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Intermarium: Politics and History of Central & Eastern Europe

IWP 694A/B
(2 Credits Each)

IWP 694A:  Intermarium: Politics and History of Central & Eastern Europe, Ancient History to 1918

(2 Credits)

This seminar will address the problems of Intermarium, the lands between Black, Baltic, and Adriatic Seas in Central and East Europe (CEE), from the ancient to modern times. In the first part of our inquiry, we shall briefly cover ancient history, including the wandering of the peoples and the settlement of the Intermarium based on folklore, archaeology, and DNA studies. We will introduce clans and tribes from the majority Slavic people, but we will also include non-Slavic denizens of the Intermarium, from the Albanians and Rumanians to the Balts and others.

Next, we shall discuss the rise of medieval kingdoms in the area and their travails in relation to the pressure from various powers like the Roman, Byzantine, and Holy Roman Empires, as well as the Mongols and Turks. In the early modern period, we shall delve into the competition between the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth and Muscovy/Russia as well as the Ottoman Porte and the Habsburg Empire as well as important interlopers such as Sweden. Then, in the 18th and 19th centuries, we will witness the demise of Poland, the waning of Turkey, and the domination of Prussia, Russia, and Austria.

The overarching theme will be the attempts to preserve independence by small ethnicities and their political projects in the face of empires.

IWP 694B  Intermarium: Politics and History of Central & Eastern Europe, 1918 to the Present

(2 Credits)

This seminar will address the problems of Intermarium, the lands between Black, Baltic, and Adriatic Seas in Central and East Europe (CEE) in the 20th and 21st centuries.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, our focus will be on nationalism in the Balkans, the Baltic States, Belorussia, Ukraine, Hungary, Czech and Slovak lands, and, last but not least, Poland. The differences and similarities between the CEE nations will be noted, while we explore the vicissitudes of modern CEE history.  As far as ideologies, we shall discuss Communism, Nazism, and post-Communism. In essence, we shall discuss the lands of the post-Soviet zone, which have returned to freedom, however tenuously.

As far as our periodization is concerned, the most crucial dates are: 1918 (when many of the CEE people regained their independence); 1939-45 (when the Nazis and the Soviets struggled for the mastery of CEE); and 1989 (when the nations of CEE won their freedom again).

During the inter-war period, the people of CEE struggled not only against foreign enemies but also had to face enormous political, ethnic, social, and economic problems. These became exacerbated following the outbreak of the Second World War. A major watershed in CEE history, the war brought about large-scale deportation and mass slaughter, most notably the Holocaust and the extermination of the traditional Polish elite in particular. Except for the Poles and, to a large extent, Serbs, CEE nations sided with Hitler against Stalin. Poland had a dubious distinction of falling victim to both totalitarian dictatorships: Nazi and Soviet. The latter won the struggle for power and imposed Communism on CEE following the war. This system endured for nearly half a century, only to collapse in 1989 in Poland and then across the rest of CEE. It was substituted with post-Communism, a transformation of the previous totalitarian paradigm, which resulted in a hybrid phenomenon combining the features of democracy and anti-democracy.

Within this context, we shall analyze CEE’s military endeavors, ethnic relations, social conflict, dissident activities, economic problems, and cultural and intellectual achievements.