Modern Central European History
Alexander Maxwel

This course is an upper division course focusing on the Habsburg Empire and its successor states, especially Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Poland. The course will teach political history and geography, examine mythic national histories in the region, and help students analyse historical sources critically. Central Europe is a diverse region with several different nationalities, the course will devote special attention to nationality questions. Since some students may take this course interested in a specific country, the assignments allow students to choose their own geographic focus.


Robin Okey Eastern Europe 1740-1980: Feudalism to Communism (the Textbook)
Karl Marx The Communist Manifesto (there will be several copies on reserve)
Slavenka Drakuli
ć How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed
Jaroslav Hašek The Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk
Andrew Wachtel Making a Nation, Breaking a Nation
Timothy Garton Ash The Magic Lantern
Heda Kovály Under a Cruel Star

There will also be a reader with around 90 pages (163 pages in original books)

Grading system
Midterm 20%
The midterm will include a geography section covering the territories of and adjacent to the Habsburg Empire, 8 "ID" questions, and one essay question. The essay question will provide a choice between three topics, you’ll have to answer one of three.

Review Essay 15%

Students will be expected to write a five-page critical review of one of the following books:

Kirschbaum. Slovakia: The Struggle for Survival
Yaremko. Galicia-Halychyna (A Part of Ukraine): From Separation to Unity
Gazi History of Croatia
Otto Zarek The History of Hungary
These books are all polemical, motivated by ethnic/national pride: they are "mythic histories." The purpose of the book review is to give you practice in reading critically and sceptically. Sceptical, critical reading is important, as is the ability to recognise propaganda. Students may read a national history from another country in the region, if they bring this book to the instructor for approval.

Novel Review 15%
Students are expected to read one work of fiction from Central Europe. Novels acceptable for this assignment are due the week listed. For this essay, students are expected to think about the novel not as a literary genre, but a historical source: what does this text tell us about the society and individual which produced it?

Research paper 20%
The research paper (10 pages) should address a research question selected by the student, using at least four secondary sources. Then, the student must examine at least two primary sources to reach a conclusion. The bibliography must have at least ten printed sources (i.e. no webpages).

Final Exam - 30%
The final will have two parts. The first part has a geography section, an "ID" section, and an essay. You will have a choice of three essay questions, you must answer one. This part of the exam, in other words, is exactly like the midterm. The second part includes four essay questions, one question each for Hašek, Kovály, Drakulić, and Brailsford. Students may choose which books to study in greater depth.

Attendance is not mandatory for lectures, but is mandatory for discussion sections on all weeks except week 1 and week 9 (the midterm review session). To count as "present," students must BOTH be present AND have a one-page response paper about the readings for that week. The response paper is pass-no pass, it is not graded for content, which should encourage students to give their honest opinions. However, no credit is given for the response paper if the student is not present.

The response paper has two objectives. It encourages students to complete the reading by the discussion section, and it helps them to critically analyze primary and secondary sources, skills that are important both for the research paper and for academic life generally. The format of the response paper varies slightly depending on whether the reading that week is a primary or secondary source.

For Primary Sources:

This text was written by _____[paragraph on author]
The author is writing about
[describe the topic of the text] in order to argue

This text helps us understand the past by illustrating the following things about the author’s society:
2. __________________________________________________________________________
3. __________________________________________________________________________

For secondary Sources:

This text was written by _____[paragraph on author]
The author is writing about
[describe the topic of the text] in order to argue

The author looks at evidence such as:
2. __________________________________________________________________________
3. __________________________________________________________________________

This evidence is/isn't convincing for the following reasons:

Week 1
Read Okey: "Feudal inheritance," "Englightenment," (Chapters 1,2)

W Introduction to the region: Nations vs. States
The peoples and nations of Central Europe. F Discussion of geography. Ethnographic map hand-outs: how to lie with population maps. (Ronai, Wilkinson). Learn your political geography with the following online map quiz:

Week 2

Read Okey, "Storm and Settlement" (Chapter 3) Novel for possible review: Adam Mickiewicz Pan Tadeusz

M Monarchies: the Royal houses, the Rechtstaat vs. Autocracy, bureaucracy. Map Quiz
W The rise of Nationalism: Herder, Literacy, the "national author."
F Social origin of intelligentsias. Széchenyi, Palacký. Newspapers, Matica movements.

Selections from Johann Gottfried von Herder Ideas toward a Philosophy of History (from Adler, Menze, eds On World History: Johann Gottfried Herder) 128-149, 178-184, 187-208. Also read the texts from the following patriotic songs:
Arndt: "Where is the German fatherland?"
Sándor Petőfi. National Song, Diary p. 253-60 (9 pages)

Also: each student must bring to class one Central European patriotic song

Week 3
Read Okey "Liberalism and Nationalism" (Chapter 4) Novel for possible review: Mór Jókai Dr. Dumany’s Wife or Boleslaw Prus The Doll

M Revolutions in Central Europe: 1848 in Vienna and Prague
1848 in Hungary
F The Bach Regime: Reaction. The nobility after the abolition of serfdom.

Discussion: Nationalism and Socialism in 1848
Karl Marx The Communist Manifesto (available online)
Palacky’s letter

Week 4
Read Okey, "Economy and Society" (Chapter 5) Novel for possible review: Zsigmund Móricz Be Faithful unto Death

M Schooling: peasants into workers, clerks, patriots
W Mythic Histories: Poland as Christ of Nations, "Hungarian Jesus," Kosovo myth.
F Territoriality and autonomy. Croatia vs. Slovakia, partitioned Poland

Discussion: Contested Mythic Histories of Transylvania
Pro-Hungarian Transylvania sites
Kazar "facts against fiction"
Balogh "Separating myths and facts"
"Transylvania is Hungarian!"
Pro-Romanian Transylvania sites
Romanian Embassy "General Survey"
"Transylvania: Ancient Romanian Land"

Week 5
Mark Twain "Stirring Times in Austria"
Jan Neruda "How It Came to Pass," in Prague Tales, 204-27.

M Everyday life during the 19th century: Social hierarchy. Jews, emerging middle classes.
W "Backwardness," Industrialisation.
F Review Essay Due! The Ausgleich: Austria-Hungary, Kakania in politics and imagination.

Discussion: Social life in the Habsburg Monarchy
András Gerő. Hungarian Society: The Unfinished Experience "A Hungarian Cult: Queen Elisabeth of Bavaria." 223-237
Jeremy King, "The Nationalization of East Central Europe. Ethnicism, Ethnicity, and Beyond" in Staging the Past, 112-142

Week 6
Novel for possible review: Ivo Andrić A Bridge on the Drina

M Austro-Marxists, their influence on Bolsheviks. Austro-Hungarian relations, the franchise.
W The Balkans: Ottoman decline. Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria.
F Bosnia, the "Pig War," the Balkan Wars, Macedonia.

Discussion: The Ottoman decline
Henry Brailsford Macedonia: The Land and its People "Village life, The Orthodox Church, Races of Macedonia." 42-109 = 67p
Durham High Albania "The Land and the Law," "The Coming of the Constitution"
The Turkish perspective: Mango, Attaturk "An Impatient Young Turk" 80-100

Week 7
Read: Okey "Politics 1870-1918" (Chapter 6). Film: Fábri The Boys of Paul Street (Hungary, 1968; 110 minutes)
Novel for possible review: Jaroslav Hašek. The Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk

M How the alliance system turned the Balkan Wars to WWI. Nationalism’s power and limits.
W The Eastern front. Italian intervention. The Czechoslovak and Yugoslav armies and govt. in exile.
F Wilson, Versailles/Trianon. Czechoslovakia as a case study in National Self-determination.

Discussion: World War One.
Liulevicius. War Land on the Eastern Front. "The ‘Kultur’ Program" 113-144.

