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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Central European states and historic lands at times associated with the region

Central Europe is the region lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe. The term and widespread interest in the region itself came back into fashion[1] after the end of the Cold War, which, along with the Iron Curtain, had divided Europe politically into East and West, splitting Central Europe in half.

The concept of Central Europe, and that of a common identity, is somewhat elusive.[2][3][4] However, scholars assert that a distinct "Central European culture, as controversial and debated the notion may be, exists."[5][6] It is based on "similarities emanating from historical, social and cultural characteristics",[5][7] and it is identified as having been "one of the world's richest sources of creative talent" between the 17th and 20th centuries.[8] A UN paper employs 8 factors "to define a cultural region called 'Central Europe'".[9] Cross Currents: A Yearbook of Central European Culture characterized "Central Europe as an abandoned West or a place where East and West collide".[10]

As of the 2000's, Central Europe is going through a phase of "strategic awakening".[11]



The understanding of the concept of Central Europe is an ongoing source of controversy,[12] though the Visegrád Group constituents are generally included as de facto C.E. countries.[1] The region is usually considered to include:

The region sometimes also includes parts of neighbouring countries (for historical and cultural reasons):

Current views on Central Europe

Rather than a physical entity, Central Europe is a concept of shared history which contrasts with that of the surrounding regions. The issue how to name and define the Central European region is subject to debates. Very often, the definition depends on nationality and historical perspective of its author.

Main propositions, gathered by Jerzy Kłoczowski, include:[15]

According to Ronald Tiersky, the 1991 summit held in Visegrád, Hungary and attended by the Polish, Hungarian and Czechoslovak presidents was hailed at the time as a major breakthrough in Central European cooperation, but the Visegrád Group became a vehicle for coordinating Central Europe's road to the European Union, while development of closer ties within the region languished.[17]

Peter J. Katzenstein described Central Europe as a way station in a Europeanization process that marks the transformation process of the Visegrád Group countries in different, though comparable ways.[18] According to him in Germany's contemporary public discourse "Central European identity" refers to the civilizational divide between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.[18] He says there's no precise, uncontestable way to decide whether the Baltic states, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, and Bulgaria are parts of Central Europe or not.[19]

Lonnie R. Johnson points out criteria to distinguish Central Europe from Western, Eastern and Southeast Europe:[20]

  • Multinational empires were a characteristic of Central Europe.[22] Hungary and Poland, small and medium-size states today, were empires during their early histories.[22] The historical Kingdom of Hungary was until 1918 three times larger than Hungary is today,[22] while Poland was the largest state in Europe in the sixteenth century.[22] Both these kingdoms housed a wide variety of different peoples.[22]
  • as a mode of self-perception, despite the debated nature of the concept Central Europeans generally agree on which peoples are to be excluded from this club: for example Serbs, Bulgarians, Romanians and Russians.[23]

He also thinks that Central Europe is a dynamical historical concept, not a static spatial one. For example, Lithuania, a fair share of Belarus and western Ukraine are in Eastern Europe today, but 250 years ago they were in Poland.[22]
Johnson's study on Central Europe received acclaim and positive reviews[24][25] in the scientific community.

The Columbia Encyclopedia defines Central Europe as: Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary.[26] The World Factbook[27] and Brockhaus Enzyklopädie use the same definition adding Slovenia too. Encarta Encyclopedia does not clearly define the region, but places the same countries into Central Europe in its individual articles on countries, adding Slovenia in "south central Europe".[28]

The German Encyclopaedia Meyers grosses Taschenlexikon (English: Meyers Big Pocket Encyclopedia), 1999, defines Central Europe as the central part of Europe with no precise borders to the East and West. The term is mostly used to denominate the territory between the Schelde to Vistula and from the Danube to the Moravian Gate. Usually the countries considered to be Central European are Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, in the broader sense Romania too, occasionally also the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

History of the concept


Middle Ages

In 1335 the castle of Visegrád, the seat of the Kings of Hungary was the scene of the royal summit of the Kings of Poland, Bohemia and Hungary.[31] They agreed to cooperate closely in the field of politics and commerce, inspiring their late successors to launch a successful Central European initiative.[31]

Before World War I

The extent of the Habsburg Empire
A view of Central Europe dating from the time before the First World War (1902):[32]      Central European countries and regions: Germany and Austria-Hungary (without Bosnia-Herzegovina and Dalmatia)     Regions located at the transition between Central Europe and Eastern Europe: Romania

The concept of Central Europe was already known at the beginning of the 19th century,[33] but its real life began in the 20th century and immediately became an object of intensive interest. However, the very first concept mixed science, politics and economy – it was strictly connected with intensively growing German economy and its aspirations to dominate a part of European continent called Mitteleuropa. The German term denoting Central Europe was so fashionable that other languages started referring to it when indicating territories from Rhine to Vistula, or even Dnieper, and from the Baltic Sea to the Balkans.[34] An example of that-time vision of Central Europe may be seen in J. Partsch’s book of 1903.[35]

On 21 January 1904 - Mitteleuropäischer Wirtschaftsverein (Central European Economic Association) was established in Berlin with economic integration of Germany and Austria–Hungary (with eventual extension to Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands) as its main aim. Another time, the term Central Europe became connected to the German plans of political, economic and cultural domination. The “bible” of the concept was Friedrich Naumann’s book Mitteleuropa[36] in which he called for an economic federation to be established after the war. Naumann's idea was that the federation would have at its center Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire but would also include all European nations outside the Anglo-French alliance, on one side, and Russia, on the other.[37] The concept failed after the German defeat in the World War I and the dissolution of Austria–Hungary. The revival of the idea may be observed during the Hitler era.

