The Roots

  • Thomas W. SimonsJr.


Eastern Europe is very diverse. The very question of whether it should be treated as a region — whether there is an Eastern Europe, as distinguished from Central Europe, or East-Central Europe, or Russia — is controversial. So is the question of which peoples, nations, or states should be included if there is a region to be defined. There are no perfect, objective answers to these questions, and I am not offering any in what follows. Whether they are asked, and what answer is offered, depends on whether the questions and answers are useful to specific people at specific times. At most times in history most people have found it useful to stress diversity, to focus on the separate experiences of the individual peoples and nations of this part of the world. I hope that my account will do justice to that diversity.


Russian Economic Development Local Elite Czech Land Ethnic Center Foreign Domination 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    For a good, brief geographic survey, see Alan W. Palmer, The Lands Between: A History of East Central Europe since the Congress of Vienna (New York: Macmillan, 1970), 1–22.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    On this whole formative period, see William H. McNeill, Europe’s Steppe Frontier, 1500–1800 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), 2–14, 182–221, and passim.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    On this point, see John R. Lampe and Marvin R. Jackson, Balkan Economic History, 1550–1950. From Imperial Borderlands to Developing Nations (Bloormngton: Indiana University Press, 1982), 50–79.Google Scholar
  4. And Vojtech Mastny has now provocatively suggested that in the rubble of Yugoslav disintegration we can still see the outlines of what he calls “the enduring ‘Military Frontier,’” because most of the fighting has taken place in this area, where the Habsburgs settled Catholic and Orthodox Slavs, now Croats and Serbs, to defend their empire against the Turks. See Mastny, “The Historical Eastern Europe after Communism,” in Andrew A. Michta and Ilya Prizel, ed., Postcommunist Eastern Europe: Crisis and Reform (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992), 4–6.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    There is an increasingly rich literature in English on these developments. For a convenient synoptic view, see Kenneth Jowitt, “The Sociocultural Bases of National Dependency in Peasant Countries,” in his edited volume, Social Change in Romania, 1860–1940 (Berkeley: Institute of International Studies, University of California Press, 1978), 1–30. For more detailed coverage of both north and south, see four splendid essays in Daniel Chirot, ed., The Origins of Backwardness in Eastern Europe. Economics and Politics from the Middle Ages until the Early Twentieth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989): Péter Gunst, “Agrarian Systems in Central and Eastern Europe,” 53–92, which sees a critical distinction between the lands from the Baltic to Bohemia and those farther east; Jacek Kochanowicz, “The Polish Economy and the Evolution of Dependency,” 93–130; Fikret Adanir, “Tradition and Rural Change in Southeastern Europe,” 131–176; and John R. Lampe, “Imperial Borderlands or Capitalist Periphery? Redefining Balkan Backwardness, 1520–1914,” 177–209. Both Adanir and Lampe argue that Balkan backwardness was rooted in isolation rather than oppression.Google Scholar
  6. For a vivid description of what the grain trade meant to Polish society at the time, see Norman Davies, God’s Playground. A History of Poland. vol. 1 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), 256–292.Google Scholar
  7. And for a stimulating treatment of what Russia’s peasantry had become around 1900 — so different, and yet so similar — see Teodor Shanin, The Awkward Class. Political Sociology of Peasantry in a Developing Society: Russia 1910–1925 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), 9–44.Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    For further information on the sociology of rural life, see Irwin Taylor Sanders, Roger Whitaker, and Walter C. Bisselle, East European Peasantries: Social Relations: An Annotated Bibliography vols. 1 and 2 (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1976, 1981).Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    For lively description of the related albeit different Russian peasantry’s popular religion in this century, see Moshe Lewin, The Making of the Soviet System: Essays in the Social History of Interwar Russia (New York: Pantheon, 1985), 57–81.Google Scholar
  10. 8.
    For a recent survey applying the challenge-and-response paradigm on an all-European scale, see Andrew C. Janos, “The Politics of Backwardness in Continental Europe, 1780–1945,” World Politics 41, no. 3 (April 1989): 325–358. The most recent exemplification of Theodore H. Von Laue’s lifelong interest in this paradigm is in his The World Revolution of Westernization. The Twentieth Century in Perspective (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 11–113, 197–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 9.
    There is an extensive literature, but it is mainly about the Russian intelligentsia. For an older but still useful collective work, see Richard Pipes, ed., The Russian Intelligentsia (New York: Columbia University Press, 1961).Google Scholar
  12. A good analytical introduction to the East European version is Zygmunt Bauman, “Intellectuals in East Central Europe: Continuity and Change,” Eastern European Politics and Societies 1, no. 2 (Spring 1987): 162–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 10.
    For a recent survey of the conceptual debate, see Anthony D. Smith, Theories of Nationalism, 2nd ed. (New York: 0Holmes & Meier, 1983).Google Scholar
  14. 12.
    For a fine short summary of the phenomenon, see Karl W. Deutsch, “Nationalism in Eastern Europe and the Communist World,” in his Nationalism and Its Alternatives (New York: Knopf, 1969), 37–65.Google Scholar
  15. Readers who wish to go deeper may turn to the essays in Peter F. Sugar and Ivo J. Lederer, eds., Nationalism in Eastern Europe (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1969).Google Scholar
  16. 13.
    This is the persuasively documented message of Lampe and Jackson, Balkan Economic History. The argument over the role of the state in East European and Russian economic development will of course be forever associated with the scholar who initiated it, Alexander Gerschenkron, Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective (New York: Praeger, 1962), 5–30.Google Scholar
  17. 14.
    For a magisterial brief survey, see Sir Lewis Namier, “Basic Factors in Nineteenth Century European History,” in Personalities and Powers (New York: Macmillan, n.d. [1955]), 105–117.Google Scholar
  18. 15.
    For a detailed examination of the emancipation process and its effects in the Polish northeast, see Stefan Kieniewicz, The Emancipation of the Polish Peasantry (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. For a good general survey based on core-periphery theory and focused on Austria-Hungary, see Ivan T. Berend and György Ránki, The European Periphery and Industrialization (Cambridge: Eng., Cambridge University Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  20. And for a short course in comparative European nationalism that is as rich in detail as it is comprehensive in scope, see Hugh Seton-Watson, Nations and States (Boulder: Westview, 1977), 15–192.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Thomas W. Simons, Jr. 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas W. SimonsJr.

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations