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Issue 02: Borders and Boundaries

In 1989, one of the most defining borders in modern European history ceased to exist. The Berlin Wall, symbolic of the bipolar world order that had dominated Europe’s geopolitical reality in the second half of the twentieth century, not only fell, but was physically destroyed by the citizens divided along an arbitrary boundary. On the front page of the Guardian 11 November 1989, Kohl is cited as stating, “Long live a free German fatherland, a free and united Europe.”

Agreements like the Maastricht Treaty, the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), the Schengen Agreement and a host of other conciliatory agreements in the wake of both the Cold War and the Second World War seemed to both ideologically and politically relax the lines that bridged Western and Eastern Europe, a divide that spanned the region that we refer to as Central and Eastern Europe. Demonstrations, such as the Baltics Way, a human chain that stretched across the Baltic states from Vilnius to Tallinns, exhibited a sentiment of unity that rebelled against the seemingly hostile and martial twentieth century that had prevailed in Europe up to that point. From a broad brush perspective, this project of a ‘free and united Europe’ laid the foundation, as we would like to believe, for a harmonious European twenty-first century.

In 2024, we know that this was not, and is not, the reality. For Central and Eastern Europe, it is clear that this idyllic, mainstream perspective of a ‘post-Soviet’ transitology is complicated by the fact that simplistic binaries fail to recognise the specific role of kinship, history, identity, ownership, and other forces in organising Central and Eastern Europe. Conflicts such as the Yugoslav Wars, political binaries in countries such as Hungary and Poland, and historico-cultural tensions between Ukraine and Russia, are evidence of the deeply rooted ‘borders and boundaries’ that seem to fit uncomfortably with the project for a united Europe. In the twenty-first century, where scholars are increasingly coining expressions such as ‘Cold War II’, demonstrating the long shadow that the twentieth-century continues to cast on the region, it would seem that many of these historically informed granular divides that permeate Central and Eastern Europe are a question of vast importance for citizens, leaders, and spectators to contemplate.

This issue of the CEE Affairs Review seeks to delve into such ‘dividing’ issues and analyse how this region continues to deal with borders and boundaries that, in many ways, define Central and Eastern Europe.

Our issue opens with a guest piece of work by Dr Bogdan Popescu - assistant professor at John Cabot University, former lecturer at the University of Oxford, and author of the recently published book Imperial Borderlands: Institutions and Legacies of the Habsburg Military Frontier. Dr Popescu discusses borderlands as paradoxical locations of freedom and oppression, and, drawing on the historical Ottoman/Habsburg borderland, argues that historical borderlands have the potential to affect long-term results on the lives of those exposed to them. Jack Ellis, in his piece titled Ukraine and NATO: the Evolution of a Relationship, equally starts from a historically-informed perspective to discuss Ukraine’s relationship with NATO, and argues that the bloc needs to develop and readjust its strategic goals towards Ukraine.

Approaching the question of immigration and integration, Hanna Corsini analyses how the Magyar diaspora has been integrated into the Hungarian civil community – drawing again the question of how historical legacy, in this case of the Trianon Treaty, reflects on modern-day Hungary and Orban’s own policies. Yasmine Raouf examines a new exhibition entitled “Vienna, My History,” at the Wien Museum, and analyzes the curatorial voice of the museum towards the position of immigrants and their presentation as members of the Viennese community.

Our authors equally consider the role of culture and its relationship to defining borders and boundaries across the region. Cynthia Chilaeva approaches Ukraine by elaborating on cultural ownership of borscht and how heritage has the potential to take on a political significance. Noam Bizan analyzes how culture, in this case ballet, can be demonstrative of a politicisation of culture – contrasting the presentation of the ballet in periods of tension and détente during the Cold War. Gosia Koroluk takes on the question of Gen-Z in Russia, and analyses how tattoos demonstrate an invisible border between Central Europe and the Russian Federation that has developed over the period of Putin’s mandates as president. In our final piece, Marketa Vasickova gives a critical analysis of Kundera’s 1984 essay, Kidnapped West: the Tragedy of Central Europe – asking readers to re-examine the terminology that we use to draw borders around Central and Eastern Europe, and how this work can be considered in the light of 2024’s geopolitical situation.

Our second issue ‘Borders and Boundaries’ has been conceived as a platform for delving into these questions of what defines, limits, and transgresses the borders and boundaries of this region, nestled within the very heart of Europe. Our mission is to provide an insightful and balanced perspective that transcends mere headlines and fosters a deeper understanding of the historical, political, economic, and cultural phenomena that, for better or for worse, define the region we know as  Central and Eastern Europe.

This Special Edition is the result of the dedication of our incredible editorial team and the terrific work of our authors. We are grateful to all those who helped make this edition possible, as well as to our readers.

Chloe Henshaw

Editor in Chief

What's in the issue? 

Borders as Institutions and the Legacies


Ukraine and NATO: the Evolution of a Relationship


Hungary and the Trianon Treaty: Between Questioning and Accepting Imposed Borders


Navigating Cultural Boundaries: Vienna's Struggle with Immigrant Integration and the Selective Inclusivity of its Museums


'Ukrainian' Borscht: the Significance of Heritage for Imagining the Ukrainian National Community in the 21st Century


Negotiating Cold War Boundaries: American Depictions of US-Soviet Ballet Exchanges


How Russia's Gen-Z Body Tattoos Reveal the Trauma of Imprisonment in an Authoritarian State: Imperialism, Propaganda, and Police Repressions


Kundera's 'Tragedy of Central Europe'

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