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HSTEU 452 A: Eastern Europe Since 1918

Meeting Time: 
MW 11:30am - 1:20pm
SIG 226
Professor James Felak
James Felak

Syllabus Description:


Professor Felak
Smith Hall, Room 112-B
Office Hours: Wednesday, 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.
or by appointment


The history of the peoples of East Central Europe (Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, and Slovaks) from the end of the First World War in 1918 to the Present. Through lectures, readings, and films, we will follow these peoples as they rebuild their countries after World War I, succumb to the dangers of fascism and Nazism, endure the Second World War, are absorbed into Soviet Russia’s empire, resist and ultimately overthrow Communist rule, and face the challenges of integration into the European Union. No background is needed, though a basic familiarity with modern European history is helpful.


I. East Central Europe after the First World War

II. East Central Europe in the 1920s

III. Economic, Social and Diplomatic Problems in Interwar East Central Europe

IV. The Great Depression and the Rise of Nazi Germany

V. East Central Europe in the 1930s

VI. The Second World War

VII. The Communist Takeovers

VIII. Stalinism

IX. The Hungarian, Czechoslovak, and Polish Challenges to the Soviet System

X. The Revolutions of 1989

XI. East Central Europe since 1989


Ivan Olbracht, The Sorrowful Eyes of Hannah Karajich

Milan Kundera, The Joke

Vaclav Havel, The Garden Party and Other Plays


1. a mid-term examination (25%)—an essay examination, to be held on Wednesday, October 23 during class.

2. a short paper (3 pages) on each of the course readings (10% each)—for each reading there will be a handout that includes both the question or questions to be addressed in the short paper, and the questions to think about in preparation for class discussion. Papers are due on the specified date at class time (see schedule below). They are to be typed, double-spaced, with 1.25 inch margins, in a font of 12, in Times New Roman, and should not violate the stipulated length requirement. Points will be taken off for papers that violate any of these stipulations. Moreover, one of the skills this course intends to teach is the capacity to meet deadlines. Therefore, penalties for late papers will be strict. There will be an automatic 1.5 deduction from the grade of any paper not turned in by the beginning of class on the determined due date. An additional 1.0 will be deducted for every succeeding day that the paper is not turned in by Noon. The best papers will be the ones that are the most insightful and demonstrate that you have read and thought about the book.

3. participation in class discussions (20%)—you should attend class faithfully, do the readings beforehand, and participate competently in discussions. We will devote one class session to each of the three books assigned, on which you will be writing short papers. Come to class with at least one comment on each of the questions on the handout.

4. a final examination (25%)—an essay examination, to be held on Wednesday, December 4 during class.

Monday, 10/14—Olbracht paper due (discussed on 10/16)
Wednesday, 10/23—Midterm examination
Wednesday, 11/6—Kundera paper due (discussed on 11/13)
Wednesday, 11/20—Havel paper due (discussed on 11/20)
Wednesday, 12/4—Final examination


Catalog Description: 
Explores the history of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia from the end of World War I to the present.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:15pm