CENTRAL EASTERN EUROPE AND THE BALKANS
The problems of nations and their mutual relationships compelled me to compare the problem of nations in the central Eastern Europe and in the Balkans. The result of these reflections, which regard the problem of nations in the 19. and 20. century in both of these pans of Europe, is firstly that when we analyze the influence and the consequences of the national factor, we can also talk about their similarity. The essential important characteristic is the lack of political stability, frequent change of borders, and numerous armed conflicts. Also there is enormous violence, often cruel, a large number of people who were killed only because of their nationality, persecuted, deported, or who fled their home in fear of persecution.
The difference between these regions is primarily in the fact that in the Balkans these changes took place in the first decades of the 19. century, a few decades before they occurred in the central Eastern Europe. The reason for this can be found in the following phenomena: the decay of the Ottoman Empire started at the beginning of the 19th century, and continued for about a hundred years, while the disintegration of the Romanoff and Habsburg Empires was abrupt and caused by World War I.
I think that causes for destructive phenomena in the central Eastern Europe and in the Balkans, which depend on the national factor are the following:
1) The processes of creating nations were behind those of the Western Europe;
2) The region we are interested in included before the World War II countries inhabited by 18 nations;
3) Nations creating processes implied the creation of national states not by uniting of separate political groups, as was the case in the 19th century when Germany and Italy were created, but by separation from the existing state organisms, often in opposition to them and the nations which identified themselves with them;
4) Before World War I, most of the regions of the central Eastern Europe (it was different in the Balkans) were occupied by multinational states, and yet countries that emerged after this war were not nationally homogenous.
5) Nationally non - homogenous states, but also the existence of numerous regions where two or more large nations existed; was a characteristic of the central Eastern Europe, and still is.
6) National divisions were at the same time social and class divisions. Owners of big estates which were the remains of feudalism often were of a different nationality than the peasants. The second characteristic of the social structure was the frequent radical difference between the nationality of the city and village population.
7) In countries that were not nationally homogenous very often backwardness and economic difficulties. had negative influence on the relationships between nations.
8) Differences between nations and social differences were often related with religion.
9) Aforementioned factors significantly increased xenophobic attitudes. They were followed by negative stereotypes, which explained them and strengthened them. Xenophobic feelings exploded in favorable circumstances, especially at times of war, bringing about various forms of physical aggression.
10) Xenophobia and negative stereotypes created fertile ground for the expansion of nationalistic movements. The nationalist concept of a national state, according to which only the members of one nation should be full-fledged citizens, had increasing influence on the policy of the government in almost all states.
11) The discrimination of national minorities intensified inner tensions and the antagonism between peoples. The system of protection of national minorities, created after the Second World War, proved to be inefficient.
12) The destructive phenomena, related to the national factor, were created with the help of the lack of liberal and democratic traditions.
13) The geopolitical situation of these numerous and, with certain exceptions, small peoples and states, created the situation where they were the objects and not the subjects of great international politics.
14) There was a constant feeling that the existence of the nation and the state is threatened by another nation or state. This was constantly followed by suspicion, frustration and aggression toward other nations.
15 ) The fact that almost all nations were, for a long time, the object of discrimination and persecution, induces a vivid historic memory about the injustices done by other nations and becomes a permanent, although sometimes dormant, element of the national consciousness.
The history of the part of the world of interest to us leads us sometimes, to reflect that, under its influence, a special frame of mind is formed here which acts upon her. The tendency was not rare, and it is still widespread, which attributes a common mentality to the common national character of the Balkan peoples. Each nation aspires to make their state a nationally homogenous state by overt struggle. Aforementioned reflections deserve to be paid some attention, regardless of the suspicion which is caused by the use of the term "national character", especially when we attempt to describe phenomena which represent the subject of this papa.