Correspondence

Speaking of “Eastern Europe”

Apart from Iceland, a European country lying far out in the North Atlantic, the east-west extremes of Europe are Ireland’s coast at 10 degrees west longitude and Russia’s Ural Mountains at 60 degrees east.  Twenty-five degrees east is the central meridian of these 70 degrees of longitude, and Poland, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic are all situated to the west of it.  Before World War II, these countries had always been truthfully referred to as Central Europe.  Therefore, to speak of any of them as “Eastern Europe” is to perpetrate a falsehood, one that was repeated incessantly from the end of World War II in 1945 to the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991 by Soviet propagandists as well as Western journalists, academics, politicians, and statesmen, and is still found today in Western publications, a quarter-century later.

Referring to these countries as Eastern Europe has served various interests.  Soviet propagandists initiated the falsehood—which ranks alongside Lenin’s appropriation of the Russian word bolshevik (“majority”) for his national minority party—to make it appear that Soviet colonization of Central Europe after World War II was no menace to Western countries, even though the border between West and East Germany, which marked the farthest penetration of the Soviet empire into Central Europe, was 1,150 miles from Moscow...

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