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We need to resurrect Eastern Europe A culture of heroism unites the bloc

Klaudia Radecka/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Klaudia Radecka/NurPhoto via Getty Images


April 25, 2023   5 mins

The states of the former Soviet sphere have been trying to shrug off the “Eastern Europe” label for years. The term brings to mind tired stereotypes about an impoverished, illiberal post-communist East, which are for the most part tired and stale, and worse, liken eastern European nations to Russia — the ultimate slight. For countries such as Poland, Czechia, and Estonia, which have taken great strides economically to escape their socialist and communist pasts, the term no longer reflects reality.

In many ways, they’re right. In any tangible, geographic sense, Eastern Europe does not exist as a single entity and never has done. And thanks to the expansive, if uneven, impact of European integration since the early 2000s, nations from the former Soviet bloc are becoming less and less outwardly distinguishable from their Western neighbours. But still, I’ve always had a sense that something changes when one moves east across the Oder and Danube Rivers, though it’s not something that’s immediately apparent.

The feeling has grown sharper since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, as eastern European nations have increasingly operated as a united bloc. Last week, a row over Ukrainian grain erupted, as Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Bulgaria simultaneously imposed import bans to the dismay of Brussels. The week before, several eastern European leaders and diplomats, including Poland’s prime minister, directly challenged French President Emmanuel Macron’s suggestion that Europe should abandon its close ties with the United States.

But the region’s bonds run deeper than politics, which is why reflexive reactions against the term “Eastern Europe” are ultimately short-sighted. As a Pole, I am almost certainly in the minority in thinking that there is something deep within the collective memory of Eastern Europe that colours our understanding of the world, making it radically distinct from that of Western Europeans. With only a few outliers, eastern European nations have stood up to Russia and supported Ukraine’s war effort with great vigour. There’s a reason for this: it’s because we understand exactly what it’s like to be where Ukraine is today.

As I see it, “Eastern Europe” is a historical experience — one that stems from the indignity of domination by foreign powers, sacrifices made to win national freedoms and personal liberties, and the traumatic legacies of ethnic conflicts that remind us that we remain beholden even now to the brutal vagaries of human history. Perhaps the most fundamental building block in the Eastern European edifice, forged in the fires of centuries of subjugation, is the sense that resistance in the face of foreign oppression is worthwhile even if failure seems all but guaranteed. This idea has long shaped Eastern Europeans’ views of much of their past. National myth-makers in Serbia, for instance, have interpreted events as far back as the 1389 Battle of Kosovo — in which Serbian defenders valiantly wore down Ottoman invaders but were unable to stop the Turks’ eventual conquest of their lands — through the lens of noble struggle.

For the same reason, the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against Nazi German occupiers during the Second World War has become a cornerstone of modern Polish nationalism, even though it ultimately failed to liberate the country’s capital. And in February of last year, despite near-universal predictions that Kyiv would fall to the overwhelming might of the Russian military in a matter of days, Ukrainians chose to stand and fight anyway. This act of renegade heroism may be difficult for someone to fully grasp if they aren’t from Eastern Europe.

Largely because of the post-war Soviet sphere of influence over the region, Eastern Europe has long been identified with Russia. However, the term “Eastern Europe” has constantly been redefined throughout the ages, and there is no reason why its negative association with a bygone era should stop us doing so again. In reclaiming “Eastern Europe” for the 21st century, we must conclusively divorce it from Moscow, whose cultural, linguistic, and political ties to Eastern Europe have long masked its distinct and often hostile relationship to the region. The invasion of Ukraine is as good an excuse as any to cast off this veil once and for all.

As early as the Middle Ages, a delineation between East and West on the European continent existed in the form of medieval religious spheres of influence. The schism between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy created the first iteration of the idea of Eastern Europe, although its western boundary lay much further to the east than it does today, and its territory extended from Russia all the way down to Greece and Asia Minor.

By the 18th century, Moscow had transformed from an equal player in Eastern Europe to one of its overlords. Russia, alongside Prussia, the Habsburg Monarchy, and the Ottoman Empire, dominated the Eastern Europe we know today, and if one looks at a map of Europe in the year 1800, not a single country that exists today between the Oder and the Don Rivers was spared from imperial hegemony.

Around that time, Western European Enlightenment ideologues redefined “Eastern Europe” to suit their own ends and began to conceive of eastern territories as backward, unenlightened places. Western travellers to the region sent unflattering reports home: upon stepping into Poland, Marquis Louis-Philippe de SĂ©gur, the French ambassador to Russia in the 1780s, said he felt like he had “moved back ten centuries”. Russia, despite being a great imperial power that had made a concerted effort to import French fashion, art, and culture, was not spared similar mockery.

Whereas the Enlightenment looked down upon Eastern Europe, the Romantic Movement that followed cultivated anti-imperial nationalisms across the region, which in turn fuelled several uprisings in Poland, the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, and the Balkan Wars in 1912 and 1913. These revolts inaugurated a defining trope of popular struggle against powerful oppressors that would unite the Eastern European experience for years to come while notably excluding Russia, whose national narrative was complicated by its status as one of the very empires Eastern Europeans were fighting to shake off.

