East/Central Europe

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Eastern Europe, Central Europe, East Central Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, etc. are variously defined and often overlapping geographic, historical and political regions occupying eastern and central portions of Europe.


Tell me where Central Europe is, and I can tell who you are.
— Jacques Rupnik
  • Though in 1346 there were few differences between Western and Eastern Europe in terms of political and economic institutions, by 1600 they were worlds apart. In the West, workers were free of feudal dues, fines, and regulations and were becoming a key part of a booming market economy. In the East, they were also involved in such an economy, but as coerced serfs growing the food and agricultural goods demanded in the West. It was a market economy, but not an inclusive one. This institutional divergence was the result of a situation where the differences between these areas initially seemed very small: in the East, lords were a little better organized; they had slightly more rights and more consolidated landholdings. Towns were weaker and smaller, peasants less organized. In the grand scheme of history, these were small differences. Yet these small differences between the East and the West became very consequential for the lives of their populations and for the future path of institutional development when the feudal order was shaken up by the Black Death.
    • Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (2012)
  • I have visited most parts of the Central European country, and am familiar with people from every district. Shall I picture them all to myself? Then in thought I am in a peasant's cottage in Lower Germany, in a country house in Upper Germany, in an Alpine inn, in a little town in Bohemia, in the industrial region in Upper Silesia, in a shop in Posen, in an hotel in Tatra, with friends in Budapest, at the port at Triest, at home in Berlin, in the splendid old cathedral of St. Stephen in Vienna, in the silence of the Böhmerwald, on the shore at Rügen; and so on continually forms arise of men, women and children, and I hear every German accent, from the broad Frisian Plattdeutsch to the Tyrolean Mountain German, from the softness of the Lower Rhine to the sharpness of East Prussia, from the Mecklenburg calm to the Viennese liveliness, and in addition there is the sound of Danish in the North, French in the West, Italian and Croatian in the South, Tzechish in Bohemia, Magyar, Roumanian and Polish in the South-East and East. (...) And nowhere are limits or divisions sharply fixed.
    • Naumann, Friedrich (2009). Central Europe: A Translation. BiblioBazaar.  Original title: Mitteleuropa (1915).
  • Who rules East Europe commands the heartland, who rules the heartland commands the world.
Over Central Europe there rises the heavy smell of boiled cabbage, stale beer, and the soapy whiff of overripe water melons...
— Josef Kroutvor
  • (...) There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration. (...) I don't believe (...) that the Yugoslavians consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. I don't believe that the Rumanians consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. I don't believe that the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union.
  • Over Central Europe there rises the heavy smell of boiled cabbage, stale beer, and the soapy whiff of overripe water melons (...) The frontiers are vague and irrational; and it is only the smell which permits one to identify [the region] with absolute certainty.
    • Josef Kroutvor, Potíže s dějinami
    • Quoted in: Davies, Norman; Moorhouse, Roger (2003). Microcosm: A Portrait of a Central European City. Pimlico. 
  • (...) Three fundamental situations developed in Europe after the war: that of Western Europe, that of Eastern Europe, and, most complicated, that of the part of Europe situated geographically in the center – culturally in the West and politically in the East.
  • I assume there is such a thing as Central Europe, even though many people deny its existence, beginning with statesmen and journalists who persist in calling it "Eastern Europe" and ending with my friend Joseph Brodsky, who prefers to reserve for it the name of "Western Asia." In these decades of the 20th century, Central Europe seems to exist only in the minds of some of its intellectuals.
  • In the work of Havel and Konrád there is an interesting semantic division of labour. Both authors use the terms "Eastern Europe" or "East European" when the context is neutral or negative; when they write "Central" or "East Central," the statement is invariably positive, affirmative, or downright sentimental.
  • Every Central European family has its own stormy history in which family catastrophes and national catastrophes are mingled. History is more than erudition here, it is the inner meaning of actions, a validating tradition, a largely unconscious norm and parameter for conduct today.
    • György Konrád
    • Quoted in: Kumar, Krishan (2001). 1989: Revolutionary Ideas and Ideals. 
  • Europe is living through an exceptional period. Part of our continent torn up from its roots almost half a century ago is now aspiring to return. Back to Europe! This expression is gaining currency these days in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
    • Tadeusz Mazowiecki in his speech to the Council of Europe on 30 January 1990.
    • Quoted in: Stützle, Walther; Rotfeld, Adam Daniel (1991). Germany and Europe in transition. Oxford University Press. 
Is it only an accident that the four most enduring popular culture villains, Frankenstein, Count Dracula..., the Morlak and the Golem... are connected somehow to Eastern European regions?
— László Kürti
  • Tell me where Central Europe is, and I can tell who you are.
    • Jacques Rupnik
    • Quoted in: Johnson, Lonnie (1996). Central Europe: enemies, neighbors, friends. Oxford University Press US. 
  • Central Europe is a dynamic historical concept, not a static spatial one; therefore its frontiers have shifted throughout the ages.
    • Johnson, Lonnie (1996). Central Europe: enemies, neighbors, friends. Oxford University Press US. 