Interwar period

Interwar Central Europe, according to the French geographer Emmanuel de Martonne (1927)

According to Emmanuel de Martonne, in 1927 the Central European countries included: Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania. Italy and Yugoslavia are not considered by the author to be Central European because they are located mostly outside Central Europe. The author use both Human and Physical Geographical features to define Central Europe.[38]

The interwar period (1918–1939) brought new geopolitical system and economic and political problems, and the concept of Central Europe took a different character. The centre of interest was moved to its eastern part – the countries that have reappeared on the map of Europe: Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Central Europe ceased to be the area of German aspiration to lead or dominate and became a territory of various integration movements aiming at resolving political, economic and national problems of "new" states, being a way to face German and Soviet pressures. However, the conflict of interests was too big and neither Little Entente nor Międzymorze ideas succeeded.

The interwar period brought new elements to the concept of Central Europe. Before WWI, it embraced mainly German states (Germany, Austria), non-German territories being an area of intended German penetration and domination - German leadership position was to be the natural result of economic dominance.[39] After the war, the Eastern part of Central Europe was placed at the centre of the concept. At that time the scientists took interest in the idea: the International Historical Congress in Brussels in 1923 was committed to Central Europe, and the 1933 Congress continued the discussions.

Little Entente defence union, The Versailles System and CE, Oxford journals[40]

Magda Adam, in the Versailles System and Central Europe, published in the Oxford journals: "Today we know that the bane of Central Europe was the Little Entente, military alliance of Czechoslovakia, Romania and Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia), created in 1921 not for Central Europe's cooperation nor to fight German expansion, but in a wrong perceived notion that a completely powerless Hungary must be kept down".[40]

The avant-garde movements of Central Europe were an essential part of modernism’s evolution, reaching its peak throughout the continent during the 1920s. The Sourcebook of Central European avantgards (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) contains primary documents of the avant-gardes in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia from 1910 to 1930.[41] The manifestos and magazines of Western European radical art circles are well known to Western scholars and are being taught at primary universities of their kind in the western world.

Central Europe behind the Iron Curtain

Following World War II, large parts of Europe that were culturally and historically Western became part of the Eastern bloc. Consequently, the English term Central Europe was increasingly applied only to the westernmost former Warsaw Pact countries (East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary) to specify them as communist states that were culturally tied to Western Europe.[42] This usage continued after the end of the Warsaw Pact when these countries started to undergo transition.

The post-WWII period brought blocking of the research on Central Europe in the Eastern Block countries, as its every result proved the dissimilarity of Central Europe, which was inconsistent with the Soviet doctrine. On the other hand, the topic became popular in Western Europe and the United States, much of the research being carried out by immigrants from Central Europe.[43] At the end of the communism, publicists and historians in Central Europe, especially anti-communist opposition, came back to their research.[44]

According to Mayers Enzyklopädisches Lexikon[45], Central Europe is a part of Europe composed by the surface of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania, northern marginal regions of Italy and Yugoslavia (northern states- Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia) as well as northeastern France. Sometimes, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg are not regarded as Central European.

Mitteleuropa, the German term

Map of German plans for a new political order in Central and Eastern Europe after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk of February 9th, 1918, Treaty of Brest-Litovsk of March 3rd, 1918 and Treaty of Bucharest of May 7th, 1918.      Germany and its allies      Part of Poland and Armenia to be annexed by Germany/Turkey      Semiautonomous states under full German control - planned annexation      New countries - economically and administratively dependent of Germany      Ukraine - under German economic control      Planned Tatar Republic - area of German colonization      Countries politically and economically tied with Germany      Planned Transcaucasian Republic - politically tied with Germany      Semiautonomous Cossack states inside Russia - German sphere of influence

The German term Mitteleuropa (or alternatively its literal translation into English, Middle Europe[47]) is an ambiguous German concept.[47] It is sometimes used in English to refer to an area somewhat larger than most conceptions of 'Central Europe'; it refers to territories under German(ic) cultural hegemony until World War I (encompassing Austria–Hungary and Germany in their pre-war formations. According to Fritz Fischer Mitteleuropa was a scheme in the era of the Reich of 1871-1918 by which the old imperial elites had allegedly sought to build a system of German economic, military and political domination from the northern seas to the Near East and from the Low Countries through the steppes of Russia to the Caucasus.[48] Professor Fritz Epstein argued the threat of a Slavic "Drang nach Westen" (Western expansion) had been a major factor in the emergence of a Mitteleuropa ideology before the Reich of 1871 ever came into being.[49]

