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Do the Balkans Begin in Vienna? The Geopolitical and Imaginary Borders between the Balkans and Europe

The Geopolitical and imaginary borders between the balkans and Europe


Ana Foteva

Do the Balkans Begin in Vienna? takes up one of the most fraught areas of Europe, the Balkans. Variously part of the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Byzantine empires, this region has always been considered Europe’s border between the Orient and the Occident. Aiming to clarify the politics of drawing cultural borders in this region, the book examines the relations between the Habsburg Monarchy and the Balkans as an intermediate space between West and East. It demonstrates that the dichotomy Orient versus Occident is insufficient to explain the complexity of the region. Therefore, cultural multi-belonging, historical disruption, and recurrence of identities and conflicts are proposed to be «the essence» of the Balkans.
Do the Balkans Begin in Vienna? depicts the fictional imagination of the Balkans as a «utopian dystopia». This oxymoron encompasses the utopian projections of the Austrian/ Habsburg writers onto the Balkans as a place of intact nature and archaic communities; the dystopian presentations of the Balkans by local authors as an abnormal no-place (ou-topia) onto which the historical tensions of empires have been projected; and, finally, the depictions of the Balkans in the Western media as an eternal or recurring dystopia.
There is at present no other study that distinguishes these particular geographical reference points. Thus, this book contributes to the research on Europe’s historical memory and to scholarship on postcolonial and/or post-imperial identities in European states. The volume is recommended for courses on Austrian, German, Balkan, and European studies, as well as comparative literature, theater, media, Slavic literatures, history, and political science.
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V. Slovenia and Croatia: Between the Balkans and Europe


Throughout this study I have argued that the Balkans are defined by multiple cultural positions, historical disruptions, and recurrent constellations of power and opposition. According to the criterion of multiple cultural identifications Slovenia can be unequivocally excluded from the Balkans. Slovenia’s territory was a Habsburg land until 1918, it was never under Ottoman occupation, and its cultural identity had been built solidly within the flow of Western Europe’s history of ideas (Goldstein 41).1 Therefore, we can agree preliminarily with Todorova’s position that Slovenia does not belong to the Balkans (31). Croatia, with its Catholic religious identity and its inclusion in the Western European history of ideas, must also be considered culturally a part of Europe.

However, three factors combine to raise the question of whether Croatia’s cultural position must not be considered ambivalent. First, territories populated by Croats existed under Ottoman rule for different periods of time.2 Second, the ethnic and linguistic proximity of the Croats to the Orthodox Serbs has played an important political role. This factor was at different times either a bridge connecting the two peoples or a source of ideological and military conflicts. In the first decades of the nineteenth century, the Croat Ljudevit Gaj initiated the idea of a standard Croatian language based on the Štokavski dialect, which was also spoken in Serbia. The intellectuals who supported this idea, which was based on a linguistic and national unity of all South Slavs, were known as “Illyrians,” after the erroneous assumption...

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