István Fried:

The Possibility of Naming

Ever since historians, literary historians, ethnographers, and politicians started to think in regions, sub-regions and "areas", only partly considering state-borders, they more or less agreed (or seemed to agree) that beside (?), instead of (?), parallel to (?) group-formation based on linguistic affinity, other kinds, other types of zone-organizing considerations were also presumable. The debate has been on since that time (sometimes silently, sometimes directed by science, or sometimes driven by various political aspects): where do the borders of Europe, Western Europe, Northern Europe, Southern Europe, South-eastern Europe, Eastern Europe and East Central Europe stretch? Is the Danube-region really a "collective term" of the states, peoples, nations by the Danube, or is it a Europe-Between, an area (?), a political, cultural, economic-geographical unit (?) lying between Eastern and Western, Northern and Southern Europe? This is an attitude characterized rather by some descriptive than determining need, where "interdisciplinary" considerations play little part, those endeavours counting on the constant changes of history, politics, economy and art, and therefore aiming to create a dynamic (and not static, frozen) concept, play far less; and those researches unable to detach from the (art) history of a "national point of view" play probably the least. Like many other things, the naming of regions cannot escape politization, the monopolizing efforts of the politics of ephemeral, daily interests. On the contrary: (daily) politics reserve the right to itself to name, since (although as a small-scale nominalist) it (may) legitimize itself by naming, as it were hoping in name-magic, naming imagined as a kind of place-taking, the registration of the "estate" at the same time. It happens partly because those things we do not take notice of, those things we deny (in thought), do not exist (for us), and partly because (daily) politics do not excel only in naming, but also in giving meaning, seriously simplifying the lexical meanings of words in most of the time.

            Taking these all into consideration, it is not simply the inconsistency of naming(s) we have to come across (for example the conception South-eastern Europe as a region often gets mixed with the interpretation of the Balkan region, in the former case, the classification of Croatia, the Croat culture is not difficult, while in the latter case - considering the existence of the SCS Kingdom, and of Yugoslavia - questions arise about the aforementioned classification) but also the mixing up of naming and aspects of value, intentions of hierarchization: as if belonging to Eastern Europe was shameful because of traits of condemnation, while belonging to Central Europe was more appreciated because of the distinguishing characteristics of "European-ness" (a more precise definition is not given here). On the other hand, "ideological" reasons also delayed (do delay) a more satisfactory modelling: when religion was accounted for as a swear word as a formation of "false consciousness", researchers could hardly think about contemplating over the problem of the "watershed"-like regional positioning of the Roman Catholic-Evangelic vs. Orthodox nation/ethnic group. However, the overemphasis of this question could result in other kinds of distortion: and it is not only the most wide-scale culture-organization of the religious union popular among the Ukrainians/Ruthenians and the Romanians that remained unmentioned, but several (other) aspects of group-creation/group-formation were disregarded that could be parallel with the religious one, or could cross that, or sometimes could modify that. A similar dilemma is posed by the exclusiveness of the state/political aspect: in this case it is not only the differences between linguistic borders and geographical state-borders that are neglected, not to mention the changing nature of state-borders during history, or that some of the peoples of the region did not form independent states until the 20th century, or even until the very end of the 20th century, so the comparison of these peoples or linguistic cultures to the others is far from being problem-free. The opposite, though, often refers to (daily) political refrainment. For example: according to many interpreters the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (Habsburg Monarchy, Danubian Monarchy) can be treated as a region of Europe, since partly through literatures remembering the Monarchy and partly through historical researches such characteristics were revealed that can make the individual national cultures and generally "the yesterday world" accepted as zones exhibiting similar or identical traits, even according to layers, not to mention the unifying influence-history of the formal institutions (the military, official and educational system, etc.), which this way elicit the creation of similar texts. Even the view, which presented the Monarchy as "the prison of peoples", urges its acceptance as a (sub) region, as it emphasizes at least one, not an entirely insignificant, common trait. On the other hand, it is really arguable that the Monarchy is completely identifiable with Central Europe even in one single period, although the whole of the monarchy does represent really precise "Central European" specifics.

