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That still doesn't add up. Is in this view Russia (and Ukraine and Belarus and the Caucasus) "culturally" part of Eastern Europe or not? E.g. is this "western-centric cultural Eastern Europe" the exclusion of Russia or the merger of the real cultural Central and Eastern Europes? If the first, do Finns exclude the big neighour and onetime overlord from Europe (and see cultural Eastern Europe to the geographical West of most of their country)?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 08:40:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Finns see all these as simply neighbours ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 08:54:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo, I was just being flip early on a Saturday morning. As a Canadian, I can't speak to this, except to mention the geographic relativism. For example, when I grew up on  the prairies, people in my family used "down east" in reference to southern Ontario, from whence they had quite recently migrated to Sakstatoon by rail and red-river-wagon (the remains of these wagons can still be seen all over the Prairies). But everyone knows "eastern Canada" really means the Maritimes and Newfoundland, about 1500km east of "down east."

Am I missing something important here?

by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 09:24:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not sure you miss anything, but assuming you're new to this issue, a little run-down on it.

Geographically, depending on who did the calculation, the center of Europe is somewhere between Southwestern Lithuania and the Northwestern edge of the Carpathian Basin [today in Slovakia and the Westernmost tip of Ukraine].

Historically, "Central Europe" used to be the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Prussia, and the Habsburg Empire (was earlier Austria and Kingdom of Hungary, became later Austria-Hungary). Culturally, this made some sense for the following reasons: Eastern border roughly the Eastern extent of Western Christianity (which meant very real political alliance systems and exchange beyond religion), these continental countries were off East of the dominant maritime nations making up Western (and Northern) Europe, and there was the Ottoman Empire to the Southeast. With German unification in the 19th century, all of Germany shited into "Central Europe".

To give some evidence, Central European Time (CET, the timezone today extending from Spain to Hungary, but originally only from Germany and on to Transsylvania and Galicia, areas then in Austria-Hungary but today in Romania resp. Ukraine) was established at the request of the Hungarian State Railways (see here).

In all the descendant countries, the region is called thus to this day. In the West, however, after the Iron Curtain descended across the continent, "Eastern Europe" became what was beyond.

After the fall of 'communism', there was confusion. Finding that the locals are confused and aren't that enthralled by their "Eastern Europe" terminology, some Westerners (especially those immigrating fro here...) had no trouble with the old terminology (see the Soros-funded Central European University). Then there are the new 'compromise terms', used on international fora to please us but apparently unknown to most Westerners: Central-Eastern Europe, Eastern-Central Europe (CEE/ECE), the same with "and".

But Western usage is confused also for reasons entirely unrelated to our sensitivities. What complicates the picture is

  1. EU accession: no one says "Eastern EU", instead, the mostly Central European new members (and immigrants from there) became "Eastern Europeans".
  2. the Russia question: Russophobes of various degrees wouldn't even see Russia as culturally European, or just ignore the ex-USSR-minus-Baltics - so the Eastern border of the EU is really the cultural limit of Europe for them.
  3. Poemless would also want me to add to the previous a parallel trend among Central European Russophobes, insisting on differentiating themselves as Central European to distinguish from the 'russkies'. (Though I honestly don't know how much, if any, role that plays.)


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 02:12:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Poemless would also want me to add to the previous a parallel trend among Central European Russophobes, insisting on differentiating themselves as Central European to distinguish from the 'russkies'. (Though I honestly don't know how much, if any, role that plays.)

Quite a bit in the genesis of the modern use of the term if you look at the debates in the seventies and eighties.  Quite prominent a theme in fact in the contributions of your co-national, Gyorgy Konrad. To be fair this part of the argument was at least as much intended to counter anti-East European prejudices among Westerners as an expression of anti-Russian prejudice. But the latter is a real factor.

by MarekNYC on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 03:33:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite a bit in the genesis of the modern use of the term if you look at the debates in the seventies and eighties. Quite prominent a theme in fact in the contributions of your co-national, Gyorgy Konrad.

