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WHY BOTHER ABOUT HISTORICAL REGIONS?: DEBATES OVER CENTRAL EUROPE IN HUNGARY, POLAND AND ROMANIA

In: East Central Europe
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MACIEJ JANOWSKI
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CONSTANTIN IORDACHI
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BALÁZS TRENCSÉNYI
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Abstract: The article analyzes the ways in which the concept of Central Europe and related regional classifications were instrumentalized in historical research in Hungary, Poland and Romania. While Hungarian and Polish historians employed the discourse of Central Europe as a central means to contextualize and often relativize established national historical narratives, their geographical frameworks of comparison were nevertheless fairly divergent, the Hungarian one relating to the former Habsburg and Austro-Hungarian lands while the Polish one revolving around the tradition of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth. Romanian historians approached the issue from the perspective of local history, debating two alternative regional frameworks: the Old Kingdom, treated as part of the Byzantine and Ottoman legacies, and Transylvania, Bukovina and the Banat that were shaped by the Habsburg project of modernity. In the Romanian context the debate on Central Europe reached its peak at a time when it lost relevance in the Polish and Hungarian contexts. While conceding to recent critiques on the constructed and often exclusivist nature of symbolic geographical categories, the authors maintain the heuristic value of regional frameworks of interpretation as models of historical explanation transcending the nation-state at sub-national or trans-national level.

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