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Mitteleuropa literally is one of the German equivalent terms for Central Europe, but the word has also a specific political, geographic and cultural meaning. There are diverse and contrasting connotations of the concept of Mitteleuropa. On one hand there is the vision of Mitteleuropa as a cosmopolitan multi-national cultural and intellectual ideal, which is also fondly recalled by Habsburg-era nostalgics. On the other hand there is the Prussian vision of Mitteleuropa as a pan-Germanist state-centric imperium, an idea that was later adopted by Nazi geopolititians.
Middle Ages migrations
At the time when the 500 years long Ostsiedlung process was stopped by the Black Death in the mid 14th century, Germans had settled the "Wendish" Central European areas of Germania Slavica far beyond the Elbe and Saale rivers. They had moved along the Baltic coast from Holstein to Farther Pomerania, up the Oder river to the Moravian Gate, down the Danube into the Kingdom of Hungary and to the Slovene lands of Carniola. From the mouth of the Vistula river and the Prussian region, the Teutonic Knights by force continued the migration up to Estonian Reval (Tallinn). Germans also settled in the mountainous border regions of Bohemia and Moravia and formed a distinct social class of citizens in towns like Prague, Havlíčkův Brod (Deutsch-Brod), Olomouc (Olmütz) and Brno (Brünn). They had moved into the Polish Kraków Voivodeship, the Western Carpathians and Transylvania (Siebenbürgen), introducing the crop rotation practice and German town law.
Pogroms against Jews
In the course of the Black Death, widespread pogroms against Jews from 1348 occurred in the German Rhineland, causing an emigration in huge numbers to the Kingdom of Poland under Casimir the Great and to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania under Vytautas granting them extensive privileges. The Ashkenazi expellees and their High German Yiddish language left a significant imprint on Central Europe, in towns like Lviv (Lemberg), Lublin, Minsk and Chernivtsi (Czernowitz), but also in the Bohemian capital Prague as well as in numerous shtetls. The rabbis at first received their religious education at German yeshivot. During the Age of Enlightenment, the Jewish Haskalah movement pursuing emancipation orientated itself by German protagonists like Moses Mendelssohn as in the Prussian lands under Frederick the Great, so-called Schutzjuden were able to live under the circumstances of a limited religious tolerance. With the increasing persecutions from the 1648 Khmelnytsky Uprising onwards, especially the 19th century Anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire, the approach to Germany was heightened. The Jewish Mitteleuropa culture was erased in The Holocaust.
The Prussian vision of Mitteleuropa
Upon the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 and the formation of the Concert of Europe after the Napoleonic Wars, the Romantic writer Constantin Frantz during the Vormärz era developed the concept of a Central European federation overcoming the German dualism between Austria and Prussia. Frantz opposed the idea of a nation state as it was raised by the German question and advocated a commonwealth of the member states of the former Confederation of the Rhine together with the Austrian multiethnic state and Prussia with its large Polish share of population. This Central European block should have been joined by Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland as well as by Congress Poland, seeking autonomy from the hegemony of the great powers of France and the British Empire as well as from the Pan-Slav policies of the Russian Empire.
After the Revolutions of 1848 these ideas were adopted by liberal theorists like Friedrich List and Heinrich von Gagern, later by the German National Liberal Party, then however with a distinct Pan-German notion and accompanied by the concept of a renewed settler colonialism under the firm leadership of the German Empire and Austria-Hungary. Upon the 1871 Unification of Germany under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the Ostforschung concentrated on the achievements by Ethnic Germans in Central Europe on the basis of Ethnocentrism with significant anti-Slavic, especially anti-Polish notions, as propagated by the Pan-German League.
Meanwhile Austria had to abandon her claim to leadership and thereafter referred Mitteleuropa to the lands of the Habsburg Monarchy in the Danube basin.
The Prussian Mitteleuropa Plan
The Mitteleuropa plan was to achieve an economic and cultural hegemony over Central Europe by the German Empire and subsequent economic & financial exploitation of this region combined with direct annexations, settlement of German colonists, expulsion of non-Germans from annexed areas, and eventual Germanization of puppet states created as a buffer between Germany and Russia. The issue of Central Europe was taken by German thinker Friedrich Naumann in 1915 in his work Mitteleuropa. According to his thought, this part of Europe was to become a politically and economically integrated block subjected to German rule. In his program, Naumann also supported programs of Germanization and Hungarization as well. Naumann in his book used imperialist rhetoric combined with praises to nature, and imperial condescension towards non-German people, while advising politicians to show some "flexbility" towards non-German languages to achieve "harmony" Neuman wrote that it would stabilize the whole Central European region. Some parts of the planning included designs on creating a German colony in Crimea and colonization of the Baltic states.
