Concepts such as ‘democracy’ and ‘authoritarianism’ suggest clear defining criteria and boundaries, but they fall short of capturing the nature of political and social reality. Both concepts and the societies they seek to describe are in flux—in Eastern Europe and beyond. This research cluster focuses on the grey zones and overlaps between these often rigid classifications. The two concepts of stability and change highlight, on the one hand, the dynamics of social, political, economic, and cultural changes and, on the other hand, the processes that prevent or limit change. A range of local, national, and international actors are examined against a backdrop of societal and institutional structures. Contested spaces – areas in which political, normative, and historical claims and expectations, as well as identities and memories, are disputed – take centre stage. The projects in this research cluster are multidisciplinary and cover a wide range of political and cultural themes that have been under-represented in academic and public debates. This research cluster also analyses, among other issues, the dynamics of social protests, the relations between state institutions and societal initiatives, local politics and processes of decentralisation, the Orthodox Church torn between its internal values discourse and politics, and the political content of Russophone literature outside of Russia.