The communist take-over has trenched a deep divide in the continuity of East European history, even more in that of East European historiography. For probably more foreign researchers are working on aspects of the communist period than on the entire earlier span of the region’s experience. Predictably, this imbalance has distorted attempts to relate the communist and pre-communist phrases of the region’s life into a common interpretative framework.
Indeed, both Western and communist students of the most recent period often all but reverse the positions of their colleagues working on earlier themes. Western academics, as this book has had occasion to observe, are assiduous in pointing out the self-interested motives which could underlie the rhetoric of past idealisms: the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, the liberalism and nationalism of the nineteenth century. Marxist historians, on the other hand, are prepared to condone much human frailty in what they deem ultimately the progressive cause. In the modern period all this changes. It is Western writers who laud the struggles of anti-regime elements, showing their movements the same undifferentiated benevolence their ancestors accorded nineteenth century Magyars and Poles; and it is communists who push forward sociological and historical issues, pointing to the revival of bourgeois and nationalist motifs in contemporary dissidence, the role of ambitious technocrats and the uncertain relationship of the intelligentsia and the workers.
However tendentious the communist case is in particular instances, it has a certain general plausibility. The preoccupation of Western academics with ideological issues in Eastern Europe—national sovereignty and political liberty—contrasts not only with their approach to the East European past but also their understanding of the Western present, which gives pride of place to issues of welfare and class. Should Eastern Europe be viewed in a totally