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Fifth International Conference of the European Architectural History Network

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Fifth International Conference of the European Architectural History Network

Conference Date

June 2018


Tallinn, Estonia


As Larry Wolfe reminds us, the edge of Europe is somewhere in the middle of Russia and ‘Eastern Europe’ is an invention of eighteenth-century intellectuals. Locating the division between civilisation and backwardness in Prussia, and along the schism of Germanic and Slavic languages, these intellectuals set up a framework for interpreting Europe that remains with us today. Until World War II, this division was about perceptions of an urban, industrialised West and a rural, agricultural East. There was no definitive mark where the West ended and the East began. Consensus came only after 1945 as the definitive categorisation of the East became countries aligned with the Soviet Union or a ruling Communist Party. The clarity of this Cold War terminology has now faded. Architectural historians succeeded in bringing attention to Eastern Europe in the 1990s. First as a missing history of the avant-garde, and then back into nineteenth-century national identity formation and forward to postwar Stalinism and industrialisation. This aligned with a disciplinary move toward postwar research and, for a time, Communist countries had the appeal of being the unknown. We are now in the midst of another shift, the re-marginalisation of Eastern Europe on the same terms as in the eighteenth century. As the Global South has become the focus of intense scholarly attention, Europe and North America have become the normative centre, but only some of this territory matters. The perception that Eastern Europe is still backward, trying to catch up to the West after decades of communism, means that it cannot be fully representative of the European experience. It is neither the centre, nor the celebrated other, so it is marginal and overlooked. The methodological question is where to go from here and how to re-situate the region and its historiographic concerns within the discipline.


This proceedings is published as "Eastern Europe Is Not the Centre or the Periphery." In Proceedings of the European Architectural History Network Fifth International Meeting, Tallinn, Estonia. June 2018; 435-438. Posted with permission.

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Estonian Academy of Arts



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