CENTRAL & EASTERN EUROPE
Note: my complete Site Map for Central & Eastern Europe
is near the bottom of this page.
Detail of the"Transfiguration": Christ with Moses and Elijah
Novgorod, Late 15th Century
(Courtesy of St. Petersburg Times: also see under Russian Ikons)
During one Lent back in the early 1970's, the late Mother Assumpta, OSB, a French Benedictine nun, told me that instead of focusing on the West's Lenten emphasis on suffering, penance, fasting, and sorrow, she preferred to focus on what the Eastern Orthodox Church emphasizes: being turned into the pure light of joy, like Christ at the transfiguration. In working with many websites concerning Central and Eastern Europe, especially in light of recent events in Kosovo, I often think of Mother Assumpta's words as a haunting contrast to the West's centuries long preoccupation with pain and death. This isn't to say that Central and Eastern Europe haven't suffered deeply, nor that they haven't been as consumed with inflicting physical horrors as the West. Yet at the soul-making level, in the archetypal, in the imaginal realms of the collective unconscious, I like to hope that the potential remains more for a Transfiguration than a Crucifixion.
4 September 2001: Addendum
In the nearly three years since I wrote the above, I have had much cause to think about Central and Eastern Europe. The region remains an emotional tinderbox, as it has been for centuries. I recently completed an intense three weeks of work webbing pages for Hungary / Translyvania and Romania, learning as I went how ruthlessly Hungary was dismembered in 1920 by the West. I have seen chilling reports of atrocities on all sides. This whole region of Europe is especially "rich" in such stories. And these stories, of course, enrage people and generate more such horrors when revenge is taken, as it always is.
Several years ago I read a report about Chechnya, where to "be a man" is to know how your father died and who killed him, and to also know this about his father before him, and also before that for seven generations back. Of course, seven generations back, that man would also have to know the same thing for another seven generations back. And so on. "To be a man" is to know such things. Although the report focused on Chechnya, the mindset of revenge is found throughout the region. This is history, yes, but nursing such stories also tends to be highly inflammatory and is toxic to humans as a whole. Look at Northern Ireland, for example, with all those "Orangemen" insisting upon dressing up annually and marching through Catholic districts to celebrate a Protestant victory from 400 years ago!
At some point, there needs to be an awareness that toxic **stories** fuel the violence -- and violence begets violence. We need to put a lid on the poisons. Then, hopefully, new stories can emerge. Surely Hungarians, for example, have Romanian grandmothers or grandfathers, and Romanians have Hungarian relatives as well. Where are those stories?
At least in modern times, I blame the white male ruling classes of the West for blindly treating Eastern and Central Europe as their own private hatching-ground for future wars -- wars in which the pockets of Western arms merchants are lined with gold and Europe is lined with more graves. Things can't continue as they are. Our violence and greed are tearing apart the world with all her fragile eco-systems.
Humans, as a species, can be immensely kind, generous, caring, wise -- we need to be reminded, not of atrocities, but of this. We desperately need better school systems in which our young of both genders are taught humane leadership skills and wild, wonderful, creative ways of conflict resolution.
I know that the words "leadership skills" and "conflict resolution" sound unappealing, dull, and goody-goody. Well, let's change the language then. Let's call them Arthurian-Round-Table skills (not forgetting, however, that Arthur made tragic errors when it came to gender-issues). Or we could call them Merlin skills, Cheiron-the-Centaur skills (FYI: Cheiron knew how to train both heroes and healers), Gandalf skills, Hobbit skills, or even Harry Potter skills. Call them whatever will intrigue youngsters. Then nurture fresh new stories, new "rituals" like street-theatre; puppetry; sand-play; "games" where one half of the class experiences being victims, and then victors; "games" that deconstruct the news, commercials, and pop culture; "games" where the winner is the cleverest, not the meanest. Ways of teaching such techniques exist -- they just need to be used!