In Germany the connotation is also sometimes linked to the pre-war German provinces east of the Oder-Neisse line which were lost as the result of the World War II, annexed by People's Republic of Poland and the Soviet Union, and ethnically cleansed of Germans by communist authorities and forces (see expulsion of Germans after World War II) due to Yalta Conference and Potsdam Conference decisions. In this view Bohemia and Moravia, with its dual Western Slavic and Germanic heritage, combined with the historic element of the "Sudetenland", is a core region illustrating the problems and features of the entire Central European region.
The term Mitteleuropa conjures up negative historical associations, although the Germans have not played an exclusively negative role in the region.[23] Most Central European Jews embraced the enlightened German humanistic culture of the 19th century.[50] German-speaking Jews from turn-of-the-century Vienna, Budapest and Prague became representatives of what many consider to be Central European culture at its best, though the Nazi version of "Mitteleuropa" destroyed this kind of culture.[50] Some German speakers are sensitive enough to the pejorative connotations of the term Mitteleuropa to use Zentraleuropa instead.[47] Adolf Hitler was obsessed by the idea of Lebensraum and many non-German Central Europeans identify Mitteleuropa with the instruments he employed to acquire it: war, deportations, genocide.[51]

Physical geography

Between the Alps and the Baltics

Geography strongly defines Central Europe's borders with its neighbouring regions to the North and South, namely Northern Europe (or Scandinavia) across the Baltic Sea, the Apennine peninsula (or Italy) across the Alps and the Balkan peninsula across the Soča-Krka-Sava-Danube line. The borders to Western Europe and Eastern Europe are geographically less defined and for this reason the cultural and historical boundaries migrate more easily West-East than South-North. The Rhine river which runs South-North through Western Germany is an exception.

Carpathian countries (north to south): AT, CZ, PL, SK, HU, UA, RO, SRB

Pannonian Plain and Carpathian Mountains

The Pannonian Plain, between the Alps (west), the Carpathians (north and east), and the Sava/Danube (south)

Geographically speaking, Carpathian mountains divide the European Plain in two sections: the Central Europe's Pannonian Plain in the west,[52] and the East European Plain, which lie eastward of the Carpathians. Southwards, the Pannonian Plain is bounded by the rivers Sava and Danube- and their respective floodplains.[53] This area mostly corresponds to the borders of the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The Pannonian Plain extends into the following countries: Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine.

Dinaric Alps

As southeastern division of the Eastern Alps,[54] the Dinaric Alps extend for 650 kilometres along the coast of the Adriatic Sea (northwest-southeast), from the Julian Alps in the northwest down to the Šar-Korab massif, where the mountain direction changes to north-south. According to the Freie Universitaet Berlin[55] this mountain chain is classified as South Central European.

