Myth #46: Poland is in Eastern Europe

No it’s not, it’s in Central Europe. The modern use of the term ‘Eastern Europe’ is a confusion from the days of the Eastern Bloc (those countries in Europe occupied by the USSR between 1945 and 1989). We’ve taken to referring to the European nations that were part of the Eastern Bloc as Eastern European. In fact they’ve always been regarded by historians, geographers, and anyone else with any sense as Central European. The Western European view of where Europe begins and ends was seriously skewed by the years of the Cold War. Any conventional definition of Europe begins at the Atlantic Coast and stretches as far as the Ural Mountains in Russia. Look on a map, that puts Poland slap bang in the middle of Europe, not at it’s eastern edge. In fact two of the four most widely accepted locations for the geographical center of Europe are on Polish territory; one in Torun and another in Suchowola.

Does it matter? Well, yes, because suggesting that a place is on the eastern fringe rather than in the middle makes it sound peripheral and marginal. Villages on the slopes of the Urals are marginally European; Poland is at the heart of what Europe is about. Take a slightly longer perspective than the past 60 years and it becomes apparent that Poland has been at the cultural and historical heart of Europe for more than a thousand years. So stop with this silly ‘Eastern European’ nonsense and I’ll say no more about it.

More myths? We’ve got a million(ish) of ’em!

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13 thoughts on “Myth #46: Poland is in Eastern Europe

  1. […] weather, winter Most people associate Eastern Europe (actually Poland is in Central Europe, see Myth #46) with grey skies, icy winds, and blizzards. The number of times I’ve told people in the UK […]

  2. eenx says:

    I take from wikipedia :

    “Poland (Polish: Polska), officially the Republic of Poland (Polish: Rzeczpospolita Polska), is a country in Central Europe. “.

    Do you see? “Central Europe”.

  3. some dude says:

    I’ve always considered Poland to be in Eastern Europe, even though I am a Pole myself.
    I do not even know what would be Central Europe then.

  4. island1 says:

    Some dude: As a Pole I guess you have the right to consider Poland to be in Southeast Asia if that’s the way you feel; I’m not going to argue :)

    But I know the ‘Eastern Europe’ thing does annoy some of your countrymen, and I think justifiably so.

  5. island1 says:

    guest: Sounds good, I’ll put it on my list.

  6. island1 says:

    eenx: Smart people those Wikipedia contributors.

  7. Eastern Europe is Orthodox Christian and uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Central Europe is Catholic or Protestant and uses the Latin alphabet.

    Pre-war Poland straddled both. Today it’s Central Europe. Mitteleuropa. EU Member State Bulgaria is East Europe.

    Germans used to say that in Central Europe, people wear their shirts tucked into their trousers, while in Eastern Europe, they wore them outside their trousers. Vagiaries of youth fashion excepted, this definition also places Poland firmly in Central Europe.

  8. mochafueled says:

    Island … you seam to be in good form for dust up… but people are sadly agreeing with you… so unlike your other blog where they smack down often… but as one who has loosely used the term C. Europe and E. Europe would you please list what is Eastern Europe… what is Russia?

    slap me down.. us Americans still fight over what is considered the midwest in the States… so this is a leap…

    cheers.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I think the problem is that the United Nations considers Poland the Western most part of Eastern Europe …

    Good read though

  10. Dawid says:

    Quite often Poland is referred to by Poles themselves as a country in Middle-Eastern Europe (Europa Środkowowschodnia). This is a complicated issue, so I’ll just say this – if Poland is (were) firmly in Eastern Europe, is (would) there (be) something wrong with that? Maybe it’s time to bust the myth of Eastern Europe being worse than Western and as such being a derogatory term?

  11. Dawid says:

    Just came across two entries about Poland in Britannica and Oxford Encyclopedia – both state that Poland is in Central Europe. I wonder if such things will eventually change the perception of Poles at home and abroad.

  12. […] Myth #34: Polish people eat swans Myth #7: Polish people drink a lot Myth #17: Poland is poor Myth #46: Poland is in Eastern Europe Myth #24: Poland is a cold and grim […]

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