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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 in a drastically modified form by Nazi geopoliticians.
Middle Age migrations
At the time when the 500-year-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.
Different visions of Mitteleuropa
In the first half of the 19th century, ideas of a Central-European federation between the Russian Empire and the West European great powers arose, based on geographical, ethnic and economic considerations.
The term Mitteleuropa was formally introduced by Karl Ludwig von Bruck and Lorenz von Stein, a first theorization of the term attempted in 1848, with the aim of a series interlocking economic confederations. However, plans advocated by the Austrian minister-president, Prince Felix of Schwarzenberg, foundered on the resistance of the German states. After the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and the Prussian-led Unification of Germany under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in 1871, Austria had to abandon its claim to leadership and thereafter used Mitteleuropa to refer to the lands of Austria-Hungary in the Danube basin. In Austria, the Mitteleuropa concept evolved as an alternative to the German question, equivalent to an amalgamation of the states of the German Confederation and the multiethnic Austrian Empire under the firm leadership of the Habsburg dynasty.
Political and ethnic visions of a Mitteleuropa began to dominate in Germany. After the Revolutions of 1848 liberal theorists like Friedrich List and Heinrich von Gagern, socialists and then later groups like the German National Liberal Party would adopt the idea. However, a distinct Pan-German notion accompanied by the concept of a renewed settler colonialism would become associated with the idea. In the German Empire, 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. By 1914 and the Septemberprogramm Mitteleuropa, meaning central Europe under the control of Germany, had become a part of Germany hegemonic policy.
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 and 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. In his book, Naumann used imperialist rhetoric combined with praises to nature, and imperial condescension towards non-German people, while advising politicians to show some "flexibility" towards non-German languages to achieve "harmony". Naumann 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 the German empire to better compete against strategic rivals like Britain, the United States and Japan. 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. 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, and 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 Habsburg 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.
- Ober Ost for the governing authority that actually governed much of this region after Russian surrender in WWI
- Puppet state for a list of nations founded by Germany for the purpose of creating this block
- Ukrainian State for the Ukrainian government Germany supported for this purpose.
- Septemberprogramm, the closest the Germans came for a plan for Mitteleuropa.
- LEO Ergebnisse für "Mitteleuropa"
- Wendt, Jan "Współpraca regionalna Polski w Europie Środkowej" Centrum Europejskie University of Warsaw, Studia Europejskie, nr 4/1998
- Johnson, Lonnie (1996) Central Europe: Enemies, Neighbors, Friends pp.6-12 quotation:
it may refer to different things for different people. Its meaning changes in different national and historical contexts, or as Jacques Rupnik (...) observed: "Tell me where Central Europe is, and I can tell who you are." For example, when Germans start talking about Central Europe, Mitteleuropa, or their historical relations with "the East," everyone starts getting nervous because this inevitably conjures up negative historical associations starting with the conquests of the Teutonic Knights in the Middle Ages and ending with German imperialism in the nineteenth century, World War I, the Third Reich, Nazi imperialism, World War II, and the Holocaust.
- Bischof et al. (2000) p.558 quotation:
I have identified at least seven different "definitions" of "Central Europe": Mitteleuropa (in the German imperial sense); German-Jewish Central Europe; the Central Europe of small (non-Germanic) nations (the Palacky-Masaryk tradition); the nostalgic, k.u.k. or Austro-Hungarian version of Mitteleuropa (without imperial Germans) which is related to the Austro-Hungarian version of Mitteleuropa in the 1970s and 1980s (Kreisky-Kadar-Busek); the Mitteleuropa of the West German left and peace movement in the 1980s; the "Central Europe" of Eastern European dissidents and intellectuals (for example, Milosz, Kundera, Konrad); and finally the "Central and Eastern Europe" of the European Union.
- 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 Europe 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 all read and known to Italians not only as Italian, Austria, Czech, Hungarian, etc, but also as 'Mitteleuropean'. The well-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-Hungarian Empire and its specific 'cultural and spiritual koinè'. (...) there is no embarrassment surrounding the use of this term in Italy as is the case with Germany and Austria.
- Bischof, Günter and Pelinka, Anton and Stiefel, Dieter (2000) The Marshall Plan in Austria p.552 quotation:
the German-speaking world was the filter through which western European ideas were transmitted to central Europe; ... The frontier of this Mitteleuropa may correspond to the more benign Habsburg or, after 1867, the Austro-Hungarian version of Mitteleuropa as well as the more aggressive imperial German versions of Naumann's German "economic space" or Hitler's Lebensraum.
- Libardi, Massimo and Orlandi, Fernando (2011)Mitteleuropa, Mito, letteratura, filosofia, p.19
- Atkinson, David and Dodds, Klaus (editors) Geopolitical Traditions: Critical Histories of a Century of Geopolitical Thought Routledge (2000) p41
- Atkinson, David and Dodds, Klaus (editors) Geopolitical Traditions: Critical Histories of a Century of Geopolitical Thought Routledge (2000) p43-44
- 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
- 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.