Friday, June 12, 2009

Where Europe Ends

The word "Europe" is becoming increasingly more and more tied to the European Union. If one is "Euroskeptic" one is not skeptical of the land mass and people on it but instead wary of the European Union. To have a "European" perspective is to think and view problems as the European Union would. The European Union has become synonymous with the continent to many. However, in the era of Euros and a European presidency, it is easy to forget one of the first places stated to be the geographic center of Europe is to the east of most of the Union in Ukraine and over thirty percent (well over two hundred million) Europeans live outside the European Union.

The documentary "Where Europe Ends" is an hour long survey of regions that are European but outside the Union. The documentary looks at lands like Moldova and Transnitria, the ethnically mixed Transcarpathian region in Western Ukraine, and Black Sea Coast. Those already knowledgeable in these regions will not learn anything new but will appreciate the personal stories of Romanians, Jews, Germans, and others who have fallen through the cracks Russia and the European Union.

When the documentary talks about the history of regions one quickly realizes those lands beyond Europe(an Union) have long been moving towards and away the greater European cultural realm. Ancient Greece colonized the northern Black Sea coast. The Republic of Genoa extended Italian influence there as well. Germans brought Central European culture with them into southeastern Europe (ethnic Germans were fierce opponents of their price, Vlad "Dracula" Tepes, in part because of leadership not paying bills and Vlad's habit of impelling his ethnic German subjects), the Baltic (Teutonic Knights battled Orthodox and Pagans to gain massive cultural sway there until the end of World War II), and even past the Volga River (Volga Germans had their own autonomous Soviet republic). However, these attempts to bring/impose Europe were ended either by barbarian, Turkish, and Communist conquests. Each of these invaders sought to rebuild these lands in their own image. What they left beyond was instead fragmented cultures.

Today many in the outside zones of Europe want to be members of the European Union. They see how European Union membership has not only aided the core countries but has seemingly improved many former Soviet satellite states as well. Opposing them are homeland corruption, a ruler in Moscow wants a buffered Eurasian empire, and European Union elites who see the outsiders as pests not worthy to share in the common market. Hopefully the European Union can spread bringing open-government liberalism and economic improvement to the European overlooked lands while importing positive Eastern European traits. Time will tell though if Europe can finally hold onto these outside lands or if a new horde will keep them geographically separate yet again.

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