Fragments on the Late Socialist
and Postsocialist Art of Mitteleuropa
and the Balkans
The term “Mitteleuropa” usually designates a cultural, not a geographical, space. “It does not quite correspond to the English phrase 'Central Europe.' Mitteleuropa suggests something that resonates in historical mystique; it is a cultural idea and cannot be reduced to geo-political definitions. ” 1 It points to the complex relation of cultures, national cultures, communities, and states that occupy the center of the European continent: not only Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, but also Poland, Slovenia, northern Italy, Croatia, and Vojvodina (northern Serbia). The idea of Mitteleuro paembraces countries and cultures that have built their cultural identity under the influence of the Austro-Hungarian Empireflafter the Second World War, with the exception of Austria and Italy, they became socialist and a part of the East or Soviet bloc. During the Cold War, they were most often identified by the less geographical and more political term “Eastern Europe. ”
Today, the idea of Mitteleuropa is determined by the myth of the unity of European culture, the myth of the enduring integrative nature of AustroHungarian culture, and the ambivalent idea of the shared socialist past.
The Balkans represent the geographical space of the Balkan peninsula, occupied by Turkey, Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, most of the former Yugoslavia (Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and part of Croatia), and Romania. The Balkans as a cultural space do not carry much weight. The term instead denotes a loose historical entity and a provisional geographic area.