The twentieth century, Lenin once predicted, would be remembered as a century of revolution. Perhaps nowhere did this forecast prove more accurate than in central Europe, which between 1917 and 1992 witnessed arguably no fewer than eight revolutionary episodes. Of course, these events did not unfold in quite the way Lenin envisaged; in the same way that central Europe became a laboratory for competing ideologies of the twentieth century, so it became the birthplace and testing ground of new styles of revolution and resistance.
This two-semester seminar examines the history of revolution in central Europe and the related phenomenon of resistance to oppressive regimes. Our focus in the fall semester will be on the twentieth century, but since the history of revolution in the region extends back to the eighteenth century (or arguably even the fifteenth), we may "peel back the layers of the onion" in the winter semester if there is sufficient interest. Similarly, our definition of "central Europe" in the fall will be relatively exclusive (limited to Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, and Poland in their various geographic incarnations), but the possibility exists to consider peripheral regions of central Europe (Croatia, Lithuania, Transylvania, etc.) in the winter. This is by no means a course on the "Cold War"; rather than international relations, the reading list emphasizes social, cultural, and intellectual history, showcasing the perspectives and experience of those actually doing the resisting or the work of revolution. Our aim will be to understand their mindset, their actions, and the context and consequences of both. Specifically, we will ask how the meaning of revolution has evolved in central Europe, how the techniques and aims of revolution and resistance have changed over time, and how conceptions of a desired ideal society have shifted concomitantly.