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The Historical Distinctiveness of Central Europe

A Study in the Philosophy of History


Krzysztof Brzechczyn

The aim of this book is to explain economic dualism in the history of modern Europe. The emergence of the manorial-serf economy in the Bohemia, Poland, and Hungary in the 16th and the 17th centuries was the result of a cumulative impact of various circumstantial factors. The weakness of cities in Central Europe disturbed the social balance – so characteristic for Western-European societies – between burghers and the nobility. The political dominance of the nobility hampered the development of cities and limited the influence of burghers, paving the way to the rise of serfdom and manorial farms. These processes were accompanied by increased demand for agricultural products in Western Europe

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2 The Concept of Central Europe

2 The Concept of Central Europe

1 Introduction

The purport of the present chapter is to outline the principal threads in a discussion concerning the status of Central Europe, its borderlines, and the nature of the developmental distinctiveness of this part of the continent. I adopt Jerzy Topolski’s claim that a historical region may, but does not have to, match a territorial entity distinguished geographically. The above takes place when:

an element of human activity and its consequences is added to a geographical characteristic of a region (or to pointing out the differences between the region and other similar spatial entities). Following from this, there are three elements required to distinguish a historical region: space, time, and a human being and his activity.41

Thus, in Topolski’s view, the principal criterion for distinguishing a historical region is the common life of a society of human beings on a given territory and its creations, which have to differ to some extent from the outcome of human life on a different territory. Following from this, the results of human activity include: economic, political, and cultural assets created by human beings, a social-class structure, in which the activity is undertaken, and forms of social awareness accompanying the activity. Topolski defines a historical region in the following way:

[It] is a concept, whose theoretical structure combines a defined territory inhabited by a given number of people who share a common history (short or long), which differs somehow from the history of other territorial/population entities of this type. Thus, it is understood as a certain comprehensive system (a structure), characterized by own historical identity (and sometimes by distinctive administrative borders), combining geographical, economic, social, political-administrative, cultural, and psychical elements (with separate elements that have a variable importance in various periods).42

The operation of distinguishing historical regions may be analyzed on two planes: cognitive and pragmatic. The cognitive plane determines the research usability of a given region to explain collected empirical facts or the ability to inspire future source studies. The pragmatic plane, in turn, determines the functionality of a given region against the interest of social classes: rulers, owners, ←41 | 42→and priests, and certain complex social entireties, such as national societies and entire civilizations (i.e. European civilization).

Let us now use the above conclusions to interpret the principal threads in the discussion over the status of Central Europe and the sources of its differentiation.

2 On the Criteria of Distinguishing Central Europe

Traditionally, the Central-European region is distinguished using two separate sets of criteria: geographical and historical/civilizational. These criteria can be used in a cognitive and a pragmatic manner. The geographical criterion considers the following features: landscape, climate, and fauna and flora. The set of historical/civilizational criteria includes the following variables: type of economy, type of political system, model of culture, and ethnic and religious composition of the population that inhabits a given territory. The division of European societies based on the set of historical/civilizational criteria include a division along the circles of latitudes (along the North-South axis) and the circles of longitudes (along the East-West axis). The Central-European region is distinguished only in the latter division.

Let us analyse the pragmatic manner of the use of the notion of “Central Europe.” This term first appeared in the German scientific and political literature in the beginning of the 20th century where it performed a predominantly non-cognitive function, serving as a justification of the German imperial foreign policy.43 A Central-European Association was established in Berlin in 1904 with a task to bring about an economic unification of Germany and Austria-Hungary. Joseph Partsch was one of the first authors who attempted to distinguish the Central-European region. He claimed that the region covers the territory spreading from Western Alps and the Balkans to the English Channel and the Curonian Lagoon, and from the Rhine to the Vistula River, and even the Dnieper River. However, in Partsch’s division, the borders of Central Europe matched the political borders encompassing the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, Holland, Belgium, and Switzerland, and on the south: Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, and Montenegro.44

←42 | 43→

Friedrich Naumann popularized the idea of a union between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany during the First World War. According to his concept, Central Europe was a territory

“which extends from North and Baltic Seas to Alps, the Adriatic Sea and the southern edge of the Danubian plain. Take a map and see what lies between Vistula and the Vosges Mountains and what extends from Galicia to Lake Constance!”45

