EASTERN EUROPE IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Fall 1996 414 PAC -- ext. 2385 Mr. Morgan
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org home: 346-1522
Eastern Europe has been called "the lands between": between the "West", represented by the German- and Italian-speaking countries, and the real "East", meaning the former Russian/Soviet empire. Though many different peoples inhabit the area, this course, in the interests of coherence, concentrates on only some of them. It deals especially with the Poles, the Czechs and Slovaks, the Hungarians, and the South Slavs (the peoples of what was until recently Yugoslavia). Other major peoples of the area, such as the Romanians or the Bulgarians, are relatively neglected.
We deal with the years since the First World War, the cataclysm that created some East European countries for the first time and gave others their modern territorial form. The first half of the course concerns the struggles of the East European peoples to create stable national lives in the unfavorable conditions of the 1920s and 1930s, as well as their efforts to survive the Second World War. Then we turn to the imposition of Soviet-dominated regimes after 1945, the lives of the East European peoples under these regimes, and finally the dissolution of the Communist systems in 1989 and 1990.
The following books have been ordered for the course through the bookstore:
Ivo Andric, The Bridge on the Drina
Tadeusz Borowski, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
Milovan Djilas, Wartime
Mark Frankland, The Patriots Revolution
Misha Glenny, The Fall of Yugoslavia, 3rd rev. ed.
Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
Ezra Mendelsohn, The Jews of East Central Europe between the Wars
Tina Rosenberg, The Haunted Land
Joseph Rothschild, East Central Europe between the Two World Wars
Joseph Rothschild, Return to Diversity, 2nd ed.
In addition to books by historians, the course has many readings meant to convey the experience of contemporaries: literature, memoirs, documents and political essays, and accounts by travelers and reporters. There are also films, shown (as videos) on Friday afternoon at 2:05 in 125 PAC. Three Friday films are marked in the syllabus as required, with a paper due at the following Monday's class. Of the remaining films, you are expected to attend at least three, at your choice.
Since this is a First Year Initiative course, a discussion and writing course for first-year students only, a paper is due at each Monday class (except the first and the last). Most assignments are two-page papers in which you are asked to reflect on some subject arising from the course reading or the previous Friday's film. There are also two five-page papers, written for one Monday and revised for the next Monday after you receive comments on the draft. The course ends with a 12- to 15-page research paper on a topic chosen by each student in consultation with the instructor. It is due at noon on Monday, December 16, the first day of examination period.
( * = xeroxed handouts or Reserve reading )
Mon., Sept. 9 -- Introductory
Wed., Sept. 11 -- The Sweep of Bosnian History, seen by a Bosnian
Ivo Andric, The Bridge on the Drina (1945): Andric (1892-1975) won a Nobel Prize largely for this episodic fictional account of the history of the Bosnian town of Viegrad (where he grew up) over three and a half centuries leading up to the First World War. -- To read: Introduction, Foreword and chapters I - VIII
Fri., Sept. 13 -- FILM
Ashes and Diamonds (Poland, 1958; 105 mins.): This early work by Andrzej Wajda, the best-known East European director, is widely regarded as the finest East European film of its time. Complex and ambiguous, it follows the day and night of a young partisan fighter who has undertaken to assassinate a local Communist leader as the Second World War is coming to a close. It made a star of Zbigniew Cybulski, "the Polish James Dean".
Mon., Sept. 16 -- Bosnia (continued)
Andric, Bridge on the Drina, chs. IX - XXIV (rest of the book)
Wed., Sept. 18 -- Poland Between the Wars: The Temptations of Authoritarianism
Joseph Rothschild, East Central Europe between the Two World Wars (1974), ch. 2
*Bruno Schulz, "August," "Visitation," and "Birds" from The Street of Crocodiles (1934), with an introduction by Jerzy Ficowski and a brief commentary by the author: A vividly idiosyncratic vision of an interwar Polish town by an isolated Jewish author (1892-1942) who is now regarded as one of the finest Polish writers of his time.
