LETTERS: Central to any Czech history

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The Independent Online
Sir: Jonathan Eyal's lament over "Eastern" Europe ("So near and yet so trapped", 3 February) fails to do justice to the historical diversity of the region. Although sharing a largely common fate since 1945, during the inter-war period not all thecountries concerned followed an identical pattern of political and economic development. Inter-war Czechoslovakia certainly did not conform to the stereotype outlined. Despite mounting internal ethnic tensions, exacerbated by Hitler's Germany, up to the point of its destruction at Munich in 1938, Czechoslovakia maintained a political and economic system largely indistinguishable from that of Western Europe.

The economic foundations for this had been established in pre-1914 Habsburg-ruled Bohemia and Moravia, where Czechs and Germans alike had created a thriving industrial economy.

Czechoslovakia, and now the Czech Republic, may be recognised as the exception that proves the rule, but it would be helpful nevertheless if we set aside Cold War terminology and replaced our image of monolithic "Eastern" Europe by rediscovering "Central" Europe.

Yours sincerely, Paul Vysny Department of Modern History School of History and International Affairs University of St Andrews St Andrews, Fife 4 February