The discussed region was supposed to be an economic and political union bound by a military alliance between Berlin, Vienna, and Budapest, with an ensured dominance of Prussia and the German nation. The defeat of Prussia in the First World War and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire brought an end to the concept of the German hegemony in the region. During the interwar period, Central-European integration was, in fact, limited to a cooperation under the Little Entente, an alliance formed by the successor states of the Austria-Hungary and France, aimed at preventing the revision of borders by Hungary. Even more vague was the Polish idea of Intermarium, or the project of a Polish-Czechoslovakian federation.46

After the Second World War, the notion of “Central Europe” was replaced with the concept of Eastern Europe covering USSR and the countries of the Eastern Block: Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, Poland, Romania and Hungary – members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and the Warsaw Pact, who were supposed to work together to build the system of real socialism modeled on the Soviet example. During the cold war, the European continent was divided into East and West, with no place for local distinctiveness. The processes of de-Stalinization, which took place after 1956 and were most advanced in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, reintroduced the notion of “Central Europe” into intellectual circles. Milan Kundera promoted the region in the 1980s with his famous essay The Tragedy of Central Europe.47

Political perturbations associated with the use of the notion of “Central Europe” notwithstanding, the concept has also been employed in a purely cognitive sense. ←43 | 44→However, even in the cognitive context, it has been used in an ambiguous and vague manner. This resulted from the fact that the investigated region has been distinguished according to two separate sets of criteria: geographical and historical/civilizational, which blended together frequently.48 In this book, the thesis presented above will be illustrated with examples of divisions of Europe made according to geographical criteria (Józef Wojtanowicz), geographical/civilizational criteria (Garrison Walters), and historical/civilizational criteria (George Schöpflin, Oskar Halecki, Peter Burke, Jeno Szűcs, Piotr Wandycz, Antoni Podraza). The above-mentioned types of divisions may appear in a dichotomous (adopting a division into East and West) and trichotomous variant. In the dichotomous variant the specific character of Central Europe disappears and this part of continent is treated as part of the East. The trichotomous variant allows for distinguishing Central Europe with reference to geographic criteria, historical/civilizational criteria, or both.

It is noteworthy that even by restricting the argument to geographical criteria, one does not necessarily receive an unambiguous definition of notion of “Central Europe.” Karl Sinnhuber compared maps of Central Europe created by twelve geographers from Great Britain, Germany, and France. It turned out that Czechoslovakia was the only country, which appeared on all of the maps, and Portugal and Spain were the only two countries that all geographers agreed to exclude from the map of Central Europe.49

Józef Wojtanowicz proposed an example of a recognition of Central Europe based entirely on the application of geographical criteria. He divided the European continent into four parts: eastern, western, southern, and northern. Eastern Europe spreads east of the rivers Dnieper and Daugava; Northern Europe covers the Scandinavian Peninsula, Iceland, and an area roughly matching the territory of Estonia; Southern Europe lies south of the Pyrenees, the Alps, and the line of the rivers Sava and Danube; finally, Western Europe covers the terrains west of Rhine, and north of the Alps and the Pyrenees.

←44 | 45→

Central Europe covers the terrain between two major narrowings of the European continent – the Baltic-Black Sea passage and the North-Adriatic passage. The distinctive features of the region include transitional climate and mosaic landscape, developed in the Neo-Pleistocene. The following geological forms appeared during glacial periods: moraines, kames, eskers, outwash plains, and Urstromtäler. Stone runs were a characteristic landform. Wojtanowicz divides Europe into the following four zones with reference to climate: “cold Scandinavian North, Mediterranean South, Atlantic West, and continental East. Between them lays a central part, not the smallest one, which cannot be included into any of the parts listed above. It is Central Europe.”50

A reliable indicator used to define the territory of Central Europe may also be the duration of frost lasting between two and four months. The region is currently characterized by a large geographical diversification, a variety of landscapes, and a diverse climate. Mixed forests prevail in the area under study, which favor the development of brown and podzolic soils, but there are also wetlands (Polesia) and forest steppe. This transitional character of Central Europe prevents a clear determination of its boundaries. However, in Józef Wojtanowicz’s opinion:

Central Europe borders with the Baltic Sea and the North Sea in the north, and it reaches the Black Sea in the southeast. The rivers confine its terrain: Rhine on the west, Dnieper-Daugava on the east and Danube-Sava on the south, and in the southwest it is limited by the ridge of Alps. The largest, or one of the largest rivers, and the highest European mountains determine the borders of Central Europe.51

Garrison E. Walters provides an example of a division according to two sets of criteria – geographical and historical/civilizational.52 He founds his division on a contrast – features and properties absent from Eastern Europe characterize the developmental path of Western Europe, and all the way round. According to Walters, the distinction between the East and West of Europe hinges on geographical differences.

