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Central Europe

Region of Europe

Top 10 Central Europe related articles

Different views of Central Europe
Central Europe according to The World Factbook (2009),[1] Encyclopædia Britannica, and Brockhaus Enzyklopädie (1998). There are numerous other definitions and viewpoints.
Traditional Cultural borders of Europe: usage recommendation by the Standing Committee on Geographical Names, Germany.[2]

Central Europe is the central region of Europe. Central Europe includes contiguous territories that are sometimes also considered parts of Western Europe, Southern Europe and Eastern Europe.[3][4][5] The concept of Central Europe is based on a common historical, social and cultural identity[a] and is a patchwork of territories that are traditionally Catholic and Protestant. The Thirty Years' War between Catholicism and Protestantism was a significant shaping process in the history of Central Europe, and neither side was able to prevail in the region as a whole.

Historically, Central Europe comprised most of the territories of the Holy Roman Empire and the territories belonging to the two neighboring kingdoms to the east (Poland and Hungary). Hungary and parts of Poland were later parts of the Habsburg Monarchy, which was also a significant shaping force in its history. Unlike their Western European counterparts, few Central European states had any overseas colonies due to their central location and other factors. For example, it has been often cited that one of the contributing factors for the causes of World War I and letter on World War II were Germany's perceived lack of overseas colonies. After the World War II, Central Europe was divided by the Iron Curtain as agreed by the world powers including the USA, Britain, and Russia at the Yalta Conference and later on at the Potsdam Conference the same year, into two parts, either associated with the so-called West and then to the so-called east or Eastern Europe (Eastern bloc). The Berlin Wall was one of the most visible symbols of these artificial and forced divisions. Specifically, it was Stalin who wanted the creation of Eastern Europe as the "Soviet 'sphere of influence' in Central and Eastern Europe, starting with Poland, in order to provide the Soviet Union with a geopolitical buffer zone between it and the western capitalist world".[16]

Central Europe began a "strategic awakening" (see for Central European Defence Cooperation) in the late 20th and early 21st century,[17] with initiatives such as the Central European Initiative (CEI), Centrope, and the Visegrád Four Group (The Visegrád Group was established on 15 February 1991). This awakening was mostly triggered by writers and other intellectuals who recognized the societal paralysis of decaying dictatorships and felt compelled to speak up against the Soviet oppression. One such person was the Czech writer Milan Kundera, who penned an essay titled The tragedy of Central Europe. [18]

In his 1983 book Nations and Nationalism, British-Czech philosopher Ernest Gellner argues that the industrial revolution and economic modernization spurred the creation of nations.[19]

Currently, and while it is true that several Central European countries continue to show some socio-economic disparities, the Central European change and progress over the past three decades have been nothing short of remarkable.[20] Primarily thanks to the support and direct investment from the European Union, all the Central European countries are presently listed as being 'very highly developed' by the Human Development Index.[21]


Central Europe Intro articles: 22

Historical perspective

Middle Ages and early modern era

Elements of cultural unity for Northwestern, Southwestern and Central Europe were Catholicism and Latin. However Eastern Europe, which remained Eastern Orthodox, was the area of Graeco-Byzantine cultural influence; after the East–West Schism (1054), Eastern Europe developed cultural unity and resistance to the Catholic (and later also Protestant) Western world within the framework of Orthodox Church, Church Slavonic language and the Cyrillic alphabet.[22][23][24][25]

According to Hungarian historian Jenő Szűcs, foundations of Central European history at the first millennium were in close connection with Western European development. He explained that between the 11th and 15th centuries, not only Christianization and its cultural consequences were implemented, but well-defined social features emerged in Central Europe based on Western characteristics. The keyword of Western social development after millennium was the spread of liberties and autonomies in Western Europe. These phenomena appeared in the middle of the 13th century in Central European countries. There were self-governments of towns, counties and parliaments.[26]

In 1335, under the rule of the King Charles I of Hungary, the castle of Visegrád, the seat of the Hungarian monarchs was the scene of the royal summit of the Kings of Poland, Bohemia and Hungary.[27] They agreed to cooperate closely in the field of politics and commerce, inspiring their post-Cold War successors to launch a successful Central European initiative.[27]

In the Middle Ages, countries in Central Europe adopted Magdeburg rights.

