Broad-scale political and socio-economic conditions are powerful determinants of land use change. Yet, their relative importance is unclear. The main goal of this thesis was to increase the understanding of such broad-scale drivers of land use change by studying how Eastern Europe’s landscapes were affected by the political and socio-economic transition after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. The border triangle of Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine in the Carpathians was selected as a study area, because cross-border comparisons of land use change allow for decoupling overall trends in the transition period from country specific changes. Moreover, the Carpathians are of exceptional ecological value, but little is known about land use effects on these ecosystems after 1989. Post-socialist land use change was quantified based on Landsat TM/ETM+ images by (1) comparing contemporary (year 2000) landscapes among countries, and (2) using images from 1986 to 2000 to investigate whether differences originated from socialist or post-socialist land use change. Results indicated that forest change, farmland abandonment, and farmland parcelization were widespread in the transition period, likely due to worsening economic conditions, weakened institutions, and societal change. However, land use trends also differed strongly among the three countries due to dissimilar land ownership patterns, land management practices, and land reforms. Poland and Slovakia converged in the transition period in terms of land cover, while Ukraine clearly diverged. This thesis provided compelling evidence of the importance of economic and institutional change for land use change and underpinned the pivotal role of ownership patterns and land management policies. These factors were important to understand land use change in Eastern Europe, and they are likely equally important elsewhere.