According to Hungarian historian Jenő Szűcs, foundations of Central European history at the first millennium were in close connection with Western European development. He explained that between the 11th and 15th centuries not only Christianization and its cultural consequences were implemented, but well-defined social features emerged in Central Europe based on Western characteristics. The keyword of Western social development after millennium was the spread of liberties and autonomies in Western Europe. These phenomena appeared in the middle of the 13th century in Central European countries. There were self-governments of towns, counties and parliaments.
Regions located at the transition between Central Europe and Southeastern/Eastern Europe: Romania
Before 1870, the industrialization that had developed in Western and Central Europe and the United States did not extend in any significant way to the rest of the world. Even in Eastern Europe, industrialization lagged far behind. Russia, for example, remained largely rural and agricultural, and its autocratic rulers kept the peasants in serfdom.
The concept of Central Europe was already known at the beginning of the 19th century, but its real life began in the 20th century and immediately became an object of intensive interest. However, the very first concept mixed science, politics and economy – it was strictly connected with intensively growing German economy and its aspirations to dominate a part of European continent called Mitteleuropa. The German term denoting Central Europe was so fashionable that other languages started referring to it when indicating territories from Rhine to Vistula, or even Dnieper, and from the Baltic Sea to the Balkans. An example of that-time vision of Central Europe may be seen in J. Partsch's book of 1903.
On 21 January 1904, Mitteleuropäischer Wirtschaftsverein (Central European Economic Association) was established in Berlin with economic integration of Germany and Austria–Hungary (with eventual extension to Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands) as its main aim. Another time, the term Central Europe became connected to the German plans of political, economic and cultural domination. The "bible" of the concept was Friedrich Naumann's book Mitteleuropa in which he called for an economic federation to be established after World War I. Naumann's idea was that the federation would have at its centre Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire but would also include all European nations outside the Triple Entente. The concept failed after the German defeat in World War I and the dissolution of Austria-Hungary. The revival of the idea may be observed during the Hitler era.
Interwar Central Europe according to Emmanuel de Martonne (1927)
CE countries, Sourcebook of Central European Avant-Gardes 1910–1930 (L.A. County Museum of Art)
According to Emmanuel de Martonne, in 1927 the Central European countries included: Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Switzerland. The author uses both Human and Physical Geographical features to define Central Europe, but he doesn't take into account the legal development, or the social, cultural, economic, infrastructural developments in these countries.
The interwar period (1918–1939) brought a new geopolitical system, as well as economic and political problems, and the concept of Central Europe took on a different character. The centre of interest was moved to its eastern part – the countries that have (re)appeared on the map of Europe: Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland. Central Europe ceased to be the area of German aspiration to lead or dominate and became a territory of various integration movements aiming at resolving political, economic and national problems of "new" states, being a way to face German and Soviet pressures. However, the conflict of interests was too big and neither Little Entente nor Intermarium (Międzymorze) ideas succeeded.
The interwar period brought new elements to the concept of Central Europe. Before World War I, it embraced mainly German states (Germany, Austria), non-German territories being an area of intended German penetration and domination – German leadership position was to be the natural result of economic dominance. After the war, the Eastern part of Central Europe was placed at the centre of the concept. At that time the scientists took an interest in the idea: the International Historical Congress in Brussels in 1923 was committed to Central Europe, and the 1933 Congress continued the discussions.
Hungarian scholar Magda Ádám wrote in her study Versailles System and Central Europe (2006): "Today we know that the bane of Central Europe was the Little Entente, military alliance of Czechoslovakia, Romania and Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia), created in 1921 not for Central Europe's cooperation nor to fight German expansion, but in a wrong perceived notion that a completely powerless Hungary must be kept down".
The avant-garde movements of Central Europe were an essential part of modernism's evolution, reaching its peak throughout the continent during the 1920s. The Sourcebook of Central European avantgards (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) contains primary documents of the avant-gardes in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, and Poland from 1910 to 1930. The manifestos and magazines of Western European radical art circles are well known to Western scholars and are being taught at primary universities of their kind in the western world.
Mitteleuropa may refer to an historical concept, or to a contemporary German definition of Central Europe. As an historical concept, the German term Mitteleuropa (or alternatively its literal translation into English, Middle Europe) is an ambiguous German concept. It is sometimes used in English to refer to an area somewhat larger than most conceptions of 'Central Europe'; it refers to territories under Germanic cultural hegemony until World War I (encompassing Austria–Hungary and Germany in their pre-war formations but usually excluding the Baltic countries north of East Prussia). According to Fritz FischerMitteleuropa was a scheme in the era of the Reich of 1871–1918 by which the old imperial elites had allegedly sought to build a system of German economic, military and political domination from the northern seas to the Near East and from the Low Countries through the steppes of Russia to the Caucasus. Later on, professor Fritz Epstein argued the threat of a Slavic "Drang nach Westen" (Western expansion) had been a major factor in the emergence of a Mitteleuropa ideology before the Reich of 1871 ever came into being.