Western Europe was characterized by a warmer climate, heavier rainfall, longer vegetation period of plants, more accessible navigable waterways and a possession of natural, easy to defend borders. As a result, Western-European agriculture was more productive and more efficient compared to Eastern-European ←45 | 46→agriculture. A longer shoreline and rivers navigable during most days in a year lowered the cost of transport in Western Europe. This, in turn, considerably contributed to the development of economy and the intensification of trade. Western-European societies easily defended against external aggressions due to natural water borders. Eastern-European societies developed under different conditions. More severe and longer winters, together with lower rainfall, created inferior conditions for the development of agriculture. A less-developed system of rivers hindered the communication between various parts of Eastern Europe. Moreover, natural borderlines did not protect Eastern-European societies against aggressive attacks of nomadic tribes. The above geographical/climate differences exerted an influence on the economic advancement of the two parts of the continent. In turn, geographical factors combined with economic advancement exerted an influence on political development and determined the formation of individual political systems in two parts of the continent. Culture and the model of education were common for entire Europe. Culture comprised of a certain common set of values present in philosophy, art, literature, and music. Church institutions were responsible for schooling in European countries – the Catholic Church and Protestant churches in Western Europe, and the Orthodox Church in Eastern Europe. The era of the Enlightenment initiated the process of gradual secularization of schooling in the 19th century.

George Schöpflin offers a similar dichotomous division of Europe, but it is based solely on historical/civilizational criteria:

From the earliest period onwards, the West gradually evolved toward a position that power should be divided, that the different areas of power should be separated and the ruler should not be absolute either in his power or in his legitimization. The peculiarity of the Western pattern of development lay in separation of religious and secular legitimization.53

The competition between the Church and state made possible for third parties to emerge. In the consequence of tensions between secular and spiritual power, towns flourished and gained autonomy. The merchant estate became a decisive factor in social life, counterbalancing the influence of nobility. As Schöpflin points out:

In West European development a key role in evolution of autonomous organization and power was played the existence of a fairly dense network of towns. The West European ←46 | 47→town was a unique phenomenon in a number of ways – most significantly in its ability to develop autonomously of the ruler and the Church and to create specific political techniques intended to safeguard the basis of this autonomy, namely trade.54

Another aspect of the Western development path was emancipation of scientific activity from the tutelage of Church. The freedom of speech and thought was based on the concept of autonomy of universities, which started in the Middle Ages. In consequence – Schöpflin maintains – the characteristic feature of Western development was the following conviction:

The ruler was constrained to recognize that he did not exercise absolute power over his subjects, who retained politically, economically, etc. important spheres of autonomous action. Despite repeated attempts by various rulers – religious as well as secular – to extinguish or suppress these spheres of autonomy, whether in the name of order or routine or unity or rationalization, these were never completely successful. Autonomy and the separation of spheres remained a crucial feature of Western patterns and subsequently became the foundation for the extension of liberties.55

Eastern Europe took a different path of development. First of all, this part of Europe inherited Byzantine tradition of subordination of church by state. In addition, the towns in the East were weaker, and town dwellers were less numerous and less independent. Eastern towns served as a seat of administration or a garrison town. Therefore, unlike in Western Europe, the merchant estate was not able to counterbalance the nobility and state power. This social structure led to bigger concentration of power in the hands of state bureaucracy (Hapsburg empire) or the dominant social class (Poland, Hungary). The civilizational backwardness of Eastern Europe brought about its intellectual dependency on the West. As Schöpflin recognizes:

