Wednesday, March 12, 2014

An unexpected contributor to nationalism

It's strange just how different the first two thirds of the twentieth century are from the final third. Really pointing to this difference is Kohn's constant reference to the peoples wedged between Russia and Western Europe as Slavs.

I've heard the term before, sure. I'm pretty confident that it's still in use today as well. But the way Kohn uses it, it sounds as if the lands stretching from Germany to Russia were occupied by loose groupings of people that were without any sense of being part of something bigger than themselves or their town.

Czechoslovakia and Serbia are the two countries Kohn's treats with as his book nears its end. And they're both rather exceptional. Czechoslovakia because they were able to follow the Western European model much more easily (being so close to Germany) and Serbia because hog exporters played a major role.

Yes. Hog exporters. It's right there on page 549.

Of course, Kohn points this detail out because it was these exporters who were the first to venture to other lands and to get the view of other countries, other nascent nations, that seems necessary to bring that sense of unity back home.

As exceptional as that little detail is, though, there's something even more exceptional still.

Kohn writes very little about the role of women in countries awakening to nationhood.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries women weren't exactly sitting in parliaments or heading newspapers, but surely Kohn omits some key contributions in missing any mention of the fairer sex.

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