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The article discusses strategies the Central-East European EU member states have applied to protect their populations against the social risks stemming from transformation, foreign-led development and the current economic crisis, and asks how they came about. Some governments spend relatively little on social protection, but employ a high share of their workforce in the public sector. Others offer the most generous support for pensioners and other underemployed groups. As shown in detail in the Hungarian and Latvian case, divergent welfare strategies can be traced back to different socialist legacies and perceptions of the past.