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Both the concept and the issue of civil society is a matter of dispute in respect of theory and practice alike. The present paper has a triple ambition: outlining the history of ideas behind the concept, providing an interpretation, and carrying out a distinct analysis of the processes characteristic of the East-Central European region. Owing to the unrealistic expectations formed around the concept, mystification poses a great danger to present-day civil society. In what follows, we will analyse the dilemmas evolved around the issue of civil society.