Fri., Sept. 20 -- REQUIRED FILM
When Father Was Away on Business (Yugoslavia, 1985; 144 mins.): A funny, touching movie about a young boy buffeted by the adult sexuality and politics around him (Father is in a labor camp, not away on business). The film, by Bosnian Muslim director Emir Kusturica, is set among his people in the difficult years of 1950-52, mostly in Sarajevo. Won the Palme d'or at the Cannes film festival.
Mon., Sept. 23 -- Czechoslovakia Between the Wars: Democracy, in Their Fashion
Rothschild, East Central Europe, ch. 3
*T. G. Masaryk, Masaryk on Thought and Life (1935), sections on "Politics" and "Nation": The aged President (1850-1937) muses on some of his central convictions in conversation with the great Czech liberal writer Karel Èapek.
Wed., Sept. 25 -- Hungary Between the Wars: The Politics of Resentment
Rothschild, East Central Europe, ch. 4
*Thomas Sakmyster, "The Admiral on Horseback: An Assessment," from his Hungarys Admiral on Horseback: Miklós Horthy, 1918-1944 (1994)
Fri., Sept. 27 -- FILM
The Red and the White (Hungary, 1967; 92 mins.): Director Miklós Jancsós oblique, stunningly photographed commentary on civil war, specifically on the Russian Civil War of 1918-21 between the Reds (Communists) and the Whites (counter-revolutionaries). The film was made under the auspices the Hungarian and Soviet state (Communist) film industries; but the films take on the war is more complicated than this implies.
Mon., Sept. 30 -- Yugoslavia between the Wars: A Federation of Mistrust
Rothschild, East Central Europe, ch. 5
*Rebecca West, "Croatia", from Black Lamb, Grey Falcon: The Record of a Journey through Yugoslavia in 1937 (1941): An enduring travel book from the interwar years, enlivened by the lively historical curiosity and humane sympathies of the author, a well-known novelist of the day. To read: pp. 39-55, 83-89, and 95-114
Wed., Oct. 2 -- The Last Decades of East European Jewry
Ezra Mendelsohn, The Jews of East Central Europe between the World Wars, Introduction and chs. 1 and 2 (on Poland and Hungary)
Fri., Oct. 4 -- FILM
The Dybbuk (Poland, 1937; 123 mins.): A Yiddish-language film by Micha³ Waszyñski that vividly conveys the atmosphere of the Yiddish cultural tradition that was to be extinguished in its Polish and Lithuanian homelands a few year later. The story, from a classic Yiddish play about doomed love and exorcism by S. Ansky, starts slowly but gains strength in the second half.
Mon., Oct. 7 -- Death and Survival in the Holocaust, I
Tadeusz Borowski, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen (1948): The Auschwitz experiences of a non-Jewish Pole (1922-51), turned into powerful fiction. -- To read: Introduction and the first four stories (through "Auschwitz, Our Home")
In-class film, Night and Fog (France, 1955; 31 mins.): The fundamental documentary about the Nazi death camps, made by Alain Resnais.
Wed., Oct. 9-- Death and Survival in the Holocaust, II
*Arnot Lustig, "The Second Round," "The Old Ones and Death", and "The Last Day of the Fire," from Diamonds of the Night (1958): This Czech Jewish author (b. 1926), a survivor of Terezin (Theresienstadt), Buchenwald and Auschwitz, writes Holocaust stories in quite a different vein than Borowskis.
Fri., Oct. 11 -- FILM
The Shop on Main Street (Czechoslovakia, 1964; 128 mins.): This funny, tragic film by Jan Kadár and Elmar Klos shows us a provincial town under the clerical-fascist puppet regime that ruled Slovakia during World War II. This is a classic story about the role of casual antisemitism and indifference in facilitating the Holocaust, with unforgettable performances by Josef Króner and Ida Kaminská. It won an Academy Award.