The incapacity for a dialogue is (may be) also caused by situations where the question is asked from various aspects, different ideological situations, and, not the least, from the traditions of different disciplines: what are the criteria of a region? Or: where are the borders of individual regions drawn? Can we talk about classification into several regions? Can we assume so-called "transitory" areas? More precisely, thinking about the history of Hungarian concepts and naming: what are the prerequisites of belonging to Eastern and to Central Europe? Where are the borders of Eastern and Central Europe? Is it possible to find such a system of aspects that brings closer to each other the investigational pre-conditions and/or methods of the so much different histories of literature, language, arts, institutions and history itself, or one, which balances them more or less? So the thinking mind discovers the common language, "text" of the various disciplines so different by nature. Taking a case-study again: the literary history of Serbia classified as part of the Balkan (sub) region, cannot be traced exclusively in the former Balkan, on the contrary, there was a time when it was the least likely to be traced there, but, through the history of "the press", of institutions, schools, the theatre and, to a great extent, through literary history, it was to be found in Hungary, Venice, on Austrian grounds and - considering university attendance - on German soil. This cannot be considered purely as an "emigrant" activity, but (referring to the life of one of the most significant personality of the Serbian Enlightenment, Dositej Obradović) it lets us infer to such an inter-referentiality of creation, adaptation, genre-creation and the rewriting of traditions, that assigns a hardly Balkan way of cultural behaviour to the Balkan kind of "history".

It is evident that a synthetizing approach should disregard the special case or should put that in the "footnotes" and should draw conclusions by insisting on the typical. But then the involvement/assertion of multiple aspects would be required for group-formation/-creation (these are far from being identical, although there is some non-accidental correlation between them) and the at least provisional naming "acknowledging" that, without finalizing. And it may also be emphasized that the aspects are insufficient individually and the various aspects may correct, complete each other, they may put things in view which otherwise would remain unnoticed. One thing should also be mentioned, that such a definition/naming that would delimit the whole of the region, once and for all, does not exist; in certain periods investigations from one aspect, in other periods investigations from another aspect (may) claim primacy. Finally, we do not need to refrain from the fact that significant differences may be detected probably in the chronology, "space-time aspect" of literary/art history and for example that of history (let's say economic history). The "autonomy" of "part"-disciplines and the self-reflexive behaviour of their researchers may play an important balancing role together.

Things that can be conceived as constant: both history and culture-history pass in time and in definite geographical space; once the history of the peoples and the state passed more between the "natural" (geographical) borders and that is why - I suppose -, as concerning the old history, the geographical aspect seemed more decisive in region-formation than today, when by enforcing voluntary and obligate migration, the ruling and ideologically dominant group of the state (nation) requires homogenization against the former bi/multi-linguality, -culturality proven unnegligible in the whole history of our region. Because formerly the natural bi/multi-linguality, -culturality was not an obstacle for state-formation, since the linguistic aspect or the aspect of linguistic affinity became an emphasized factor more later, that is why the 19th century interpretation of national/linguistic classification of cultural history became crucially important, especially regarding the "national" disintegration of the Universalism of the Medieval/Early Modern Latin language, which remained in some disciplines decisive until the end of the 18th century, and that is why the aspect of statehood prevailed long, hardly letting national political aspects in view. On the other hand, until the end of the 18th century, in some cases even beyond, cultural history did "produce" such figures that cannot, or can hardly be fitted into one national/vernacular category according to the 19th century conceptions. On the contrary: being the representatives of a sub-region or region, they claim and receive place in several (national) cultures, manifesting the traversability between cultures, the justification of assuming regional cultures. The state/political aspect aspires to exclusivity during the 19th century, the sense and practice of belonging to a sub-region/region is replaced (not without conflicts) by the sense of belonging to one nation, to one national culture. The "shift" is the result of a longer process; its coming about is as much prepared by the idiomatic characteristics related to religion, as by the gradual "culture-history" of the criteria of the cultural nation. And that justifies the acceptance of new aspects. Among these the slow awakening of the language consciousness/ the consciousness of linguistic affinity, the sciences becoming more national, and the growing, ideological-like prestige of literature (and historiography) play quite important roles. Not at last, on account of the fact that both literary history and historiography become more professional (at least in a "technical" sense), they justify their determining roles by their mission, by the national demand, by their organizing task and the presumption of their influence, by their ideological service. And essentially the "evolutions" of the writing of literary/art-history, of linguistics and especially of linguistic history are similar. The creation and reform of the state-wide literary language is subordinated to that (it is again an aspect that can become a group-forming force); and such a periodization of the (culture)history that identifies the articulation of the language, the literature, the arts and of course the history in "national" glory days and "un-national" periods, in the era of "darkness", borrowing the novel-title of the Czech novelist, Jirásek.