The backwardness of Eastern Europe vis-a-vis Western Europe, both real and perceived, had further ramification for political development. From the outset of the modern period, the late Enlightenment to the middle of the nineteenth century, East European elites took Western Europe as their criterion of modernity. It was immediately obvious that the task facing East European societies was to effect modernization. But the definition of this and the means to this end were not so obvious. Indeed, the East European elites tended to oversimplify the task by assuming that political and economic development to West European levels could be achieved quickly and by the practice of adopting West European political forms regardless of their local appropriateness.56

←47 | 48→

Under the conditions of no civil society, the state took on itself the task of modernization. This resulted in further social repercussion. The primary concern of state bureaucrats was the wellbeing of state machinery. Therefore, investments were allocated in military spheres or consumed by bureaucracy itself. As a result, a state-stimulated modernization was distorted. It did not bring about the emergence of a civil society, but strengthened the bureaucratic structures. In conclusion of his comparison of the West and the East of Europe, Schöpflin ascertains:

The Western political tradition always emphasized pluralism and the fragmentation of power. In Eastern Europe, which was politically backward, the state played a much more dominant role as the principal agent of change. This resulted in a politically preeminent bureaucracy and a weak society.57

After the Second World War, a Polish historian Oskar Halecki became the pioneer in American historiography of distinguishing Central Europe, apart from the West and the East. His view stemmed from a dichotomous division into Western and Eastern Europe. The division was, however, embedded in civilizational and not geographical grounds: a division into Rome and the Byzantine Empire, subsequently reinforced by the division into Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Halecki did not find the religious criterion to be sufficient, because he believed that:

Chronological divisions in history cannot be founded on stand-alone dates, but have to consider short and long transitional periods. Correspondingly, territorial divisions cannot ignore the existence of narrow and wide “transitional” passages, where cultural borders are always subject to fluctuation. It is a phenomenon typical for historical geography, a science, which has to take human evolution into consideration. One has to remember about it, when attempting to receive a clear definition of Europe as a whole, and of its individual regions.58

Halecki divided Europe into four regions: Western Europe, West-Central Europe, East-Central Europe, and Eastern Europe.59 Western Europe included countries subjected to the Roman rule, the northern part of Great Britain, Ireland, and the Netherlands. West-Central Europe encompassed Germany, Switzerland and Austria; and East-Central Europe included twelve countries situated between Scandinavia, Germany, Italy, and Russia. The latter country belonged to Eastern Europe.

←48 | 49→

The view presented by Peter Burke also originates from a dichotomous division based on historical/civilizational criteria.60 According to Burke, the territories of Western Europe were characterized with a higher level of population density, the domination of Roman and Germanic languages, and the supremacy of Catholicism and Protestantism. Additionally, the first components of a capitalist economy appeared in the region as early as in the 16th century. According to Burke’s division, a lower level of population density characterized the terrains of Eastern Europe. Moreover, Slavic languages dominated the terrains and Orthodoxy was the predominant religion. Additionally, this region experienced an introduction of second serfdom and the development of a manorial-serf economy in the 16th century. Nonetheless, Burke claims the two-fold division to be insufficient. He proclaims an intermediate terrain situated between the East and the West, Russia, and Germany. According to this division, the same features as Western or Eastern Europe characterize Central Europe, but the intensity of the features is different and it determined a developmental specificity of the region under investigation. As an example, Burke discusses the level of population density in Central Europe at the end of the Middle Ages. It was substantially higher, in comparison to the population density in Russia or Scandinavia, but it was lower than the population density in Western countries. In addition, Burke remarks that:

The power of the elected kings of Poland after 1572 was considerably less than that of, say, the tsar of Russia (…). Renaissance made relatively little impact on Russia and the Balkans, while (…) Hungary, Poland and Bohemia all participated actively in that movement. A similar point could be made about Reformation. Protestantism in various forms was a serious force in Bohemia, Poland and Hungary, as it was not in South-East Europe or in Russia.61

A trichotomous division, apart from Western and Eastern Europe, distinguishes East-Central or Central Europe (in this book, I shall consequently use the second term) is assumed, among others, by Jeno Szücs who emphasizes the “intermediate” character of Central Europe:

←49 | 50→

Structures of the Western type can be detected everywhere, although they were deformed to some degree: either incomplete (as the towns were, for example) or disproportionately overgrown (as was the nobility).62