The victory of the Entente in the First World War catalysed the transformation of these national movements into states, largely due to US President Woodrow Wilson’s decisive role at Versailles. The regional response to this occasion was hardly unanimous — Hungary, which separated from Austria but lost territory in the process through the infamous 1920 Treaty of Trianon, felt short-changed after the war. But despite never stepping foot in the region, Wilson and his Fourteen Points decided its future for the next two decades, redefining Eastern Europe as a dynamic experiment in self-determination — at least on paper.

Wilson’s victory lap however was short-lived, as Eastern Europe’s brutal 20th century attests to. Almost immediately after the cessation of hostilities in 1918, aspiring independence efforts in Ukraine were squashed by the Bolsheviks. From the Baltics in the north to Romania and the Balkans in the south, Eastern European nations ripped up Wilson’s noble ideas and took up arms against each other. The Second World War not long afterwards once again exposed the region to the terrors of foreign occupation at the hands of either the Nazis, the Soviets, or the Italians, incentivising eastern Europeans to resist their oppressors with even greater ferocity than before. It was no mistake that Nazi Germany attacked Poland first — in addition to being home to Europe’s largest Jewish population, it was Hitler’s gateway to the savage, subhuman East he so wished to subjugate.

Against this backdrop, genocide and ethnic cleansing reared its ugly head, most notably during the Holocaust, which was carried out primarily on Eastern European soil with varying degrees of complicity from local populations. Ukrainian UPA paramilitaries also waged ethnic cleansing campaigns against Poles during the war, as did Croat Ustaơe forces against ethnic Serbs, and Serbian chetniks against Croats and Muslims. Decades later, genocide characterised the Yugoslav Wars of the Nineties and continues to this day to define Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

The Soviet-backed Cold War regimes established after the war came to define the idea of Eastern Europe we are most familiar with today. Yet, while the Iron Curtain’s scars remain visible across the region, the days when Communism could be considered synonymous with Eastern Europe are long gone, giving way instead to the economic dynamism and immense diversity that now shines through the former-Warsaw Pact veneer.

But the common historical threads that bind Eastern Europe’s countries and peoples can be appreciated without diminishing their distinct national characteristics, political orders, and cultures. A new definition of “Eastern Europe” is vital if we are to understand how this new epoch fits into our collective past. Yet it fulfils a function for Western Europeans too. Eastern Europe’s defiant attitudes can come across as stubborn and obstinate. But now that we have seen how the horrors of the past can consume the Continent once again, Eastern Europe’s wisdom and predilection for resistance could prove indispensable.


Michal Kranz is a freelance journalist reporting on politics and society in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and the United States.

Michal_Kranz

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Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

Firstly, the rejection of the label “Eastern European” is real. Slovakians at least insist on being referred to as “Central Europeans”. In Western Europe, I think we allow the Communist period to colour our understanding of this massive region far too much: it completely ignores the vast and complex sweep of history that went before.
The reason I think the British and this bloc within the EU get on so well is due to a deep commitment to freedom and willingness to suffer for the sake of it. Yet we coming from very different directions to get to this conclusion.
Brits – or at least older Brits – were probably brought up being told in no uncertain terms that the sacrifices our grandparents made for our freedom and peace in Europe were worth it. Worth the death, worth the tragedy and worth exhausting yourself as a world power. The continued support among the British for Ukraine I believe is a clear sign that this feeling is still strong and ingrained in our mentality.
Poles, Slovaks, Czechs, Estonians etc. are coming at this from their national experiences of subjugation and oppression…along with a continuing feeling of Slavic brotherhood which bonds them to Ukrainians, the drive towards freedom is strong and palpable. Suffering for the sake of freedom – even if there’s no prospect of victory, even if it costs you dearly – is worth it.
Contrast that to other western countries like Germany: their more mercantilist urges make them far more sceptical about suffering for freedom. While the first instinct of their Eastern neighbours to the war in Ukraine was (and is) “freedom must be defended, of COURSE we will help”, the Germans sat there and worried about their economic interests first, with freedom being a subordinate consideration. The value of freedom is obtained not from an instinctive urge and conviction, but arrived at via a clinical, rational calculation.

Last edited 1 year ago by Katharine Eyre
Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Your comments are well-observed throughout.

As you say, for any question facing an individual or a society, there are often two approaches.

One is the instinctive answer. Immediate and vivid. Almost with the force of fact.

The other is arrived at after fiddling about with the spreadsheets, advice from the accountants, and so on. The calculation of interests, the force of the numbers.

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Brits – or at least older Brits – were probably brought up being told in no uncertain terms that the sacrifices our grandparents made for our freedom and peace in Europe were worth it.

