The concept, the title of this introduction, is not entirely a geographic one. Historians, geographers, and political scientists cannot fully agree whether Eastern Europe should include the landmass usually referred to as European Russia--and today, also Ukraine--the arbitrarily defined territory between the ever-changing western borders of the state of the former tsars, and then the commissars, on the one hand, and the Ural mountains on the other. The political boundaries of Eastern Europe have also been controversial. Should they include, for instance, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania? How about the Balkan dates? Should Greece be included in the concept? Not surprisingly, a number of terms have been used to describe the region, such as Central Europe, East Central Europe, and, of course, Eastern Europe. East Central Europe has usually referred only to Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. Central Europe usually included Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. Eastern Europe has included Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and European Russia. What is certain, however, is that Austria, that leftover state of the defunct Habsburg empire, which, by rights of geography, and history should be part of Eastern Europe, is not. The safest way to handle the problem of definition is to include in the region all the countries that were part of the colonial empire of the Soviet Union in the second half of the twentieth century. Complicating the situation will be the fact that the list will include East Germany--the so-called German Democratic Republic (GDR)--and the southeast European countries of the Balkans, including Romania, the former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Albania. The current volume will, therefore, take this "easy way" out of the dilemma of definition.
Once the definition of the dimensions of Eastern Europe is accepted, further problems will intrude into our deliberations. The concept of Eastern Europe is a relatively new one from the historical perspective. The peoples of this amorphously defined region have considered themselves Europeans without any qualifying adjectives. The term "East Europeans" was never used to refer to them until World War I. Furthermore, the designation denotes a homogeneity that has never existed--not when the region was controlled by the three great empires of the Ottoman Turks, the Russian