New book examines role of Central European history in current politics

The history of Central Europe, its politics and where it fits in with the European Union is what Professor Stanislav Kirschbaum of Glendon’s International Studies Department strives to explore in a new book he recently edited.

Central European History and the European Union (Palgrave Macmillan, October 2007) is part of a series, Studies in Central and Eastern Europe, created by the publisher in 2005 following the VIIth World Congress for Central and East European Studies in Germany the same year.

Left: Stanislav Kirschbaum

Kirschbaum says he is particularly interested in "the importance of Central European history in contemporary European politics". After presenting a paper on Slovakia at the world congress, Kirschbaum assembled a series of papers about Central Europe and the European Union (EU).

Those papers can be found in this newly-published volume where 13 specialists of Central European history and politics examine the meaning of Europe, what kind of historical relations existed between Central Europe and Western Europe and how the development of the European Union plays into the equation. It also strives to understand the legacy of national symbols in Central Europe and where they fit in today.

"The creation of the European Union is one of the miracles of modern European politics. It is an experiment that is still in the making, a sui generis model, whose final definition and organization is yet to be determined," Kirschbaum says. "From an original membership of six countries that signed the Treaty of Rome in March 1957, it has grown to 27 member states, the latest enlargement having taken place earlier this year."

At the end of the Cold War in 1989, several former Communist states made it known they were planning to join the European Economic Community, the predecessor of the EU, and did so in 1992 with the Treaty of Maastricht. As this happened in a relatively short amount of time, it raises questions about the significance of the EU and the meaning of Europe, Kirschbaum says.

"This collection of papers by scholars from Europe and the US raises some issues that pertain to Central European history that have a bearing on the way Europe is to be defined when the European Union finds its final organization."

He says what is needed now is debate on the meaning of Europe and the integration of Central European history. Central European History and the European Union is intended to contribute to that process.

Kirschbaum, a specialist in Central European politics with a particular interest in Slovakia, is also a well-known scholar in Canadian foreign and defence policy. He’s published several other books, including A History of Slovakia : The Struggle for Survival, Historical Dictionary of Slovakia, Historical Reflections on Central Europe and La séécuritéé collective au XXIe sièècle (ed.).

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and secretary of the International Council for Central and East European Studies. He counts French, German, Slovak and Russian among his many languages.

For more information about the book, e-mail Prof. Stanislav Kirschbaum at