Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Introducing FPRI’s Project on Democratic Transitions

Introducing FPRI’s Project on Democratic Transitions

  • June 6, 2013

Introducing FPRI’s Project on Democratic Transitions

  • June 6, 2013

Director: Ambassador Adrian A. Basora


Launched in 2005, the Project on Democratic Transitions began with a primary focus on the political transformations of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The goal was to better understand both the successes and failures of democratization in these countries, and to draw practical policy conclusions from this analysis.

With the advent of the Arab uprisings in 2011, the PDT has also examined the interesting parallels – and the important differences – between the post-communist experience and the challenges facing would-be Islamic democratizers.  More recently, the Project has focused on autocratic regression in Russia, Ukraine and other post-communist states that had previously experienced significant liberalization, as well as on states seemingly stuck “in between” autocracy and democracy, such as Georgia and Moldova. In view of this regression and stagnation, respectively, the Project is reviewing the lessons of the past two decades with a view towards better understanding and countering these negative trends.

The PDT is currently placing special emphasis on the Black Sea region, tracking both progress and regression in these post-communist states and the impact of U.S. and other external influences. That region sits astride a transcontinental corridor at the meeting place of Europe, Central Asia, Russia, Turkey and the Middle East, and has emerged as a geopolitical fault line of strategic importance to American and Euro-Atlantic interests.

The Project’s overall goal is to develop up-to-date perspectives and guidelines both for policymakers in Washington and Brussels, and for reform-minded leaders in the post-communist countries themselves.

Along with its in-depth research and analysis, the Project is committed to making its findings as open and available as possible via its FPRI web page (which can be accessed here) with the goal of adding new voices and new perspectives to this important conversation.

PDT Staff

Ambassador Adrian A. Basora is Director of the Project on Democratic Transitions. He was the last U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia, and then the first to the Czech Republic, after witnessing Czechoslovakia’s peaceful “Velvet Divorce.” He spearheaded early U.S. support for democracy and market economics in the Czech and Slovak republics. Immediately prior to that, he was Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council as the Iron Curtain fell, and he participated in the design of U.S. policies and programs to encourage democratic transitions in Central and Eastern Europe.  Ambassador Basora holds an MPIA from Princeton University.

Dr. Nino Japaridze is a Senior Fellow at FPRI and a faculty member at American University and at George Mason University where she teaches graduate seminars on democratization, on globalization and development, and on international political economy.  She brings over 15 years of experience across Eurasia in democracy promotion, political attitudinal and behavioral analysis, innovative research design, and program management.  Dr. Japaridze holds a Doctorate in Politics from Oxford University, an MA from George Washington University, and BA from Wheaton College.

Maia Otarashvili is a full-time researcher and operations coordinator for the Project on Democratic Transitions. Her research has focused on democratic consolidation and regression in the EU-10 countries, as well as on troubled transitional countries such as Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia and others in the Black Sea and Caucasus region. She holds an MA in Globalization, Development and Transition from the University of Westminster in London, with emphasis on post-authoritarian transitions.


Michael Hikari Cecire is an Associate Scholar at the Project on Democratic Transitions.  Formerly an economic development and management consultant in the Republic of Georgia, he has written extensively on the Caucasus, and on Eurasian geopolitics more generally. He is regularly featured in a number of on-line publications, including as a frequent contributor to the World Politics Review, the National Interest and the American Interest. He has an MPA from the University of Pennsylvania.

Alexandra Wiktorek Sarlo is an Associate Scholar at the Project on Democratic Transitions. She is currently an all-but-dissertation Ph.D. candidate and a former Teaching Assistant in Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, with a particular focus on comparative politics. She also holds an MA from Georgetown University in Russian and East European Studies, and a BA in Russian from Cornell University.

Melinda Haring is an Associate Scholar at the Project on Democratic Transitions, focusing particularly on the tools of democracy promotion. Melinda is Communications Officer for the Eurasia Foundation, based in Washington D.C. A longtime observer of political developments in the Eurasia region, Melinda has worked for Freedom House and for the National Democratic Institute, where she managed democracy assistance programs in Azerbaijan and Georgia. She is a graduate of Georgetown University’s Democracy and Governance program with an MA in Government and a Certificate in Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies.

Arzu Geybullayeva is an Associate Scholar at the Project on Democratic Transitions. Based in Istanbul, Turkey, Arzu holds a Master’s in Global Politics from London School of Economics and Political Science and serves as managing editor and co-director of Imagine Center for Conflict Transformation. Her research and writing focuses on the Caucasus and the Black Sea region.

Hannah Lidicker is an intern at the Project on Democratic Transitions, where she is focusing her research on transitions in the former Soviet Union and on electoral developments in post-communist Europe. Hannah was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree with Honors in Political Science and Russian Language, Culture and Literature in May, 2013.

Shelli Gimelstein is an intern at the Project on Democratic Transitions and a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is majoring in International Relations, with a minor in Creative Writing and Russian Language. Shelli studied at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic during the spring 2013 semester, and she is writing her senior thesis on freedom of speech in the post-communist states of Central and Eastern Europe. She is fluent in Russian.

Selected PDT Publications

Reforming the Democracy Bureaucracy” Melinda Haring. FPRI E-note, June 2013

Can the Post-Communist Democracies Survive a Continuation of the Euro-Crisis?” Adrian A Basora. Orbis, Vol. 57, No. 2, Spring 2013

Georgia’s 2012 Elections and Lessons for Democracy Promotion” Michael Cecire. Orbis, Vol. 57, No. 2, Spring 2013

Georgia’s Elections: Lessons for Democratic Transitions” Michael Cecire. FPRI E-Note, November 2012

Has Democracy Met the Stress Test in Post-Communist Europe?” Adrian A. Basora. FPRI E-Note, September 2012

Western Engagement and Georgia’s Uncertain Future” Michael H. Cecire.  FPRI E-Note, September 2012

Do the Post-Communist Transitions Offer Useful Lessons for the Arab Uprisings?” Adrian A. Basora.  Orbis, Vol. 56, No.2, Spring 2012.

Do the Post-Communist Transitions Offer Lessons for the Arab World?” Adrian A. Basora. FPRI E-Note, August 2011

The Value of the Visegrad Four” Adrian A. Basora. FPRI E-Note, March 2011.

“A New US Policy Toward Democracy in Post-Communist Europe and Asia.” – Adrian A. Basora and Jean F. Boone. Problems of Post-Communism,Vol. 57, No.1, Jan/Feb 2010

“The Georgia Crisis and Continuing Democratic Erosion in Europe/ Eurasia.”Adrian A. Basora and Jean F. Boone. FPRI E-Note, October 2008

“Must Democracy Continue to Retreat in Postcommunist Europe and Eurasia?” Adrian A. Basora. Orbis,Vol.52, No.1, Winter 2008.

“The Tasks of Democratic Transition and Transferability” – Valerie Bunce. Orbis, Vol. 52, No.1, Winter 2008

“Ukraine: Lessons Learned from other Postcommunist Transitions” – Mykola Riabchuk. Orbis, Vol. 52, No.1. Winter, 2008

“U.S. Bases and Democratization in Central Asia” – Alexander Cooley. Orbis, Vol.52, No.1. Winter 2008

“The Continued Retreat of Democracy in Postcommunist Europe and Eurasia?”Adrian A. Basora. FPRI E-Note, November 2007