The region is characterized by great political and ideological conflict during the twentieth century. Hungary, aligned with Austria, plays a major role in World War I. Following the conflict, Czechoslovakia is established as a political entity. It possesses 70–80 percent of the industry of the former Austria-Hungary. With the exception of Liechtenstein, which maintains neutrality, all of the nations in this region are involved in World War II: Hungary and Romania are allied with Nazi Germany; Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland are occupied by the Nazis. In the postwar period, with the exception of Austria and Liechtenstein, all are dominated by communist political regimes that do not fall until around 1990. Austria is occupied by the Allies after World War II, until it becomes independent in 1955.
From the turn of the twentieth century to the beginning of World War I, intellectual and cultural life flourish in many parts of the region. The Vienna Secessionists expand the vocabulary of modernism in architecture and the applied arts. Hungarian artists and architects adapt Art Nouveau. In Prague, groups of artists combine an interest in local traditions with a fascination for Parisian Cubism to develop a unique Cubist style, seen in works of painting and sculpture, but also, most distinctively, in architecture and the decorative arts. Two world wars and the domination of the region by repressive regimes has a chilling effect on this vibrant international culture. In postwar communist states, the early connections with Western European art are often suppressed. It is only with the fall of communism that Western Europeans become more conversant with the histories of avant-garde movements in Hungary and Czechoslovakia.