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Goodbye Eastern Europe

An Almost Forgotten History

Jacob Mikanowski

Eastern Europe is disappearing. Not off the map of course, but as an idea.

Today it calls to mind a jumble of post-Soviet states paved over with C&A and McDonald’s. We could describe Eastern Europe as a group of twenty nations – but why? For most of their history, they weren’t nations at all.

The region is more than the sum total of its annexations, invasions and independence declarations. Eastern Europe abounds with peoples tied together by tragicomic twists of fate. Lives could be turned upside down by distant decrees from Vienna or Istanbul, or just as easily by a stubborn bureaucrat in your village. In twentieth-century Knust, you could live in six different countries without ever leaving your house. You could get married any day, but buying a teakettle was a singular event.

Goodbye Eastern Europe is a eulogy for a world we are losing, a vanishing culture of polytheism, vampires, sacred groves, and movable borders.

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