Before World War I

A view of Central Europe dating from the time before the First World War (1902):[28]
  Central European countries and regions: Germany and Austria-Hungary (without Bosnia & Herzegovina and Dalmatia)
  Regions located at the transition between Central Europe and Southeastern/Eastern Europe: Romania

Before 1870, the industrialization that had started to develop in Northwestern and Central Europe and the United States did not extend in any significant way to the rest of the world. Even in Eastern Europe, industrialization lagged far behind. Russia, for example, remained largely rural and agricultural, and its autocratic rulers kept the peasants in serfdom.[29] The concept of Central Europe was already known at the beginning of the 19th century,[30] but its real life began in the 20th century and immediately became an object of intensive interest. However, the very first concept mixed science, politics and economy – it was strictly connected with the intensively growing German economy and its aspirations to dominate a part of European continent called Mitteleuropa. The German term denoting Central Europe was so fashionable that other languages started referring to it when indicating territories from Rhine to Vistula, or even Dnieper, and from the Baltic Sea to the Balkans.[31] An example of that-time vision of Central Europe may be seen in Joseph Partsch's book of 1903.[32]

On 21 January 1904, Mitteleuropäischer Wirtschaftsverein (Central European Economic Association) was established in Berlin with economic integration of Germany and Austria–Hungary (with eventual extension to Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands) as its main aim. Another time, the term Central Europe became connected to the German plans of political, economic and cultural domination. The "bible" of the concept was Friedrich Naumann's book Mitteleuropa[33] in which he called for an economic federation to be established after World War I. Naumann's idea was that the federation would have at its centre Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire but would also include all European nations outside the Triple Entente.[34] The concept failed after the German defeat in World War I and the dissolution of Austria-Hungary. The revival of the idea may be observed during the Hitler era.

Interwar period

Interwar Central Europe according to Emmanuel de Martonne (1927)
CE countries, Sourcebook of Central European Avant-Gardes 1910–1930 (L.A. County Museum of Art)[35]

According to Emmanuel de Martonne, in 1927 the Central European countries included: Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Switzerland. The author uses both Human and Physical Geographical features to define Central Europe, but he doesn't take into account the legal development or the social, cultural, economic, infrastructural developments in these countries.[36]

The interwar period (1918–1938) brought a new geopolitical system, as well as economic and political problems, and the concept of Central Europe took on a different character. The centre of interest was moved to its eastern part – the countries that have (re)appeared on the map of Europe: Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland. Central Europe ceased to be the area of German aspiration to lead or dominate and became a territory of various integration movements aiming at resolving political, economic and national problems of "new" states, being a way to face German and Soviet pressures. However, the conflict of interests was too big and neither Little Entente nor Intermarium (Międzymorze) ideas succeeded. These matters were not helped by the fact that Czechoslovakia appeared alone as the only multicultural, democratic, and liberal state among its neighbors. The events preceding World War II in Europe -- including the so-called Western betrayal/ Munich Agreement were very much enabled by the rising nationalism and ethnocentrism that typified that time period.

The interwar period brought new elements to the concept of Central Europe. Before World War I, it embraced mainly German states (Germany, Austria), non-German territories being an area of intended German penetration and domination – German leadership position was to be the natural result of economic dominance.[30] After the war, the Eastern part of Central Europe was placed at the centre of the concept. At that time the scientists took an interest in the idea: the International Historical Congress in Brussels in 1923 was committed to Central Europe, and the 1933 Congress continued the discussions.[37]

Hungarian historian Magda Ádám wrote in her study Versailles System and Central Europe (2006): "Today we know that the bane of Central Europe was the Little Entente, military alliance of Czechoslovakia, Romania and Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia), created in 1921 not for Central Europe's cooperation nor to fight German expansion, but in a wrong perceived notion that a completely powerless Hungary must be kept down".[37]

The avant-garde movements of Central Europe were an essential part of modernism's evolution, reaching its peak throughout the continent during the 1920s. The Sourcebook of Central European avantgards (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) contains primary documents of the avant-gardes in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, and Poland from 1910 to 1930.[35] The manifestos and magazines of Central European radical art circles are well known to Western scholars and are being taught at primary universities of their kind in the western world.

