Encyclopedia of Eastern Europe: From the Congress of Vienna to the Fall of Communism

Encyclopedia of Eastern Europe: From the Congress of Vienna to the Fall of Communism

Encyclopedia of Eastern Europe: From the Congress of Vienna to the Fall of Communism

Encyclopedia of Eastern Europe: From the Congress of Vienna to the Fall of Communism


This Encyclopedia serves as an excellent introduction for readers unfamiliar with Eastern Europe, but is also a comprehensive reference for the expert interested in checking a detail or examining the latest historical perspective.


In 1989, to the surprise of many, Communist governments throughout Eastern Europe collapsed. In a matter of months, a world that had existed since the end of World War II in 1945 was overturned. The infamous “Iron Curtain”—a term coined by British prime minister Winston Churchill in 1946 to describe the barriers that had arisen between the nations of the West and those in Eastern Europe that were under the influence of the Soviet Union—suddenly ceased to exist. For the first time in decades, people traveled freely across borders throughout Europe. Nations that had long been in the Soviet sphere of influence were now free to create democratic governments and market economies.

Despite the profound changes that have taken place since those climactic events, many textbooks often ignore that vast region that lies between Berlin and Vienna in the west and Moscow and St. Petersburg in the east—the area that is popularly referred to as Eastern Europe.

In 1990 I was asked by the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies to direct a national project aimed at increasing awareness of Eastern Europe in the public schools, where little—if any—time has been devoted to the study of this part of the world. For many, knowledge of Eastern Europe, especially of its rich and diverse past, rarely went beyond mere Cold War stereotypes. Over the next three years, my colleagues and I attended numerous meetings and workshops speaking to dedicated professionals who often themselves had been taught very little about Eastern Europe. In discussions with teachers, one thing became instantly clear: They lacked accessible information, and we were repeatedly told that the essential material that teachers needed was a reference guide. Thus, when Garland Publishing offered me the opportunity to edit this encyclopedia, I could not refuse. Despite the daunting nature and challenge of the project, to have done so would have been to turn my back on those who were asking for assistance.

The term “Eastern Europe” is itself somewhat imprecise, and some scholars argue that the region should be called East Central Europe or Central and Southeastern Europe. However, since “Eastern Europe” is more commonly used in the West, the decision was made to use that term throughout the book. We further decided to focus on the states of the former Eastern bloc, save for East Germany, an area more properly discussed by reference works on Germany. Clearly, the entire scope of the region's past could not be included in one volume. We focus our attention on developments over the past two centuries—the period roughly from the Congress of Vienna to the fall of Communism.

The cornerstones of the volume are the seven long articles on each of the primary countries/ regions—Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania. These comprehensive entries provide an introduction to the major developments that have transpired over the course of the past two centuries. The remainder of the entries deal with geography, history, government, economics, culture, trends and ideas, as well as outside forces and individuals that have affected developments in Eastern Europe. References for further reading are also provided . . .

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