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Räume sind nicht, Räume werden gemacht: zur Genese "Mitteleuropas" in der deutschen Geographie

Regions do not exist in an actual sense, they are created: regarding the genesis of "Central Europe" in German geography
[journal article]

Schultz, Hans-Dietrich

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Abstract Regions do not exist in a prescribed, actual sense, they are constructed. This also applies for regions in traditional geography, which itself was convinced of the opposite. A good example of this is "Central Europe". At the end of the 18th century, the transition was made in geography towards dividing Europe into major regions. In a typical sense of the ideals used, three various schemes can be differentiated, these being a North-South, a West-East and a Diagonal Scheme. The first two also left space for "Central urope", either in the form of a strip running from est to East or from North to South. If one combines these schemes, then the possibilities for division are increased manifold. It would then be possible to consider "Central Europe" as being a centre, surrounded by a periphery. The "Central Europe" would fuse (first outside of, then inside of geography) with a different construction, the "natural Germany". This concealed the idea that nature contained a type of genetic code in the form of "natural borders", by means of which the scope of the nations, at least the larger ones, could be determined permanently. Science was intended to develop and politics to realise this scope. This therefore meant that, in the course of the 19th century, the originally cognitive "Central Europe" construction had become a normative construction. The ideas of "natural borders" first acted as a state doctrine in revolutionary France, where the claim was made that the Rhine had been the border with Germany, intended by nature. As a reaction to this, German scholars attempted to prove the general unsuitability of rivers to act as "natural borders". They propagated that, unless they regarded the language as being the sole permissible criterion of delimitation, instead river basin systems and watersheds should be taken as being nature's hint for politics. It goes without saying that their "natural Germany" was always larger than its political counter part. This also applies for the comparatively moderate versions proposed within traditional geography, which was a part of this entire border discourse. The concept of "natural Germany" and subsequent "Central Europe" became all the more explosive through the oldest component of German self-conception, the Centralist Motive, which was reinterpreted to serve nationalist intentions. Germany, located in the "centre" of Europe, had the inherent task of reconciling the conflicts with in Europe and therefore the world. This sense of mission, which is also to be fo und in other national ideologies, which originally and primarily denoted an intellectual-cultural superiority, was transformed in t he course of the 19th century to become an imperial claim to the throne. The attempt which took place at times to legitimise Bismarck's establishment of the "Reich" (Empire) in a geographic sense and to define the German nation as a territorially saturated, sovereign nation, failed. The insight that delimitations are always also ex clusions is important for today's world. If similarities are disregarded, then xenophobic reactions are pre-programmed.
Keywords Central Europe; technical language; zone; politics; historical development; geography; region; Germany; national border
Classification Area Development Planning, Regional Research; Natural Science and Engineering, Applied Sciences
Document language German
Publication Year 1997
Page/Pages p. 2-14
Journal Europa Regional, 5.1997 (1997) 1
ISSN 0943-7142
Status Published Version; reviewed
Licence Deposit Licence - No Redistribution, No Modifications