Abstract This article uses hierarchical cluster analysis to empirically assess if the postcommunist welfare states of Central and Eastern Europe can be classified according to any of Esping-Andersen’s well-known welfare types, or if they form a distinct group of their own. It shows that at the start of the twenty-first century, there are clear differences in the governmental programmes and the social situation between traditional Western welfare states and post-communist welfare states. The article argues that the welfare states in post-communist countries might be subdivided into three groups: (1) a group of former-USSR countries, including Russia and Belarus; (2) a group of rather successful Central and Eastern European countries including Poland and the Czech Republic, and (3) a group of developing welfare states, consisting of Romania, Moldova and Georgia.