Oh boy, I should not have mentioned that. Now it is distracting from the main topic. So, I guess, I might as well clarify.
My dear East Europeans,
Some of you are, apparently, quite offended and appalled by my words about you not being European at all. What you are missing is that I don’t consider myself European either, nor do I consider Russia as part of Europe. Had you realized this you would have understood that I don’t consider being European some kind of honor which confers some higher quality. In fact, readers of this blog know that I am very critical of many aspects of European history and culture.
This offended reaction is, I am sorry to say, often an expression of a deep seated inferiority complex, expressed quite clearly by the assumption that if I say that somebody is not European I dismiss, denigrate, disparage or otherwise disrespect him/her. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Take Russia which I don’t consider European at all. I have always said that we, Russians, are much closer to our Kazakh, Avar, Tatar or Buriat brothers than to Germans or French people. I would even argue that we are closer to the Asian people than to the European, even though our skin is white. And while the Russian elites have always had an inferiority complex before Europe and wanted to turn Russia into a European country, most of us have never felt that way.
[Sidebar: please consider this: do you know how the Slavs call Germans? “Nemtsy”. This word means “the one who does not speak (our language)”. I don’t believe for one second that this label of “the one who does not speak our language” was applied to the Germans only for linguistic reasons (if so, why would the Slavs have chosen this specific non-Slavic language over all the others?). It was primarily a recognition of a cultural chasm.]
There is nothing wrong with central or eastern “Europe” nor is there anything wrong with the Balkans. By calling them non European I express only two things: a) the fact that I don’t believe that the continent of Europe and the culture of Europe have the same borders and b) the fact that I know for a fact that most West Europeans (culture) will never recognize East Europeans (geography) as part of “their” culture (just like most Europeans will never recognize Russia or the Balkans as part of “their” culture). At most, they will accept them as junior partners.
So, my dear East “Europeans” – is that what you strive for? Being the junior partner of the West Europeans? That, of course, is your decision.
But I would recommend that you start taking pride in your own culture and stop trying to prove to “core Europeans” that you are European too. Not only is it futile – it is also humiliating.
PS: just to drive you all bonkers – there are at least two “European” cultures. The northern, Germanic, one and the Mediterranean one. The former invaded and subjugated the latter even though the latter is much more ancient and does, really, have roots in the Roman and Greek civilizations. What is called the “European” culture today has its roots in the Frankish Empire which has no Roman roots at all and which subjugated and persecuted the ancient Mediterranean civilization of what is southern Europe today. In other words, modern “core Europe” is not only not a heir to Rome at all, it is its antithesis. I very dubious ‘honor’, imho. Just saying…
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