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October 15, 2020
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v2.1 Reference

The Legacy of Division

East and West after 1989

This volume examines the legacy of the East–West divide since the implosion of the communist regimes in Europe. The ideals of 1989 have largely been frustrated by the crises and turmoil of the past decade. The liberal consensus was first challenged as early as the mid-2000s. In Eastern Europe, grievances were directed against the prevailing narratives of transition and ever sharper ethnic-racial antipathies surfaced in opposition to a supposedly postnational and multicultural West. In Western Europe, voices regretting the European Union's supposedly careless and premature expansion eastward began to appear on both sides of the left–right and liberal–conservative divides. The possibility of convergence between Europe's two halves has been reconceived as a threat to the European project.

In a series of original essays and conversations, thirty-three contributors from the fields of European and global history, politics and culture address questions fundamental to our understanding of Europe today: How have perceptions and misperceptions between the two halves of the continent changed over the last three decades? Can one speak of a new East–West split? If so, what characterizes it and why has it reemerged? The contributions demonstrate a great variety of approaches, perspectives, emphases, and arguments in addressing the daunting dilemma of Europe's assumed East–West divide.

About the Authors

Ferenc Laczó is an assistant professor in European History at Maastricht University. Luka Lisjak Gabrijelčič is a Slovene historian, political analyst and translator.


"The overthrow of communism was peaceful in the majority of Central and Eastern European countries. Most citizens of East Central Europe viewed membership in the European Community as a prized goal that will aid rapid improvement in their standards of living, seamless inclusion in the European Market, and a democratic political system. While some economic successes cannot be denied, transformation was slow and unequal. After the global financial crisis of 2008, economic liberalism became burdened with statism, paternalism and oligarchic rule; and the crony model of capitalism or elements of authoritarianism ("illiberal democracy") reappeared. Therefore, largely, the conclusion drawn by most of the contributors for The Legacy of Division is that new curtains have appeared, but these are made of much lighter materials than the old Iron Curtain."—Susan Glanz, Hungarian Cultural Studies

"Some books answer questions, and some books inspire readers to ask more questions. The Legacy of Division belongs to the latter group. In an essayistic way, it invites a broad audience to consider questions of the present and the past. Readers might include scholars, students, and journalists, but thanks to the essayistic style, any member of the broader public interested in understanding the varied nature and legacies of the East-West divisions will find the book engaging. The future is open, and our thinking about it is richer thanks to The Legacy of Division."—Petra Guasti, Hungarian Historical Review

"This rich and insightful collection of twenty-eight essays, originally published in Eurozine online in 2019, reflects on the fate of eastern Europe thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is an impressive but depressing compilation that captures the angst experienced by many of the region's inhabitants—and by a majority of outside observers."—Peter Rutland, Slavic Review


"This volume is a brave attempt to tackle the complexity of problems facing Europe today. The annus mirabilis of 1989 has not delivered the promised miracle to everybody. The incomplete convergence of Europe's two halves has resulted in a lack of institutional transparency and in inequality of opportunity and material insecurity for too many. These analyses help us to respond to the increasing threat to the liberal democratic order and the European project."—Andrea Pető

"The days when 1989 was simply seen as the triumph of liberal democracy and western capitalism are long gone. This timely collection of essays is extremely useful for understanding today's Europe, whose new fault lines often reflect the legacies of division as well as contemporary transnational and global connections."—Kiran Klaus Patel
Central European University Press

9789633863749 : the-legacy-of-division-laczo-lisjak-gabrijel-i
Paperback / softback
344 Pages
$29.99 USD

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