IN BULGARIA, some of the citizens expressed their views of their government on Sunday by sacking and burning the headquarters of the ruling Socialist -- formerly Communist -- party. In Romania, demonstrations and rock-throwing have been going on in the middle of the capital since last week. In Yugoslavia, where Croatia recently voted for greater autonomy under the Serb-dominated federal government, Serbs living in Croatia last week voted for greater autonomy from the Croats -- after their own heavily armed patrols closed local roads to prevent police interference with their referendum.
Eastern Europe's revolution still has a long way to go. Popular uprisings overthrew Communist governments last year in Bulgaria and Romania, but Communists under one name or another continue to run the governments there. The Communists continue to hold power in Yugoslavia, although they have lost control of two of its provinces. Albania, under its own eccentric style of Stalinism, has relaxed slightly in recent months but continues to be hardly more accessible than Tibet. Amid all of the well-justified celebration of freedom's victories in Eastern Europe, it is useful to remember that nearly 60 million people live in countries where those victories remain at best incomplete.
There's an increasingly sharp distinction between the countries to the north -- Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary -- and the Balkans. To the north, elections have definitively removed the Communists from control of government. All three of those countries believe that their future lies with the Europe of the Common Market. But to the south, the general sense of direction is much less clear and certain. Elections have failed to produce governments around which their people have rallied. They have been unable to undertake essential reforms. Why?
One reason is inexperience with democracy or with any form of government but simple despotism. Another is that except for northwestern Yugoslavia -- the two provinces that have voted out their Communist rulers -- these lands are profoundly isolated from the rest of Europe, and not only geographically.
Frustrated by their inert governments, people in the streets turn to violence. In that atmosphere, the traditional ethnic feuds flourish. The Balkan countries desperately need help from the West, but they are unlikely to get much of it as long as they remain under regimes that their own people dislike and distrust. Over time these countries will change. But it isn't happening quickly.