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West, Mitte, Ost

Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig
Publication Date
  • Ungarn
  • Europa
  • Diskurs
  • Identität
  • Nationalismus
  • Ideengeschichte
  • 19. Jahrhundert
  • 20. Jahrhundert
  • Hungary
  • Discourse
  • Europe
  • Identity
  • Self-Imgage
  • 19Th Century
  • 20Th Century
  • Ddc:900
  • Economics
  • Linguistics
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science


The article starts with the notion of a remarkable research deficit (within the wider field of historically oriented European studies) regarding the thinking and discourses on “Europe” in East Central Europe, especially in Hungary. This desiderate could be explained by the partition of the continent through the Iron Curtain lasting for fourty years, what seemed to exclude these countries from Europe in several respects. Nevertheless there was and is a reconstructable, various if plural discourse on the place of Hungary in Europe. It was tightly linked with the discourses on the nation-state and on modernization in the 19th century, while the country was part of the Austrian monarchy of Habsburg. Thus it received main impulses from Western Europe, whose development was taken as an ideal to follow. The East, particularly Russia, was in contrast considered as the non-european “other”, the enemy of liberty and progress. Despite this notion, there were remarkable attempts to frame Hungary in an Eastern context, espeacially through the idea of “Turan”, that claimed a tribal community between Hungarians, Turks and Iranians, which should unite in a common empire. However catching up to the West remained the dominant goal, but was complicated by the structural, economic and cultural differences that lasted on feudal and agrarian Hungary until the beginning of the 20th century. Yet “Europe” was not only a model, it was also a, rather metaphysic and symbolic, institution to which the country appealed for support during the revolutions 1848 and 1956. Both upheavels against an imperial enemy, Habsburg and the Soviet Union, failed and Hungarians felt abandoned by the West, that is Europe. As a consequence of these gaps and failures the idea of Hungary as a part of Central Europe, a special region of small states between the Great powers in the East and the West with a specific identity was conceived. This concept also included the vision of a joint federation to facilitate the negotiations of the everlasting national and ethnic conflicts of the region. It can be found within the texts of 19th century liberal politicians like István Széchenyi, who shaped the metaphor of Hungary as a “ferry-land”, and Lajos Kossuth, who presented the first plan for Danubian Federation, Interwar-politicians like Oszkár Jászi and anti-soviet dissidents like György Konrád in the 1980ies. According to these and other protagonists of the discourse, the “centre” can be classified as the ultimate place of Hungary in Europe throughout the centuries, sharing and preserving the European Heritage.

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