Mitteleuropa

Mitteleuropa may refer to an historical concept, or to a contemporary German definition of Central Europe. As an historical concept, the German term Mitteleuropa (or alternatively its literal translation into English, Middle Europe[38]) is an ambiguous German concept.[38] It is sometimes used in English to refer to an area somewhat larger than most conceptions of 'Central Europe'; it refers to territories under Germanic cultural hegemony until World War I (encompassing Austria–Hungary and Germany in their pre-war formations but usually excluding the Baltic countries north of East Prussia). According to Fritz Fischer Mitteleuropa was a scheme in the era of the Reich of 1871–1918 by which the old imperial elites had allegedly sought to build a system of German economic, military and political domination from the northern seas to the Near East and from the Low Countries through the steppes of Russia to the Caucasus.[39] Later on, professor Fritz Epstein argued the threat of a Slavic "Drang nach Westen" (Western expansion) had been a major factor in the emergence of a Mitteleuropa ideology before the Reich of 1871 ever came into being.[40]

In Germany the connotation was also sometimes linked to the pre-war German provinces east of the Oder-Neisse line.

The term "Mitteleuropa" conjures up negative historical associations among some elderly people, although the Germans have not played an exclusively negative role in the region.[41] Most Central European Jews embraced the enlightened German humanistic culture of the 19th century.[42] German-speaking Jews from turn of the 20th century Vienna, Budapest and Prague became representatives of what many consider to be Central European culture at its best, though the Nazi version of "Mitteleuropa" destroyed this kind of culture instead.[43] However, the term "Mitteleuropa" is now widely used again in German education and media without negative meaning, especially since the end of communism. In fact, many people from the new states of Germany do not identify themselves as being part of Western Europe and therefore prefer the term "Mitteleuropa".

Central Europe during World War II

During World War II, Central Europe was largely occupied by Nazi Germany. Many areas were a battle area and were devastated. The mass murder of the Jews depopulated many of their centuries-old settlement areas or settled other people there and their culture was wiped out. Both Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin diametrically opposed the centuries-old Habsburg principles of "live and let live" with regard to ethnic groups, peoples, minorities, religions, cultures and languages and tried to assert their own ideologies and power interests in Central Europe. There were various Allied plans for state order in Central Europe for post-war. While Stalin tried to get as many states under his control as possible, Winston Churchill preferred a Central European Danube Confederation to counter these countries against Germany and Russia. There were also plans to add Bavaria and Württemberg to an enlarged Austria.[44] There were also various resistance movements around Otto von Habsburg that pursued this goal. The group around the Austrian priest Heinrich Maier also planned in this direction, which also successfully helped the Allies to wage war by, among other things, forwarding production sites and plans for V-2 rockets, Tiger tanks and aircraft to the USA.[45][46] So Otto von Habsburg also tried to detach Hungary from its grasp by Nazi Germany and the USSR.[47][48] There were various considerations to prevent German power in Europe after the war. Churchill's idea of reaching the area around Vienna and Budapest before the Russians via an operation from the Adriatic had not been approved by the Western Allied chiefs of staff.[49] As a result of the military situation at the end of the war, Stalin's plans prevailed and much of Central Europe came under Russian control.[50][51]

Central Europe behind the Iron Curtain

  Politically independent states during Cold War: Finland, Austria, Yugoslavia[52]

Following World War II, large parts of Europe that were culturally and historically Western became part of the Eastern bloc. Czech author Milan Kundera (emigrant to France) thus wrote in 1984 about the "Tragedy of Central Europe" in the New York Review of Books.[53] The boundary between the two blocks was called the Iron Curtain. Consequently, the English term Central Europe was increasingly applied only to the westernmost former Warsaw Pact countries (East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary) to specify them as communist states that were culturally tied to Western Europe.[54] This usage continued after the end of the Warsaw Pact when these countries started to undergo transition.

The post-World War II period brought blocking of research on Central Europe in the Eastern Bloc countries, as its every result proved the dissimilarity of Central Europe, which was inconsistent with the Stalinist doctrine. On the other hand, the topic became popular in Western Europe and the United States, much of the research being carried out by immigrants from Central Europe.[55] At the end of communism, publicists and historians in Central Europe, especially the anti-communist opposition, returned to their research.[56]

According to Karl A. Sinnhuber (Central Europe: Mitteleuropa: Europe Centrale: An Analysis of a Geographical Term)[52] most Central European states were unable to preserve their political independence and became Soviet Satellite Europe. Besides Austria, only the marginal European states of Finland and Yugoslavia preserved their political sovereignty to a certain degree, being left out of any military alliances in Europe.

