Political actors from many different countries locate their home country as a unique transition point between the East and the West. The terms east and west have become highly symbolic, yet also have a relative meaning, since every place is east of somewhere, and west of somewhere else. What gives this banal cliche such irresistible attraction? How does East-West symbolism interact with other symbolic geographies? This book examines East-West rhetoric in several different historical contexts, seeking to problematize its implicit assumptions and analyse its consequences, particularly in parts of Europe where political actors conflate local geography with symbolic Easts and Wests. The various contributions to the book provide an overview of East-West discourses in scholarly writing; trace the medieval origins of European East-West symbolism; and discuss East-West discourses in nineteenth-century Germany, interwar Poland, Yugoslavia and Transylvania, twentieth-century Finland, Turkey in the late Cold War and post-Communist Belarus.
Alexander Maxwell completed his PhD in Madison, Wisconsin. In 2007, he joined the history programme at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, where he directs the Antipodean East European Study Group. He is the author of Choosing Slovakia: Slavic Hungary, the Czechoslovak Language and Accidental Nationalism, and has translated into English Jan Kollar's Wechselseitigkeit. He has also published several articles on Hungary, Macedonia, Poland, Pan-Slavism, nationalism, linguistic politics and history pedagogy.