My grandad was in the British legion, my great uncles both fought in ww2. I used to sell poppies door to door with him as a kid. We went to all the services at church with him etc, he was a standard bearer. He was very proud to be one too. I understand the patriotic fight for freedom. But we also, as children, had it repeatedly drummed into us that we must NEVER NEVER forget the lesson of the two world wars so that it NEVER NEVER happened again. I thought that was a part of what rememberance day was all about. And yet we are standing on the edge one, we have forgotten those lessons. The UN that I thought was supposed to be a testament to those ideals of preventing such a war, is failing to negotiate peace.
I have always come at the peace argument from that perspective, so many people seem to have forgotten all that.
If it comes to it and we must fight east, then so be it. But I refuse to be indoctrinated with never never forget all my childhood to then abandon it so easily when we are supposed to have institutions to deal with precisely these issues.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

One quick note: the Baltic peoples – Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians – are not Slavs.

Last edited 1 year ago by Allison Barrows
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

Hungarians aren’t either. But yes, I see your point my writing was a bit sloppy there.

Last edited 1 year ago by Katharine Eyre
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Glad to see that the concept of RACE is alive and kicking!

Some such as Selwyn Jones Esq of this Parish will be sorely disappointed.

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

Hungarians aren’t either. But yes, I see your point my writing was a bit sloppy there.

Last edited 1 year ago by Katharine Eyre
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Glad to see that the concept of RACE is alive and kicking!

Some such as Selwyn Jones Esq of this Parish will be sorely disappointed.

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Andy Iddon
Andy Iddon
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

….. but it would be easier to argue for them if the UK didn’t have a non-contributory and open-ended welfare system

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Your comments are well-observed throughout.

As you say, for any question facing an individual or a society, there are often two approaches.

One is the instinctive answer. Immediate and vivid. Almost with the force of fact.

The other is arrived at after fiddling about with the spreadsheets, advice from the accountants, and so on. The calculation of interests, the force of the numbers.

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Brits – or at least older Brits – were probably brought up being told in no uncertain terms that the sacrifices our grandparents made for our freedom and peace in Europe were worth it.

My grandad was in the British legion, my great uncles both fought in ww2. I used to sell poppies door to door with him as a kid. We went to all the services at church with him etc, he was a standard bearer. He was very proud to be one too. I understand the patriotic fight for freedom. But we also, as children, had it repeatedly drummed into us that we must NEVER NEVER forget the lesson of the two world wars so that it NEVER NEVER happened again. I thought that was a part of what rememberance day was all about. And yet we are standing on the edge one, we have forgotten those lessons. The UN that I thought was supposed to be a testament to those ideals of preventing such a war, is failing to negotiate peace.
I have always come at the peace argument from that perspective, so many people seem to have forgotten all that.
If it comes to it and we must fight east, then so be it. But I refuse to be indoctrinated with never never forget all my childhood to then abandon it so easily when we are supposed to have institutions to deal with precisely these issues.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

One quick note: the Baltic peoples – Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians – are not Slavs.

Last edited 1 year ago by Allison Barrows
Andy Iddon
Andy Iddon
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

….. but it would be easier to argue for them if the UK didn’t have a non-contributory and open-ended welfare system

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

Firstly, the rejection of the label “Eastern European” is real. Slovakians at least insist on being referred to as “Central Europeans”. In Western Europe, I think we allow the Communist period to colour our understanding of this massive region far too much: it completely ignores the vast and complex sweep of history that went before.
The reason I think the British and this bloc within the EU get on so well is due to a deep commitment to freedom and willingness to suffer for the sake of it. Yet we coming from very different directions to get to this conclusion.
Brits – or at least older Brits – were probably brought up being told in no uncertain terms that the sacrifices our grandparents made for our freedom and peace in Europe were worth it. Worth the death, worth the tragedy and worth exhausting yourself as a world power. The continued support among the British for Ukraine I believe is a clear sign that this feeling is still strong and ingrained in our mentality.
Poles, Slovaks, Czechs, Estonians etc. are coming at this from their national experiences of subjugation and oppression…along with a continuing feeling of Slavic brotherhood which bonds them to Ukrainians, the drive towards freedom is strong and palpable. Suffering for the sake of freedom – even if there’s no prospect of victory, even if it costs you dearly – is worth it.
Contrast that to other western countries like Germany: their more mercantilist urges make them far more sceptical about suffering for freedom. While the first instinct of their Eastern neighbours to the war in Ukraine was (and is) “freedom must be defended, of COURSE we will help”, the Germans sat there and worried about their economic interests first, with freedom being a subordinate consideration. The value of freedom is obtained not from an instinctive urge and conviction, but arrived at via a clinical, rational calculation.

Last edited 1 year ago by Katharine Eyre
Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
1 year ago

Excellent article. Even a couple of decades back the heroism of Poles was a well known thing here in London. English airmen who had fought with them in WWII would visit schools telling people what they were like. And it was a basic empirical fact that the once famous “Squadron 303”, crewed by Polish fighters, had a kill rate twice as high as any English fighter squad. Probably most people have it in them to take a death defying action once or twice – but to do it day after day, week after week, takes orders of magnitude stronger character. As was widely conceded by high command, its very possible the Battle of Britain would have bene lost without the heroic fighting spirit of the Poles. Sadly this sort of knowledge is slipping from memory


The article might have mentioned Colonel House rather than Wilson. The Colonel has a special sympathy with the Slavic people well before WWI even started. And a much heroic character, especially in terms of his inner inspiration, as well recorded in his diary. Even when middle aged he used to like to indulge in live action role plays while sailing across the Atlantic, sometimes playing Travis or Bowie from the Alamo. The worlds most impressive statue of the Colonel is to be found in Skaryszew Park , Warsaw, which you guys put up in recognition of his role in Polands emancipation.  Incidentally, the park also has a fine statue commemorating the role of volunteer British airmen who helped out in the mentioned Warsaw uprising. Poles doing a better job of commemorating  British heroism than we did for them, which is partly explained by embarrassment over what happened at Yalta & its aftermath.