The term "Mitteleuropa" conjures up negative historical associations among some elderly people, although the Germans have not played an exclusively negative role in the region. Most Central European Jews embraced the enlightened German humanistic culture of the 19th century. German-speaking Jews from turn of the 20th century Vienna, Budapest and Prague became representatives of what many consider to be Central European culture at its best, though the Nazi version of "Mitteleuropa" destroyed this kind of culture instead. However, the term "Mitteleuropa" is now widely used again in German education and media without negative meaning, especially since the end of communism. In fact, many people from the new states of Germany do not identify themselves as being part of Western Europe and therefore prefer the term "Mitteleuropa".
Following World War II, large parts of Europe that were culturally and historically Western became part of the Eastern bloc. Czech author Milan Kundera (emigrant to France) thus wrote in 1984 about the "Tragedy of Central Europe" in the New York Review of Books. Consequently, the English term Central Europe was increasingly applied only to the westernmost former Warsaw Pact countries (East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary) to specify them as communist states that were culturally tied to Western Europe. This usage continued after the end of the Warsaw Pact when these countries started to undergo transition.
The post-World War II period brought blocking of research on Central Europe in the Eastern Bloc countries, as its every result proved the dissimilarity of Central Europe, which was inconsistent with the Stalinist doctrine. On the other hand, the topic became popular in Western Europe and the United States, much of the research being carried out by immigrants from Central Europe. At the end of communism, publicists and historians in Central Europe, especially the anti-communist opposition, returned to their research.
According to Karl A. Sinnhuber (Central Europe: Mitteleuropa: Europe Centrale: An Analysis of a Geographical Term) most Central European states were unable to preserve their political independence and became Soviet Satellite Europe. Besides Austria, only the marginal Central European states of Finland and Yugoslavia preserved their political sovereignty to a certain degree, being left out of any military alliances in Europe.
Geopolitical Challenges - Panel on the Future of Europe
Rather than a physical entity, Central Europe is a concept of shared history which contrasts with that of the surrounding regions. The issue of how to name and define the Central European region is subject to debates. Very often, the definition depends on the nationality and historical perspective of its author.
A concept putting the accent on links with the West, especially from the 19th century and the grand period of liberation and formation of Nation-states – this idea is represented by the South-Eastern states, which prefer the enlarged concept of the "East Centre" expressing their links with Western culture.
According to Ronald Tiersky, the 1991 summit held in Visegrád, Hungary and attended by the Polish, Hungarian and Czechoslovak presidents was hailed at the time as a major breakthrough in Central European cooperation, but the Visegrád Group became a vehicle for coordinating Central Europe's road to the European Union, while development of closer ties within the region languished.
Peter J. Katzenstein described Central Europe as a way station in a Europeanization process that marks the transformation process of the Visegrád Group countries in different, though comparable ways. According to him, in Germany's contemporary public discourse "Central European identity" refers to the civilizational divide between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. He says there's no precise, uncontestable way to decide whether the Baltic states, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, and Bulgaria are parts of Central Europe or not.
Multinational empires were a characteristic of Central Europe.Hungary and Poland, small and medium-size states today, were empires during their early histories. The historical Kingdom of Hungary was until 1918 three times larger than Hungary is today, while Poland was the largest state in Europe in the 16th century. Both these kingdoms housed a wide variety of different peoples.
He also thinks that Central Europe is a dynamic historical concept, not a static spatial one. For example, Lithuania, a fair share of Belarus and western Ukraine are in Eastern Europe today, but 230 years ago they were in Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Johnson's study on Central Europe received acclaim and positive reviews in the scientific community. However, according to Romanian researcher Maria Bucur this very ambitious project suffers from the weaknesses imposed by its scope (almost 1600 years of history).
The German Ständige Ausschuss für geographische Namen (Standing Committee on Geographical Names), which develops and recommends rules for the uniform use of geographical names, proposes two sets of boundaries. The first follows international borders of current countries. The second subdivides and includes some countries based on cultural criteria. In comparison to some other definitions, it is broader, including Luxembourg, Croatia, the Baltic states, and in the second sense, parts of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Italy, and France.
