Eastern Europe has been called "the lands between": between the "West", represented by the German- and Italian- speaking countries, and the real "East", meaning the former Russian/Soviet empire. Though many different peoples inhabit the area, this course, in the interests of coherence, concentrates on only some of them. It deals especially with the Poles, the Czechs and Slovaks, the Hungarians, and the South Slavs (the peoples of what was until recently Yugoslavia). Other major peoples of the area, such as the Romanians or the Bulgarians, are relatively neglected.
We deal with the years since the First World War, the cataclysm that created some East European countries for the first time and gave others their modern territorial form. The first half of the course concerns the struggles of the East European peoples to create stable national lives in the unfavorable conditions of the 1920s and 1930s, as well as their efforts to survive the Second World War. Then we turn to the imposition of Soviet-dominated regimes after 1945, the lives of the East European peoples under these regimes, and finally the dissolution of the Communist systems in 1989 and 1990.