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In some places and for some people, history means eternal clashes that are shaped by profound geopolitical forces: Four centuries ago is the same as yesterday. Elsewhere and for other people, history suggests a need to find ways to escape from ancient predicaments and outdated prejudices. Evocative historical dates are being used or abused in a similar way on the other edge of the European continent, to conjure up images of enemies that resonate in contemporary political debates.By contrast, the European core is obsessed with transcending history, with working out institutional mechanisms for overcoming the conflicts that scarred Europe in the first half of the 20th century.Or, on the contrary, is there something odd in the way that the European fringes obsessively resort to historical milestones? In Britain and Russia, this obsession appears to be not just a way of asserting national interests, but also a mechanism for appealing to a population disenchanted with the contemporary realities of decline from the imperial past.De Gaulle and Churchill knew plenty about war, and they wanted to transcend the blood-soaked legacy of Poltava, Blenheim and Waterloo. Today, Europe's fringes, by contrast, appear determined to escape into it.
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