Week 8
[no film this week: midterm]
Novel for possible review: Aurther Koestler Darkness at Noon

M Russia 1917 and its impact in Central Europe, Béla Kun, the Räterepublik, Lithuania.
W Nationalism, Communism or neither? Maxno, Poland’s War with the USSR. The Comintern.
F Midterm

Discussion section: Review for midterm

Week 9
Read Okey "Independent Eastern Europe" (Chapter 7), Film Waszyński The Dybbuk (Poland, 1937; 123 mins.)
Novel for possible review: Bohumil Hrabal I served the King of England

M The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. D’Annunzio and Italian-Yugoslav relations.
W Fascism and sport culture in Italy, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania.
F The rise of Nazi Germany, Muinch.

Discussion: Yugolslavia
Baruch Wachtel. Making a Nation, Breaking a Nation. 19-31, 38-53, 63-106. (70 pages)

Week 10
Read: Okey "From Hitler to Stalin (chapter 8). Film: Menzel Closely Watched Trains (Czechoslovakia 1966; 93 mins)
Novel for possible review: Tadeusz Borowski This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen.

M 1939-41: Hitler’s successes. Polish and Czechoslovak govts, in exile. Tiso and Horthy.
W Life under German occupation in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia. The Holocaust.
F Germany’s defeat, Tito, the Red Army.

Discussion: The Holocaust.
Elie Wiesel Night

Week 11
Film Kadár The Shop on Main Street (Czechoslovakia,1964; 128 mins.)
Novel for possible review: Tibor Fisher Under the Frog

M Postwar life: physical destruction, the "transfer of populations."
W The Communist seizure of power, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Yugoslavia.
F East-West relations at the start of the cold war

Discussion: Socialism in power
Heda Kovály. Under a Cruel Star, 5-92. (87 pages)

Week 12
Film: Bacsó The Witness (Hungary, 1969; 116 mins) Novel for possible review: Milan Kundera The Unbearable Lightness of Being

M Exporting the Stalinist system: Collectivization, purges, show trials.
W 1956, Nagy; 1968, Dubček.
F The cadres as a "New Class." Socialist strategies of national legitimization: Warsaw’s Old Town vs. Prague’s Old Town Hall.

Discussion: Everyday life under Socialism
See site on mass gymnastics:
Slavenka Drakulić, How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed. Chapters 2, 3, 5, 9: "Pizza in Warsaw, Torte in Prague," "Make-up and other crucial Questions," "On Doing Laundry," "The Strange Ability of Apartments to Divide and Multiply." p. 11-32, 43-54, 82-92. (52 pages)

Week 13
Read Okey, "Communist Eastern Europe" (chapter 9).
Film: Kustorica When Father Was Away on Business (Yugoslavia, 1985; 144 min)
Novel for possible review: Škvorecký The Bass Saxophone
Essay topics due! Mature Socialism: the social contract, standard of living. Rock and Jazz.
W The dissident Movement: Chater 77 and Havel; Solidarity and Wałęnsa.
F Romania: Dictatorship, birth control, and ethnic tension.

Discussion: the Political morality of post-totalitarianism
Václav Havel The Power of the Powerless, Ch 1-13 (~34 pages)
Jozef Škvorecký "Are Canadians Politically Naďve?" Talking Moscow Blues (c. 10 pages)

Week 14
Read: Okey, "Epilogue". Film: Sverák, Kolya (Czechoslovakia 1996; 105 mins)

M Economic stagnation, Gorbachev.
W 1989: year of miracles, German Reunification.
F The "return to Europe," Czechoslovakia’s end, Klaus vs. Mečiar.

Discussion: the "Refolutions" of 1989
Timothy G. Ash. The Magic Lantern, "Warsaw," "Budapest," "Conclusion." (60 pages)
Will Guy. "Ways of looking at Roma: The Case of Czechoslovakia, Afterward." From Gypsies: An Interdisciplinary Reader, Tong ed. 48-66 (18 pages)

Week 15
Read: Baruch Wachtel Making a Nation, Breaking a Nation. 219-245. (26 pages) Film: Dragojević, Pretty Village, Pretty Flame, (Yugoslavia, 1996, 128 min.)

M Roma as a political issue in Central Europe.
W The Collapse of Yugoslavia: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia. F Albanians on the march. Kosovo, Macedonia

Discussion: What does Central Europea Teach us?
Charles Ingrao. "Ten Untaught Lessons about Central Europe."

Final Exam – Happy holidays