Only by understanding Central and Eastern Europe's turbulent history during the first half of the twentieth century can we hope to make sense of the conflicts and crises that have followed World War II and, after that, the collapse of Soviet-controlled state socialism. Ivan Berend looks closely at the fateful decades preceding World War II and at twelve countries whose absence from the roster of major players was enough in itself, he says, to precipitate much of the turmoil.
As waves of modernization swept over Europe, the less developed countries on the periphery tried with little or no success to imitate Western capitalism and liberalism. Instead they remained, as Berend shows, rural, agrarian societies notable for the tenacious survival of feudal and aristocratic institutions. In that context of frustration and disappointment, rebellion was inevitable. Berend leads the reader skillfully through the maze of social, cultural, economic, and political changes in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Austria, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and the Soviet Union, showing how every path ended in dictatorship and despotism by the start of World War II.
Ivan T. Berend, Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles, is former President of the International Committee of Historical Sciences and former President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1995-2000). He has published widely on the economy and culture of Central and Eastern Europe.
"Like Eric Hobsbawm's masterful histories of economic, social, and cultural change in Europe, Berend's book covers a vast variety of changes, and convincingly shows that they were all related."—Daniel Chirot, author of Modern Tyrants
"A dozen fermenting societies floundering through choppy times are brilliantly brought together in Ivan Berend's informed, lucid and readable account of Central and Eastern Europe before World War II. Berend has achieved a splendid synthesis not to be missed by specialists, yet accessible to the general reader."—Eugen Weber, University of California, Los Angeles
"Berend's work will find an eager audience of European historians, specialists in Central and Eastern Europe, and educated readers among the general population."—David F. Good, author of The Economic Rise of the Habsburg Empire, 1750-1914