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LOOKING FOR THE BORDER BETWEEN EAST AND WEST.
NATIONALISM AND POTENTIAL TERRITORY CLAIMS
IN EASTERN EUROPE
Oh, East is East, and West is West,
and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently
at God’s great Judgement Seat.
R. Kipling «The Ballad of East and West»
In the culture of the majority of nations inhabiting Eurasia the stereotype of dividing the greatest land monolith into East and West has taken shape and developed during centuries. This stereotype has in its core the concept fixed in ideology guidelines on initial «singularity», cultural opposition of people inhabiting these two geographic integral parts.
The existence of this concept deep inside the contemporary Eurasia1 mass consciousness manifests itself in several important signs.
First, more or less definite self reflection of Eurasia nations, as of what geographic integral part they belong to, indicates that the stage of fixed ideology opposition has been achieved both in the West and in the East. «We in the East are accustomed to…», «our West civilization values»- many of these cliches can be mentioned denoting the existence of fixed positive self identification of people with these notions. That means that both integral units accept such division and, besides, feel not only and not so much bound opposition to the outside force as some straight inner accord.
Second, the East-West opposition became a general practice. These terms are common in all levels of information field ranging from domestic to political and scientific use.
All other social-psychological constants dividing people in their own eyes on «us» and «them» do not have so much pronounced geographic ties – neither classes, nor confession, nor trade, nor even ethnic groups. It is just natural for a geographer to challenge the question where the East ends and the West begins? Is there a border between them? The terms themselves denoting the opposition poles imply that they form some continuum not allowing existence of one pole without the other. It is general knowledge in geography that in the current territory of Eurasia there is no uninhabited zone stretching from one shore of the continent to the other. General historical facts prove that during centuries people from East and West had numerous mass contacts. Therefore, there can not but exist such a border (zone of contacts). Evidently, this border should be pretty extraordinary. If it exists, what does it seem to be, and is it possible at some circumstances to become a political one? The study proves to be very complex by the fact, that this border is of the sort that sooner divides minds and souls, rather than countries, territories and all material objects on the land. This border can not be marked on the ground digging the ditch or building a wall. Nobody can definitely say where the border is.
The main working hypothesis for us is the suggestion that the concept of two worlds in Europe, if not hostile, but civilly completely different has existed for many centuries, which could not but influence on particularity of modern political mass conscience. The task of present study we consider as determining the main influence tools of the East-West ideology split on current or future political–geographic shifts. We believe necessary to determine to what extent the geographic split of mass political conscience can influence on current political borders changes.
To solve the set task it is necessary to define the object and the subject of the study, that is to answer to two questions:
Where the contact zone should be sought?
What political force can stand as the main tool of potential political-geographic shifts under the influence of the civilized split?
In order to answer the first question we’ll refer, as expert values, to the opinions of great scholars working in various scientific fields.
East–West Contact Zone
Halford Mackinder at the turn of this century, as well as some other representatives of geopolitical school of classic geostrategy, divided the political world into «people of sea» and «people of land», based on the direct influence of geographic location on potential power of states. Mackinder saw Eastern Europe as the territory, control over which is essential to gain the world supremacy or, at least, to dominate in the world politics. The struggle for this territory is waged by Heartland, the domain of «people of land»(associated chiefly with Russia, and before with USSR, Russian Empire, Mongol Empire), and the coastland band of states, which in different times and to different extent were and still are under control of Western Europe and USA.
L.N. Gumilev, in contrast to the above mentioned school, was in the least concerned with political results and their causes. Nevertheless, his theory of ethnogeny and particularly the concept of super ethnical alliances also reason the existence of some civilized conflict. From his point of view Eastern Europe is the interaction arena for at least two super ethnic alliances – West European or Christian world and Eurasia super ethnos.
S. Huntington speaking about «clash of civilizations» also points to Eastern Europe zone as the frontier. The list of authors could be continued.
Though the concept grounds and terminology could be different, all authors have the main confronting Eurasia alliances geographically essentially similar. All of them point to the Eastern Europe territory as the zone of contact and historical confrontation of alliances which could be identified with concepts of East and West.
Actual politics also not once marked these frontiers. Among latest bright examples are the League of Nations’ «sanitary cordon», notorious «iron curtain» – all these are in Eastern Europe. And the very current situation with anxiety of «Eastern Block» states to convert into the former enemy camp of NATO without Russia, the «elder brother» – isn’t it the civilized split zone indicator?
Thus, the choice of Eastern Europe and some neighboring lands, as the object of our study is seen quite valid. The boundaries of the object are, as follows: continental part of Europe, including Scandinavia peninsula and adjoining islands in the North; the Urals mountains and Ural river bordering Europe in the East; continental Europe with adjoining islands limited by the Kuma-Manych hollow in the South; the line Rein – Alps – Italian – Slovenian border in the West.
To answer the question on potential political carriers of the civilized split we have to find subjects meeting three criteria:
fixed carrier of the East-West ideology split;
subject of politics;
capability of mass political mobilization.
The latter condition is essential for the possibility to become a viable political force. Are there such subjects?
We believe, that the only subject meeting all the criteria is a nation.
Nation as a Carrier of the Civilized Split
The definitions of a nation are nearly as much various as the definitions of such notions as culture. They are ranging from narrow radical concepts, distinctive, say, for Marxism, up to maximum general and, therefore, amorphous views, typical for some positivistic scientific schools. Not entering the discussion on nation definitions, we suggest a working definition of a nation, built upon most prevalent approaches. So, based on common views of such scholars in the field of nations and nationalism, as A. Smith, J. Anderson, H. de Blij, G. Gotlieb, E. Hobsbaum and P. Taylor, we’ll understand a nation as an ethnos, having political self identification signified by a common political demand /24,33,34,35,36,37/. To define ethnos we’ll use L.N. Gumilev’s definition: «An ethnos is a group (unity) of people naturally (historically) originated, based on ingenious behavior stereotype, existing as the energy system and confronting themselves to other such groups…»/12/. Following Anderson we believe that nations, contrary to the majority of other social alliances, not only occupy a certain territory, but firmly associate themselves with the territory, that is they have the indication of territorial self identification. Note, that national self identification can be directed not only to the territory of the state where current nation representatives live. Thus, Armenia, the motherland of all Armenians, but the majority of the nation lives outside the borders of the state territory; all Kurdistan serves as national territory both for Turkish and Iraqi Curds; Israel is the historical motherland for all Jews etc.
The definition of a nation itself suggests, as one of the foundations, firm contrasting itself to other similar collectives, cultivating the notion of it’s «singularity». We’ll dare suppose, that it is precisely this contrasting closely associated with territorial self identification, that provides the ground for the East-West ideology split. It remains to establish, if the nation being the subject of politics (unlike, for instance, the ethnos) can mobilize its members for actions aimed on the territory repartition.
Political demands shaping the nation usually manifest themselves in the form of nationalistic ideology. And it is nationalistic ideology that serves as the tool of mass political mobilization. How does it come about?
Nationalism as the Specific Case of Ideology
Many scholars, politicians and public figures point out today spreading of nationalistic ideology sphere of influence. Nationalism as other ideologies serves as «type of proof and recognition of the matter based on insufficiently objective and sufficiently subjective grounds»/19/. Any nationalistic doctrine gives clear and simple answers to the questions that the modern science fails to give unambiguous answers.
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