  • In the late nineteenth century, the concept of a German-dominated Mitteleuropa was launched to coincide with the political sphere of the Central Powers. In the inter-war years, a domain called "East Central Europe" was invented to coincide with the newly independent "successor states" – from Finland and Poland to Yugoslavia. This was revived again after 1945 as a convenient label for the similar set of nominally independent countries which were caught inside the Soviet bloc. By that time the main division, between a "Western Europe" dominated by NATO and the EEC and an "Eastern Europe" dominated by Soviet communism seemed to be set in stone. In the 1980s a group of writers led by the Czech novelist, Milan Kundera, launched a new version of "Central Europe", to break down the reigning barriers. Here was yet another configuration, another true "kingdom of the spirit".
  • For all the participants in this fascinating debate, "Central Europe" was defined, not by geography, but by values. "Central Europe" was, in György Konrád's words, a Weltanschauung, not a Staatsangehörigkeit (i.e., a way of looking at the world rather than a question of citizenship); for Leszek Kołakowski it was a "culturally connected area"; for Stefan Kaszyński a "state of mind"; for Czesław Miłosz "a way of thinking".
    • Hyde-Price, Adrian G. V. (1996). The International Politics of East Central Europe. Manchester University Press ND. 
  • No one writing about Transcarpathia can resist retelling the region's favourite anecdote: A visitor, encountering one of the oldest local inhabitants, asks about his life. The reply: "I was born in Austria-Hungary, I went to school in Czechoslovakia, I did my army service in Horthy's Hungary, followed by a spell in prison in the USSR. Now I am ending my days in independent Ukraine." The visitor expresses surprise at how much of the world the old man has seen. "But no!," he responds, "I've never left this village!"
    • Batt, Judy; Wolczuk, Kataryna (2002). Region, state and identity in Central and Eastern Europe. Taylor & Francis. 
  • Indeed by 1919 there could be no question of saving the old arrangements in Central and Eastern Europe. The nationalists had already torn them apart. From the distance of seventy years it is customary to regard Austria-Hungary as a tranquil exercise in multi-racialism. In fact it was a nightmare of growing racial animosity. Every reform created more problems than it solved. Hungary got status within the empire as a separate state in 1867. It at once began to oppress its own minorities, chiefly Slovaks and Romanians, with greater ferocity and ingenuity than it itself had been oppressed by Austria. Elections were suspect, and the railways, the banking system and the principles of internal free trade were savagely disrupted in the pursuit of racial advantage immediately any reform made such action possible. Czechs and other Slav groups followed the Hungarians' example. No ethnic group behaved consistently. What the Germans demanded and the Czechs refused in Bohemia, the Germans refused and the Italians and south Slovenes demanded in the South Tyrol and Styria. All the various Diets and Parliaments, in Budapest, Prague, Graz, and Innsbruck were arenas of merciless racial discord. In Galicia, the minority Ruthenians fought the majority Poles. In Dalmatia the minority Italians fought the majority South Slavs. As a result it was impossible to form an effective parliamentary government. All of the twelve central governments between 1900 and 1918 had to be composed almost entirely of civil servants. Each local government, from which minorities were excluded, protected its home industries where it was legally empowered to do so, and if not, organized boycotts of goods made by other racial groups. There was no normality in the old empire.
Who to look to better than Central European countries that 20 years ago acted with such courage and resolve, and over the last 20 years, have made such sustainable progress?
— Joe Biden
  • Concernant en tous les cas les pays candidats, (...) honnêtement, je trouve qu'ils se sont comportés avec une certaine légèreté. Car entrer dans l'Union européenne, cela suppose tout de même un minimum de considération pour les autres, un minimum de concertation. Si, sur le premier sujet difficile, on se met à donner son point de vue indépendamment de toute concertation avec l'ensemble dans lequel, par ailleurs, on veut entrer, alors, ce n'est pas un comportement bien responsable. En tous les cas, ce n'est pas très bien élevé. Donc, je crois qu'ils ont manqué une bonne occasion de se taire.
    • Concerning, after all, the candidate countries, (...) I honestly think that they have behaved with a certain lightness. Because entering the European Union still requires a minimum of consideration for others, a minimum of consultation. If, on the first difficult subject, you begin to express your point of view independently of any consultation with the body which you incidentally want to join, then it is not very responsible behavior. In any case, it is not well brought-up behavior. So I believe that they missed a good opportunity to keep quiet.
    • Jacques Chirac at a press conference in Brussels on 17 February 2003, following a European Council emergency summit on Iraq
    • Conférence de presse de M. Jacques Chirac, Président de la République, à l'issue de la réunion informelle extraordinaire du Conseil européen. Présidence de la République. Retrieved on 2009-11-14.
  • I am one of the servants of Allah. We do our duty of fighting for the sake of the religion of Allah. It is also our duty to send a call to all the people of the world to enjoy this great light and to embrace Islam and experience the happiness in Islam. Our primary mission is nothing but the furthering of this religion. ... Let not the West be taken in by those who say that Muslims choose nothing but slaughtering. Their brothers in East Europe, in Turkey and in Albania have been guided by Allah to submit to Islam and to experience the bliss of Islam. Unlike those, the European and the American people and some of the Arabs are under the influence of Jewish media.
  • Twenty-five years ago we [Poland] were eastern Europe. When we joined Nato and the EU, we became central Europe. Now, because of our resilience in the face of the financial crisis, we are northern Europe.

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