The European floristic regions


The Central European Flora region stretches from Central France (Massif Central) to Central Romania (Carpathians) and Southern Scandinavia.[56]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Central Europe — The future of the Visegrad group". The Economist. 2005-04-14. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  2. ^ Agh 1998, pp. 2-8
  3. ^ "Central European Identity in Politics — Jiří Pehe" (in (Czech)). Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  4. ^ "Culturelink Network - International Conference". 1996-11-24. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  5. ^ a b "Comparative Central European culture - Google Books". Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  6. ^ "An Introduction to Central Europe: History, Culture, and Politics - Preparatory Course for Study Abroad Undergraduate Students at CEU". Central European University. Budapest. Fall 2006. 
  7. ^ Ben Koschalka - content, Monika Lasota - design and coding. "To Be (or Not To Be) Central European: 20th Century Central and Eastern European Literature - Centre for European Studies, Jagiellonian University in Krakow". Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  8. ^ "Ten Untaught Lessons about Central Europe-Charles Ingrao". Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Cross Currents". Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  11. ^ "The Mice that Roared: Central Europe Is Reshaping Global Politics - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International".,1518,610019,00.html. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  12. ^ "For the Record - The Washington Post - HighBeam Research". 1990-05-03. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  13. ^ "Vlada Autonomne Pokrajine Vojvodine - Index". 2010-01-27. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  14. ^ northern Belgrade comprises the areas previously held by (Habsburg) Vojvodina
  15. ^ Jerzy Kłoczowski, Actualité des grandes traditions de la cohabitation et du dialogue des cultures en Europe du Centre-Est, in: L'héritage historique de la Res Publica de Plusieurs Nations, Lublin 2004, pp. 29–30
  16. ^ Oskar Halecki, The Limits and Divisions of European History, Sheed & Ward: London and New York 1950, chapter VII
  17. ^ a b Tiersky, p. 472
  18. ^ a b c Katzenstein, p. 6
  19. ^ a b Katzenstein, p. 4
  20. ^ "Central Europe: enemies, neighbors, friends", by Lonnie R. Johnson, Oxford University Press, 1996
  21. ^ a b Johnson, p.4
  22. ^ a b c d e f Johnson, p. 4
  23. ^ a b Johnson, p. 6
  24. ^ Legvold, Robert (May/June 1997). "Central Europe: Enemies, Neighbors, Friends". Foreign Affairs (Council on Foreign Relations). Retrieved 2009-05-20. 
  25. ^ "Selected as "Editor's Choice" of the History Book Club". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2009-05-20. 
  26. ^ a b "Europe". Columbia Encyclopedia. Columbia University Press. 2009. 
  27. ^ a b "The World Factbook: Field listing - Location". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-03. 
  28. ^ a b "Slovenia". Slovenia. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  29. ^ Johnson, p.11-12
  30. ^
  31. ^ a b Halman, Loek; Wilhelmus Antonius Arts (2004). European values at the turn of the millennium. Brill Publishers. p. 120. ISBN 9789004139817. 
  32. ^ Source: Geographisches Handbuch zu Andrees Handatlas, vierte Auflage, Bielefeld und Leipzig, Velhagen und Klasing, 1902.
  33. ^ ""Mitteleuropa" is a multi-facetted concept and difficult to handle" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  34. ^ A. Podraza, Europa Środkowa jako region historyczny, 17th Congress of Polish Historians, Jagiellonian University 2004
  35. ^ Joseph Franz Maria Partsch, Clementina Black, Halford John Mackinder, Central Europe, New York 1903
  36. ^ F. Naumann, Mitteleuropa, Berlin: Reimer, 1915
  37. ^ "Regions and Eastern Europe Regionalism - Central Versus Eastern Europe". Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  38. ^ [1], [2] and [3]; Géographie universelle (1927), edited by Paul Vidal de la Blache and Lucien Gallois)
  39. ^ ""Mitteleuropa" is a multi-facetted concept and difficult to handle" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  40. ^ a b "The Versailles System and Central Europe - Deák CXXI (490): 338 - The English Historical Review". doi:10.1093/ehr/cej100. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  41. ^ "Between Worlds - The MIT Press". Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  42. ^ ""Central versus Eastern Europe"". 
  43. ^ One of the main representatives was Oscar Halecki and his book The limits and divisions of European history, London and New York 1950
  44. ^ A. Podraza, Europa Środkowa jako region historyczny, 17th Congress of Polish Historians, Jagiellonian University 2004
  45. ^ Band 16, Bibliographisches Institut Mannheim/Wien/Zürich, Lexikon Verlag 1980
  46. ^ Erich Schenk, Mitteleuropa. Düsseldorf, 1950
  47. ^ a b c Johnson, p. 165
  48. ^ Hayes, p. 16
  49. ^ Hayes, p. 17
  50. ^ a b Johnson, p. 7
  51. ^ Johnson, p. 170
  52. ^ "Dark Series Research by Christine Feehan". 2008-11-13. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  53. ^
  54. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica. "Dinaric Alps (mountains, Europe) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  55. ^ Juliane Dittrich. "Die Alpen - Höhenstufen und Vegetation - Hauptseminararbeit". GRIN. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  56. ^ Wolfgang Frey and Rainer Lösch; Lehrbuch der Geobotanik. Pflanze und Vegetation in Raum und Zeit. Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, München 2004

Further reading

  • Jacques Rupnik, "In Search of Central Europe: Ten Years Later", in Gardner, Hall, with Schaeffer, Elinore & Kobtzeff, Oleg, (ed.), Central and South-central Europe in Transition, Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2000 (translated form French by Oleg Kobtzeff)
  • Article 'Mapping Central Europe' in hidden europe, 5, pp. 14–15 (November 2005)
  • A journal in three languages (English, German, French) dealing with the region:

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to East/Central Europe article)

From Wikiquote

Tell me where Central Europe is, and I can tell who you are.
— Jacques Rupnik

Eastern Europe, Central Europe, East Central Europe, etc. are variously defined and often overlapping geographic, historical and political regions occupying eastern and central portions of Europe.

