The division between eastern and western Europe may be traced back to Constantine’s splitting of the Roman empire in 395, or to the great schism of 1054 which separated the eastern or Orthodox church from western Christendom. The divisions were deepened by the Crusaders’ assault on Constantinople in 1204 and much more so by the fall of that city to the Ottoman armies in 1453. Thereafter the west became absorbed with exploration beyond Europe and by the intellectual and political upheavals of the Reformation. The stimulating and invigorating effects of the latter were not entirely absent in the east but that area was inevitably more preoccupied with the advance of the Ottomans. After this had been halted at Vienna in 1683 the Habsburg, Russian, and Prussian empires expanded until, after the third partition of Poland in 1795, they, together with the Ottoman, covered the entire area. Whilst towns were developing in the west, in the east the land retained or regained much of its former economic and social power; the nobility reasserted their authority over the peasants who were tied more closely to the land, leaving urban activities more in the hands of Germans, Jews, Armenians, and other minority groups. This ethnic division limited the strength of the east European bourgeoisie which was further weakened because it coincided less frequently than in the west with vibrant, assertive Protestantism. Economic progress was therefore slow. Outside Bohemia manufacturing was little developed; agricultural improvement, where it occurred, retained the inefficiencies of a system which tied the peasants to the land as a source of cheap, conscript labour.
The wars of the French revolution brought little immediate change in eastern Europe. After 1815 the old boundaries were more or less restored. A kingdom of Poland, with the tsar of Russia as its king, was created and an autonomous Serbia appeared, though this embryonic nation state was not the creation of a nationalist intelligentsia but had arisen from a revolt led by Karadjeordj Petrović who, along with other local chieftains, had been angered by the failure of Ottoman central government to control its local representatives. The intellectual legacy of 1789 was, however, to be seen in the Greek revolt of 1821 and in the eventual setting up of an independent Greek state in 1830.
The years of upheaval did bring about social readjustments. Prussia, seeing the
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Publication information: Book title: Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century and after. Edition: 2nd. Contributors: R. J. Crampton - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 1.
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