The Central European Countries according to Meyers Grosses Taschenlexikon (1999):
Countries usually considered Central European
Central European countries in the broader sense of the term
Countries occasionally considered to be Central European
Middle Europe (Brockhaus Enzyklopädie, 1998)
Central Europe according to Swansea University professors Robert Bideleux and Ian Jeffries (1998)
Central Europe, as defined by E. Schenk (1950)
Central Europe, according to Alice F. A. Mutton in Central Europe. A Regional and Human Geography (1961)
Central Europe according to Meyers Enzyklopaedisches Lexikon (1980)
The comprehension of the concept of Central Europe is an ongoing source of controversy, though the Visegrád Group constituents are almost always included as de facto C.E. countries. Although views on which countries belong to Central Europe are vastly varied, according to many sources (see section Current views on Central Europe) the region includes the states listed in the sections below.
Depending on context, Central European countries are sometimes grouped as Eastern or Western European countries, collectively or individually but some place them in Eastern Europe instead: for instance Austria can be referred to as Central European, as well as Eastern European or Western European.
The Baltic states, geographically in Northern Europe, have been considered part of Central Europe in the German tradition of the term, Mitteleuropa. Benelux countries are generally considered a part of Western Europe, rather than Central Europe. Nevertheless, they are occasionally mentioned in the Central European context due to cultural, historical and linguistic ties.
The following states or some of their regions may sometimes be included in Central Europe:
At times, the term "Central Europe" denotes a geographic definition as the Danube region in the heart of the continent, including the language and culture areas which are today included in the states of Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and usually also Austria and Germany, but never Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union towards the Ural mountains.
Population density (people per km2) by country, 2018
Central Europe is one of the continent's most populous regions. It includes countries of varied sizes, ranging from tiny Liechtenstein to Germany, the largest European country by population (that is entirely placed in Europe). Demographic figures for countries entirely located within notion of Central Europe ("the core countries") number around 165 million people, out of which around 82 million are residents of Germany. Other populations include: Poland with around 38.5 million residents,Czech Republic at 10.5 million,Hungary at 10 million,Austria with 8.8 million, Switzerland with 8.5 million,Serbia at 7.1 million,Slovakia at 5.4 million,Croatia with its 4.3 million residents, Slovenia at 2 million (2014 estimate) and Liechtenstein at a bit less than 40,000.
If the countries which are occasionally included in Central Europe were counted in, partially or in whole – Romania (20 million), Lithuania (2.9 million), Latvia (2 million), Estonia (1.3 million) – it would contribute to the rise of between 25–35 million, depending on whether regional or integral approach was used. If smaller, western and eastern historical parts of Central Europe would be included in the demographic corpus, further 20 million people of different nationalities would also be added in the overall count, it would surpass the 200 million people figure.
Currently, the members of the Eurozone include Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland use their currencies (Croatian kuna, Czech koruna, Hungarian forint, Polish złoty), but are obliged to adopt the Euro. Switzerland uses its own currency – Swiss franc, Serbia too (Serbian dinar).
Human Development Index
World map by quartiles of Human Development Index in 2013.
Industrialisation occurred early in Central Europe. That caused construction of rail and other types of infrastructure.
Rail network density.
Central Europe contains the continent's earliest railway systems, whose greatest expansion was recorded in Austro-Hungarian and German territories between 1860-1870s. By the mid-19th century Berlin, Vienna, and Buda/Pest were focal points for network lines connecting industrial areas of Saxony, Silesia, Bohemia, Moravia and Lower Austria with the Baltic (Kiel, Szczecin) and Adriatic (Rijeka, Trieste). Rail infrastructure in Central Europe remains the densest in the world. Railway density, with total length of lines operated (km) per 1,000 km2, is the highest in the Czech Republic (198.6), Poland (121.0), Slovenia (108.0), Germany (105.5), Hungary (98.7), Serbia (87.3), Slovakia (73.9) and Croatia (72.5). when compared with most of Europe and the rest of the world.
River transport and canals
Before the first railroads appeared in the 1840s, river transport constituted the main means of communication and trade. Earliest canals included Plauen Canal (1745), Finow Canal, and also Bega Canal (1710) which connected Timișoara to Novi Sad and Belgrade via Danube. The most significant achievement in this regard was the facilitation of navigability on Danube from the Black sea to Ulm in the 19th century.
Compared to most of Europe, the economies of Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland tend to demonstrate high complexity. Industrialisation has reached Central Europe relatively early: Luxembourg and Germany by 1860, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Switzerland by 1870, Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia by 1880.