Yet in terms of the basic elements one feels there is an argument for applying even in the Middle Ages the notion ‘East-Central Europe’ to the entire region, in which inclusion ‘East’ means that modifications to the structure of the Western type of models and norms could be detected in almost everything. Of course there were minor differences – Bohemia showed forms rather more “Western” than Hungary’s and Croatia forms rather more archaic, while Poland was in most respects highly similar.63

Piotr Wandycz offered a similar trichotomous division based on historical/civilizational criteria. He lists a number of features defining the dissimilarity of Central Europe.64 The key features of the region definitely include its “civilizational youth” – it became part of the European civilization only in the 10th century. A civilizational delay resulted with disproportions in economic development between Central and Western Europe. Wandycz claims that the distance between the two parts of Europe was initially gradually decreasing. However, subsequently, at the turn of the 15th and the 16th centuries, the West evolved toward proto-industrialization, and Central Europe experienced an emergence of a manorial-serf economy. This led to another characteristic feature of the region, where backward socio-economic structures were no longer geared to the more advanced cultural and political development. An individual model of evolution of national consciousness was another feature of Central-European development. In Western Europe, a state created a nation. In contrast, in Central Europe a nation, understood as a social group sharing a common culture, created a state. For this reason, national minorities, such as Germans and Jews played a significant role in Central Europe. Long-lasting gaps in the development of statehood in Central-European societies brought about to a different model of shaping national consciousness. These gaps brought caused the history of Central-European nations to be filled with lengthy wars in defense of freedom or to regain freedom.65

←50 | 51→

In a conclusion of the present recapitulation, it is noteworthy to discuss the division of Europe which is also based on historical/civilizational criteria offered by Antoni Podraza who attempted to combine the division along the circles of latitudes (along the North-South axis) and the division along the circles of longitudes (along the East-West axis). In the course of its history, Europe experienced three grand partitions.66 First, it was divided in Antiquity into the Roman Empire and the barbaric world, which spreaded north of Danube and east of Rhine. Since 395, the Roman Empire was experiencing a partition into an eastern, Hellenic part and a western part dominated by Latin and Roman influences. After the western part of the Empire fell in 476, the process of Romanization and Christianization of Germanic tribes took place. The monarchy of Charlemagne, who conquered and Christianized the Saxons in the second half of the 8th century, referred to the tradition of the Roman Empire. The river Elbe became the religious/cultural borderline at the turn of the 8th century.

As soon as Bohemia, Hungary (including Croatia), and Poland were Christianized, the division into Christian and pagan Europe, stemming from the division of the continent into “empire” and “barbarikon,” finally disappeared. At that time, the second division symbolized by the Great Schism of 1054 took place. It was founded on cultural and religious differences between Orthodoxy and Catholicism. The eastern borders of Poland, Hungary, and subsequently Lithuania, Livonia and Finland became the borderlines of Western Europe. The new societies of the Western-European civilizational circle created a younger Europe characterized by absence of Ancient heritage and a delayed adoption of Christianity. In the 14th–15th centuries, these countries appeared to have reduced the civilizational backwardness to the Western-European countries. However, a third division took place during a transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Era, founded on the difference in socio-economic relations. A capitalistic economy was initiated west of the river Elbe and a manorial-serf economy was established east of the river.

←51 | 52→

3 On the Borders of Central Europe

Another problem – next to the issue of determination of the criteria of division of the European continent into regions and the issue of distinguishing Central Europe – is a clear demarcation of borders. There are three methods of demarcation: maximalist, minimalist and intermediate. In the maximalist approach, Central Europe roughly covers an area between Russia and Germany on one side, and North Cape and Cape Matapan on the other. According to Tomáš Masaryk, a Czech statesman and philosopher, Europe can be divided into Western, Eastern (Russia) and Central part. The latter is:

a peculiar zone of small nations, extending from the North Cape to Cape Matapan. Side by side we here find the Laplanders, Swedes, Norwegian and Danes, Finns, Estonian, Letts, Lithuanians, Poles, Lusatians, Czechs, and Slovaks, Magyars, Serbo-Croats and Slovenes, Roumanians, Bulgars, Albanians, Turks and Greeks. The largest of these nations are Poles; next to them come the Czechs and Slovaks, Serbo-Croats, Roumanians, and Magyars: the others are smaller. If the Little-Russians (Ruthenes, Ukrainians) were considered a separate nation, as distinct from Great-Russians, they would be the largest nation of this zone.67