Will Western educational systems ever officially endorse and support this? Of course not -- these systems are run by the white male ruling classes and a truly educated citizenry is against their best interests. If it weren't, we'd have one. The educational policy of the current American president, George W. Bush, is a case in point: he wants children trained, like rats, to succeed in navigating mazes of standardized tests: this is not education -- it's obedient rat-training, and that's all it will produce: well-trained, stressed-out, cute little rodents. But subversive teachers can still get around this. Together, we could create an "Underground Railway" for runaway ideas, creativity, and common sense, which have for too long been held captive, enslaved, by the "system." We can teach humane, creative "leadership skills" (a.k.a. Cheiron-the-Centaur skills) to our young in an attempt to create a new generation with more wisdom and common sense than their elders.
If I may return to Central and Eastern Europe: I am adding to this page (see directly below) two links from historians about the West's tragically ignorant role in incubating modern wars (which continue to flashpoint in our nightly newscasts). After WWI, the West dismembered the region and stitched the bodyparts into Dr. Frankenstein's poor monster with a total disregard for the region's ancient ethnic and religious complexities. It's an odd and telling synchronicity that Frankenstein's monster (1816) and Dracula (1897) both emerged into Western consciousness in the same century, one near the beginning, one at the very end. Dr. Frankenstein's monster, horrified by what he was and more humane than his crazed creator, willingly exiled himself to the icy wilds of "Tartary and Russia" lest he bring harm to others.
Some eighty years later, the world had changed radically. Dracula would never exile himself to protect others. He cares for no one but himself. To preserve himself, he'll willingly drain the blood of the rest of Europe.
Both characters orginate in Central Europe, one in remote regions of Switzerland, the other in Hungary/Romania; one is made of disjointed dead body parts; the other needs to engorge himself on the blood of others in order to keep his dead body viable. Do these not sound, metaphorically, like twentieth century pre- and post-WWI Central and Eastern Europe?
First, this link goes to an on-line book (also available hardbound through amazon.com), A History of East Central Europe by Oscar Halecki, Late Professor of Eastern European History at Fordham University in New York City. As one might expect, it is lucid and thorough. Because the material is so significant, I am quoting several lengthy excerpts from Halecki's opening "Background" section (FYI: he divides Europe into 4 sections -- Western Europe, West Central Europe, East Central Europe, and Eastern Europe -- see his site for further details):The usual approach to European history is strangely limited.... [There is] a vast terra incognita of European historiography: the eastern part of Central Europe, between Sweden, Germany, and Italy, on the one hand, and Turkey and Russia on the other. In the course of European history, a great variety of peoples in this region created their own independent states, sometimes quite large and powerful; in connection with Western Europe they developed their individual national cultures and contributed to the general progress of European civilization.If trying to make sense of all the conflicting claims and counterclaims in this region is of interest to you, don't miss Halecki's work.
It is true that time and again some of these nations were submerged by the neighboring empires, and so was the whole group precisely at the moment when, toward the beginning of the nineteenth century, the writing of history entered its truly scientific phase. This might to a certain extent explain why the nations of East Central Europe were so badly neglected in the contemporary study and teaching of the historical sciences. And since the period of their apparent disappearance coincided with the formation of the American nation, it is even more understandable that they seemed of little interest to American historiography.
The shortcomings of such a limited interpretation of Europe became evident as soon as the process of liberation and reconstruction of East Central Europe was almost completed after World War I. But even then the so-called “new” nations of that whole region, most of them very old indeed, were usually studied without sufficient consideration of their historical background. And, both in Western Europe and in America, the realization of their importance in the making and organizing of Europe had hardly started when the normal development of that crucial region was once more interrupted by World War II. In the unfinished peace settlement after the last war, all these nations were sacrificed to another wave of imperialism in one of its contemporary totalitarian forms.
No permanent peace will be established before their traditional place in the European community, now enlarged as the Atlantic community, is restored.
