Eighteen years have passed since ten countries from Central & Eastern Europe joined the European Union and more than three decades since the Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989 - but ignorance about what is popularly still called Eastern Europe is as widespread as ever. Slovenia still gets mixed up with Slovakia, the Slavs remain a mystery in a Europe apparently dominated by Romanic and Germanic nations and a country like the Czech Republic is labelled as Eastern European, although one needs to travel west to get from Vienna to Prague. First published in 2009 under the title What's so eastern about Eastern Europe?, this book is much more than a revised and updated version of the first edition.
Its presentation of the political and cultural history of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, written in an accessible language is now complemented with recent developments in the region. The new edition digs into the reasons behind the illiberal turn in Poland, Hungary and elsewhere, putting the alleged democratic backslide into the wider context of European populism. Leon Marc offers a new and fresh perspective in explaining the roots of populism and social conservativism in the region, which the book sees in a mixture of historical factors, economic conditions, the heavy burden of Communist legacy, as well as a reaction to contemporary social developments in the West.
Drawing on a wide range of literature, the book calls for more sensibility to these underlying causes, critical examination of the true European values, and for a coalition of defenders of Humanism and Judeo-Christian tradition as key pillars of its identity, in order to save Europe and its liberal democracy. This updated and expanded edition contains a brand new chapter bringing this book up to date with recent events, including Covid-19 and the Ukrainian conflict.