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

And yet we have some commenters that wish to measure their worth, simply by how much tax they may contribute.

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

And yet we have some commenters that wish to measure their worth, simply by how much tax they may contribute.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
1 year ago

Excellent article. Even a couple of decades back the heroism of Poles was a well known thing here in London. English airmen who had fought with them in WWII would visit schools telling people what they were like. And it was a basic empirical fact that the once famous “Squadron 303”, crewed by Polish fighters, had a kill rate twice as high as any English fighter squad. Probably most people have it in them to take a death defying action once or twice – but to do it day after day, week after week, takes orders of magnitude stronger character. As was widely conceded by high command, its very possible the Battle of Britain would have bene lost without the heroic fighting spirit of the Poles. Sadly this sort of knowledge is slipping from memory


The article might have mentioned Colonel House rather than Wilson. The Colonel has a special sympathy with the Slavic people well before WWI even started. And a much heroic character, especially in terms of his inner inspiration, as well recorded in his diary. Even when middle aged he used to like to indulge in live action role plays while sailing across the Atlantic, sometimes playing Travis or Bowie from the Alamo. The worlds most impressive statue of the Colonel is to be found in Skaryszew Park , Warsaw, which you guys put up in recognition of his role in Polands emancipation.  Incidentally, the park also has a fine statue commemorating the role of volunteer British airmen who helped out in the mentioned Warsaw uprising. Poles doing a better job of commemorating  British heroism than we did for them, which is partly explained by embarrassment over what happened at Yalta & its aftermath.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

The sea has been important in the history of Western Europe. For countries like Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, The Netherlands, the sea has attracted adventurers – those who sought great riches – whatever the risks entailed in finding them. Go west young man! To us in the West, Eastern Europe has had it’s share of mystery but has also been a little boring, like a great mass of land which wasn’t very interesting.
In Eastern Europe, Russia has always been the biggest threat, along with Turkey of course. You can imagine parents telling their children – ‘Be good or the Russians/Turks will come and get you.’ Turkey also carried the extra threat of Islam. Not only might you be invaded but you might have to change religion as well. In the past religion was very, very important.
Most importantly, the sea forms a barrier to invasion and delineates the border. The Western Europeans have always had clear borders and haven’t often been invaded – the Moors got to Spain of course. Britain hasn’t been invaded since 1066, if you discount the Dutch sailing up the Thames and the French landing in Fishguard. In Eastern Europe borders have always been difficult to defend and hard to define. There have been countries within countries – I have actually read a book on the history of Ruthenia. This history of being under threat from your neighbours and the constant changing of borders must bring more than a little paranoia along with it.
Of course, the biggest invasion of Eastern Europe was caused by an awful manipulation of borders after WW1 – orchestrated by the western powers. This has effectively caused 100 years of wars. It is not surprising that the people in the east are always looking over their shoulders at the Russian Bear.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

The French and Spanish (Castilians) burnt Gravesend to the ground in 1380, which is far further up the Thames than the Dutch got in 1660!

You also omitted the very successful Dutch* Invasion of 1688, now referred to in ‘fake news speak’ as the Glorious Revolution!

However you are spot on in your condemnation of the idiotic Versailles Treaty of 1919, and its appalling consequences.

(* Aided and abetted by a few English traitors it must be said.)

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

Minor historical correction, the Dutch were not at war with England in 1660, but in 1667 came all the way up the River Medway, not the Thames, to destroy the English Fleet.The French, Spanish, and indeed Barbary pirates all had a good go at southern English ports and harbours, well into the 16th Century.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Well spotted, a slovenly typo!

However to get to the Medway you do have to sail via the Thames estuary do you not?
Have you by any chance seen the Royal Arms from the ‘Royal Charles’, they are in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam to this very day.

You are correct about the plundering of the English coast, I used Gravesend as it was the closest ‘they’ got to London.

You’re mentioned the Barbary Pirates, who you may recall even raided Ireland in the 1620’s I think. They ‘hoovered up’ most the population of Baltimore, Co Cork
. Apparently there was quite a premium on snow white skin, pink nipples, freckles and red hair in the Slave Souk of Algiers. ‘They’ must of fetched a pretty penny!

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

Mmm, I would say that you might kiss the edge of the Thames Estuary but you don’t go via it to access the Medway.

