East, West, and the Return of ‘Central’: Borders Drawn and Redrawn

Catherine Lee and Robert Bideleux

in The Oxford Handbook of Postwar European History

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199560981
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 East, West, and the Return of ‘Central’: Borders Drawn and Redrawn

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  • History
  • European History
  • Contemporary History (Post 1945)
  • Cold War


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Western Europe has not only met but also married Eastern Europe, even if there are rumours that it was a marriage of convenience, consummated in ‘EU Europe’. Nevertheless, a significant outcome of the cohabitation has been the resurgence of debates about the status, location, and distinctiveness of ‘Central Europe’; the changing nature of borders and borderlands; and the emergence of ‘new’ East/West divides. Because World War II was predominantly fought on the Eastern Front, almost 95 per cent of Europe's fatalities of war and genocide were in Central and Eastern Europe (including Germany and Austria). These mass killings, combined with the paramount role of the Soviet Union in the defeat of the Third Reich, led to substantial reconfigurations of the borders and ethnic compositions of European states. This article examines the reconfigurations of European territories at the close of World War II, the drastic redrawing of European borders during 1945–1948 and again in the late 1980s and 1990s, the impact on European borders of the European Union and its ‘deepening’ and ‘widening’, and Europe's new East/West divide.

Keywords: Western Europe; Eastern Europe; Central Europe; borders; European Union; World War II; territories; East/West divide; genocide; Soviet Union

Article.  8827 words. 

Subjects: History ; European History ; Contemporary History (Post 1945) ; Cold War

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