Some other opinions should be briefly mentioned here that somehow provide a theoretical basis of the conditions of group-formation, and as an outcome, design those (problem) areas without which we can hardly talk about region or sub-region. Richard Georg Plaschka discusses the nature of the South-eastern European nationalism of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, showing, on the one hand, the significance of the descriptions of horizontal connections, including the technical-economic development and the need and practice to take possession of new territories, and, on the other hand, the importance of emphasizing vertical relations, including the restructuring of social layers, and the presentation of the formation of new layers. The typifying method of the discipline researching the region can be revealed in this "historical" context, where data are provided by history concerning the experience of the past, by linguistics and literature concerning the linguistic problematics, while the research subject outlining group-formation could be the active-passive kind of relationship investigated by political history, and behaviour investigated through and embedded in religion. Unlike the former one, the book of Werner Conze, titled East-Central-Europe, does not only promise the analyzing sketch of an older era, but it primarily talks about a historical space, supported by maps, which is the outcome of history, but which cannot be defined precisely physically-geographically (physisch-geographisch); as a matter of fact, he designates the eastern part of Central Europe as subject of his investigation (östlich-mittleres Europa) founded on political-historical and not on geographical bases. Naming is/was also exposed to a similar kind of foundation: while, after sparse precedents, a more definite plan of Central Europe was developed during World War I (see Naumann's Mitteleurop), the term East-Central Europe dates back to times following World War I, not to mention the initial, presumably constrained assumption of Eastern Europe, and its denial. The disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, that represented or represent a multi-national, close-knit unit, not simply on a governmental level, had an especially determining role during the truly varied reception-history. Beginning with László Németh who repeatedly mentioned that on the one hand: "Even the most proper nation should recognize that she was placed from the Austro-Hungarian monarchy into the post-Trianon Central Europe." And, on the other hand: "the partition of the Monarchy pushed the Balkan up to the Sudetes". The question about the role of Gusztáv Gratz's expressively titled writing, Közép Európa balkanizálódása (Magyar Szemle 1928. III.: 1-6.) in the formation of this opinion is irrelevant, as opposed to the issue that Gratz also places the beginning of this process in the years following the disintegration of the Monarchy, and furthermore, that - according to Gratz - "the ethnographic conditions of Central Europe are in many aspects similar to those of the Balkan Peninsula". When a new, German history of South-eastern Europe, written by Edgar Hösch defines its topic in the South-eastern Europe assumed to be a region (the Balkan here is a sub-region), he believes it to be distinguishable from the neighbouring regions: "We talk about the history of a space so much divided, which does not have internal uniformity, and because of its fatal in-between position it was repeatedly exposed to the invasions of alien conquerors and the expansive endeavours of the stronger neighbouring states." I have only a few questions: cannot these all be told about the region called East Central Europe? And if it is true, which is strongly indicated, would not it mean that the two region can be compared, furthermore projected to each other not only from the aspect mentioned by Gusztáv Gratz? At the same time, is it enough to base on the description of a region?

