Lifting the Iron Curtain. Modern and Contemporary Eastern Europe
Full course description
Lifting the Iron Curtain studies the political, social and economic transformation of Eastern Europe from the end of the First World War till today. This multidisciplinary course can be divided into two major parts: a historical one devoted to the short twentieth century until 1989-91 and a more contemporary one exploring the achievements and shortcomings of the three decades since. The first half of the course starts by examining East-West relations in Europe on a material and discursive level. It continues with discussing the emergence and characteristics of the post-imperial order after the First World War. It also focuses on the practically simultaneous imposition of the Bolshevik regime in the (newly created) Soviet Union as well as the brutal development of this regime under Lenin and Stalin. The course subsequently includes four meetings on the post-war (Soviet) era west of the Soviet Union, respectively devoted to the origins of Soviet-type regimes in Eastern Europe; the major challenges these regimes had to face, such the Hungarian uprising or the Prague Spring, and how they responded to them; the reasons behind their unexpected and sudden collapse in 1989-91; and, last but not least, continental and global perspectives on these developments. As mentioned, the second half of the course assesses the political and economic transformation of Eastern Europe since 1989-91. Questions regarding democratization and the quality of democracy in the region as well as the European opening and the related expectations, hopes and frustrations will be in the center of our attention. We shall also dissect the memory regimes characterizing the post-dictatorial countries of Eastern Europe and zoom in on the origins and unfolding of the two major violent conflicts in the region since, that in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the ongoing one in Ukraine. The course closes with a discussion of the major challenges Eastern Europe has to confront today.
The course explores key developments in Eastern Europe over the past hundred years from a comparative point of view with a focus on communist regimes (discipline of history and field of Soviet studies) as well as contemporary trends, such as democratization and Europeanization, economic transformations and crises, as well as violent conflicts since 1989-91 (comparative politics and international relations, economic history, peace and conflict studies). The course aims to broaden students’ horizons to a region which has been the central stage of numerous recent transformations and cataclysms in Europe. It seeks to equip students with the tools to analyze modern and contemporary Eastern Europe from a multidisciplinary perspective.
COR1003 Contemporary World History and one of the following: HUM1013 The Idea of Europe: The Intellectual History of Europe, HUM2007 States and Nations in Europe. From the Middle Ages to the First World War, SSC2002 International Relations: Themes and Theories, SSC1025 Introduction to Political Science.
Connelly, John (2020). From Peoples into Nations: A History of Eastern Europe. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Klimó, Árpád von and Livezeanu, Irina, eds. (2017). The Routledge History of East Central Europe since 1700. London: Routledge.