  • We, representing together more than fifty million people constituting a chain of nations lying between the Baltic, the Adriatic and the Black Seas, comprising Czecho-Slovaks, Poles, Jugoslavs, Ukrainians, Uhro-Rusyns, Lithuanians, Roumanians and Italian Irredentists, Unredeemed Greeks, Albanians, Zionists, and Armenians, wholly or partly subject to alien domination (...) We have suffered destruction of our cities, violation of our homes and lands, and have maintained our ideals only by stealth, and in spite of the tyranny of our oppressors. We have been deprived of proper representation and fair trial. We have been denied the right of free speech, and the right freely to assemble and petition for the redress of our grievances. We have been denied free and friendly intercourse with our sister states, and our men have been impressed in war against their brothers and friends of kindred races.
  • Who rules East Europe commands the heartland, who rules the heartland commands the world.
  • If you ask me what is my native country, I answer: I was born in Fiume, grew up in Belgrade, Budapest, Pressburg, Vienna and Munich, and I have a Hungarian passport; but I have no fatherland. I am a very typical mix of old Austria-Hungary: at once Magyar, Croatian, German and Czech; my country is Hungary, my mother tongue is German.
    • Ödön von Horváth quoted in Kort, Michael (2001). The handbook of the new Eastern Europe. Twenty-First Century Books.  
  • From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow.
    • Winston Churchill, speaking in 1946 at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, United States
    • Sinews of Peace. (2009, July 29). In Wikisource, The Free Library.
  • (...) There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration. (...) I don't believe (...) that the Yugoslavians consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. I don't believe that the Rumanians consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. I don't believe that the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union.
  • [Central Europe is] a piece of the Latin West which has fallen under Russian domination [and] which lies geographically in the center, culturally in the West and politically in the East.
    • Milan Kundera in The Stolen West or The Tragedy of Central Europe (1983), quoted in Hyde-Price, Adrian G. V. (1996). The international politics of East Central Europe. Manchester University Press ND.  
  • I assume there is such a thing as Central Europe, even though many people deny its existence, beginning with statesmen and journalists who persist in calling it "Eastern Europe" and ending with my friend Joseph Brodsky, who prefers to reserve for it the name of "Western Asia." In these decades of the 20th century, Central Europe seems to exist only in the minds of some of its intellectuals.
  • In the work of Havel and Konrád there is an interesting semantic division of labour. Both authors use the terms "Eastern Europe" or "East European" when the context is neutral or negative; when they write "Central" or "East Central," the statement is invariably positive, affirmative, or downright sentimental.
  • Every Central European family has its own stormy history in which family catastrophes and national catastrophes are mingled. History is more than erudition here, it is the inner meaning of actions, a validating tradition, a largely unconscious norm and parameter for conduct today.
    • György Konrád quoted in Kumar, Krishan (2001). 1989: Revolutionary Ideas and Ideals.  
  • Tell me where Central Europe is, and I can tell who you are.
    • Jacques Rupnik quoted in Johnson, Lonnie (1996). Central Europe: enemies, neighbors, friends. Oxford University Press US.  
  • Central Europe is a dynamic historical concept, not a static spatial one; therefore its frontiers have shifted throughout the ages.
    • Johnson, Lonnie (1996). Central Europe: enemies, neighbors, friends. Oxford University Press US.  
Who to look to better than Central European countries that 20 years ago acted with such courage and resolve, and over the last 20 years, have made such sustainable progress?
— Joe Biden
  • In the late nineteenth century, the concept of a German-dominated Mitteleuropa was launched to coincide with the political sphere of the Central Powers. In the inter-war years, a domain called "East Central Europe" was invented to coincide with the newly independent "successor states" – from Finland and Poland to Yugoslavia. This was revived again after 1945 as a convenient label for the similar set of nominally independent countries which were caught inside the Soviet bloc. By that time the main division, between a "Western Europe" dominated by NATO and the EEC and an "Eastern Europe" dominated by Soviet communism seemed to be set in stone. In the 1980s a group of writers led by the Czech novelist, Milan Kundera, launched a new version of "Central Europe", to break down the reigning barriers. Here was yet another configuration, another true "kingdom of the spirit".
    • Davies, Norman (1996). Europe: A History. Oxford University Press.  
  • For all the participants in this fascinating debate, "Central Europe" was defined, not by geography, but by values. "Central Europe" was, in György Konrád's words, a Weltanschauung, not a Staatsangehörigkeit (i.e., a way of looking at the world rather than a question of citizenship); for Leszek Kołakowski it was a "culturally connected area"; for Stefan Kaszyński a "state of mind"; for Czesław Miłosz "a way of thinking".
    • Hyde-Price, Adrian G. V. (1996). The International Politics of East Central Europe. Manchester University Press ND.  
  • No one writing about Transcarpathia can resist retelling the region's favourite anecdote: A visitor, encountering one of the oldest local inhabitants, asks about his life. The reply: "I was born in Austria-Hungary, I went to school in Czechoslovakia, I did my army service in Horthy's Hungary, followed by a spell in prison in the USSR. Now I am ending my days in independent Ukraine." The visitor expresses surprise at how much of the world the old man has seen. "But no!," he responds, "I've never left this village!"
    • Batt, Judy; Wolczuk, Kataryna (2002). Region, state and identity in Central and Eastern Europe. Taylor & Francis.  
  • Concernant en tous les cas les pays candidats, (...) honnêtement, je trouve qu'ils se sont comportés avec une certaine légèreté. Car entrer dans l'Union européenne, cela suppose tout de même un minimum de considération pour les autres, un minimum de concertation. Si, sur le premier sujet difficile, on se met à donner son point de vue indépendamment de toute concertation avec l'ensemble dans lequel, par ailleurs, on veut entrer, alors, ce n'est pas un comportement bien responsable. En tous les cas, ce n'est pas très bien élevé. Donc, je crois qu'ils ont manqué une bonne occasion de se taire.
    • Concerning, after all, the candidate countries, (...) I honestly think that they have behaved with a certain lightness. Because entering the European Union still requires a minimum of consideration for others, a minimum of consultation. If, on the first difficult subject, you begin to express your point of view independently of any consultation with the body which you incidentally want to join, then it is not very responsible behavior. In any case, it is not well brought-up behavior. So I believe that they missed a good opportunity to shut up.
    • Jacques Chirac at a press conference in Brussels on 17 February 2003, following a European Council emergency summit on Iraq
    • Conférence de presse de M. Jacques Chirac, Président de la République, à l'issue de la réunion informelle extraordinaire du Conseil européen. Présidence de la République. Retrieved on 2009-11-14.
Is it only an accident that the four most enduring popular culture villains, Frankenstein, Count Dracula..., the Morlak and the Golem... are connected somehow to Eastern European regions?
— László Kürti
  • There are several kinds of monsters in western popular culture today: werewolves, vampires, morlaks, the blood-countess and other creatures of the underworld. (...) Vampirism, and (...) monstrosity has been fundamentally intertwined with Eastern Europe (...) [I]s it only an accident that the four most enduring popular culture villains, Frankenstein, Count Dracula (Nosferatu), the Morlak and the Golem had emerged in Europe during modernity (...)? That all four creatures are connected somehow to Eastern European regions?
  • In Eastern Europe, countries still struggle to fulfill the promise of a strong democracy, or a vibrant market economy. Who to look to better than you? Who to look to better than Central European countries that 20 years ago acted with such courage and resolve, and over the last 20 years, have made such sustainable progress? You can help guide Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine along the path of lasting stability and prosperity. It's your time to lead. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus can benefit from your personal experiences.

