Today modern Eastern Europe is awash in ethnic conflict. Russians and Ukrainians are locked in a brutal war. Ultra-nationalist politics threaten the stability of fragile post-Communist states like Hungary and Poland. Behind these present-day challenges lie the ghosts of empire, both in the twentieth-century Soviet Union and the imperial monarchies that preceded it. In this colloquium, we will read and research the history of nationalism and politics in this key region of Europe. Our goal will be to survey political relations between various nationalities, especially Jews, Poles, Russians, and Ukrainians, from the late eighteenth century through the era of world wars and up through the demise of Communism after 1989. We will focus our discussion around one key question that historians debate today: Did the political system of empire in Eastern Europe generate political stability among diverse nations and states? Or did it cause the unprecedented violence and genocide we associate with the region?
The first half of this course will be spent in specialized readings, focusing on themes of comparative nationalism, antisemitism, and violence. During that time, students will also begin to develop their own research proposals. In the second half of the term, we will shift from in-class reading discussions to independent work on research proposals and detailed rough drafts with instructor guidance and workshop format. The goal is for each student to complete a fine capstone essay on a topic of their choosing. Evaluation will be based on the following breakdown: class participation (30%); Written proposal (10%); Rough Draft (20%); and Final paper (40%).
Readings for this course will likely include the following books: Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands. Europe between Hitler and Stalin and The Reconstruction of Nations; Jan Gross, Neighbors; Omer Bartov, The Voice Of Your Brother’s Blood. Buczacz, Biography Of A Town; Norman Naimark, Stalin’s Genocides; and Brian Porter-Szucs, Poland in the Modern Era: Beyond Martyrdom.