ABSTRACT

During the Cold-War era, the Balkans and Southeastern Europe were largely superseded as meaningful references in scholarly literature outside the region, except for literature on physical geography. The political divide was overriding, yet Soviet political and scholarly discourse, remarkably enough, rarely operated with the term “Eastern Europe.” In 1966 the head of the Soviet delegation to the first congress of Balkan studies in Sofia, Anatoliy F. Miller, complained that “the actual achievements of Soviet balkanistics are still very modest. Works on encompassing Balkan themes are almost absent in our country.” 1 The institutionalization of this field in the Soviet Union began in 1968 with the transformation of the Institute of Slavic Studies into the Institute of Slavic and Balkan Studies. It became the main Soviet research and coordinating center for studying what came to be named “Central and Southeastern Europe” (Tsentral’naya i Yugovostochnaya Evropa). In actual fact, only the eastern part of Central Europe – what in German was termed Ostmitteleuropa and, in English, East Central Europe – was considered to pertain to the area thus called. Within it, Balkan studies (balkanistika) was conceived of as a “historical discipline, which, unlike Slavic studies (whose differentiation is based on an ethno-linguistic principle), is defined by the regional belonging of peoples connected by a common historical fate to the Balkan peninsula.” 2 Thus “the Balkans” came to compete with two other “historical spaces:” the Slavic world – a traditional research field for Russian humanities, and the socialist Central and Southeastern Europe. Rigorously distinguishing between the three areas was not a task that preoccupied the scholars grappling with them, and various terms, not specific to discrete disciplines, were used for the same area. It was clear, however, that while “the Balkans” included Greece and Turkey, Southeastern Europe in the above configuration did not.