Survey finds differences in outlook of young in ex- communist states

It is 16 years now since the dramatic collapse of communist rule around the former Eastern Bloc, and for young people in the region communism is, if anything, a vague memory. But how do today's young generation view society, and their own lives? That question is addressed in a new survey of 17- to 27-year-olds in the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Romania by the magazine Reader's Digest. Ian Willoughby spoke to the Czech co-ordinator of the poll, Dr Ivan Tomek, and asked him in which of the countries surveyed are young people most optimistic.

"The most optimism in this survey is in the Czech Republic - it's completely clear. They are the most satisfied with the last five years.

"On the other hand, optimism for the future is higher in Poland and Hungary, because if you are satisfied, if you are on a reasonable level of economic situation you do not expect such a high...situation in the future."

Let's talk for a second about the European Union - how do attitudes to the EU differ, or compare, in these countries we're talking about?

"The differences are only in the positive...appreciation of membership. It's most positive in Poland, more than 70 percent of young people feel it's good for the country. You know, there were a lot of discussions before but now most Poles, including in the agriculture sector, are very satisfied with that.

"In Hungary it's 67 and in the Czech Republic it's about 60 percent, so the majority are satisfied in all these countries.

Photo: European Commission
"Negative views are rare - 20 percent in the Czech Republic, 15 in Poland and 27 in Hungary. So it's quite a positive opinion."

What about the importance of family to young people in these countries?

"The importance of family is high, but in the Czech Republic it decreased in the last 11 years. It's now less important that it was because young people are more concentrated on education, on their job, on improving themselves as a person.

"And family based on marriage is much less important."

Is there a connection between family values and religion?

"Absolutely, it's clear, it's always the case. In Poland the role of the family is the strongest, as is religion. It's the only country in which the majority of young people are religious. And are religious according to a church.

"Hungary and the Czech Republic are much less religious. The Czechs the least - only about 15 percent here are religious."

And the question of national pride. Is a typical young Czech as proud to be Czech as a young Hungarian is proud to be Hungarian?

"Definitely not. For young Hungarians the first thing they said when we asked them what they were proud of was 'I am proud I am a Hungarian'. For Czechs, they are proud of sports, of important Czechs in history and so on.

"But national pride is much less important than in Poland, and in Hungary."