The opening of the Iron Curtain between Austria and Hungary at the Pan-European Picnic on 19 August 1989 then set in motion a peaceful chain reaction, at the end of which there was no longer an East Germany and the Eastern Bloc had disintegrated.[57][58] It was the largest escape movement from East Germany since the Berlin Wall was built in 1961. After the picnic, which was based on an idea by Otto von Habsburg to test the reaction of the USSR and Mikhail Gorbachev to an opening of the border, tens of thousands of media-informed East Germans set off for Hungary.[59] The leadership of the GDR in East Berlin did not dare to completely block the borders of their own country and the USSR did not respond at all. This broke the bracket of the Eastern Bloc and Central Europe subsequently became free from communism.[60][61][62]

Roles

According to American professor Ronald Tiersky, the 1991 summit held in Visegrád, Hungary and attended by the Polish, Hungarian and Czechoslovak presidents was hailed at the time as a major breakthrough in Central European cooperation, but the Visegrád Group became a vehicle for coordinating Central Europe's road to the European Union, while development of closer ties within the region languished.[63]

The European floristic regions
The Pannonian Plain, between the Alps (west), the Carpathians (north and east), and the Dinaric Alps (southwest)
Carpathian countries (north-west to south-east): CZ, AT, PL, SK, HU, UA, RO, RS

American professor Peter J. Katzenstein described Central Europe as a way station in a Europeanization process that marks the transformation process of the Visegrád Group countries in different, though comparable ways.[64] According to him, in Germany's contemporary public discourse "Central European identity" refers to the civilizational divide between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.[64] He says there is no precise, uncontestable way to decide whether the Baltic states, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, or Bulgaria are parts of Central Europe.[65]

Central Europe Historical perspective articles: 91

Definitions

Geopolitical Challenges - Panel on the Future of Europe

Rather than a physical entity, Central Europe is a concept of shared history that contrasts with that of the surrounding regions. The issue of how to name and define the Central European area is subject to debates. Very often, the definition depends on the nationality and historical perspective of its author.

Academic

The main proposed regional definitions, gathered by Polish historian Jerzy Kłoczowski, include:[66]

Former University of Vienna professor Lonnie R. Johnson points out criteria to distinguish Central Europe from Western, Eastern and Southeast Europe:[68]

  • One criterion for defining Central Europe is the frontiers of medieval empires and kingdoms that largely correspond to the religious frontiers between the Catholic West and the Orthodox East.[69] The pagans of Central Europe were converted to Catholicism while in Southeastern and Eastern Europe they were brought into the fold of the Eastern Orthodox Church.[69]
  • Multinational empires were a characteristic of Central Europe.[69] Hungary and Poland, small and medium-size states today, were empires during their early histories.[69] The historical Kingdom of Hungary was until 1918 three times larger than Hungary is today,[69] while Poland was the largest state in Europe in the 16th century.[69] Both these kingdoms housed a wide variety of different peoples.[69]

He also thinks that Central Europe is a dynamic historical concept, not a static spatial one. For example, Lithuania, a fair share of Belarus and western Ukraine are in Eastern Europe today, but 230 years ago they were in Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.[69]
Johnson's study on Central Europe received acclaim and positive reviews[70][71] in the scientific community. However, according to Romanian researcher Maria Bucur this very ambitious project suffers from the weaknesses imposed by its scope (almost 1600 years of history).[72]

Encyclopedias, gazetteers, dictionaries

The Columbia Encyclopedia defines Central Europe as: Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary.[73] The World Factbook[1] uses a similar definition and adds also Slovenia. Encarta Encyclopedia and Encyclopædia Britannica do not clearly define the region, but Encarta places the same countries into Central Europe in its individual articles on countries, adding Slovenia in "south central Europe".[74]

The German Encyclopaedia Meyers Grosses Taschenlexikon (Meyers Big Pocket Encyclopedia), 1999, defines Central Europe as the central part of Europe with no precise borders to the East and West. The term is mostly used to denominate the territory between the Schelde to Vistula and from the Danube to the Moravian Gate. Usually the countries considered to be Central European are Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland; in the broader sense Romania and Serbia too, occasionally also Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

According to Meyers Enzyklopädisches Lexikon,[75] Central Europe is a part of Europe composed of Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Romania and Switzerland, and northern marginal regions of Italy and Yugoslavia (northern states – Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia), as well as northeastern France.

