University of Minnesota
Center for Austrian Studies

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Paths of Transformation

Sharon Shelerud
Teacher consultant
Burnsville School District and MAGE Steering Committee

Minnesota State High School Human Geography Standard 4
The student will explain how the regionalization of space into political units affects human behavior.

Benchmark 2: Students will provide examples of the impact of political boundaries on human behavior and economic activities.

Following the fall of Communism in 1989, some former Communist countries chose one of three paths of transformation. The “paths” were:

Liberalization – Go West and Open Borders – Poland, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Slovakia

Top Down State Making – Maintain strong central government and heavily influence the economy. Maintain new borders. - Russia and Ukraine

Fundamentalist State Building – Come to power playing off of people’s cultural fears and economic hardship by blaming your political opponents. Create new borders.
Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo

For each type of path of transformation, students will choose one of the countries listed and research specific information that would illustrate the following:
3 – 5 ways in which people would benefit
3 – 5 costs to people
3 – 5 benefits to the State
3 – 5 costs to the State
Comparing data to pre 1989 data may be helpful. Some answers will require an explanation and not merely have data listed.

Possible data ideas for research are:

  • Waterways/transportation routes
  • Natural resources and their location
  • Per capita GNP
  • Percent of population under 15
  • Current allies
  • Past and current conflicts
  • Relations with the European Union
  • Do you want to be a member of the EU or not and why/why not
  • Life expectancy
  • Rate of natural increase
  • Percent of population living in poverty
  • Unemployment rate
  • Number of doctors per 100 (or some other data that would indicate health care service)
  • Level of industrialization
  • Centripetal forces within the State
  • Centrifugal forces within the State

Student findings should be presented on a chart. See Appendix A

After completing the chart, students will write a paper using one of the following prompts:

  1. If you were a leader of a new Eastern European state which of the paths of transformation would you choose for your State and why.
  2. Explain why a leader may choose each type of transformation path
Appendix A
Paths of Transformation Chart
Country name
Liberalization Top Down Fundamentalist

3 – 5
Benefits to People




3 -5
Costs to People




3 – 5
Benefits to the State




3 – 5
Costs to the State