Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment

Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment

Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment

Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment

Synopsis

In this provocative, wide-ranging history of how the continent of Europe came to be conceived as divided into "Western Europe" and "Eastern Europe," the author shows that it was not a natural distinction, or even an innocent one, but instead was a work of cultural creation, of intellectual artifice, of ideological self-interest and self-promotion.

Excerpt

"From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent," announced Winston Churchill in 1946, from Fulton, Missouri, deep in the heart of a different continent. It was to be his most stupendously successful rhetorical coinage, that iron curtain, dividing Europe in two, into Western Europe and Eastern Europe. For almost the next half century it stood as a crucial structural boundary, in the mind and on the map. The map of Europe, with its many countries and cultures, was mentally marked with Churchill's iron curtain, an ideological bisection of the continent during the Cold War. "A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory," Churchill observed, and that shadow too was cast upon the map, darkening the lands behind the iron curtain. In the shadow it was possible to imagine vaguely whatever was unhappy or unpleasant, unsettling or alarming, and yet it was also possible not to look too closely, permitted even to look away--for who could see through an iron curtain and discern the shapes enveloped in shadow?

The lands behind the iron curtain were identified geographically by Churchill as "these Eastern States of Europe." They were joined together now "in what I must call the Soviet sphere," all of them states in which Communist parties were seeking to assume "totalitarian control." Yet the line from Stettin to Trieste, delimiting that Soviet sphere, was not one of absolute geographical determinism, and Churchill admitted one excep-

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