The German Ständige Ausschuss für geographische Namen (Standing Committee on Geographical Names), which develops and recommends rules for the uniform use of geographical names, proposes two sets of boundaries. The first follows international borders of current countries. The second subdivides and includes some countries based on cultural criteria. In comparison to some other definitions, it is broader, including Luxembourg, Croatia, the Baltic states, and in the second sense, parts of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Italy, and France.[2]

Geographical

There is no general agreement either on what geographic area constitutes Central Europe, nor on how to further subdivide it geographically.[76]

At times, the term "Central Europe" denotes a geographic definition as the Danube region in the heart of the continent, including the language and culture areas which are today included in the states of Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and usually also Austria and Germany, but never Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union towards the Ural mountains.[77]

Governmental and standards organisations

The terminology EU11 countries refer the Central, Eastern and Baltic European member states which accessed in 2004 and after: in 2004 the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, and the Slovak Republic; in 2007 Bulgaria, Romania; and in 2013 Croatia.[78]

Map gallery

Central Europe Definitions articles: 38

States

The comprehension of the concept of Central Europe is an ongoing source of controversy,[83] though the Visegrád Group constituents are almost always included as de facto Central European countries.[79] Although views on which countries belong to Central Europe are vastly varied, according to many sources (see section Definitions) the region includes the states listed in the sections below.

Depending on context, Central European countries are sometimes grouped as Eastern or Western European countries, collectively or individually[84][85][86][87] but some place them in Eastern Europe instead:[84][85][86] for instance Austria can be referred to as Central European, as well as Eastern European[88] or Western European[89] and Slovenia can sometimes be placed in either Southeastern[90] or Eastern Europe[88].

Other countries and regions

Some sources also add neighbouring countries for historical reasons (the former Austro-Hungarian and German Empires, and modern Baltic states), or based on geographical and/or cultural reasons:

The Baltic states, geographically in Northern Europe, have been considered part of Central Europe in the German tradition of the term, Mitteleuropa. Benelux countries are generally considered a part of Western Europe, rather than Central Europe. Nevertheless, they are occasionally mentioned in the Central European context due to cultural, historical and linguistic ties.

The following states or some of their regions may sometimes be included in Central Europe:

Central Europe States articles: 22

Geography

The Danube watercourse system throughout Central and Southeastern Europe

Geography defines Central Europe's natural borders with the neighbouring regions to the north across the Baltic Sea, namely Northern Europe (or Scandinavia), and to the south across the Alps, the Apennine peninsula (or Italy), and the Balkan peninsula[76] across the Soča-Krka-Sava-Danube line. The borders to Western Europe and Eastern Europe are geographically less defined, and for this reason the cultural and historical boundaries migrate more easily west–east than south–north. The river Rhine, which runs south–north through Western Germany, is an exception.

Southwards, the Pannonian Plain is bounded by the rivers Sava and Danube – and their respective floodplains.[110] The Pannonian Plain stretches over the following countries: Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia, and touches borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ukraine ("peri- Pannonian states").

As southeastern division of the Eastern Alps,[111] the Dinaric Alps extend for 650 kilometres along the coast of the Adriatic Sea (northwest-southeast), from the Julian Alps in the northwest down to the Šar-Korab massif, north–south. According to the Freie Universität Berlin, this mountain chain is classified as South Central European.[112] The city of Trieste in this area, for example, expressly sees itself as a città mitteleuropea. This is particularly because it lies at the interface between the Latin, Slavic, Germanic, Greek and Jewish culture on the one hand and the geographical area of the Mediterranean and the Alps on the other. A geographical and cultural assignment is made.

The Central European flora region stretches from Central France (the Massif Central) to Central Romania (Carpathians) and Southern Scandinavia.[113]

Central Europe Geography articles: 18