Europe in Between. Histories, cultures and languages from Central Europe to the Eurasian Steppes
Firenze University Press
editorial board’s proposal and series has had a long incubation period.
By the mid-2000s a working group was already set up to dedicate
themselves to the study of Central-Eastern, Balkan and Eastern Europe
that gave life to the Center of Studies on Central and Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages (CeSecom).
By 2009 CeSecom had established itself as both a web portal and a
research group that has become an innovative editorial product of
the Firenze University Press. In recent years it has also become a
common space for scholars to dialogue and a “gym” for students to work
and take advantage of the rich materials offered for their thesis. They
can also do traineeships where they learn the most modern techniques for
creating and updating a portal.
focus since then has been on this large geographical area of Europe,
mostly occupied by Slavic populations, and the process of acculturation
and integration of their inhabitants into the Mediterranean culture that
began at the time of the so-called barbarian invasions. This process –
which lasted for centuries – was marked by the rivalry between the
Latin-Germanic and the Roman-Eastern or Byzantine worlds and by its
complex relations with Asia.
route was a traumatic one, especially in the Germanic area, where the
spread of Christianity was accompanied by assimilation that often took
the form of violent colonization processes. If in the beginning the
forms of resistance were coagulated around paganism, in the following
period they resumed life with a cultural resistance, already grafted
into Christianity both in the medieval Latin world and in the Byzantine
world, but often with heterodox tendencies (Bogomilism). In the Western world the most radical form of resistance was represented by the Hussitism that
opened the long season of religious wars that ended with the Thirty
Years War. In this scenario the conflict was the ideological
confrontation progressively oriented towards the confrontation between
nations and ethnic groups.
less traumatic was the pressure on Europe from the steppes, which
correspond to the area of present-day Ukraine, with the arrival of new
Asian populations, Pechenegs, Cumans and finally the Mongols, while the
ancient Roman provinces in the Middle East were occupied by the Arabs
converted to Islam and later by Turkish populations, which eventually
gave rise to the Ottoman branch that dominated the Balkans for over five
wide geographical space begins at the Adriatic shores, on which the
Republic of Venice was firmly built, and extends to the east at the
mouth of the Volga river: where the Asian route of the Silk Road began.
If on the other hand one moves to the north of the Venetian lagoon, the
area reaches the Baltic regions and even the forests of northern Russia.
centuries these realities were almost unknown to the Western world,
even though they tried to expand their economic and cultural influence
towards the East during the Middle Ages, and later with the
Polish-Lithuanian state, which became the last bastion of defense
against the Oriental “threat” represented by the Ottomans.
the meantime, Byzantium was territorially reduced to Constantinople,
and its political, cultural and religious traditions were passed on to
the Principality of Moscow, which at the beginning of the modern era was
transformed into the Russian Empire. This, in turn began an expansion
that would not end at the borders of Europe, but would occupy a large
part of Asia, fulfilling a dream pursued, for the first time by Genghis
Khan two centuries earlier.
Western rediscovery of the classical world, began with Humanism and
continued with the Renaissance, progressively spread to the European
East and the Balkans, mainly due to the driving force of Polish culture,
and finally reached Moscow during the seventeenth century in the forms
of Baroque culture.
historiography has generally considered this European space as
peripheral. These territories – placed beyond the Danube and the
extensive plains that reached the Baltic - were perceived as being
generally assimilated into the Asian world because of the strangeness of
languages and cultures of the Christian East.
descriptions of Western travelers in Ivan the Terrible Muscovy are well
known. The process of integrating this space into Western culture,
which aims to coincide with European culture, begins in the Early XVIII
century, with the era of Peter the Great and subsequently with the
national resurgences in the Balkans, and, in some respects, with Western
colonialism in the Middle East.
events of the last three centuries, however, are far more known than
the previous period, and the single national historiographies of those
countries tend to project the forms of their culture marked largely by
strong tendencies, above all on the linguistic and literary level, to
marginalize all the spurious elements perceived as extraneous.
the search for a national canon, single countries have highlighted all
those elements tightly connected to the roots of classical culture
(mediated by the Western experience) or the origins of Christian
culture. In this complex reconstruction, which is generally referred to
as the "invention (or construction) of the nation," the presence of
Middle Eastern and Asian populations, and the decisive role they have
played (starting with the Jewish communities), remains in the shadows.
Today we totally lack a global vision of this area and we find many
pieces of a puzzle in our hands without having a map to reconstruct the
aim of the scientific board and the series, which we are proposing
here, is to present monographs or collections of articles that help to
make targeted excavations by focusing on aspects, areas, characters and
peoples that have had a key influence on the region. The aim is also to
attempt to go beyond even the boundaries of the individual disciplines
and of the individual nations in an attempt to reconstruct more
generally the cultural history of the centuries that preceded or
prepared these processes of "invention".
with the present proposal, in addition to the scientific board which,
as we can see, assumes a character of international importance, an
editorial staff will continue to operate through the portal, CeSecom,
making it increasingly an instrument of this cultural reflection. This
editorial staff, already equipped with its own editor, aims to sponsor
seminars and conferences, to create a network of scholars interested in
the reconstruction of the cultural history of the "Europe in between"
space before the advent of the contemporary world.
A. Filipović, I
Balcani occidentali tra romanico e bizantino. Tradizione e
sperimentazione nell'architettura serba della seconda metà del XII
secolo, a cura di A. Alberti, F. Romoli, Firenze Università Press, 2020.