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In his The Tragedy of Central Europe Milan Kundera argues that the annexation of Central Europe by the Warsaw Pact shouldn’t be understood as a Russian imperial pursuit, but as a communist attempt at annihilation of cultural differences in a space defined by diversity, inherited from the tradition of Habsburg transnationalism.
Reading Kundera’s essay, I will argue his argument is lacking, given one of largest difficulties of Soviet communism and the crown reason for its unsustainability was the fact it provided little political meat to support its ideological façade and proved to be a farce of demagogy and empty ritualism.
Instead of insisting that it was communism that wakened and deculturated the Central European space, I suggest we revisit the colonial past of this uncertain zone of small nations between Russia and Germany trying to understand what made it an easy prey to imperial ambitions from all sides, giving up Kundera’s idealized image of the Habsburg empire defined by blissful unity, considering how in the years before and during World War One the empire emphasized its growing anti-Semitism and Slavo-phobia, thus proving that certain cultures and nations in the empire were more Austrian than others.
Kundera’s argument needs to be relativized because the straw man of communism as the threat to Central Europe accompanied by a simplified vison of belonging to the Christian West was often abused by the anti-liberal political discourse to facilitate the disintegration of welfare state, unmonitored privatization, xenophobia, and decrease in human rights across Central Europe.