Jan Kofman also represents a maximalist variant of the geographical demarcation of Central Europe. According to him, Baltic Sea is the northern borderline of Central-East Europe, Black Sea and the Adriatic – the southern borderline, Germany and Italy – the western borderline, and the territory of the successor states of USSR – the eastern borderline. Central-East Europe includes Albany, Austria, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Yugoslavia, Greece, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, and Hungary. In comparison with Masaryk, Kofman excludes the Scandinavian countries, Turkey, Greece and Ukraine, but he includes Austria.68 Jerzy Tomaszewski, in turn, treats Central and South-West ←52 | 53→Europe as a homogenous area, in terms of economy and politics, including Albany, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Yugoslavia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary.69

In the minimalist tradition of demarcation of Central Europe, its territory is limited to areas that had been controlled by western Slavs and Hungarians in the past. For instance, Piotr Wandycz presents the history of Poland, Bohemia, and Hungary in his book on the history of Central Europe.70 In contemporary nomenclature, Central Europe spreads across member countries of the Visegrád Group.

A number of intermediate variants add either the territories inhabited by southern Slavs, or by Baltic nations: Latvia and Estonia, to the ingenious territory of Central Europe covering the area inhabited by western Slavs and Hungarians. Authors of such variants usually modify the adjective “Central” by adding two more: “East” or “South.”71

For example, Peter F. Sugar and Donald W. Treadgold, editors of the book series “A History of East-Central Europe,” define its borderlands in the following way:

The appropriateness of including the Finns, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Belarusians and Ukrainians was consider, and it was decided not to attempt to cover them systematically, though they appear repeatedly in these books. Treated in depth are the Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Romanians, Yugoslav peoples, Albanians, Bulgarians and Greeks.72

←53 | 54→

In Jerzy Kłoczowski’s opinion, Central Europe covers the territory of former Republic of Poland, Bohemia, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, and Latvia.73 He claims the status of Estonia to be unclear. According to Podraza:

Central Europe covers the terrains situated between the river Elbe and its extension toward Istria, the eastern border of Poland and Hungary, and the southern border of Hungary and Croatia. Additionally, Central Europe encompasses three Baltic States, which have been for centuries associated with the West with regard to culture and religion, and with the East with regard to economy.74

4 On the Nature of the Distinctiveness of Central Europe

One of the landmark events, which determined the distinctiveness of Central Europe, was the development of a manorial-serf economy. It is believed to be the foundation for distinguishing two principal developmental lines in the evolution of European feudalism: a Western-European and a Central-European path. This developmental differentiation was finally established in the 16th century. The river Elbe became the borderline between the two developmental paths:

A rural economy, founded on large and average-size farms leased by peasants who worked on them, was established in the area west of the river Elbe. In contrast, east of Elbe, predominantly in the countries in Central-East Europe situated south of the Baltic Sea, the economic development headed toward the development of a manorial farm and production for sale. In the field of relations of production, a manorial-serf economy brought about an increase of servitude of peasants (introduction of the “second serfdom”) and of the scope of serfdom, in order to gain a villein service for a manorial estate.75

The serfdom of peasants was the foundation of the manorial-serf system. It manifested itself in the form of personal, economic, and judicial dependence. The personal aspect of serfdom reduced the freedom of peasants, who had to seek consent of the lord to leave their place of residence, enter marriage, or send ←54 | 55→children to schools located outside the village. Additionally, serfs and their children had to serve at manorial estates and perform duties designated by lords. Moreover, a lord had the right to sell landless peasants.

The economic aspect of serfdom minimized the freedom to decide about cultivated land. A peasant bound by perpetual lease could be deprived of land at any time. Peasants were more effectively protected by inherited lease, which allowed passing land to own children. Finally, the last aspect of feudal serfdom – judicial dependence, included a set of legal norms, which made peasants dependent on the judicial power of the landowner. According to Jeremy Blum, the difference between serfdom and slavery was that, although a serf could have been sold and bought without land, he maintained some personal rights at all times. In contrast, a slave, despite of his economic wealth, was deprived of all rights and could have been mutilated or killed by his owner without any consequences.76

In Western Europe, the above-mentioned aspects of serfdom were separated. Different owners implemented various forms of serfdom: one owner had a judicial authority over a peasant, another – economic authority, and yet another – personal authority. In contrast, in Central Europe unitary serfdom prevailed. All aspects of serfdom: personal, economic, and judicial were concentrated in the hand of one person.