I haven’t seen the splendid stern piece from the Royal Charles directly but the pictures are impressive. No wonder the Dutch thought it worth saving when they broke up the ship for salvage – nice souvenir of their holiday in Kent!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Sadly WE don’t think the same and recently allowed the figurehead* of USS Chesapeake, captured in 1814, to be sold back to a US buyer.

You are correct about ‘kissing’ the Thames Estuary. Apparently the exact ‘border’ is the London Stone at the mouth of the Yantlet Creek (which I had never heard of !).

(* Fiddlehead in ‘geek speak’.)

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Sadly WE don’t think the same and recently allowed the figurehead* of USS Chesapeake, captured in 1814, to be sold back to a US buyer.

You are correct about ‘kissing’ the Thames Estuary. Apparently the exact ‘border’ is the London Stone at the mouth of the Yantlet Creek (which I had never heard of !).

(* Fiddlehead in ‘geek speak’.)

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

Mmm, I would say that you might kiss the edge of the Thames Estuary but you don’t go via it to access the Medway.

I haven’t seen the splendid stern piece from the Royal Charles directly but the pictures are impressive. No wonder the Dutch thought it worth saving when they broke up the ship for salvage – nice souvenir of their holiday in Kent!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Well spotted, a slovenly typo!

However to get to the Medway you do have to sail via the Thames estuary do you not?
Have you by any chance seen the Royal Arms from the ‘Royal Charles’, they are in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam to this very day.

You are correct about the plundering of the English coast, I used Gravesend as it was the closest ‘they’ got to London.

You’re mentioned the Barbary Pirates, who you may recall even raided Ireland in the 1620’s I think. They ‘hoovered up’ most the population of Baltimore, Co Cork
. Apparently there was quite a premium on snow white skin, pink nipples, freckles and red hair in the Slave Souk of Algiers. ‘They’ must of fetched a pretty penny!

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

Minor historical correction, the Dutch were not at war with England in 1660, but in 1667 came all the way up the River Medway, not the Thames, to destroy the English Fleet.The French, Spanish, and indeed Barbary pirates all had a good go at southern English ports and harbours, well into the 16th Century.

Anna Clare Bryson
Anna Clare Bryson
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

What would the borders have looked like after WW1 if they had not been “manipulated”, and “orchestrated” by the western powers? You make it all sound so sinister, when in fact poor old Woodrow Wilson was inundated by contradictory demands, and neither France nor Great Britain was specially keen on the settlement as it turned out. When empires collapse there are rarely any “natural”, or maybe non-orchestrated single-line melodic borders for them to split into….

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

My Lithuanian in-laws detested FDR for essentially handing the Baltics over to the Soviets and plunging their homeland into decades of deprivation. They were lucky to escape to Canada and then to the US, where they became citizens.

earlene xavier
earlene xavier
1 year ago

I despise FDR as well. He treated Poland and the Polish people appallingly. At the time of the Warsaw Uprising, he declined to let nearby American forces intervene because he didn’t want to upset Stalin!!! Stalin was evil personified and responsible for murdering many millions of his own people. The Polish 303 Squadron is an amazing story in itself, a group of fearless fighters who long before they ever got to England, battled the Germans against overwhelming odds, the Allies owed them a huge debt of gratitude!

earlene xavier
earlene xavier
1 year ago

I despise FDR as well. He treated Poland and the Polish people appallingly. At the time of the Warsaw Uprising, he declined to let nearby American forces intervene because he didn’t want to upset Stalin!!! Stalin was evil personified and responsible for murdering many millions of his own people. The Polish 303 Squadron is an amazing story in itself, a group of fearless fighters who long before they ever got to England, battled the Germans against overwhelming odds, the Allies owed them a huge debt of gratitude!

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

My Lithuanian in-laws detested FDR for essentially handing the Baltics over to the Soviets and plunging their homeland into decades of deprivation. They were lucky to escape to Canada and then to the US, where they became citizens.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Sorry Chris but I have to take you up on your statement that “The Western Europeans have always had clear borders”. Up until 1815 Western European borders were all over the shop, certainly after the demise of the Roman Empire in c.400. Spain, France and the Holy Roman Empire were constantly shifting around (even England had enclaves of various sizes on the continent (including under Henry VI, of England, half of France), even up to and including the reign of Charles II. It was only the British isles, insulated by the sea, which maintained fairly constant borders after Athelstan in 927 created (sort of) England.
ï»ż

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

You’re stretching it a bit with Charles II aren’t you?

Presumably you are referring to Dunkirk, taken by the blessed Oliver Cromwell in 1658 and then SOLD back to the French by the wretched Charles II in 1662.

Or are you perhaps referring to Tangier, abandoned about 1685?

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

I know that I’m stretching it! Just emphasising that plenty of Western European borders shifted around a fair bit.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

Didn’t know that. Just as well we sold it off – just imagine the trouble with Brexit negotiations if we’d held on.
Was that our first alliance with France ? Or the first successful one ? We seem to have officially been on the same side for getting on for 200 years now. Though it doesn’t always feel that way.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

I know that I’m stretching it! Just emphasising that plenty of Western European borders shifted around a fair bit.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

Didn’t know that. Just as well we sold it off – just imagine the trouble with Brexit negotiations if we’d held on.
Was that our first alliance with France ? Or the first successful one ? We seem to have officially been on the same side for getting on for 200 years now. Though it doesn’t always feel that way.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

You’re stretching it a bit with Charles II aren’t you?