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Europe : Central Europe

Central Europe is a region in the heart of Europe. It includes the German-speaking countries, four former Warsaw Pact member states that have joined the European Union, and Slovenia, a former Yugoslav republic, now also a member of the EU. Only Switzerland and tiny Liechtenstein are not EU member states but share close economic and cultural ties with the region.

Nations of Central Europe
Nations of Central Europe
Czech Republic


Central Europe has some of the oldest and best preserved cities on the continent. Below is a list of nine of the most notable:

  • Berlin - The capital of reunited Germany since 1990, it was divided by force for 45 years during the Cold War. It has emerged as a international cultural center and an area of rapid development since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
  • Budapest - The capital of Hungary has a wealth of grand architecture, culture and its famous thermal baths, as well as one of the oldest metro systems in the world.
  • Geneva - The largest city in Francophone Switzerland. This wealthy urban banking center is home to many international agencies like the Red Cross and the United Nations.
  • Kraków - The cultural center and former capital of Poland. It is famed for its charming medieval architecture and one of the largest old-town market squares in Europe.
  • Ljubljana - The charming capital of Slovenia. Can be seen as a "smaller, alpine version of Prague".
  • Munich - The capital of the southern German federal-state of Bavaria. This gateway to the Alps is famous for Oktoberfest, the world's largest beer festival.
  • Prague - The world-famous capital of the Czech Republic is one of Europe's most attractive and well preserved large cities and has emerged as an expatriate melting pot since the opening of the Iron Curtain.
  • Vienna - The elegant capital of Austria. This imperial capital has countless classicist sights.
  • Warsaw - The political and business center of Poland with a completely re-built old-town and castle square.
  • Alps - probably one of the most important winter destinations in the world. Home to summer resorts too.
  • Tatra Mountains - beautiful and unspoilt mountain range peaking at 2600 meters above sea level in located on the Polish-Slovak frontier.
  • Balaton - this scenic Hungarian lake is the largest lake in Central Europe and a year-round tourist hub.
  • Baltic Sea- Germany and Poland share the Baltic Sea coast of Central Europe with hundreds of miles of sandy beaches and resorts.
  • North Sea- Germany has many tourist islands in the North Sea.
  • Black Forest- smalller mountain range in southwest Germany known for its scenery and history.
  • Hévíz - the world's second largest thermal lake in Hungary, a health tourism centre.
  • Harz Mountains - low-lying mountain range in central Germany home to the legend of the witch.
  • Aggtelek Caves - a magnificent complex of 712 caves in Northern Hungary and Southern Slovakia.
  • Adriatic Sea - Slovenia has a relatively small, but beautiful coastline on the north-eastern tip of the Adriatic.
  • Giant Mountians - Located along the Silesian-Bohemian frontier in Poland and the Czech Republic.


While ethnically different, the countries of Central Europe share a similar culture and history throughout the ages. Two of the most important political units in the region were the German and Austro-Hungarian empires. They were preceded in the Middle Ages by the Holy Roman Empire, a patchwork of states and statelets whose extent varied over time. Ethnic conflict was a major problem for hundreds of years in Central Europe and culminated in the horrors of the Second World War. With the peaceful reunification of Germany and the recent expansion of the EU to encompass the former Warsaw Pact states in the region, this problem finally seems to have been solved.

It is a common mistake by outsiders to label all the former Warsaw Pact states in the region as being in Eastern Europe. Almost uniformly, inhabitants of Central Europe will be flattered and pleased if you correctly describe their countries as "central European" both geographically and culturally. Conversely, they may be upset if you lapse into Cold War stereotypes. East and West Germany were countries, so better to call it eastern and western Germany. Reunification is all but a thing of the past and seen in a more or less positive light by most there and in all of Central Europe so try to avoid labeling Germans by their recent past. Lastly, remember Germans are Germans but Austrians, Liechtensteiners and most Swiss all speak German, but are not German! Polish and Russian languages are related, but Poles will not take kindly to assumptions of cultural overlap. Lastly, keep in mind that their neighbors to the south in the Czech Repupblic and Slovakia once shared a country as well and Slovaks in general are very proud of their new found independence.