The ruling political elites of Germany accepted the Mitteleuropa plan during World War I while drawing out German war aims and plans for the new order of Europe. Mitteleuropa was to be created by establishing a series of puppet states whose political, economic and military aspects would be under the control of the German Reich. The entire region was to serve as an economic backyard of Germany, whose exploitation would enable it to compete with the British Empire and any other competitors for the position of the world's dominant power. Political, military and economic organization was to be based on German domination, with commercial treaties imposed on countries like Poland and Ukraine. It was believed that the German working classes could be appeased by German politicians through the economic benefits of territorial annexation, settlement of Germans in Central and Eastern Europe and exploitation of conquered countries for the material benefit of Germany.
Partial realization of these plans was reflected in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, where guarantees of economic and military domination over Ukraine by Germany were laid out. Both Ottoman Empire and Austro-Hungary would become reliant on German support in post-war Europe,reducing them to the status of vassals
The Mitteleuropa plan was viewed as a threat by the British Empire, which concluded it would destroy British continental trade, and, as a consequence, the source of its military power.
Other visions of Mitteleuropa
While Mitteleuropa describes a geographical location, it also is the word denoting a political concept of a German-dominated and exploited Central European union that was put into motion during the First World War. The historian Jörg Brechtefeld describes 'Mitteleuropa' as the following:
The term 'Mitteleuropa' never has been merely a geographical term; it is also a political one, much as Europe, East and West, are terms that political scientists employ as synonyms for political ideas or concepts. Traditionally, Mitteleuropa has been that part of Europa between East and West. As profane as this may sound, this is probably the most precise definition of Mitteleuropa available.
Mitteleuropean literature of the period between the end of 19th century and WWII, has been the subject of renewed interest starting in the 1960s. Pioneers in this revival have been Claudio Magris, Roberto Calasso and the Italian publishing house Adelphi.
Mitteleuropa is also used in a cultural sense, to denote a fertile region whose thought has brought many fruits, artistic and cultural. It is also sometimes denote with the expression "Habsburg thought and culture." The rich mitteleuropean literary and cultural traditions include Polish philosophy, Czech avantgarde literature, Hungarian social theory and science, Austrian lyric poetry, the common capacity for irony and linguistic prowess.
According to the Hungarian writer György Konrád, the mitteleuropean spirit is "an aesthetic sensibility that allows for complexity and multilingualism, a strategy that rests on understanding even one's deadly enemy," a spirit that "consist of accepting plurality as a value in and of itself." In Prague, in 1984, the journal Střední Evropa (Mitteleurope) was founded, albeit characterized by a Catholic revisionist view nostalgic of the pre-1918 Hasburg Empire. Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert wrote the poem Mitteleuropa, included in his 1992 book Rovigo (Wrocław).
Among the main writers of the literary Mitteleuropa are Joseph Roth (1894-1939), Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) Arnold Zweig (1887-1968) and Lion Feuchtwanger (1884-1958). Roth's novel Radetzky March is a study of the decline and fall of the Austro–Hungarian Empire, via the story of a family’s elevation to the nobility.
Other authors that have been catalogued as of mitteleuropean literature are the Hungarians Sándor Márai (1900-1989), János Székely (1901-1958), Milán Füst (1888–1967), Ödön von Horváth (1901-1938); the Polish-Yiddish Israel Joshua Singer; the Czech-Austrians Leo Perutz (1882-1957), Alfred Kubin (1877-1959), Franz Werfel (1890-1945), Johannes Urzidil (1896-1970), Ernst Weiss (1882-1940); the Austrians Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931), Alexander Lernet-Holenia (1897-1976), Hermann Broch (1886-1951), Soma Morgenstern (1890-1976), Karl Kraus (1874-1936), Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874-1929), Peter Altenberg (1859-1919); the Bulgarian Elias Canetti (1905-1994); the German Frank Wedekind (1864-1918); and the Swiss Carl Seelig (1894-1962).
- Central Europe
- Drang nach Osten
- Geographical centre of Europe
- League of East European States
- Germans of Romania
- Intermarium for a plan by Polish leaders after World War I to create a similar political structure across the same region, but for the benefit and security of Poland.
- LEO Ergebnisse für "Mitteleuropa"
- Jan Wendt "Współpraca regionalna Polski w Europie Środkowej" Centrum Europejskie University of Warsaw, Studia Europejskie, nr 4/1998
- Hann, C. M. and Magocsi, Paul R. (2005 ) Galicia: A Multicultured Land, pp.178-9 quotation:
The notion of Mitteleuropa carries diverse connotations, many far from positive. It should be noted that the Mitteleuropa fondly recalled by Habsurg-era nostalgics stands in clear oppositions to the Prussian understanding of Mitteleuropa. The Habsburg multi-national vision is a negation of the Prussian state-centric ideal first promoted by Friedrich Naumann and others, and later adopted by Nazi geopolititians.
