The Defence Industry in East Central Europe

The Defence Industry in East Central Europe. Restructuring and Conversion. 
Oxford University Press, 1997.

In 1989-90 the collapse of state socialism and the end of the Cold War brought dramatic changes for the defence industries of East-Central Europe. Initially it seemed that the resources devoted to the Cold War confrontation might become available for investment in non-military economic and social progress. However, by the mid1990s this optimism had given way to recognition that the transformation would involve significant costs and could not be accomplished quickly. The Defence Industry in East-Central Europe charts the development of the industries of the Visegrad countries - Czechoslovakia and its successor states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia; Poland; and Hungary. In the first part, national case studies underline the different approaches to reform adopted in the individual countries. The second part uses unique information derived from extensive interviews at enterprises in each of the four countries to examine the transformation of industry from a producer perspective.

Excerpt from the Introduction

“In the classic joke about military production in the former Soviet bloc, Ivan Ivanovich’s wife is expecting a baby but the couple are unable to find a pram in the empty shops of their little town. Ivan Ivanovich works in a machinery factory where, among other things, prams are produced. Seeing his growing frustration, his colleagues decide to help him out. Each of them steals a part so that Ivan Ivanovich can assemble his own pram at home. The morning after all the parts have been collected and delivered, Ivan Ivanovich’s friends ask him: ‘So, how does it work?’ He answers laconically: ‘It won’t roll but it shoots great.’

In March 1993 participants in a seminar on financing conversion held in the town of Martin, Slovakia, a stronghold of Slovak defence industry, visited the ZTS Martin enterprise. The group of economists, political scientists, engineers and conversion experts listened with enthusiasm as the representative of the enterprise described the civilian items that had replaced military production. As the participants, among them the present author, admired the tractors and the construction machinery, one of the party exclaimed: ‘There’s a tank flying above us!’ From a parallel production line, located in a section of the plant where access was restricted, a brand new tank floated elegantly towards the workshop exit.

These two anecdotes encapsulate the subject of this book: the hidden but ubiquitous presence of military production in the cold war command economies; the half-hearted efforts to convert this production capacity to civilian production after the dramatic political and economic changes in East-Central Europe in 1989-90; and the partial resurrection and modernization of sections of this industrial capacity. The transformation of military-related production is a crucial dimension of the wider transformation process launched by the countries of the region. In the past, the military sector and military considerations occupied a central role in the overall political, economic and social system. The way in which the position and role of this sector have changed provides revealing insights into the overall transformation process.”


“Yudit Kiss is a hard-working, perceptive and gently intrepid analyst of the political economics of our times. Her subject here (..) are the difficulties of the transformation of the arms industry from a command economy to a market economy system in four typical countries. (..) What she found is worthwhile to ponder and worry about. “
András Bródy, Buksz, Summer, 1998.

"Highly descriptive, it provides good background information for historians, security theorists and comparativists alike ... What makes this book a 'pioneer' attempt is the research approach ... the methodological approach and the spelling-out of statistical difficulties is an important scholarly finding ... the book is an eye-opener and invites a serious reality-check."
Georgeta V. Pourchot, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington DC, European Security, Vol 7, no 3, Autumn 1998.

Yudit Kiss, The defense industry in East Central Europe. Restructuring and conversion. A review.
Hiromasa Nakayama, PRIME, International Peace Research Institute, Meiji Gakuin University, 13 July 1999.

“Yudit Kiss gives a lucid description and analysis of this complex problem.”
Janos Matus, Defense analysis, Vol.15. No.2. Aug 1999.

“She does, however, underline that ‘conversion is not a technical matter but one that requires changes in thought patterns and behaviour to truly democratic policy making’ and her analysis reveals deficiencies in these respects as the main cause of the general failure with regard to conversion of the arms industries.”
NOD & conversion, Copenhagen Centre for Peace and Conflict Research at the University of Copenhagen; Oct. 1999.