Browsing further among Hungarian opinions, I refer to the defining efforts of László Gáldi, author of the monograph-long dissertation, who scientifically summed up the once condemned idea of the Danube-region, because he aims to give first a linguistic, then a literary "evolution", emphasizing the appropriateness of "structural linguistics", since it is "likely to deal with the concept of cultural relatedness existing between genetically unrelated languages". It is not only significant because it replaces the more traditional, 19th century aspects of Slavistics - Finno-Ugrian studies with another, which opens up the strictly closed gates of linguistic studies before related disciplines, but also because it advances the later developing Hungarian areal linguistic researches (although Kopitar and Miklošič have already created the possibility of such studies) and because it alludes to the connections between language and culture. And the title of the work, A Dunatáj nyelvi alkata, promises the outlining of a broader, and presumably more valid concept of region not entirely disregarding linguistic affinity that can create the system of relationship of "general" and "specific" inferable from the evolution of the language. This way, while contemplating over literature, Gáldi indicates a characteristic determining poetic attitude to be "typical" through which "national" and "regional" can be viewed together: "the poet's word could never be purely a game, it has always been an acceptance of fate as well, a welding together with the vital interests of the individual peoples and of the Danubian region."

László Hadrovics discussed the "East-Central European relations" of the Hungarian language already in the 1980s. In this designation of the subject, all members of the syntagm appears important. First of all, the fact that he completes the methodology and concept of language of areal linguistics with culture-historical practices - although the remains of the language-family is dawning on the semantic level - partly by applying literary-historical terminology (East-Central Europe) uncommon in linguistics, and partly - as it becomes evident from the discussions - because he means the co-operation of identicalities, similarities, differences by relations, not to mention the interactions appearing in dependence of various conditions. László Hadrovics also reacts to the group-formation theories developed between the two world wars, primarily to the endeavours representing "Central European humanist" commitment of the group of young historians, literary historians, linguists around the periodical Apollo. Through that, he recalls his early years. László Hadrovics writes: "It is undoubtable that this European regional unit has such ethnic similarities and common historical experiences which developed similar traits in the individual languages." And later: "The East-Central European peoples are also connected because they are placed between the two main varieties of Christianity, the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox, and are commonly stimulated by both of them." László Hadrovics is convincing in expounding how the external powers (the Turks, the Habsburg) becoming dominant in the region in different times, influenced the whole of everyday life, including, or representatively demonstrating, the language itself, and not only by enlarging the vocabulary. This way the common characteristics of the peoples of the region may be revealed as well as the forms of these characteristics directed towards group-formation, presentable in the areas of art, language, social co-existence, administration, urban development, etc. It is really important that the "common historical fate" emphasized by László Németh quite early, is modified to common historical experiences in László Hadrovics's presentation; while László Németh refers to the phenomenon that the interdependence of nations is manifested in folklore, László Hadrovics appears to allude to the effect of external circumstances, the shape of which determined by naturally non-accidental, and not entirely volitional factors is being formed in the literatures, linguistic history, etc. of East-Central Europe. On the other hand, the division into multinational empires is esteemed neither as an advantage, nor as a disadvantage, it simply urges the consideration of how the institutional relating directed by state-political conditions helped the articulation of similarities. By this, László Hadrovics supports the view that sets the complementation of the different kinds of life-forms in the multinational empire as not an exclusive, but rather a significant distinguishing trait of the region and that considers the development history of multiculturality beyond bilinguality, not forgetting the artistic, linguistic, mental, scientific, etc. factors out of the outlining. This approach should be considered significant all the more so since, mostly concerned about the decades of the dual Monarchy, it connects elements mostly investigated separately from each other, and through pointing out the border position, it is not the Europe-Between characteristics that come afore, but rather the balancing, mediating, sometimes synthetizing role that our region has aimed to play, and sometimes played it well. The "Europe-Between" may suggest (Gusztáv Molnár's question: geopolitical region or a division line?) passivity, defencelessness, and some one-sidedness of the reception: and this is not an aspect to be disregarded concerning the history of politics. However, on the area of culture-formation it is more likely to speak about creating - selecting reception, sovereign culture-creations, in the existence of which the conscience (and silencing) of multiculturality seems to be important. This "between"-ness may put a greater emphasis on geographical determinedness than necessary, while literary- and art-history rather attempt to think in terms of an intellectual region between the German and the Russian culture. If it is really "between"-ness that is (over) emphasized, if the essence of our region could be described in terms of not belonging to here or there, but being "attachable" / "attached" to here and there, then presumably we would be too willing to deliver our attempts of definition to the violent intentions of annexation of (daily) politics. On the other hand, followers of the Eastern European "thesis" were exposed to suspicion that they justified the Jalta-Potsdam setting by their regional researches and that some of the developers of the Eastern European thesis did support their trains of thought, not as much by scientific, than by "anti-political" reasoning. The fairly attractive, thus extremely efficient formula of the "stolen" Central Europe rearranged the (East) Central European history and culture-history to some extent, since it equalled political and cultural history, partly by treating Central Europe as an imaginary region only "real" in cultural memory and in dreaming (Ferenc Fejtő cites a sentence by Manés Sperber: "Some thing above nations binds us together: the memory of the old Austria we carry in our soul.") and partly by asserting value or deprivation of value to the phenomena of being classified in Central, and in Eastern Europe. One thing is sure, that the European dividedness coming about after 1945/47, the impassability of borders, politically divided Europe into East and West through all kinds of isolations, and justified that by the cultural-scientific (or rather pseudo-scientific?) thinking elevated to an official level. The emigration, far from being secondary in importance, and continuously supplied until the 1980s, could not mediate, since it was placed on the "Western" side, as a real "in-between" factor since it would have had to integrate with its linguistic, cultural traditions into a world markedly different from these traditions. That is why, there remained a Western Europe presumed unified and an Eastern Europe conceived as a bit more divided. While historians in their researches of Eastern Europe were more at ease, literary historians had to face, for example, with problems of the system of relationships of the Russian literature and other "Eastern European" literatures, the problem of their classification into one region.