Presumably you are referring to Dunkirk, taken by the blessed Oliver Cromwell in 1658 and then SOLD back to the French by the wretched Charles II in 1662.

Or are you perhaps referring to Tangier, abandoned about 1685?

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

The French and Spanish (Castilians) burnt Gravesend to the ground in 1380, which is far further up the Thames than the Dutch got in 1660!

You also omitted the very successful Dutch* Invasion of 1688, now referred to in ‘fake news speak’ as the Glorious Revolution!

However you are spot on in your condemnation of the idiotic Versailles Treaty of 1919, and its appalling consequences.

(* Aided and abetted by a few English traitors it must be said.)

Anna Clare Bryson
Anna Clare Bryson
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

What would the borders have looked like after WW1 if they had not been “manipulated”, and “orchestrated” by the western powers? You make it all sound so sinister, when in fact poor old Woodrow Wilson was inundated by contradictory demands, and neither France nor Great Britain was specially keen on the settlement as it turned out. When empires collapse there are rarely any “natural”, or maybe non-orchestrated single-line melodic borders for them to split into….

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Sorry Chris but I have to take you up on your statement that “The Western Europeans have always had clear borders”. Up until 1815 Western European borders were all over the shop, certainly after the demise of the Roman Empire in c.400. Spain, France and the Holy Roman Empire were constantly shifting around (even England had enclaves of various sizes on the continent (including under Henry VI, of England, half of France), even up to and including the reign of Charles II. It was only the British isles, insulated by the sea, which maintained fairly constant borders after Athelstan in 927 created (sort of) England.
ï»ż

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

The sea has been important in the history of Western Europe. For countries like Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, The Netherlands, the sea has attracted adventurers – those who sought great riches – whatever the risks entailed in finding them. Go west young man! To us in the West, Eastern Europe has had it’s share of mystery but has also been a little boring, like a great mass of land which wasn’t very interesting.
In Eastern Europe, Russia has always been the biggest threat, along with Turkey of course. You can imagine parents telling their children – ‘Be good or the Russians/Turks will come and get you.’ Turkey also carried the extra threat of Islam. Not only might you be invaded but you might have to change religion as well. In the past religion was very, very important.
Most importantly, the sea forms a barrier to invasion and delineates the border. The Western Europeans have always had clear borders and haven’t often been invaded – the Moors got to Spain of course. Britain hasn’t been invaded since 1066, if you discount the Dutch sailing up the Thames and the French landing in Fishguard. In Eastern Europe borders have always been difficult to defend and hard to define. There have been countries within countries – I have actually read a book on the history of Ruthenia. This history of being under threat from your neighbours and the constant changing of borders must bring more than a little paranoia along with it.
Of course, the biggest invasion of Eastern Europe was caused by an awful manipulation of borders after WW1 – orchestrated by the western powers. This has effectively caused 100 years of wars. It is not surprising that the people in the east are always looking over their shoulders at the Russian Bear.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Yet again the fact that the Imperial German Army under the guidance of its outstanding Chief of Staff Max Hoffmann defeated Russia in 1918 is completely ignored, why?

No doubt for marxists and others it is just too embarrassing to admit that Hoffmann & Co hammered the Russians into the ground “like a tent peg”, defeating the Tsar, Kerensky and the Bolsheviks in short order, and them imposing a ‘Carthaginian Peace’ at Brest-Litovsk (B-L) on the 3rd of March 1918.

That Peace Treaty established a number of semi independent German Client States, including both Poland and the Ukraine, and reduced Russia’s population by 34%, its Industrial capacity by 54%, its coalfields by 89% and its railways by 26%*. No wonder the wretched Lenin described it as “that abyss of defeat, dismemberment, and humiliation”. Hoffmann meanwhile wanted to finish the job by pushing on to Moscow and “strangling the infant Bolsheviks beast its cradle”, but was sadly to be thwarted by Ludendorff’s Spring Offensive that started on the 21st March, 1918.

Of course following the ultimate Allied Victory of November 1918, ‘they’ insisted on completely revoking the Treaty of B-L, and thus letting the Bolshevik beast escape! All very short sighted but explicable by the fact that ‘they’ were blinded by the thirst for vengeance after four years of mayhem and slaughter.

With the wonder of hindsight, it is now obvious that the Allies creation of a number of indefensible independent states, very similar to those of B-L was an appalling blunder that might have been avoided, had a more conciliatory approach been adopted at the Versailles Peace Treaty of 1919. It was not, and the consequences were simply awful, and we are still living with the them.

More tea Vicar?

(* Source: Wikibeast.)

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Not to mention the Sykes-Picot “agreement”!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Or even the Balfour Declaration.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Both of them!

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Both of them!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Or even the Balfour Declaration.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Not to mention the Sykes-Picot “agreement”!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Yet again the fact that the Imperial German Army under the guidance of its outstanding Chief of Staff Max Hoffmann defeated Russia in 1918 is completely ignored, why?