While they are not currently considered part of Central Europe, the regions of Kaliningrad Oblast (Russia) and Alto-Adige / South Tirol - province (Italy), are sometimes also considered Central European. This is due either to their current and or past ethnic makeup and or previous political histories. Kaliningrad region spent most of its history as a German speaking region and South Tirol remains a largely German speaking region in northern Italy maintaining strong cultural ties to Austria.


Central Europe, because of its rich heritage of nationalities, likewise is home to many languages. Some languages enjoy national status and thus are taught in schools and used widely in the media. Others however are only regional languages or minority languages and thus are sadly in danger of eventual extinction even though efforts are underway to try to preserve them.

German has the largest number of native speakers in the region and acts as the single "official" language of Austria, Germany and Liechtenstein. In Switzerland, German is the mother tongue of 2/3 of the population and the dominant language of the four official Swiss languages (German, French, Italian & Romansh). There is a small German speaking minority to be found in Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary. It is also spoken outside Central Europe in eastern Belgium and France, and northern Italy (mainly in the region of South Tyrol/Alto Adige). German can be very diverse and appears in many different colorful dialects particular in the Southern German speaking world were tradition remains strong.

Czech and Slovak are very closely related and are mutually intelligible. The Sorbian language(s) spoken in eastern Germany near the Polish frontier is also a close relative.

Polish is the dominant language in all regions of Poland and in a tiny border region of the Czech Republic. Kashubian, a regional Slavonic language, is spoken in the region around Gdansk in northern Poland. Silesian is a regional language/dialect found in southwest Poland.

Hungarian is one of the most difficult languages for other Europeans to learn, as it originates from a different language family and is related to Finnish and Estonian. There are 5 million Hungarian speakers living outside Hungary in neighboring countries such as Romania, Serbia, Austria and Slovakia.

French or Italian are spoken by the majority of the population in the southern and western regions of Switzerland, while Swiss German is commonly taught as a second language.

In the Swiss Canton of Graubünden or Grison, Romansh is spoken as a regional language. Almost all Romansh speakers speak either Swiss German and or Italian as well. It is closely related to Ladin which is spoken in a few mountain valleys of northern Italy and is another endangered regional language.

Slovenian is the official language of Slovenia, but it is also spoken by the Slovenian minorities in southern Austria, northeastern Italy and western Hungary. There is also a small Croatian minority in Austria's Burgenland. Sorbian, Frisian and Low German are Germany's three native minority languages with exception of Roma. Sorbian is related to Polish and Czech and can be found spoken in the eastern states of Saxony and Brandenburg. All Sorbs speak German as well. Frisian is related to English and Dutch and is spoken by tiny minority communities in Schleswig-Holstein and Niedersachsen and neighboring communities in the Netherlands.

Lastly, Low German is spoken by rural communities or as a second language in most federal states of northern Germany and still has a significant role to play in the city states of Bremen, Hamburg and Berlin and in the states of Niedersachsen, Schleswig-Holstein and particular in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. All three German minority languages are endangered languages. Efforts are underway to preserve the languages and their culture but it is seemingly a loosing battle.

Finding people who speak and understand English is not a problem in most regions of Central Europe, especially in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. In Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic, English is widely spoken in the larger cities and by younger people; German and Russian are also spoken and understood by many older people in these countries. Russian, since the end of the Cold War and the unification of Europe is in steady decline. Today German remains important, more for financial and economic reasons instead of cultural or political reasons, as was the case in the past. Slovenians and the Swiss by far lead the region in their ability to speak many different tongues.

Get in

Central Europe is very well connected within Europe and with the rest of the world. Germany, Austria and Switzerland are particularly renowned for efficient and fast transport infrastructures that make it possible to travel quickly to even the smallest villages.

By plane

The largest gateway for air travel is Frankfurt Main airport in Germany, which offers connections to all continents and to most airports in Europe. Zurich and Vienna airports are way smaller but provide good connections to selected destinations.

One key difference between flag carriers and discount airlines is important to note: the airport may be some distance from the city it serves. Flag carriers usually fly to nearby airports, such as Frankfurt/Main, while no-frill airlines like Ryanair fly to Frankfurt-Hahn airport, which is two hours away from Frankfurt and actually close to Trier.

By train

Central Europe has a dense high-speed train network:

In addition, there are numerous night- and other express and regular trains that connect Central Europe with the rest of continental Europe, and travel as far as Istanbul or Moscow. Check the homepage of the Deutsche Bahn [1], which has an excellent overview of the European rail system.

By car

The motorways in Central Europe are excellent and offer fast connections across the region. The European Union has spent vast amounts of money to improve transport connectivity. Check individual country pages for details of routes and suggested itineraries.

Get around

All of the countries located in Central Europe are now signatory to Schengen Agreement, which means that you can cross the borders unimpededly, much as you'd cross the U.S. state borders, save for random police checks.

