Jeux sans frontiéres

Emil Palotás

Köztes-Európa 1763-1993
("Zwischeneuropa" 1763-1993)
A Gathering of Maps, Compiled by Lajos Pándi
Budapest: Osiris-Századvég, 1995, 798 pp. 
* Taken from Budapesti Könyvszemle-BUKSZ, Fall 1996,
pp. 346-48. 

This important contribution to Hungarian historiography appeared towards the end of 1995 and was promptly sold out. It is the work of Lajos Pándi, who teaches at the University of Szeged, ably assisted by a number of young scholars, some of whom were still undergraduates. Köztes Európa is not the usual sort of historical atlas: it is distinguished by the period and the area covered and by its unique approach. It also differs in many respects from a recently published work that covers much the same area (Paul R. Magocsi: Historical Atlas of East Central Europe. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995). The latter scores on one point: it appears in glorious technicolor. In comparison, the black and white pages of Köztes-Európa appear shabby and outdated. But there is ample compensation in the unbelievable detail which the sheer size of the volume makes possible. There are 330 full-page maps and almost as many supplementary small maps; each map is accompanied by an explanatory text, comments, and more often than not, a wealth of figures. The information given in the text often exceeds that provided by the maps.


According to the brief introduction -  printed also with English and German translation -  the intention was to present the nascent nation-states of the past two hundred and fifty years in their rivalry with the multinational empires to whose sphere of interest the area belonged. Pándi calls the area he examines a mobile borderland which extends from Finland to Greece and from Bohemia to Moldavia. The term Zwischeneuropa, literally "In-Between Europe," as Pándi points out, is in itself politically motivated and serves to define these small states as a buffer zone between Russia and Europe. What is characteristic of the whole area is multi-ethnicity, fragmentation, a state of amalgam. Apart from short periods, it was mostly directed from the outside, from Vienna, Berlin, St. Petersburg, and Constantinople, but the small nations, striving to become nation-states, always protested against this fact.

The aim is thus to record the continual flux produced by the nationalist fervor. The work focuses closely on the way ethnicity relates to political borders -  and to questions highly relevant to the region and its self-image -  questions normally neglected when world history is under consideration. Nation and state, ethnic communities and their spheres of existence, these are interrelations the editor examines in every possible combination.


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