Wednesday, April 8, 2009



At least one solid point?

Aristotle once said: "Give me a solid point and I will move the Earth." Isn't this the solution to our problem? The newly discovered term "Central Europe", frequently used in media, called not only for the immediate definition of its borders but of its center as well. So, frankly speaking, where is the center of Central Europe, or better yet, where in fact is the center of the Europe?

To answer these questions we first have to deal with the vague term "heart of Europe".
During the years of existence of the former Czechoslovakia, Prague was constantly called the heart of Europe.

Surprisingly or not, a poster at the international airport in Budapest in 1996 welcoming tourists to Hungary described the whole country as the heart of Europe.

However, according the official bulletin of its national airliner, Adria Airways, Slovenia has aspirations to bear this proud title too.

Air France, on the other hand, offers flights connecting you to any place in the world from the heart of Europe, which, of course, is France.

The same thing is said in Luxembourg and The Netherlands.

BBC political commentary about some political turbulence in Italy, insisted to our attention because Italy is in the "heart of Europe".

But The Times in London published a story about Bosnia and Herzegovina with the headline, "European heart in American hands". And Americans took it seriously because President Bill Clinton referred to Bosnia as the heart of Europe too.

Government of Poland posted at their official web-site this statement: "Poland lies in the central part of the European continent, the geometric center of which is near Warszaw." Consequently Norman Davies titled his book "Heart of Europe -- Short History of Poland".

German city Potsdam is, according its Mayor, "geographically in the middle of the continent", but in Italian city Piedmont they believe to be "chosen to play an increasingly central role in the European Union - an that means geographically too".

In book Storm of globalization (Jamex, 2002), Professor Ivan A. Čarota seeks to oppose self-deception of "geopolitical disorientation" when Belarus is presented as center/heart of Europe.
Centrality has been claimed for places as far as Northern Ireland or the Székely region in Romania.

With a heart in so many places at the same time, it is not surprising that Europe is so close to a heart attack at any moment. But this is not the end of the troubles relating to the issue of the center of Central Europe. Of course, as befits such an important issue, we also have officially claimed "center of Europe". There are three. Plus one.

Centre of the Central Europe

Under supervision of the government, a stone, commemorating its central position of the continent, was erected near a village called Krahule in the central part of Slovakia.
However, in Ukraine, the eastern neighbor of Slovakia, in the city Rahov (south-west of the more well-known city Lviv) a pillar of stones was built showing the place where the "center of Europe" certainly is.

It seems that Ukrainian's neighbor, Lithuania, has never heard about it, because people there have their own stone pillar. This one was erected in 1991 nearby Bernotai (26 kilometres north of capital city Vilnius) and was precisely located by the French National Geographic Institute at 25''19' latitude and 54'' 54' longitude.

These three "centers of Europe" create a triangle with sides not shorter than 375 km -- 750 km -- 875 km.

However there is still one more. In small village of Tállya in the Hungarian part of Tokaj wine region you will be greeted by selection of its special wines. And at the end of your visit, you will automatically receive "certificate" claiming that you have visited "Geodesical Centre of Europe". There is no explanation as to how they came to have this proud title. But certainly they believe in it.

Does Central Europe exist at all?

In the hope of finding a positive answer, but resigning to find its precise borders and center, we come back to Kundera's definition of Central Europe and repeated by Emil Brix broadly as a "cultural landscape between Germany and Russia". Rudolf Chmel, a Slovakian scholar, diplomat and former Minister of Culture, tried to impose an element of time to this definition when he once said: "Central Europe is like a accordion. When Germans and Russians are doing well, they come closer and Central Europe starts to vanish. But when they are in trouble and withdraw to their inner borders, Central Europe suddenly emerges". Actually, Germany still has trouble with the reunification of the western and eastern parts of the country, and Russia seems to have troubles with everything. But, one day in the future when they have resolved their problems, should we expect Central Europe, regardless of the flexibility of this term, to vanish again? When will the future of Central Europe be finally liberated from its fatalistic past?

(The End)

Written by Gustáv Murín

Translation by Bea Baloghová and Diane Seo

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