Historically, the nations of Central and Southeastern Europe have more experience of foreign occupation than of independence. Whether benign or brutal, whether oppressive or relatively liberal, such dominance has retarded the progress of the region’s indigenous societies, while simultaneously making the celebration of past glories and future hopes a central theme of artistic expression. In Central and Southeastern Europe, culture and nationalism have been inextricably intertwined, and as a result the history of drama in these countries is intimately connected to the general pattern of their social development.
There are, nonetheless, significant differences among the national theatrical traditions. Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary have been consistently open to Western European cultural influences, whereas Romania, Bulgaria, and the states briefly united as Yugoslavia have been more involved with the Russian and Turkish empires. Poland and Czechoslovakia have produced playwrights whose work appeals to world audiences, while their Bulgarian counterparts are neglected even at home; the countries achieving independence following Yugoslavia’s disintegration in the 1990’s continue to display distinct theatrical cultures, with Croatia’s dominance even more pronounced at the beginning of the twenty-first century than it has been in the past. Whatever their differences and similarities, however, it is clear that the nations of Central and Southeastern Europe have much to offer the world’s stage and are poised to make further contributions in the future.