How Nationalism Overcame History In Eastern Europe

How Nationalism Overcame History In Eastern Europe

If one had to come up with a single sentence to sum up all of the brutality, folly, tragedy, chaos, villainy, and occasional moments of heroism that John Connelly surveys in From Peoples into Nations: A History of Eastern Europe, you could boil it all down to this: too much history and not enough real estate.

The triumph of nationalism over collectivist internationalism in Eastern Europe is a messy story, differing in specifics in each of the nations in the region. Plenty of hazards remain, and there are bound to be many more bumps along the road. But the restoration of true national sovereignty and genuinely representative government to so many long-suffering people denied a decent material existence and the right to live their lives—and to retain their language, culture, and values—is perhaps the crowning achievement of the last years of a twentieth century more noteworthy for bloody nightmares than dreams come true. 

Membership in the European Union has opened up a free flow of goods, opportunities, and ideas that cannot be stopped—and will ultimately mitigate—any retrograde measures taken by individual Eastern European nations over-zealously defending their borders, languages, and identities. Imperfect as it still is, this is probably the best of all possible worlds for the people and nations Connelly writes about with such empathy and conviction.

Aram Bakshian, Jr. served as an aide to Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, and has written extensively on politics, history, gastronomy, and the arts for American and overseas publications.

Image: Wikipedia.