  • The English Garden and the huge Deutsches Museum in Munich
  • The massive Dom in Cologne
  • The modern architecture of Berlin's Potsdamer Platz
  • The modern skyline of Frankfurt and Warsaw
  • The natural skyline of the alps in Innsbruck
  • The natural beauty of Lake Constance and its three national shorelines
  • Ascend the Reichstag Dome in Berlin
  • Hike the mountainous area "Saxon Switzerland" south of Dresden
  • Walk around historic Rothenburg ob der Tauber
  • Visit a beer hall, the Olympic Park, BMW museum and the central pedestrian zone in Munich
  • Visit Hitler's infamous Eagles Nest in Berchtesgaden
  • Tour the Black Forest and maybe buy a cuckoo clock
  • Cruise the Rhine River
  • Ride the monorail in Wuppertal
  • Stroll through the old towne center of Salzburg and visit the impossing fortress
  • Float down the river with the locals in Berne
  • Ride a cable car up to Gimmelwald, eat at the Piz Gloria restaurant, go out on the Jungfrau glacier, see a churning waterfall, or hike a Swiss mountain ridge
  • Stroll historic Vienna and visit Prater
  • Go skiing or snowboaring in Switzerland, Austria or Bavaria
  • Go up Castle Hill in Budapest
  • Relax in a Hungarian Turkish style spa
  • Visit the world's largest castle complex and tour the old and new towns of Prague
  • Visit the historic and elegant port city of Gdansk and it surrounding resorts
  • Spend a night camping under the stars and moonlight on the German Baltic island of Ruegen
  • Stroll Warsaw's old town and old Jewish Ghetto, and take a glace at the Soviet inspired Palace of Culture and Science
  • Tour the historic old town and castle of Krakow, and visit the Soviet worker's suburb of Nowa Huta
  • Be moved by a visit to a Nazi concentration camp and memorial such as Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau or Treblinka
  • Tour the Old Town of Dresden and see the reconstructed "Frauenkirche"
  • Visit the historic spa town of Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) in the Czech Republic and "take the cure"
  • Experience the wild nightlife in Berlin, Prague and Budapest until the wee hours of the morning if you can!
  • Jazz fans will enjoy two big jazz festivals in Poland:

See also:

Calendar of events and festivals
January | February | March | April | May | June
July | August | September | October | November | December
  • Beer -The golden beer drunk throughout the world was developed in this region, and arguably it is here that it is still at its best. The Czech Republic has a grand brewing heritage and Pilsen is the place were the technique was pioneered, creating the Pilsner style that is reproduced around the world. The low cost of beer in the Czech Republic makes it easy to get a taste of many of the fabulous beers, from the well known Pilsner Urquell, Budvar (Budweiser) and Staropramen, to local favorites such as Kozel, Bernard and Gambrinus. Many have a few different varieties and a Cerny Pivo (Black Beer) these can be as good if not better than the standard beer. Slovakia has many beers of high quality with Zlaty Bazant being highly regarded. Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia all have very good national examples sometimes on a par with those from the Czech lands. Germany, Austria and Switzerland have a similar brewing heritage, but can throw in several different types of beer. Weissbier, (Wheat Beer) is a refreshing style popular in summer but drunk year round. There are a huge amount of varieties and local specialties are nearly always worth seeking out. Generally, the further north one travels in Germany, the more bitter or hoppy the beer becomes adding to the north-south cultural divide. Bavaria, "the Holy Grail of Brewing", located in southern Germany, has over 600 breweries alone and even more accompanying beers to sample!
  • Wine- The region produces a wide range of wines from superb world famous regions, down to inexpensive local plonk. Possibly the finest region in the area is Tokaj, world-renowned for its sweet dessert wines as well as more standard whites. Germany has several wine regions the Rhine, and Moselle Valleys are well known for their fragrant white wines. Saxony in the east even is home to a small wine growing region on the riverbanks of the Elbe. Austria and Switzerland also produce some very high quality products. In the other countries like Hungary and Slovenia local wines can throw up some very good varieties and it is always worth investigating local produce.
  • Vodka- A Polish specialty, the quality of Polish vodka is amongst, if not the, best in the world. The high quality product can be very different to the industrial stuff you may buy in your local shop and is well worth a try. Zubrowka is a variety of vodka flavored with a cinnamon-like grass and is delicious when combined with apple juice. Some claim it to be so good it produces no hangover!
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Wikipedia has an article on:




Central Europe


From central + Europe


Proper noun

Central Europe


Central Europe

  1. A geographic region in the center of Europe, usually including the former Austro-Hungarian states, Poland, and Germany.
    • 1996 — Lonnie R. Johnson, Central Europe: Enemies, Neighbors, Friends, p. 4
      Western Christendom's centuries-long confrontation with the Oriental and Islamic empire of the Ottoman Turks also helped define Central Europe as a cultural and historical region.

Usage notes

The boundaries of Central Europe are not precise, and vary with the person discussing it. However, it can be roughly defined as bordered on the west by France and the Low Countries, on the east by the political boundaries of the former Soviet Union, on the north by the Baltic Sea, and on the south by Italy and the Adriatic.


Derived terms


See also

Simple English

Central Europe is the region lying between the areas of Eastern and Western Europe. In addition, Northern, Southern and Southeastern Europe mean different regions, but in some way they may or overlap into Central Europe. The term has come back into fashion since the end of the Cold War, which had divided Europe politically into East and West, with the Iron Curtain splitting "Central Europe" in half. The understanding of the concept of Central Europe varies considerably from nation to nation, and also has from time to time.

The region usually means:


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