And while interesting essays were written about the complex influence-history of certain Russian writers and other literatures of the region, occasionally about the 19th century parallels of the Russian and Hungarian literatures, in fact neither the presentation of analogies, nor that of typological similarities proved to be fruitful enough. On the contrary: as the periods of the Renaissance and of the Reformation were (roughly spoken) missed out from the Russian culture, the relationship of the Church and the State turned out completely different than in "East-Central-Europe", and after, by the 18th century, its status of being a great power formed Russia to a multinational state different from the Habsburg-Monarchy, - so the drawing of consequences could hardly fall behind. The consciously taken contradiction of László Sziklay's volume, Szomszédainkról, is a spectacular example, already cited elsewhere: according to the Foreword, the essays of the volume discuss the questions of "Eastern European" literatures, and the author mentions, not en passant at all, that the treated material does not contain the comparative research concerning the Russian literary phenomena. Although quite hesitantly, he seems to suggest that the Russian literature does not belong here. László Sziklay's opinion can hardly be contested, the Russian authors of the 19th century gave the literatures of our regions a lead on the differentiation of the literary reception, and often on genre innovation (cp. romance, the lyrization of prose epics, etc.), but the Russian literature followed a different route, and naturally, the memory of the Russian literature was articulated completely differently in the Russian, than in the Slavic and non-Slavic literatures of East-Central-Europe. The 19th century history of the Russian music could be a supportive example: in terms of both the opera, and instrumental music, the Russian music achieved such a prestige and became such an integral part of European musical history, which the Polish, the Czech, and the Hungarian music could only achieve by an outstanding personality at best, and not as a result of the European acceptance of the national musical language.

