Today, as never before, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania are ruled in the name of the same "officially" accepted ideology; they have developed similar sociopolitical systems, and have similar experiences of domination by the Soviet Union. Their recent development has also resulted in a newly-developed commonality in their systems of social stratification. This social process may have great political significance, since in the past, even when facing a common danger, this part of Europe has been unable to cooperate closely. Formerly, negative national and ethnic stereotypes, which had developed from the end of the seventeenth century to World War II, inhibited attempts to bring about closer political cooperation.
There were several instances of growing animosities and negative stereotypes among those nations. Since 1620, when the Czechs lost their independence and their nobility was extinguished, both Hungarian and Polish nobility had treated the Czechs and the Slovaks as only an anonymous mass of peasantry. Hungarians had looked down on all Slavs, including Poles who had their country ruined, and lost their independence. Romanians in the eyes of Hungarians and Poles represented an artificially created nation. Czechs, as soon as their middle class became richer than its counterparts in Poland and Hungary, expressed their contempt for snobbism and the tradition of nobility in neighboring countries. Thus, each nation in this region had one or another feeling of contempt for each other.
Beside the differences related to the social stratification and history of the discussed nations, their political orientations contributed to their mutual animosities. Czechs were decisively anti-German and pro-Russian. Hungarians, though politically dominated by Austrians, were pro-German. Romanians who had enough reason to fear and hate Russians were Francophiles and pro- German. Additionally, the region of Transsylvania was a land of a lasting conflict between Romanians and Hungarians. The Poles had three enemies: Russians, Germans and Austrians. 1 Today, the sharing of similar stratification systems can significantly contribute to a breakdown of these stereotypes. The present development is evidently creating a foundation for a future confederation, or some other form of political integration of this part of Europe.
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Publication information: Book title: Development of Class Structure in Eastern Europe:Poland and Her Southern Neighbors. Contributors: Aleksander Gella - Author. Publisher: State University of New York Press. Place of publication: Albany. Publication year: 1989. Page number: xiii.
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