Central European countries are some of the most significant food producers in the world. Germany is the world's largest hops producer with 34.27% share in 2010, third producer of rye and barley, 5th rapeseed producer, sixth largest milk producer, and fifth largest potato producer. Poland is the world's largest triticale producer, second largest producer of raspberry, currant, third largest of rye, the fifth apple and buckwheat producer, and seventh largest producer of potatoes. The Czech Republic is world's fourth largest hops producer and 8th producer of triticale. Hungary is world's fifth hops and seventh largest triticale producer. Serbia is world's second largest producer of plums and second largest of raspberries. Slovenia is world's sixth hops producer.
Central European business has a regional organisation, Central European Business Association (CEBA), founded in 1996 in New York as a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting business opportunities within Central Europe and supporting the advancement of professionals in America with a Central European background.
Central European countries, especially Austria, Croatia, Germany and Switzerland are some of the most competitive tourism destinations. Poland is presently a major destination for outsourcing.
The first university east of France and north of the Alps was the Charles University in Prague established in 1347 or 1348 by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and modeled on the University of Paris, with the full number of faculties (law, medicine, philosophy and theology). The list of Central Europe's oldest universities in continuous operation, established by 1500, include (by their dates of foundation):
The Central European University (CEU) is a graduate-level, English-language university promoting a distinctively Central European perspective. It was established in 1991 by the Hungarian philanthropist George Soros, who has provided an endowment of US$880 million, making the university one of the wealthiest in Europe. In the academic year 2013/2014, the CEU had 1,381 students from 93 countries and 388 faculty members from 58 countries.
Central European major Christian denomination is Catholicism (map) as well as large Protestant populations
Jews in Central Europe (1881)
Central European countries are mostly Catholic (Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia) or mixed Catholic and Protestant, (Germany and Switzerland). Large Protestant groups include Lutheran and Calvinist. Significant populations of Eastern Catholicism and Old Catholicism are also prevalent throughout Central Europe. Central Europe has been a centre of Protestantism in the past; however, it has been mostly eradicated by the Counterreformation. The Czech Republic (Bohemia) was historically the first Protestant country, then violently recatholised, and now overwhelmingly non-religious, nevertheless the largest number of religious people are Catholic (10.3%). Romania and Serbia are mostly Eastern Orthodox with significant Protestant and Catholic minorities.
In some of these countries, there is a number of atheists, undeclared and non-religious people: the Czech Republic (non-religious 34.2% and undeclared 45.2%), Germany (non-religious 38%), Slovenia (atheist 30.2%), Luxembourg (25% non-religious), Switzerland (20.1%), Hungary (27.2% undeclared, 16.7% "non-religious" and 1.5% atheists), Slovakia (atheists and non-religious 13.4%, "not specified" 10.6%) Austria (19.7% of "other or none"), Liechtenstein (10.6% with no religion), Croatia (4%) and Poland (3% of non-believers/agnostics and 1% of undeclared).
Human rights have a long tradition in Central Europe. In 1222 Hungary defined for the first time the rights of the nobility in its "Golden Bull". In 1264 the Statute of Kalisz and the General Charter of Jewish Liberties introduced numerous rights for the Jews in Poland, granting them de facto autonomy. In 1783 for the first time, Poland forbid corporal punishment of children in schools. In the same year, a German state of Baden banned slavery.
On the other hand, there were also major regressions, such as "Nihil novi" in Poland in 1505 which forbade peasants from leaving their land without permission from their feudal lord.
Generally, the countries in the region are progressive on the issue of human rights: death penalty is illegal in all of them, corporal punishment is outlawed in most of them and people of both genders can vote in elections. Nevertheless, Central European countries struggle to adopt new generations of human rights, such as same-sex marriage. Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Poland also have a history of participation in the CIA's extraordinary rendition and detention program, according to the Open Society Foundation.
There is a whole spectrum of media active in the region: newspapers, television and internet channels, radio channels, internet websites etc.
Central European media are regarded as free, according to the Press Freedom Index, although the situation in Poland, Hungary and Croatia is described as "problematic". Some of the top scoring countries in Press Freedom Index are in Central Europe include:
Switzerland (position 7)
Austria (position 11)
Germany (position 16)
Slovakia (position 17)
Czech Republic (position 23)
Liechtenstein (position 32)
Slovenia (position 37)
Poland (position 54)
Hungary (position 71)
Croatia (position 74)
Serbia (position 76)
There is a number of Central European Sport events and leagues. They include:
Football is one of the most popular sports. Countries of Central Europe had many great national teams throughout history and hosted several major competitions.