The present book predominantly purports to explain the development of a manorial-serf system, which substantially influenced the historical distinctiveness of Central Europe. The following chapter will present the key concepts, which attempt to explain a developmental dualism of modern Europe.

←55 | 56→←56 | 57→

41 Jerzy Topolski, Jak się pisze i rozumie historię. Tajemnice narracji historycznej (Warszawa: Rytm, 1996), p. 146.

42 Topolski, Jak się pisze, pp. 147–148.

43 Gerard Delanty, “The Historical Regions of Europe: Civilizational Backgrounds and Multiply Routes to Modernity,” Historicka Sociologie, Nos. 1–2, (2012) pp. 15–16.

44 Joseph Partsch, Mitteleuropa. Die Lander und Volker von den Westalpen und dem Balkan bis an den Kanal und das Kurische Haff (Gotha: J. Perthes, 1904).

45 Friedrich Naumann, Central Europe (London: P.S. King & Son, Limited, 1916). On the concept of Central Europe in American historiography at the turn of the XIX and XX th century see: Tomasz Pawelec, Z drugiej strony Antlantyku. ‘Młodsza Europa’ w dawnych syntezach amerykańskich (Cieszyn: PTH 2013), pp. 43–113.

46 Sławomir Łukasiewicz, Trzecia Europa. Polska myśl federalistyczna w Stanach Zjednoczonych 1940–1971 (Warszawa-Lublin: IPN, 2010).

47 Milan Kundera, “The Tragedy of Central Europe,” The New York Review of Books (April 26, 1984), pp. 31–38.

48 Cf. Endre Bojtár, “Eastern of Central Europe?” Cross Currents. A Yearbook of Central European Culture, No. 7 (1988), p. 1; Danilo Kiš, “Variations on the Theme of Central Europe,” Cross Currents. A Yearbook of Central European Culture, No. 6 (1987), p. 1; Geörgy Konrád, “Is the Dream of Central Europe Still Alive?” Cross Currents. A Yearbook of Central European Culture, No. 5 (1985), p. 109; Robin Okey, “Central Europe/Eastern Europe: Behind Definitions,” Past and Present, No. 137 (1992), p. 103.

49 Karl Sinnhuber, “Central Europe, Mitteleuropa, L’Europe Centrale: An Analysis of a Geographical Term,” Transactions and Papers, Vol. 20 (1954), pp. 17–18, 20.

50 Józef Wojtanowicz, “Europa Środkowa jako region fizyczno-geograficzny – podstawy wydzielenia, granice,” Przegląd Geograficzny,” Vol. 52, No. 3 (1999), pp. 217.

51 Wojtanowicz, “Europa Środkowa,” p. 218.

52 Garrison E. Walters. The Other Europe. Eastern Europe to 1945 (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1989), pp. 111–113.

53 George Schöpflin, “The Political Traditions of Eastern Europe,” in: Eastern Europe. . . Central Europe. . . Europe, ed. S.R. Graubard (San Francisco/Oxford: Boulder/Westview Press, 1991), p. 61.

54 Schöpflin, “The Political Traditions,” p. 71.

55 Schöpflin, “The Political Traditions,” p. 63.

56 Schöpflin, “The Political Traditions,” pp. 67–68.

57 Schöpflin, “The Political Traditions,” p. 59.

58 Oskar Halecki, Historia Europy – jej granice i podziały (Lublin: Instytut Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej, 1994), p. 132.

59 Halecki, Historia Europy, p. 163.

60 Peter Burke, “Introduction: A Note on the Historiography of East-Central Europe,” in: Central Europe in Transition. From the Fourteenth to the Seventeenth Century, eds. Peter Burke, Antoni Mączak and Henryk Samsonowicz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 1–2.

61 Burke, “Introduction,” p. 2.

62 Jeno Szűcs, “The Three Historical Regions of Europe: An Outline,” Acta Historica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, Vol. 29, No. 2/4 (1983), pp. 154–155.