No doubt for marxists and others it is just too embarrassing to admit that Hoffmann & Co hammered the Russians into the ground “like a tent peg”, defeating the Tsar, Kerensky and the Bolsheviks in short order, and them imposing a ‘Carthaginian Peace’ at Brest-Litovsk (B-L) on the 3rd of March 1918.

That Peace Treaty established a number of semi independent German Client States, including both Poland and the Ukraine, and reduced Russia’s population by 34%, its Industrial capacity by 54%, its coalfields by 89% and its railways by 26%*. No wonder the wretched Lenin described it as “that abyss of defeat, dismemberment, and humiliation”. Hoffmann meanwhile wanted to finish the job by pushing on to Moscow and “strangling the infant Bolsheviks beast its cradle”, but was sadly to be thwarted by Ludendorff’s Spring Offensive that started on the 21st March, 1918.

Of course following the ultimate Allied Victory of November 1918, ‘they’ insisted on completely revoking the Treaty of B-L, and thus letting the Bolshevik beast escape! All very short sighted but explicable by the fact that ‘they’ were blinded by the thirst for vengeance after four years of mayhem and slaughter.

With the wonder of hindsight, it is now obvious that the Allies creation of a number of indefensible independent states, very similar to those of B-L was an appalling blunder that might have been avoided, had a more conciliatory approach been adopted at the Versailles Peace Treaty of 1919. It was not, and the consequences were simply awful, and we are still living with the them.

More tea Vicar?

(* Source: Wikibeast.)

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
1 year ago

Thank you for this interesting and refreshing perspective. I don’t read much about the Russia-Ukraine situation because I speak neither country’s language and am not interested in engaging with propaganda – either Russian or NATO driven. However, I’m puzzled by your suggestion that Russia is motivated by “ethnic cleansing”. I thought Russia’s actions are a battle for territory, and to stop Ukraine joining NATO, which Russia would perceive as a threat. How is this “ethnic cleansing”? Or do you mean it the other way around? That Russia is motivated by defending ethnic Russians from the Ukrainians? This was what motivated the invasion in the first place. Is that correct?

TheElephant InTheRoom
TheElephant InTheRoom
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

You are correct, Amy. Sadly, Ukraine had been turned into a nazified, militarised battering ram by our lovely friends across the Atlantic – the process began decades ago. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Now, the regime in Ukraine is burning churches, evicting priests, tearing down statues, and banning the speaking of Russian and the presence of Russian language signs… If the author believes that removing nazism and Banderite sympathisers from its borders is “ethnic cleansing” – well that is what we call “projection”.

TheElephant InTheRoom
TheElephant InTheRoom
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy Horseman

You are correct, Amy. Sadly, Ukraine had been turned into a nazified, militarised battering ram by our lovely friends across the Atlantic – the process began decades ago. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Now, the regime in Ukraine is burning churches, evicting priests, tearing down statues, and banning the speaking of Russian and the presence of Russian language signs… If the author believes that removing nazism and Banderite sympathisers from its borders is “ethnic cleansing” – well that is what we call “projection”.

Amy Horseman
Amy Horseman
1 year ago

Thank you for this interesting and refreshing perspective. I don’t read much about the Russia-Ukraine situation because I speak neither country’s language and am not interested in engaging with propaganda – either Russian or NATO driven. However, I’m puzzled by your suggestion that Russia is motivated by “ethnic cleansing”. I thought Russia’s actions are a battle for territory, and to stop Ukraine joining NATO, which Russia would perceive as a threat. How is this “ethnic cleansing”? Or do you mean it the other way around? That Russia is motivated by defending ethnic Russians from the Ukrainians? This was what motivated the invasion in the first place. Is that correct?

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
1 year ago

First of all great article. More please Unherd about topics like this which get little coverage in most of the media.

A couple of disagreements I had with the piece. The dividing line between Russia and Eastern Europe which the author and those countries understandably want to draw is not easily dismissed – it has always been that the strong rule and the weak resign themselves. It is astonishing that the author makes no mention of Poland/Lithuania invading Russia and getting all the way to Moscow in 1612 or the centuriew which russians spent under the Mongol yoke because it only pays in his story to paint Russia as the colossus it is today. Russia has just been the most successful of the Eastern European states over the past couple of hundred year, only coming in for opprobrium because it is the only one of the empires left.

It might make the author queezy but Hitler didn’t invade Poland to get “through” to the wild, savage East. It was the wild, savage East. The famed bravery of Poles on horseback against Nazi blitzkrieg only goes to show how far behind the Poles were militarily but also socially. Also the fact that they were Slavs ruling what had formerly been German-ruled, Prussian territory was the principle upon which Hitler’s early expansion was based.

Last edited 1 year ago by Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
1 year ago

First of all great article. More please Unherd about topics like this which get little coverage in most of the media.

