CS: Eastern Europe Since 1914

How can a small nation-state survive? Why do people choose communism or fascism, and why do they then rebel? These very current questions have been central to the East European experience throughout the 20th century. This course will examine the upheavals in the region from World War I through the revolutions of 1989-90 and the Bosnian war, as a way to understanding historical processes such as revolution, nationalism, and modernization.


This course seeks to make sense of the sweeping changes that have taken place in Eastern Europe since the revolutions of 1989, using historical perspective.

The class is divided into three segments:

  1. historical development--focusing on the 20th century-to the present day;
  2. political and socioeconomic issues in the recent past, including political and economic transition, foreign policy concerns, the environment, ethnic relations, the role of women, and the media;
  3. culture, including education, religion, literature, film, and popular music.

CS: Communism and Dissent in Eastern Europe

In the first half of the twentieth century, communism offered a seductive vision of modernity and a society free of want. This attraction reached its height after 1945, as Stalin’s Red Army liberated East Central Europe from Nazi occupation, and Soviet-supported regimes took power throughout the region. This seminar will consider the tremendous appeal of communism and the subsequent disillusionment among intellectuals in Eastern Europe. In the face of Communist repression, East European dissidents developed a powerful critique of politics and the state.

CS: Eastern Europe in Transition: The Road to 1989 and Beyond

The fall of the Communist system in 1989 was a moment of euphoria for Eastern Europe, a moment seemed to herald a complete and immediate transformation of life in the region. However, once the dust had settled, it quickly became apparent that the transition from socialism to democracy and a free market economy would be a long and torturous process. This course examines the revolutionary events of 1989 in Eastern Europe and the numerous, sometimes unanticipated, problems that arose in their wake.

CS: To Dance (or not to Dance) with Stalin: Eastern Europe under Communism, 1944-1989

This is the follow-up lecture course to D300 (“The Trouble with Being Born”: Eastern Europe in the First Half of the Twentieth Century). The course begins inside the Second World War, when the interwar years have decisively come to an end, but no one yet knows what is to follow. We will then explore the history of Eastern Europe from the “liminal” years immediately following the end of the war, through the Stalinist period, the post-Stalin “Thaw,” the emergence of “revisionist” Marxism, “normalization” and dissent, and finally the revolutions of 1989.

CS: Ethnic Cleansing and East European History

The wars of the Yugoslav succession brought the term “ethnic cleansing” into popular use, as newspaper and television accounts of massacres suggested both unprecedented violence and timeless motives. Whereas “genocide” is a term of international law with entirely negative connotations, “ethnic cleansing” is used by cleansers themselves, and is sometimes taken to convey a positive outcome. The term “ethnic cleansing” dates back at least to the Second World War. The thing is at least as old as the First World War, and perhaps older. Perhaps the Yugoslavia of the 1990s was not so exceptional?

CS: "The Trouble with Being Born": Eastern Europe in the First Half of the Twentieth Century

From the title of the Romanian writer Emil Cioran's book. This course will begin around the turn of the century with the twilight of the great empires (Russian, Prussian, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian), exploring the origins and "invention" of modern Eastern Europe. It will go on to examine the "rebirth" of Eastern Europe in the aftermath of World War I; the wild and experimental 1920s, including avantgardism in the cultural sphere and the collapse of democracy in the political sphere; and the polarizing ideological spectrum of the 1930s.


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