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Only by understanding Central and Eastern Europe's turbulent history during the first half of the twentieth century can we hope to make sense of the conflicts and crises that have followed World War II and, after that, the collapse of Soviet-controlled state socialism. Ivan Berend looks closely at the fateful decades preceding World War II and at twelve countries whose absence from the roster of major players was enough in itself, he says, to precipitate much of the turmoil. As waves of modernization swept over Europe, the less developed countries on the periphery tried with little or no success to imitate Western capitalism and liberalism. Instead they remained, as Berend shows, rural, agrarian societies notable for the tenacious survival of feudal and aristocratic institutions. In that context of frustration and disappointment, rebellion was inevitable. Berend leads the reader skillfully through the maze of social, cultural, economic, and political changes in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Austria, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and the Soviet Union, showing how every path ended in dictatorship and despotism by the start of World War II.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780520229013
ISBN-10: 0520229010
Format: Paperback
(229mm x 152mm x 28mm)
Pages: 461
Imprint: University of California Press
Publisher: University of California Press
Publish Date: 2-Mar-2001
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions

Reviews

US Kirkus Review » Inspired by the example of historian Eric Hobsbawm's grand syntheses of European history, Berend (History/Univ. of Calif., Los Angeles) applies a similar method to exploring the tumultuous history of Central and Eastern Europe during the first half of this century. First published in Berend's native Hungary, the study was expanded for its English-language publication. The result is wide-ranging, both in the variety of areas examined and in geographical scope. At its core is an appraisal of the revolutionary forces that, since the turn of the century, have steered social, political, and economic trends in the region toward nationalism, fascism, communism, and right-wing dictatorships, while also creating a parallel upheaval in culture and the arts. The effects of railroad development and economic nationalism are discussed by Berend, who is a specialist in economic history, along with Kandinsky, Schonberg, and Jugendstil. Although it serves his purpose of highlighting the revolutionary character of the period, the author's inclusion of Russia seems off, since Central and Eastern Europe ordinarily are considered a distinct geopolitical unit. At the same time, Berend discusses only minimally such other countries as Slovenia and Bulgaria; his main interest is Romania and Czechoslovakia, along with Russia and Hungary. His study also contains additional flaws. Foremost among these is an overall cursory attitude; the book is too general for the experts, who will want more than just a learned rehashing of familiar territory, and too vague for the general reader, who is searching for depth and analysis. The chapters on artistic movements and on communism are particularly weak, with considerations of familiar figures and -isms reading like formulaic encyclopedia entries. Berend's strikingly dry narrative style doesn't help to enliven his rich material, although the book's 94 photographs do. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Ivan T. Berend

Ivan T. Berend, Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles, is former President of the International Committee of Historical Sciences and former President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1995-2000). He has published widely on the economy and culture of Central and Eastern Europe.

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