Central and Eastern Europe today consists of twelve countries: Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, a rump Yugoslav state consisting of the Serb Republic and Montenegro, and the former Yugoslav republics of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia. Before 1993, the Czech Republic and Slovakia made up Czechoslovakia. Before October 1990, going back to the end of World War II, when the German state was partitioned by the four victorious Allies ( Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union), there was the German Democratic Republic, sometimes called East Germany, which is now part of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The region has a distinctive but somewhat sad political past. With the exception of the East German state, created out of the Soviet zone of occupation, all the countries of the region were occupied and administered for many centuries by powerful outside empires (German, Austrian, Russian, and Ottoman Turkish), which left their own legacies with the peoples they ruled. In all cases, but especially for the countries in the southern part of Eastern Europe, known as the Balkans ( Romania, Bulgaria, central and southern Yugoslavia, and Albania), foreign rule was repressive, abusive, and beyond the ability of the people living under it to influence or reform short of revolution. Russian rule of central and eastern Poland and Turkish rule in the Balkans was harsh, with German rule in western Poland a bit less brutal and Austro-Hungarian rule of Czechoslovakia, southern Poland, Slovenia, and Croatia somewhat more enlightened and progressive though by no means liberal. For some countries of Central and Eastern Europe, this foreign control ended in the late nineteenth century, while others became independent only at the end of World War I.