Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has come a long way in terms of redefining its spatial dimensions. Since the ground-breaking geopolitical changes of 1989-1991, some states have disappeared (East Germany), others have appeared (Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova) and still others have made a reappearance (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia). These processes laid the foundations for deeper reconfiguration of politics, society, and economy, partly through successful and unsuccessful Euro-Atlantic integration.
Spatial redefinition is not, however, merely a matter of shifting political boundaries. It is also about perceptual changes that involve the re-imagining of political spaces altogether. Largely frozen during the Cold War, this process came back into play as the Communist block began to crumble, and it has continued apace ever since. Across CEE, we see how the resurrection of old geopolitical meta-narratives (e.g., the Polish Kresy, the Intermarium initiative, Mitteleuropa) or the deployment of new ones (the “Russian World” or “Greater Eurasia”) represent vital ideological components of social transformation and political mobilisation. Furthermore, the valorisation of space acts as a potent ingredient in the affective construction and contestation of national and civilizational identities.
Perceptions of space are influenced by rediscovering the history of previous territorial formations under new geopolitical circumstances. Culture, language, confession, migration and military conflicts all play a major role in revalorizing and re-signifying space. In the present day, developments in CEE are galvanised above all by Russia’s attempt to extend its borders at the expense of Ukraine. Putin’s regime regards Russia as a civilisational entity with exclusive rights to exercise control over the lands that historically constituted medieval Rus, as well as other parts of post-imperial Russian space. Central to its project are geopolitical imaginaries such as Novorossiya, which provide ideological underpinning for Russia's project of territorial aggrandizement.
The aim of this workshop is to track discourses about different perceptions of space in Central and Eastern Europe: how they have contributed to forging and pursuing political agendas and how they influence public imaginations of territory. It seeks to put them in the context of changing perceptions of nations and other large groupings of people as imagined communities.