Yugoslavia hosted UEFA Euro 1976 before the competition expanded to 8 teams and Germany (at that times as West Germany) hosted UEFA Euro 1988. Recently, 2008 and 2012 UEFA European Championships were held in Austria & Switzerland and Poland & Ukraine respectively.
Germany hosted 2 FIFA World Cups (1974 and 2006) and are the current champions (as of 2014).
Central Europe is a birthplace of regional political organisations:
Central Europe is a home to some of world's oldest democracies. However, most of them have been impacted by totalitarian rule, particularly Nazism (Germany, Austria, Croatia, other occupied countries) and Communism. Most of Central Europe have been occupied and later allied with the USSR, often against their will through forged referendum (e.g., Polish people's referendum in 1946) or force (northeast Germany, Poland, Hungary et alia). Nevertheless, these experiences have been dealt in most of them. Most of Central European countries score very highly in the Democracy Index:
Switzerland (position 6)
Germany (position 13)
Austria (position 14)
Czech Republic (position 25)
Slovenia (position 37)
Poland (position 40)
Slovakia (position 45)
Croatia (position 50)
Hungary (position 51)
Serbia (position 57)
Liechtenstein (not listed)
Global Peace Index
Global Peace Index Scores.
In spite of its turbulent history, Central Europe is currently one of world's safest regions. Most Central European countries are in top 20%:
Austria (position 3)
Switzerland (position 5)
Czech Republic (position 11)
Slovenia (position 14)
Germany (position 17)
Slovakia (position 19)
Poland (position 23)
Hungary (position 22)
Serbia (position 23)
Croatia (position 26)
Liechtenstein (not listed)
Central European Time
Central European Time Zone (dark red)
The time zone used in most parts of the European Union is a standard time which is 1 hour ahead of Coordinated Universal Time. It is commonly called Central European Time because it has been first adopted in central Europe (by year):
Central Europe is mentioned in 35th episode of Lovejoy, entitled "The Prague Sun", filmed in 1992. While walking over the famous Charles Bridge, the main character, Lovejoy says: " I've never been to Prague before. Well, it is one of the great unspoiled cities in Central Europe. Notice: I said: "Central", not "Eastern"! The Czechs are a bit funny about that, they think of Eastern Europeans as turnip heads."
^ abJordan, Peter (2005). "Großgliederung Europas nach kulturräumlichen Kriterien" [The large-scale division of Europe according to cultural-spatial criteria]. Europa Regional. Leipzig: Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde (IfL). 13 (4): 162–173. Retrieved 21 January 2019 – via Ständiger Ausschuss für geographische Namen (StAGN).
^ abSinnhuber, Karl A. (1 January 1954). "Central Europe: Mitteleuropa: Europe Centrale: An Analysis of a Geographical Term". Transactions and Papers (Institute of British Geographers) (20): 15–39. doi:10.2307/621131. JSTOR621131.
^Jerzy Kłoczowski, Actualité des grandes traditions de la cohabitation et du dialogue des cultures en Europe du Centre-Est, in: L'héritage historique de la Res Publica de Plusieurs Nations, Lublin 2004, pp. 29–30 ISBN83-85854-82-7
^Oskar Halecki, The Limits and Divisions of European History, Sheed & Ward: London and New York 1950, chapter VII
^Joachim W. Stieber: "Pope Eugenius IV, the Council of Basel and the secular and ecclesiastical authorities in the Empire: the conflict over supreme authority and power in the church", Studies in the history of Christian thought, Vol. 13, Brill, 1978, ISBN90-04-05240-2, p.82; Gustav Stolper: "German Realities", Read Books, 2007, ISBN1-4067-0839-9, p. 228; George Henry Danton: "Germany ten years after", Ayer Publishing, 1928, ISBN0-8369-5693-1, p. 210; Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius: "The German Myth of the East: 1800 to the Present", Oxford Studies in Modern European History Series, Oxford University Press, 2009, ISBN0-19-954631-2, p. 109; Levi Seeley: "History of Education", BiblioBazaar, ISBN1-103-39196-8, p. 141
Jacques Rupnik, "In Search of Central Europe: Ten Years Later", in Gardner, Hall, with Schaeffer, Elinore & Kobtzeff, Oleg, (ed.), Central and South-central Europe in Transition, Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2000 (translated from French by Oleg Kobtzeff)
Article 'Mapping Central Europe' in hidden europe, 5, pp. 14–15 (November 2005)