A distinguished Hungarian academic at UCLA, Berend identifies the influences behind the political misadventure of central and Eastern Europe during the interwar period. His range of analysis is immense, from economic history to visual arts and music to ethnic conflict. He sorts through all these factors to explain why the states in this region could not sustain democracy and instead ultimately embraced right-wing dictatorship. His answer largely rests on the baleful effects of economic backwardness and the failure to modernize, as well as archaic social structures, underdeveloped nation-building, and turbulent national minority problems. On his canvas, central and Eastern Europe (from Poland to Albania) as well as the Soviet Union, all appear as pieces of the same portrait -- perhaps appropriately so, because some of the old dynamics are uncomfortably recognizable today in the post-Soviet region.