View Full Version : The Baltic as Common Frontier of Eastern and Western Europe

Saturday, January 1st, 2005, 05:36 PM


The purpose of this article is to discuss the Baltic Sea and Basin as a region in which there developed a common frontier of the culture of East and West European Civilization during the Middle Ages, particularly after the beginning of the Christianization of the region. In designating West European Civilization in this period, the terms "Roman Catholic" and "Latin" Europe are used synonymously therewith, and the term "Orthodox East" is used interchangeably with "East European Civilization." Elsewhere, to the south of the Baltic Basin, a common frontier of the two cultures was also in existence, but is not included in the scope of the article.

In a physical sense Europe does not lend itself easily to meaningful broad geographic divisions, except perhaps insofar as the great plain east of the Baltic Basin and the Carpathians, now mostly occupied by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, can be logically designated as a unit to which we may apply the term "Eastern Europe." The article is not intended as an investigation of the regions of European physical geography but as a discussion of the frontiers of European civilization as historical, social, and cultural phenomena.

The adjective "European," while synthetic and inadequate, is used for lack of a more precise term; "Christian" would not be applicable before the fourth century A. D.; and "Western" seems much too indefinite. Implied in the use of "European Civilization" is the conception of a society still in existence, with historical continuity, whose origins are at least as early as those of the Greek city -states a society that began in the Mediterranean Basin and expanded until it included all physical Europe as well as other continental areas. "Eastern Europe" and "Western Europe" in the title of the paper refer to the civilization and not to physical geography.

The history of the Baltic as part of geographical Europe (approximately to the end of the eleventh century) is discussed in detail in Archibald R. Lewis' The Northern Seas: Shipping and Commerce in Northern Europe A.D. 300 -1100 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958). This work details the economic relations between the Christian and non Christian peoples of Northern Europe until the great changes that occurred following the cessation of the Scandinavian raiding activities and the establishment of relative stability in the politics and trade of the North by the Danish kings and the German settlers, traders, and sailors. But these changes would hardly have been possible without the earlier work of the Frankish monarchy and the influence of the Latin Church, which paralleled the northward moving influences of Orthodoxy and Kievan Russia.

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