This course will provide an historical overview of the lands, peoples, and states of Eastern Europe from 1815 to the present. Given the great flux in borders, sovereignties, and the ethnic profile of the region during this period, we will have to continually refine or redefine our concept of Eastern Europe, an area that roughly encompasses the band of countries stretching from today's Poland to the Balkans. In keeping with a convention that is not entirely free of political overtones, I will divide the region into two parts, East Central Europe and Southeastern Europe (the Balkans). Though the latter will appear at key points in our narrative, the class will focus primarily on the Central European territories of the Habsburg Monarchy and its successor states.
The first half of the course will look at how the supra-national Habsburg Empire and its eleven peoples negotiated the rise of nationalism, industrialism, and popular politics. We will analyze the Monarchy's strengths and weaknesses as it responded to serious internal and external challenges from 1848 to 1918. When war and nationalism finally destroyed the Empire in 1918, its unique constitution and ethnic structure would leave an enduring stamp on the region. In the second half of the course, we will turn to the Empire's successor states during the interwar period, as they struggled to consolidate new national states in a decidedly multi-national region. Though this experiment in nation-building collapsed under the Nazi German onslaught, it would return in Communist guise after the Second World War. The course will conclude with a look at dissident movements, Mikhail Gorbachev's renunciation of Soviet hegemony, and the subsequent wave of democratic revolutions in 1989.