomes, a large middle class, and/or settled borders. The most distinctive aspects of this wave of democratic transitions are rapid regime change and the rise of democracies that exhibit a mixture of both authoritarian and democratic elements. This article explores what these new democracies can teach us about the factors that seem to encourage a transition from dictatorship to democracy, and what factors seem to contribute to its sustainability and institutionalization.