Pariahs and Favorites in East Central Europernby Ewa M. Thompsonrn”How horrible, fantastic, incredible, it is that we should be diggingrntrenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a faraway countryrnbetween people of whom we know nothing.”rn—Neville ChamberlainrnPersons with roots in Central and Eastern Europe knowrnthat to speak with minimal competence about that partrnof the world requires making a distinction between East CentralrnEurope (Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Lithuania,rnLatvia, Estonia, and Slovakia), the Balkans (the former Yugoslavia,rnBulgaria, Romania, Albania, partly Crcece), and thernpost-Soviet states of Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine. EastrnCentral Europe is as different from the Balkans as Canada isrnfrom Argentina.rnSince the times of Neville Chamberlain, not much hasrnchanged in Western consciousness regarding this region. It stillrnconsists of faraway lands of which we know nothing. Or rather,rnAmericans know enough to blame them (as well as the Balkans)rnfor triggering two world wars and generally makingrntrouble for the Western world. Hence the undercurrent ofrnsympathy toward the Russian czars and commissars whosernmission has been to constrain these unruly folks between thernOder and the Dnieper rivers.rnThe professed ignorance about East Central Europe, whichrnChamberlain’s statement exemplifies, is a bit duplicitous.rnEven such American pooh-bahs as I lelmut Sonnenfeldt, whornliwa M. Thompson is a professor of Slavic Studies at RicernUniversity.rnonce advocated merging East Central Europe with Russia,rnhave known that before the 1945 Yalta agreements, Russiansrnhad never dominated all of today’s Poland, Czechia, Slovakia,rnor Hungary. Civilizationally, the great divide between Polandrnand Russia has not been breached, as Samuel P. Huntingtonrnreminds us in his essay “The Clash of Civilizations?” {ForeignrnAffairs, Summer 1993). Yet the Sonnenfeldt “doctrine,” conceivedrnwhen the Soviet Union was a superpower, advocatedrndisregarding that divide and urged the West to give up onrn90 million people east of the Elbe River—a classic case ofrnwhat James Burnham once called “the contraction of thernWest.”rnWestern European powers have had a hand in underminingrnEast Central European states and replacing them withrnmultinational empires, while at the same time guarding andrnnurturing their own territorial, cultural, and linguistic identities.rnThen the triumphant nationalists of Western Europe andrnthe United States accused East Central Europe of nationalism.rnThe causes and consequences of the slicing of the Polish-rnLithuanian Commonwealth into three parts in 1795 are to thisrnday glaringly omitted from the textbooks of Western Europeanrnhistory, as if that event did not presage a new dynamic amongrnEuropean states by bringing Russia into the equation and extendingrnher borders dangerously westward. Edmund Burkern22/CHRONICLESrnrnrn