I must admit I had no clue. Intrigued, I started off for a search; and so far I find there was apparently a so-called "Central Europe Debate", in which Konrád participated; kicked off by Milan Kundera's 1984 essay "The Tragedy of Central Europe", positing that in Central Europe is a part of the West kidnapped by the East, where intellectuals fight for European values against Soviet-Russian "de-Europeanisation", and that Central European intellectualism was the real center of European civilisation. That's strong tobacco indeed. Apparently, his strongest critic in the ensuing debate was emigrant Russian poet Joseph Brodsky. I am still reading.

(At any rate, while I may have absorbed Cewntral Europe myths created by the eighties dissident movement, I doubt my geography class curriculum was influenced by Konrád & co.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 04:58:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's when it hit the Western mainstream but the talking points began getting developed in the late seventies samizdat. Interestingly the mainstream Polish dissidents tended to be less Russophobic in that way. That might have something to do with the dueling Polish historical traditions of left nationalism - politically very Russophobic, but culturally Russophile and identifying strongly with the Westernizer tradition and right nationalism - politically Russophile but seeing 'real' Russia as the Slavophile one and thus as something utterly alien from and inferior to 'the West'.
by MarekNYC on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 05:24:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I just found an essay (sorry, in Hungarian) giving a historical overview of the meanings and political uses of Central Europe, as well as Eastern-Central Europe and Eastern Europe. It appears that all the meaning variations I named for post-1990 existed earlier: ECE appeared in German schemes for Central European hegemony, an Eastern Europe West of Russia-Belarus-Ukraine appeared in between-world-wars Polish-Czech nationalist historiography. The article also claims that (all of) Germany was counted into CE from the emergence of the term in the late 18th century.

On the Central Europe Debate, this article both connects and separates it from a debate among historians about Central Europe as separate cultural region, which started in the seventies.. E.g. the intellectuals were really for the re-joining of the two sides of the Iron Curtain, not an identity separate also from the West (but a purer essence of it if we look at Kundera).

Hm, maybe I should write a diary.

Or maybe you are already better-read for that :-)

At any rate, thanks for sending me on this search.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 05:20:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, as I said it was also push back against the longstanding 'othering' of 'Eastern' Europe that started with the Enlightenment. (See Larry Wolff's Inventing   Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment This trope reached its most virulent form in the German Ostforschung tradition. Interestingly, if you look at the Adenauer period, you see the notion of Germany as a bulwark against the Asiatic Slav hordes being reconfigured into a tool of furthering European integration and opposition to traditional national-konservativ and voelkisch constructions of German national identity.
by MarekNYC on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 05:33:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
it was also push back against the longstanding 'othering' of 'Eastern' Europe that started with the Enlightenment.

That must have been muddled up with the German factor at least since the  rise of Prussia in the Seven Years' War. If my source is right, the Central Europe idea got traction in the West in the form of the German Threat (and in Prussia/Germany Mitteleuropa became popular in the form of natural hegemonic area for regional dominance). Then again, it also claims that the East-West division idea finally supplanted the North-South idea (in which Russia was the Giant of the North) only with the Crimean War.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 05:44:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope NordicStorm won't get angry at me for this thread hijack, but I can't pass up another thing I now read.

Apparently, a central theme in the historians' debate on Central Europe from the seventies was the development of feudalism as something separating out such a region, in particular the second serfdom. Which brings me to thing about an earlier era. Catholics contend that what connects Europe historically above all is its common Christian past. But the spread of Christianity was just as much the spread of the then modern society model of feudalism.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 05:35:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yup. Serfdom never really fully recovered from the Black Death west of the Elbe, but it came back with a vengeance in Prussia and points East. A good starting point on it if you're interested is a classic collection of essays The Origins of Backwardness in Eastern Europe ed. Daniel Chirot.
by MarekNYC on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 05:39:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Shouldn't that subthread be compiled in a diary sooner or later ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 08:19:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, see one of ther above comments. But so many interesting issues came up in my reading yesterday, I fear it could turn into another 4,000-word diary if I write it...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 05:04:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, that's 4000 words I'd like to read... Few diaries would be more topical on ET than stuff about European identities

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 05:33:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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