Tomasz Kamusella, besides being an LH reader and commenter (see his very interesting contributions to this LH thread), is a scholar of language and nationalism, and his book The Politics of Language and Nationalism in Central Europe has now been published by Palgrave Macmillan (official pub date in the U.S. is January 20), and it looks like a valuable read for anyone interested in the subject (though at 1,168 pages and £125.00/$204.95 it’s quite an investment in time and money). From the publisher’s page you can download a pdf file containing the table of contents, 60-page introduction, and 86-page index. I’ll provide a few excerpts from the introduction, so you can get an idea of the kinds of things he discusses:
Although the Western European pedigree of politics of language is at present conveniently forgotten, the phenomenon of language politicization is said to be now most visible in Central Europe. It is so because after World War I, the formerly multilingual Western European powers of France and the United Kingdom with the support of the United States chose to delegitimize the existence of Austria-Hungary on the account of its multilingualism and multiethnicity. By the same token, the victorious powers legitimized various ethnonational (formerly, often marginal) movements, which defined their postulated nations in terms of language. The national principle steeped in the ideal of ethnolinguistic homogeneity allowed these movements to carve up Central Europe into a multitude of ethnolinguistic nation-states. What followed with vengeance was forced ethnolinguistic homogenization pursued to assimilate ‘non-national elements’ within a nation-state. The intensity and human costs of this project were much higher than in Western Europe, because there the process of ethnolinguistic homogenization was spread out over two or more centuries, and conducted mostly prior to the rise of the bureaucratic state and industry, which provided the means of making millions conform with the central government’s will. …
In the second half of the 19th century, European scholars and statisticians, confronted with the non-national character of Central and Eastern Europe, believed that the nations, which ‘had to exist there,’ could be brought out from the ‘ambiguity of multiethnic populaces’ using statistics. In the subsequent censuses, one had to declare one’s language, variously interpreted as mother tongue, family language, or language of everyday communication. The declaration of more than one language per person was not permitted, which by default excluded the phenomenon of bi- and multilingualism from official scrutiny. The logic of this exclusion stemmed from the conviction that a person can belong to one nation only. By the same token, declarations of variously named dialects, already construed as ‘belonging to’ a national language, were noted as declarations of this national language. …
At the beginning of the 19th century, the idea of popular literacy as the prerequisite of ‘civilizedness’ appeared in Western Europe (Astle 1784). During the 20th century, this concept extended to all the corners of the globe (Illich and Sanders 1988; McLuhan 1962). From that time on, it was insufficient just to speak and communicate successfully. People had to speak something recognized as ‘a language,’ reified by writing (Anderson 1991; Billig 1995: 31). The illiterate speech of those not conforming to this new communication pattern was dubbed as ‘a dialect’ and became subordinated to ‘a language.’ Dialects created in this manner were made into a language’s oral, that is, ‘uncivilized,’ patrimony or anachronistic offspring14 (cf. Bloomfield 1926: 162). …
Nowadays, in comparison to the majority of extant polities worldwide, most of the nation-states of Central Europe are unnaturally homogenous in their ethnolinguistic composition. Non-Polish-speakers constitute less than 1 percent Poland’s population, non-Magyar-speakers amount to 2 percent of Hungary’s inhabitants, non-Czech-speakers are less than 3 percent in the Czech Republic’s populace, non-Romanian-speakers constitute less than 11 percent of Romania’s inhabitants, and non-Slovak-speakers amount to less than 15 percent of Slovakia’s populace. But the vast majority of the minority non-national language-speakers could not help acquiring this language at school within the nation-state of their residence. In most cases, it will ensure their assimilation in the near future (Eberhardt 1996: 128, 135, 138, 244, 250). This unusual homogeneity was achieved at a stupendous human cost. The borders of new nation-states founded on the rubble of the destroyed multiethnic polities after 1918 were drawn and re-drawn after both World Wars. These ethnonationally motivated and legitimized changes made tens of millions into foreigners without their need of moving to a different country and tossed tens of millions across the changing borders in forced population exchanges, internationally agreed expulsions, unilateral schemes of forced emigration, deportations, internal dispersals, and due to the denial of citizenship, among others. The interwar descent of the region from democracy into authoritarianism, the wartime Holocaust of Jews and Roma perpetrated by the Third Reich, and the post-war imposition of Soviet totalitarianism facilitated this process of ethnolinguistic homogenization by loosening and nullifying established social bonds and absolving national leaderships from observing the conventional moral norms. Finally and ominously, one could be true to one’s nationalism, which made one’s own nation into the highest good to be fortified and cherished at whatever cost and suffering it could mean to other nations and national minorities (Magocsi 2002: 191; Ther and Siljak 2001).
I was amused by this anecdote:
When I did research in Vienna in 2005, I ran a small experiment. I asked Austrian, German, and other Western colleagues in the Institute of Human Sciences (Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen) how far Vienna was from Bratislava. The usual guesses were 200 to 500 kilometers. In reality, it is 66 kilometers by car from city center to city center.
This clearly shows how much even an educated Austrian or German sees her or his country as part of the West, even to the defiance of actual geography.
And I was thunderstruck by the parenthetical remark at the end of this:
All other post-Soviet states still aspire to the ideal of ethnolinguistic homogeneity, including the Russian Federation, where Russians make up more than four-fifths of the population, and practically all non-Russians speak Russian and are not allowed to use any other script but Cyrillic for writing their national languages as long as they enjoy their own autonomous republics. (The Jewish Autonomous Region Birobidzhan is the sole exception, as Yiddish written in the Hebrew script is employed there in official capacity.)
But sure enough, the Wikipedia article on Birobidzhan (Russian: Биробиджа́н; Yiddish: ביראָבידזשאַן) says that “Yiddish and Jewish traditions have been required components in all public schools for almost fifteen years, taught not as Jewish exotica but as part of the region’s national heritage.” Somehow I thought the whole “Jewish Birobidzhan” thing was a Stalinist initiative that failed half a century ago. (Of course, there are only 4,000 Jews in Birobidzhan, but that’s a lot more than I would have expected.)
The book seems to be quite well proofread, but in that long a book there are bound to be typos, and here are a few I noticed that should be corrected in the next edition: “In 1774, Austria annexed northern Bukovina (today in southeastern [should be southwestern] Ukraine)”; “southern Kosovo went to Italy, which had already annexed Albania and the northern Greek territory around Prága” [s/b Párga]; “Chereso [s/b Cherso] (Cres)”; “Thessalonicae” [s/b Thessalonica]; “ruskaia dusha” [s/b russkaia]; “Tuscanian” [s/b Tuscan]. This isn’t a typo but a misleading geographical designation: “Between 1555 and 1713, Spanish was the official language in the Low Countries” [s/b in the Spanish Netherlands]. Also, in an English-language book it’s odd to see Preßburg rather than Pressburg for the German name of Bratislava.