Book Reviews -- Mitteleuropa: History and Prospects Edited by Peter Stirk

Article excerpt

Mitteleuropa: History and Prospects

Edited by Peter Stirk

Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, Scotland. 1995

The disintegration of the Cold War division of Europe and the reunification of Germany have given new significance to the debate about the political, economic and cultural structure at the heart of Europe This pivotal topic is examined and attempts made to analyze the conflicts in the area and to understand the forces that shaped this key region through history. The various chapters investigate the issues set to determine the kind of future Central Europe can expect in the years to come, providing detailed critical and historical assessment of the role of Germany; the social, political and economic distinctiveness of the region; and the attitude of the states outside the area.

Editor Stirk explains the historic growth of the concept of "middle Europe", which has historical as well as spatial reality. Geographically it is not an easily defined region, the main physical features, the Danube, the Vistula and the Carpathians serving to divide rather than delineate the region. However, German intrusion into the area, and the growth of the German "eastern Reich," which repelled the Turkish invasion and freed and incorporated the Slovene, Croatian and Bosnian areas into the Austro-Hungarian empire, as well as Czechoslovakia and Hungary, territories which had acquired much of German culture, made Mitteleuropa a political and quasicultural supra-national territory. This was reinforced by an active Jewish population, which generally welcomed the supra-national concept, having found themselves often treated as aliens in Europe's nationalist states. …