63 Szűcs, “The Three Historical Regions,” p. 156.

64 Piotr Wandycz, The Price of Freedom: A History of East Central Europe from the Middle Ages to the Present (London – New York: Routledge, 2001), pp. 5–10.

65 This aspect of the history of Central Europe has been analysed in: Janusz Żarnowski, “W sprawie genezy systemu państw narodowych w Europie Środkowej i Południowo-Wschodniej,” Kwartalnik Historyczny, No. 3 (1970), p. 587; Piotr Machura, “Central-European Ethos: Equality, Social Emergence and Claims to Justice,” in: Central-European Ethos or Local Traditions: Equality, Justice, eds. Jarmila Jurová, Milan Jozek, Andrzej Kiepas and Piotr Machura (Brno: Albert, 2011), p. 19.

66 Antoni Podraza, “Europa Środkowa. Zakres przestrzenny i historia regionu,” Prace Komisji Środkowoeuropejskiej, Vol. 1 (1993), pp. 23–34.

67 Tomáš Masaryk, “Pangermanism and the Zone of Small Nations,” New Europe, No. 1 (1916), p. 272. On the shaping of Masaryk’s views on the borders of Central Europe, see: Tadayuki Hayashi, “Masaryk’s ‘Zone of Small Nations’ in His Discourse during World War I,” in: Regions in Central and Eastern Europe: Past and Present, eds. Tadayuki Hayashi and Hiroshi Fukuda (Sapporo: The Slavic Research Center, 2007), pp. 3–20; Roman Szporluk, “Defining ‘Central Europe:’ Power, Politics and Culture,” Cross Currents. A Yearbook of Central European Culture, No. 1 (1982), pp. 30–38; and for an overview of various concepts of demarcation of this part of Europe, see: Jerzy Stańczyk, “Europa Środkowa – kryteria wyodrębniania i cechy regionu,” Studia Polityczne, No. 12 (2001), pp. 197–211.

68 Jan Kofman, Nacjonalizm gospodarczy – szansa czy bariera rozwoju. Przypadek Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej w okresie międzywojennym (Warszawa: PWN, 1992) p. 224.

69 Jerzy Tomaszewski, “Europa Środkowa i Południowo-Wschodnia: cechy charakterystyczne i granice regionu” Ekonomia, No. 16 (1976), pp. 129–130, 138–139. On the distinctiveness of the Balkans, see: Maria Todorova, Imagining the Balkans (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), chapter 6.

70 Burke and Kirschbaum share a similar view, see: Burke, “Introduction,” p. 1; Stanislav Kirschbaum, Historical Reflections on Central Europe (New York: St. Martin Press, 1999).

71 See i.e. the title of the book edited by Reginald R. Betts, Central and South East Europe, 1945–1948 (London: Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1950) who represents the intermediate variant, because he adds also to Central Europe: Bohemia and Moravia, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, and to South-East Europe: Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia. Jean Sedlar shears this view, and adds the following countries to South-East Europe: Albania, Bulgaria, Bohemia and Moravia, former Yugoslavia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary, see: Jean W. Sedlar, “Introduction,” in: East Central Europe in the Middle Ages, 1000–1500, ed. Jean W. Sedlar (Seatle/London: University of Washington Press, 1994), p. x.

72 Peter F. Sugar and Donald W. Treadgold, “Foreword,” in: East Central Europe in the Middle Ages, 1000–1500, ed. Jean W. Sedlar (Seatle/London: University of Washington Press, 1994), p. vii.

73 Jerzy Kłoczowski, “Europa Środkowo-Wschodnia,” in: Historycy wobec problemów tożsamości narodowej i europejskiej – między nacjonalizmem a uniwersalizmem. XVIII-XX wiek (Lublin: Materiały Instytutu Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej, 1992), Vol. 1, pp. 10–11.

74 Antoni Podraza, “Europa Środkowa jako region historyczny,” in: Materiały z 17 Powszechnego Zjazdu Historyków Polskich, 15–18 września 2004, in: (accessed: February 2, 2018).

75 Zbigniew Wójcik, Historia powszechna XVI–XVII w. (Warszawa: PWN, 1979), p. 326. Compare also: Tomaszewski, “Europa Środkowa,” p. 130.

76 Jerome Blum, “The Rise of Serfdom in Eastern Europe,” American Historical Review, Vol. 62 (1957), p. 809.