I am a Belgian man conversant in Dutch, French, English, German (so English is not my first language), therefore you read many mistakes.

My question is this: in our class and country it seems that all progress and novelty came from what is now western Europe. examples? art (roman Gothic ) social history (chivalry/ bourgeois/freedom of Peasants and city people) religion ( investiture battle / monk movement in Cluny and Citeaux crusades. ..) There is, of course, the fact that a part was influenced by Byzantine empire. So my question is: what is the significance/originality of eastern Europe. What should I know and what books should I read to fill a gap. The idea stands that eastern Europe was a copy of west Europe. Please view this mail not as an arrogance stand but as a way to broaden my restricted view

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    Are you asking if medieval eastern Europe had art? Because the answer is yes. Everywhere had art. – SPavel Aug 13 '18 at 11:31
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    Before 1945, there was no hard border between "western" and "eastern" Europe, this question is anachronistic. – Bregalad Aug 13 '18 at 13:02
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    @Bregalad : that's debatable... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_East_and_Latin_West – Evargalo Aug 14 '18 at 8:56
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    @Evargalo Ok, but some countries like Bosnia, Poland, Hungary had mixed catholic and orthodox christian populations; also that border was further east than the post-1945 iron wall which still todays marks a big difference between "western" and "eastern" europe. – Bregalad Aug 14 '18 at 9:48
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    What is Eastern Europe? Was the Holy Empire Eastern? If not, do we consider Czechs or Polish Western? – Greg Aug 14 '18 at 19:10

Some novelties coming from Eastern Europe include:

  1. Religious reformation (See Jan Hus, Hussite wars, Reformation, etc. on Wikipedia). Before Luther, there was only one Protestant country in Europe, and this was Moravia.

  2. Religious tolerance (See Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth on Wikipedia). In particular Jews were never banned from the Commonwealth, like they were in England, France, Spain and Portugal. Neither the Commonwealth knew any civil wars related to Protestant-Catholic opposition. This was a multi-ethnic, multi-religious entity. The population consisted of Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Jews and Muslims, and all these people enjoyed certain rights and protection (which of course varied with time). Religious tolerance unheard of in Western Europe until the modern times was written into the constitution of the Commonwealth.

  3. Democracy also evolved in the Commonwealth earlier than in other European countries. Of course, as elsewhere, it was first limited to the nobles (who made about 10% of the population, much more than in Western Europe), but the king was elected, by the assembly of the nobles, and his powers were strictly limited by a kind of constitution. (See Golden Liberty in Wikipedia).

Eventually the first modern democratic constitution was established in 1791, second only to the American one).

  1. If talking about science, let me mention Copernicus and Hevelius. Also Kepler made his main discoveries in Prague, though he himself comes from Central Europe.

Remark. I define Eastern Europe as everything to the East of Germany, Austria and Italy. And I have nothing to say about medieval Moscowy and Tataria.

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    Common opinion of whom or what? Geologically all of this part of Asia is Western, geographically Poland and Moravia are Western/Central Europe (the CIA at you link confirms this view), grouping them into the East is a political issue acutely unchallenged only during during the Cold War, etc. Ergo: either the Q or this A might benefit from a definition of "Eastern Europe". – LаngLаngС Aug 14 '18 at 10:09
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    @Alex Czech territories were essentially annexed by Austria. What makes them more eastern then Austria? – Greg Aug 14 '18 at 19:13
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    +1 This is a very good answer if you consider Poland and Czechia to be Eastern Europe. This was the convention that many of us were raised with, due to the 1945-1989 communist/capitalist division. From a medieval, early modern, or post-1989 perspective however, these lands are in Central Europe and received many of their political and social ideas from the same Roman and Catholic roots as Western Europe. If you count Russia and Ukraine as European nations, then Eastern Europe is really the region whose culture grew from ideas that were originally learned from Constantinople. – Mike Aug 15 '18 at 3:27
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    I have read that if you ask almost anyone living between the Rhine and the Dneister if they live in Eastern Europe, they will tell you that they are in Central Europe and that those guys (vague gesture) are really the East . . . – Mike Aug 15 '18 at 3:32
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    Quite right. The most convincing line I have seen between Central and Eastern Europe is the line that Samuel Huntington draws between Western and Orthodox Civilizations, which follows the eastern edge of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, dividing modern-day Ukraine in two, putting Lviv and its environs within the sphere of Western Civilization, but not the eastern steppes. – Mike Aug 15 '18 at 4:18

In the great age of French culture, the cultural influence of French culture was very great and widespread in Europe.

