The aim of the article is to show how the extent of democracy in two Eastern European societies has a strong conditioning effect on the development of social movements. Hungary and Russia are chosen as contrasting cases. The experience of environmental movements before and after the regime change is used as an illustration of grassroots movements. It is shown that environmental movements in Hungary are more numerous and more successful than those in Russia, and that this is linked to the extent of support they have (or lack) from politicians, nonelected officials, and the media. In Hungary, although ecological issues are not central, politicians and environmental groups mostly co-operate, whereas in Russia the relationship is either hesitant or sometimes even hostile. In both countries, however, apparatchiks are generally a lot more opposed to grassroots groups, such as environmental ones, but their weaker position in Hungary compared with Russia cancels out this effect. Finally, the media in Hungary have been sympathetic to environmental issues and they are also supportive of the environmental movements. In contrast, however, in Russia, after Yeltsin's arrival in power 'glasnost' has been largely reversed and the media have also been hostile to environmental groups. In sum, the position of the media, politicians and officials shapes the prospects for environmental movements and is an index of the differing degree of democracy in the two societies
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