"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
Inspired by the example of historian Eric Hobsbawm's grand syntheses of European history, Berend (History/Univ. of Calif., Los Angeles) applies a similar method to exploring the tumultuous history of Central and Eastern Europe during the first half of this century. First published in Berend's native Hungary, the study was expanded for its English-language publication. The result is wide-ranging, both in the variety of areas examined and in geographical scope. At its core is an appraisal of the revolutionary forces that, since the turn of the century, have steered social, political, and economic trends in the region toward nationalism, fascism, communism, and right-wing dictatorships, while also creating a parallel upheaval in culture and the arts. The effects of railroad development and economic nationalism are discussed by Berend, who is a specialist in economic history, along with Kandinsky, Sch"nberg, and Jugendstil. Although it serves his purpose of highlighting the revolutionary character of the period, the author's inclusion of Russia seems off, since Central and Eastern Europe ordinarily are considered a distinct geopolitical unit. At the same time, Berend discusses only minimally such other countries as Slovenia and Bulgaria; his main interest is Romania and Czechoslovakia, along with Russia and Hungary. His study also contains additional flaws. Foremost among these is an overall cursory attitude; the book is too general for the experts, who will want more than just a learned rehashing of familiar territory, and too vague for the general reader, who is searching for depth and analysis. The chapters on artistic movements and on communism are particularly weak, with considerationsof familiar figures and -isms reading like formulaic encyclopedia entries. Berend's strikingly dry narrative style doesn't help to enliven his rich material, although the book's 94 photographs do.