Historical science can contribute to such a solution by promoting a better understanding of the antecedents. But as a science, history will first have to repair its own mistake in overlooking so large a territory near the very heart of the European Continent. That territory, which never has been a historical unit, in spite of so many experiences which all its peoples had in common, is not a geographical unit either. And as it has happened with all historical regions, it did not even have any permanent boundaries....
Second, exploring some of the same themes as Professor Halecki (see directly above), this is a much shorter page reprinted by a Hungarian organization but applicable to the region as a whole. This is "The Conflict in the Former Yugoslavia and Autonomous Region of Vojvodina, and the Need for a More Coherent U.S. Foreign Policy." No author's name is given -- just the fact that this was a briefing presented to the Stanton Group, Washington, D.C., November 11, 1993. Here are several excerpts:...The students of more modern Central and Eastern European affairs tend to view the region as a constant, with the countries existing after World War I and II as historical nations.The 1993 report is chilling, especially in its predictions of future conflicts in Macedonia and elsewhere, which have since come to pass.
Therefore, the outbreak of the bitter ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslavia caught many off guard. Historically, however, many of these ethnic groups were often at odds due to differences in religion, culture, and economic and political development. It is therefore simply logical that these groups did not form a single historical nation on their own. It was Western influence that led to the formation of post World War I "nations" such as Yugoslavia. Without a correct historical analysis and thorough understanding of the region, development of a coherent and consistent U.S. foreign policy is made more difficult....
...Yugoslavia was created after WW I and was a complicated combination of peoples, religions, and cultures. Developed and predominantly Roman Catholic regions such as Slovenia (formerly part of the Austrian Empire) and Croatia (formerly part of Hungary) were joined with less developed and Eastern Orthodox Serbia. These regions were then joined with even more poorly developed Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo and Bosnia-Hercegovina, which all have large Muslim and Eastern Orthodox populations.......There has been much attention given to the bloody ethnic and national conflict between Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims. This conflict, however, is a local and relatively small part of a more "global" regional conflict that is continuing to develop and may easily accelerate to a full scale international war. Already, concerns over Albanians in Kosovo, Greeks in Macedonia, and Muslims in Bosnia have led some to worry about the possible escalation of the conflict....The hard-hitting report also looks at ethnic cleansing, border tensions, and the passive, ill-informed role of Western media.
Further General Links
for Central and Eastern Europe
[My Site Map for Central & Eastern Europe follows the links.]
Culture, Essays, Photos:
Slavic & Eastern European Library Resources
(from the University of Illinois):
CENTRAL & EASTERN EUROPE Portal Page:
Pan-Slavic Traditions & Beliefs:
Russia Portal Page:Sacred Ikons: ||| Fairy Tales & Folklore: ||| Music:The Balkans Portal Page:(Note: here you'll find links to individual Balkan countries/states/kingdoms: Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia, once these have been activated.Other Slavic Lands
*** For Greece, see under "Western Europe";
for Hungary, see under "Finno-Ugric Peoples.")
Kosovo/Serbian Peace Invocation:
Baltic States Portal Page:Estonia: ||| Latvia: ||| Lithuania:Finno-Ugric Peoples Portal Page:Finland: ||| Hungary /Transylvania:Eurasia: The Caucasus & Beyond:
(Note: for Estonia, see "Baltic Sates";
for Sami and western Siberian peoples, see "INDIGENOUS: Circumpolar.")
Up to Europe's Portal Page
Down to Western Europe's Portal Page
This page created with Netscape Gold 3.01
Technical assistance: William Weeks
Text and Design:
Copyright 1998-2001 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
All rights reserved
Updates following the 11/13/98 launch:
3 February 1999; 27 May 1999; 10 October 1999;
17 September 2000;
21 August 2001 (altered geographical category to include Central Europe);
4-5 September 2001 (essay-addendum + links); 6 September 2001.