In the great age of Spanish culture, the cultural influence of Spanish culture was very great and widespread in Europe.

In the great age of Muslim Spain centuries earlier, it was a source of knowledge about ancient Greek culture, with western scholars translating Arab translations of Greek texts into Latin. Western scholars also learned of the advances of Arab culture in Spain and other border countries, advances like Arabic numbers, the numeral zero and algebra, for example.

In the comparatively dark ages of western culture in the worst periods of the Middle Ages, people drew inspiration from the memory of the lost glories of the ancient world, as well as from the one Christian society where those ancient glories still lingered - what was left of the Roman Empire, which was usually the strongest military, political, diplomatic, and economic power in the two overlapping regions of Europe and Christendom, and was by far the most scientifically and culturally advanced society.

So for many centuries the cultural influence of the society based in Eastern Europe and Asia Minor on Western Europe was very strong.

Most ancient Greek texts are known mostly from translations into Arabic in Abbasid Baghdad that were later translated into Western languages, or from copies made in the medieval Roman Empire in eastern Europe. Many of those medieval copies were taken to western Europe about the time of the fall of the eastern empire, helping to fuel the Renaissance. And many lost works of ancient Greek literature and mythology are known only by Byzantine discussions of those lost works.

And of course the military strength of the remnant of the Roman Empire, which fluctuated vastly over time, was the chief barrier between Eastern Europe, Central Europe, and Western Europe on one hand, and powerful invaders from the east.

Western Europeans often celebrate the victory over Muslim raiders from Spain at the Battle of Tours in 732. But the Muslim expansion began in Arabia and was directed from the capital of Damascus in Syria from 665 to 750, and then from Iraq until the the Caliphate dissolved into independent states. And the direct route to Europe from the Muslim centers in Syria and Iraq went through the eastern Roman empire and was effectively blocked by it.

So the cultural influence of Eastern Europe on Western Europe was vast. Without the military power of the Eastern Roman Empire, Western Europe would quite likely be a group of Muslim countries. If the Roman Empire had remained as powerful as it was in 1025 forever, it would have protected Western Europe from eastern invasions forever.

But when the remnant of the Roman Empire crumbled and lost its military power, thanks in part to attacks from Western Europe, the Ottoman Turks emerged to fill the power vacuum and eventually conquered a fifth of all Europe. And threatened the rest of Europe.

So I would say that there was considerable cultural influence from Eastern Europe on Western Europe.

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    1. Depending on the time frame one considers, it can be argued whether the muslim army defeated in the battle of Tours/Poitiers originally came from Languedoc, from Spain, from Northern Africa or even from Hejaz and Arabia, but surely they did not come from "Syria or Iraq". 2. " If the Roman Empire had remained as powerful as it was in 1025, it would never have fallen" Sounds like a tautology - quite like the original Lapallisade : "If he weren't dead, he would still be alive". – Evargalo Aug 14 '18 at 8:47
  • @Evargalo The capital of the united Caliphate was at Damascus in Syria until 750 and in Iraq afterwards. Those were the centers of Arab/Muslim power at the time of the Battle of Tours. All invasions that were planned by the central government of the Caliph would have been planned in Syria or Iraq. And the biggest and most dangerous invasions in the direction of Europe were sent from Syria or Iraq toward Constantinople which was on the direct invasion route to Europe. – MAGolding Jan 19 '19 at 18:36
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    Seriously?? "Baghdad here - put Tangier on the line. ... That's right, begin the invasion on May 1 to co-ordinate with our assault at Manzikert. No, you cannot delay a day if the weather is bad - co-ordination between both wings is vital. Any missed timing could result in defeat . That;s a direct order. I expect a full after-action report within 6 hours of any battle. Dismissed!" – Pieter Geerkens Jan 19 '19 at 18:48
  • @Pieter Geerkens You know that by the time of Manzikert, centuries after the Battle of Tours, the government of the Caliph was not in charge of more than part of Iraq and didn't order any invasions of Christian lands. Local Muslim rulers made those decisions on their own. Although the Seljuk sultan did claim to be the Caliph's right hand man. – MAGolding Jan 25 '19 at 20:06

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