- Eder, Klaus and Spohn, Willfried Collective Memory and European Identity pp.90-1, quotation:
Not only has Central Euroope been recovered from oblivion, but also the memory of past links, affinities and cultural commonalities between Italy ans other Mitteleuropean countries - namely, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia - seems to have come to the forefront again. (...) one should mention the role and the weight of Mitteleuropean literature in Italy. This genre has acquired considerable prominence among Italian readers and in cultural debates since the early 1960s, thanks to literary festivals such as Mittelfest and to the support of important publishing houses such as Adelphi. Authors such as (...) are al read and known to Italians not only as Italian, Austria, Czech, Hungarian, etc, but also as 'Mitteleuropean'. The wel-known writer Claudio Magris contributed more than anybody else to the 1960s revival of Mitteleuropean culture and to the awareness of the existence of a common cultural koiné among those territories that were once part of the Habsburg Empire. (...) The notion of Mitteleuropa, as authors such as Magris conceive it, has nothing to do with the notorious pan-Germanist interpretation of it that goes back to Frederich Naumann's Mitteleuropa (Le Rider 1995:97-106). The point of reference is, instead, the super-national, cosmopolitan Austro-Hungary Empire and its specific 'cultural and spiritual koinè'. (...) there is no embarassment surrounding the use of this term in Italy as is the case with Germany and Austria.
- Libardi, Massimo and Orlandi, Fernando (2011)Mitteleuropa, Mito, letteratura, filosofia, p.19
- A history of eastern Europe: crisis and change Robert Bideleux,Ian Jeffries, page 12,Routledge 1998
- The Challenge of Hegemony: Grand Strategy, Trade, and Domestic Politics Steven E. Lobell, page 52, University of Michigan Press
- "War and Punishment: The Causes of War Termination and the First World War" Hein Erich Goemans, Princeton University, page 116 Press 2000
- The First World War, 1914-1918 Gerd Hardach, page 235 University of California Press 1981
- "A History of the Habsburg Empire, 1526-1918." Robert Adolf Kann University of California Press 1980
- See^ Naumann, Mitteleuropa. Reimer, Berlin 1915
- Czesław Madajczyk "Generalna Gubernia w planach hitlerowskich. Studia", Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, Warszawa, 1961, str. 88 i 89
- Imanuel Geiss "Tzw. polski pas graniczny 1914-1918". Warszawa 1964
- Barry Hayes, Bismarck and Mitteleuropa, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1994, p. 16
- "War and Punishment: The Causes of War Termination and the First World War" Hein Erich Goemans, page 115, Princeton University Press 2000
- "Coalition Warfare: An Uneasy Accord".Roy Arnold Prete, Keith Neilson 1983 Wilfrid Laurier University Press
- The end of empire?: the transformation of the USSR in comparative perspective(International Politics of Eurasia volume9) Bruce Parrott(editor), page 98(Solomon. Wank, “The Disintegration of the Habsburg and Ottoman empires), M.E. Sharpe 1996
- J. Brechtefeld, Mitteleuropa and German politics. 1848 to the present (London 1996)
- (1983) Interview to Claudio Magris, in Dzieduszycki Michele Pagine sparse. Fatti e figure di fine secolo, 
- Johnston, William M. (2006) Österreichische Kultur- und Geistesgeschichte: Gesellschaft und Ideen im Donauraum 1848 bis 1938, p.xxxii
- Günter Bischof, Anton Pelinka (eds.) () Austria in the new Europe, p.17 quotation:
Whose Mitteleuropa? There can be little doubt that if it is to be Mitteleuropa, it will be Arnheim's and not Count Leinsdorff's. Better that its peoples take their undoubtedly rich literary and cultural traditions-Polish philosophy or Czech avantgarde literature, Hungarian social theory and science, Austrian lyric poetry, the common capacity for irony and linguistic prowess, bittersweet neurotic love affairs and chocolate tortes.
- Sara B. Young Cultural Memory Studies: An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook p.40
- György Konrád (1984) Der Traum von Mitteleuropa
- Seán Hanley The New Right in the New Europe: Czech Transformation and Right-wing..., p.51
- Chamberlain, John (1933) Books of The Times, in the nytimes, October 17, 1933 quotation:
(...) It is one of the devices by which Joseph Roth manages to bind together his study of the disintegration of an empire (...) "Radetzky March" is an example of the way a good sociological novel should be written. Great events are present only as they are reflected in the lives of the characters (...) "Radetzky March" explains much about the European past. (...) Joseph Roth (...) is one of the galaxy of great novelists of Mitteleuropa [whose list] includes the two Zweigs and Feuchtwanger.