However, it is true that the debates concerning "modernization", mentality, the spirituality of culture and the qualification of political endeavours about the separate Russian way have started in Russia, and not independently, the problems of the "European-ness" of Russia were also raised, and Asian-ness concerning Russia was also conceptualized in literary works: however it cannot securely be stated that the occasional, fiercely exploding conflicts of (simplifying) popular-urban, autochthonous-European aspects would be any repetitions of the Slavyanophil-Western discourse of the Russian history of ideas. Naturally, certain analogies are traceable, but the differences of the answers that can/should be given to the basically different state evolution, state function and modernization may seem more fundamental than the superficial similarities. Partly as a result of this, completely different components of multiculturality can be surveyed in Russia than in East Central Europe. The dominant religious traditions are different, representatives of the intellectual elite work under the aegis of a different cultural mission and they attempt to shape the partly national, partly "supra-national" civilization against a different kind of culture and it is perceivable in the commitment or denial of commitment of the groups of officials, military people and business men. It is visible so far, as different value-structures are organized in one "unit" than in the other. Of course, the identification of Russia with Eastern Europe (possibly including Finland with regard to the 19th century history, and the Balkan states, also from a historical-political point of view) is far from being uncontroversial, as the identification of the Habsburg Monarchy with Central Europe cannot be stated confidently either. Those who first urged, then welcomed the changes of 1989, attempted to describe the constrained Central Europe of the period 1945/47-1989 as a passing episode, quickly trying to regain the honour of Central Europe. As it has already been mentioned, they desired the re-establishing of Central Europe, and they regarded the separation from Eastern Europe not simply as the chance of liberation, but also a chance to return to that European community they have always belonged to (or wished to belong to). That is another question that, as the general pattern has shown so many times during the history of the region, the Central Europe of the politicians sometimes lacked any similarity with that of the writers; the balance achievable in economy, the relationship founded on mutual advantages and the keeping alive of the cultural memory - euphemistically saying - could not/cannot be executed swimmingly. As if national (ethnic) prejudices persist hard, as if the analogous structure of national (ethnic) prejudices were not revealed by the research, the open speaking and with the help of the recognition of common interests, but on the contrary, it seems as if these have permeated into politics to hinder the necessary discourse about Central European-ness considering mutuality and interlacements further on. Because the (East) Central European text that preserves all those forms that set Central Europe independently of belonging to a linguistic family is fixed in the deep layers of culture, mentality, and also in the vocabulary perceptible on the surface. However - agreeing with those I have already referred to - the region-borders are not constant, they can change waywardly even in a shorter period, and the content, the precise setting, of Central Europe (may) induces debates, since the state of Austria, the Austrian culture puzzles, not to mention the cultural history of the a priori multicultural regional Germans, and, as concerns the Saxons of Transylvania, only their cultural memory. The mentality that Gyula Krúdy's Szindbád represents, not as an extreme or unique case, existed outside literature as well. As it is known, Szindbád loved to pass his time in North Hungarian small towns, yet he was similarly at home in the Inn of Lemberg or the café of Fiume. The kind of homely homelessness recognizable as a determining feeling of life-style in the Szindbád-stories, can be described as the characteristic of the Monarchy-text that can be found in the contemporary and the later texts evoking the Monarchy. However, I introduced here a new concept: Monarchy-text. By text I do not only mean the literal and/or publicistic configurations of literality, but all that could/did become cultural memory. Suggested by the above-mentioned Szindbád-example, the kind of definition of situation that represents a sensation, a mentality permeating the whole Monarchy and that helped to create, and later to be passed on, identical or similar reflexes, gestures, forms emerging from mentality both in material, and in spiritual culture. Whether it is a "Central European" characteristic or not, can be a topic of further arguments: but there are research results proving that it is not an East European characteristic. For my part I would argue for Austria (at least through its connections) to belong to a broadly meant Central Europe not fixed to the period of the Dualism, the classification of Switzerland and Germany is debatable. Practically the eastern part of Central Europe, with transitory (cultural) zones) is the historical Bohemia, the historical Poland and the historical Hungary (I call them like that to be simple: László Németh argued for their common historiography in the 1930s).

In my evidently schematic discussions I rather raised questions, mentioned potential topics of research and debates, I tried to prove what roles theoretical and historical considerations (may) take in an analysis interdisciplinary by nature. Whether the organization of a relatively independent sub-region inside the European region would be successful or not also depends on the further fate of cultural memory.