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EdItor’s summary - Вишеградская Европа: откуда и куда? Два десятилетия по пути реформ в Венгрии, Польше, Словакии и Чехии

Visegrad Europe: Where From — Where To? Twenty Years on the Path of Reforms in Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Czech Republic. By Lybov Shishelina (Ed.), Nikolai Bukharin, Alexey Drynochkin, Zoya Kuznetsova, Larisa Lukoshina, Yulia Scherbakova. Moscow, VES MIR, 2010. P. 564

Our volume is being published on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the formation of regional cooperation of Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia, so called Visegrad Group or Visegrad Four (V4). But our book is not a story of this regional association or not only such a story. When we speak about Visegrad Europe we mean a unique region of Europe, possessing its specific traditions, mentality, and attitude towards themselves as well as towards their neighbours and the world. Each of the four countries presenting Visegrad Europe has its own visegrad — literally in Slavic languages — fortress on a hill. These ancient kings’ residences symbolize ancient traditions of their national statehoods, their belonginess to unceasing cultural values. Thus, they present the very spirit and the very symbol of this part of Europe. That is why we believe that — the Vishegrad Europe — may pretend to become acceptable as a new, not ideologised name for the region.

Another reason for the use of this name in the title of this book is that it symbolizes the radical character of changes occurred in this part of the continent during recent two decades. At the same time it reflects the character of these changes in mental and political sense. This study is dedicated to multidimensional revolutionary changes, their analyses and estimation by the authors who had devoted many years of their professional life to the studies of history, culture, politics and economics of the countries of the region

One may argue, like the Czechs, the Hungarians, the Poles and the Slovaks themselves the reality of their unity that raised at the break of the world socialist system and in the course of quite chaotic development of new integration processes. One may even say about certain non-evidence of the Visegrad cooperation. Still, there are some facts, which cannot be ignored.

First of all, after the dissolution of socialist structures that once linked the entire region from the Baltic to the Adriatic, it had really broken into two parts: South-Eastern Europe (or the Balkan), and East-Central (or the Visegrad Europe). The preconditions for such a split could be found in socialist past, but these prerequisites were turned into reality with the help of the simultaneous acceptance of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Czech Republic to the European Union. That does not mean, of course, that thus the region had reached its geographical finality. Most probably, some geographical growth and shift might follow in not so distant future.

Secondly, having passed through centuries and different trials that had reached the region either from the East, or from the West, it had really worked out its unforgettable uniqueness, expressing itself through the synthesis of civilization characteristics. As a result here had developed a very keen critical attitude bordering sometimes with sepsis as soon as the discussion of a far-reaching all-European initiatives comes to the forefront. These countries, on the one hand, strive to follow western innovations acquiring latest technologies and political trends, on the other — they show extremely hearty attitude to their own centuries-long traditions, languages and culture. Thus, this region had turned into a quintessence of the western and eastern European, having realized it in its bridge mission for both East and West.

Thirdly. This is the most dynamic region in Eastern Europe not once having showed itself in reform qualities, very much akin to the search of a third way, very much obeyed by mankind, but very strangely called by some critics as the region of catching-up development. Those were the countries of Visegrad Europe where in 1956, 1968 and 1980 the attempts had been made to break with the existing political systems. After their defeat here again have born new plans for changing the societies, existing economic and political relations. This region, having tried to break with one non-organic system had always tried to break through to another, which also did not correspond so much to its ideals. Thus inner contradictions and doubts had always been the driven force of this region. Of a great importance to the region had always been the factor of foreign influence, as well as close economic ties with other parts of Europe. Gradually this factor had become one of the primary significance for the region and did not disappear after its entrance to the European Union. On the contrary it had become of much more importance.

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