Larry Wolff provides an important corrective to the idea of Eastern Europe itself. Eastern Europe has suffered by being in thrall to empires: the Ottoman, the Austro Hungarian and finally the Soviet. Wolff points out the history of how the area has been seen as backward, uneducated and in need of civilizing. The idea is not new- it was used by various rulers as an excuse for conquest. the area also suffers geographically by being easy to invade.
where Wolff falls down in my opinion is in his insistence in following Edward Said's insistence on the idea of an area as "other." I'm not going to get into why I think this is a lame idea. Ibn Warraq's superb book "In defense of the west" is available on Amazon. However Eastern Europe really was different: the second serfdom which occurred later and was far more repressive than in Western Europe, the belief in Russia that all people were subjects, and possessions of the tsar, rather than citizens, and the lack of industrialization all point to the fact that Eastern Europe was different.
However if I did not read this book I could not make these arguments. It is important and even though I am an armchair reader I loved it and learned from it.
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