A couple of disagreements I had with the piece. The dividing line between Russia and Eastern Europe which the author and those countries understandably want to draw is not easily dismissed – it has always been that the strong rule and the weak resign themselves. It is astonishing that the author makes no mention of Poland/Lithuania invading Russia and getting all the way to Moscow in 1612 or the centuriew which russians spent under the Mongol yoke because it only pays in his story to paint Russia as the colossus it is today. Russia has just been the most successful of the Eastern European states over the past couple of hundred year, only coming in for opprobrium because it is the only one of the empires left.

It might make the author queezy but Hitler didn’t invade Poland to get “through” to the wild, savage East. It was the wild, savage East. The famed bravery of Poles on horseback against Nazi blitzkrieg only goes to show how far behind the Poles were militarily but also socially. Also the fact that they were Slavs ruling what had formerly been German-ruled, Prussian territory was the principle upon which Hitler’s early expansion was based.

Last edited 1 year ago by Milton Gibbon
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

A well-composed and fascinating delve into the historical narratives of the huge tranche of territory between the major European powers to the West, mainly looking further west across the Atlantic, and those nations further East whose focus lies towards the Russian bear, notwithstanding the desire to accept US influence, perhaps as a bulwark against the bear’s grasping claws which its timid EU neighbours can’t supply.

The clear cultural tensions within the EU occurs along similar lines, and seems to emerge from the psyche of its peoples which the author outlines and which succeeds in bringing that whole region into closer focus for those of us to the west.

I’m not sure why the author sees himself as being in a minority with this perception though? It seems to me to be entirely apt, and a salient pointer to how the future of the continent will proceed once the conflict in the Ukraine starts to resolve.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

A well-composed and fascinating delve into the historical narratives of the huge tranche of territory between the major European powers to the West, mainly looking further west across the Atlantic, and those nations further East whose focus lies towards the Russian bear, notwithstanding the desire to accept US influence, perhaps as a bulwark against the bear’s grasping claws which its timid EU neighbours can’t supply.

The clear cultural tensions within the EU occurs along similar lines, and seems to emerge from the psyche of its peoples which the author outlines and which succeeds in bringing that whole region into closer focus for those of us to the west.

I’m not sure why the author sees himself as being in a minority with this perception though? It seems to me to be entirely apt, and a salient pointer to how the future of the continent will proceed once the conflict in the Ukraine starts to resolve.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Andy Iddon
Andy Iddon
1 year ago

Having worked there, the Czech phrase, ” if you don’t steal from the state, you’re stesling from your family” described the former communist ethos best. Culture is as thick as blood.

Andy Iddon
Andy Iddon
1 year ago

Having worked there, the Czech phrase, ” if you don’t steal from the state, you’re stesling from your family” described the former communist ethos best. Culture is as thick as blood.

TheElephant InTheRoom
TheElephant InTheRoom
1 year ago

Give them another generation of globalism, NATO, Atlanticist values and intervention, media and soy…

TheElephant InTheRoom
TheElephant InTheRoom
1 year ago

Give them another generation of globalism, NATO, Atlanticist values and intervention, media and soy…

Patti Dunne
Patti Dunne
1 year ago

Thank you for this article. I am American and learned a good bit from it. Some I could see for myself, but much I didn’t know. Eastern Europe has always seemed a bit of a mystery (for lack of a better word).

Patti Dunne
Patti Dunne
1 year ago

Thank you for this article. I am American and learned a good bit from it. Some I could see for myself, but much I didn’t know. Eastern Europe has always seemed a bit of a mystery (for lack of a better word).

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 year ago

100 upticks thankyou !

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 year ago

100 upticks thankyou !

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
1 year ago

Thank you, Michel, for providing for us, some authentic native perspective. We thoroughly enjoyed, several years ago, our tours through two unique cities, Prague and Budapest. The statue of Jan Hus in Prague, especially, is like no other monument that I have ever laid eyes on.
The Dohany street synagogue in Budapest, and the life of Theodore Herzl there represents a fascinating chunk of history.
I am hoping that the the Ukrainians can, with a little help from our (American and Western European) friends, triumphantly cast off the yoke of putinian oppressive destruction.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
1 year ago

Thank you, Michel, for providing for us, some authentic native perspective. We thoroughly enjoyed, several years ago, our tours through two unique cities, Prague and Budapest. The statue of Jan Hus in Prague, especially, is like no other monument that I have ever laid eyes on.
The Dohany street synagogue in Budapest, and the life of Theodore Herzl there represents a fascinating chunk of history.
I am hoping that the the Ukrainians can, with a little help from our (American and Western European) friends, triumphantly cast off the yoke of putinian oppressive destruction.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

Rather ironic that this mentality is the direct result of Russian arrogance and stupidity.
Just like the EU, it comprises many peoples and many languages, and so might seem to be unviable.
But the same might be said of the Hapsburg empire–and that persisted for quite some time.

Last edited 1 year ago by martin logan
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

Habsburg.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

Habsburg.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

Rather ironic that this mentality is the direct result of Russian arrogance and stupidity.
Just like the EU, it comprises many peoples and many languages, and so might seem to be unviable.
But the same might be said of the Hapsburg empire–and that persisted for quite some time.

Last edited 1 year ago by martin logan