I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Meet the Neighbours

Meet the Neighbours

Leon Marc
Europe East and West, by Norman Davies, Jonathan Cape, 352 pp, £20.00, ISBN: 978-0224069243 In 1994, in Vrhpolje in western Slovenia, some twenty-five kilometres from the Italian border, there was a rather unusual public event. On a rock just outside the village, local people erected a monument, remembering a battle that took place 1,600 years ago between the Roman (Byzantine) emperor Theodosius, and the western usurper Eugenius. Although the battle and its location may be somewhat obscure to the general reader, it is regarded as an important milestone of late antiquity and was of considerable relevance for the advance of Christianity in the Roman Empire, Theodosius being at least formally Christian while Eugenius was pagan. The relatively high profile of the 1994 celebration – it was attended by an important Slovenian national politician – shows how even remote historical events are sometimes used by people in what is called Eastern Europe to claim the early participation of their lands (not even of their people in this case, as Slavs did not occupy the territory of modern Slovenia until at least the sixth century) in the development of Christendom, and therefore, by implication, their stake in Europe. One may find such attempts rather desperate, especially if they involve a 1,600-year-old battle. But there is another aspect of the matter that is perhaps equally striking: how is it possible that villagers living in a place less than two hours’ drive from Venice are so desperate to prove that they really belong to Europe? What happened on the other side of the divide, in what is called Western Europe, that lands a couple of kilometres away from their borders are considered so far away, so culturally different, as to deserve a special name – Eastern Europe? The situation is particularly striking in the case of Slovenia and Italy (although that of, say, the Czech Republic and Germany is similar). With the exception of the period immediately after the Second World War, there never really was an Iron Curtain between Italy and Slovenia. Yet in 2004, on the day of Slovenia’s accession to the European Union, Western media, hungry for “iconic” images, massively used photographs of the unthreatening fence that runs between the Italian city of Gorizia/Gorica and the Slovenian Nova Gorica, portraying a kind of mini-Berlin Wall, much to the amusement of the locals, who had been accustomed to commuting daily through a nearby…

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