Mon., Oct. 14 -- Resistance, as Practiced by the Yugoslavs
Milovan Djilas, Wartime (1977): More than thirty years afterwards, Djilas (1911-95) reports on the years when he was a ruthless young Communist in Titos inner circle, fighting the partisan war against the Germans, Italians, Chetniks, Ustashe, and others. -- To read: "The Peoples Uprising" and "The Civil War within a War"
Wed., Oct. 16 -- The War and the Coming of the New Order
Joseph Rothschild, Return to Diversity: A Political History of East Central Europe since World War II (1989), ch. 2
*"Yalta", "Spheres of Influence" and "The Truman Doctrine and the Two-Camp Policy", documents from Gale Stokes (ed.), From Stalinism to Pluralism (1991)
*"Conclusion" from Walter Laqueur, The Terrible Secret (1980)
Fri., Oct. 18 -- REQUIRED FILM
Transport from Paradise (Czechoslovakia, 1963; 93 mins.): The "paradise" of the title is the ghetto-style camp at Theresienstadt (Terezin) in northern Bohemia. The Nazis cleaned up this camp and put it on display (to the Red Cross, for instance) to prove how well they were treating the Jews -- but it also served as a transit camp to Auschwitz. Director Zbynìk Brynych brings presents a stylized telling of Arnot Lustigs story.
Mon., Oct. 21 -- The New Order in Its Own Words
Rothschild, Return to Diversity, chs. 3 - 4
*"The Case for Stalinism", "The Expulsion of Yugoslavia" and "The Purge Trials", documents from Stokes, From Stalinism to Pluralism
*"The Peoples Democracies", document from Lyman H. Legters (ed.), Eastern Europe: Transformation and Revolution, 1945-1991 (1991)
Wed., Oct. 23 -- Thoughts of a Disaffected East European Communist
*Arthur Koestler, untitled chapter of The God That Failed, ed. by Richard Crossman (1949): The Hungarian-born Koestler (1905-83) became a Communist in 1931 but turned away from the party at the time of the great Purge Trials in the Soviet Union (1936-38). Here he records his experiences as a party member.
Mon., Oct. 28 -- The New Order Seen from Within
*Czeslaw Milosz, The Captive Mind (1953): Milosz (b. 1911), then a recent émigré, wrote to elucidate the mystery of how so many of his fellow Polish intellectuals could come to pay allegiance to their country's new Stalinist regime. -- To read: preface and chs. I and III
*Milovan Djilas, "The Character of the Revolution" and "The New Class", from The New Class (1957): Totally out of favor by this time, Djilas wrote to achieve self-understanding of what he found false about the Yugoslav Communist regime he helped to establish. The book, published only abroad, brought him a prison sentence in Yugoslavia.
Wed., Oct. 30 -- The First Major Challenge from Within: The Hungarian Revolution of 1956
Rothschild, Return to Diversity, pp. 147-60
*Charles Gati, "From Liberation to Revolution, 1945-1956", from Peter F. Sugar et al. (eds.), A History of Hungary (1990)
*"The Hungarian Revolution", documents from Stokes, From Stalinism to Pluralism
*"Hungary 1956", documents from Legters, Eastern Europe
Fri., Nov. 1 -- FILM
Interrogation (Poland, 1982; 118 mins.): A lacerating story from the early 1950s of what could happen to a young woman taken in by the secret police because of a casual association. Ryszard Bugajski made the film during the artistic freedom of the first Solidarity, but it was not released until the Communist regime fell. Brilliant portrayal of the central figure by actress Krystyna Janda.
Mon., Nov. 4 -- A Different Kind of Challenge: The "Prague Spring" of 1968
Rothschild, Return to Diversity, pp. 160-90
*William V. Wallace, chapters from Czechoslovakia (1976)
*The Partys "Action Program", the "2000 Words", and other documents, from Andrew Oxley et al. (eds.), Czechoslovakia: The Party and the People (1973)
Wed., Nov. 6 -- Stagnation and the Emergence of "Dissidents"
Mark Frankland, The Patriots Revolution (1992), ch. 3
*Václav Havel, "Letter to Dr. Gustav Husák" (1975), from his Living in Truth, with an introduction by Jan Vladislav: Havel (b. 1936), a playwright and intellectual, presents a strategy for opposition that was adopted not long afterwards by the dissident group Charter 77.
*Havel, "Protest," a play (1978): Here Havel uses dramatic form to comment sardonically on the position of a "dissident".
*Adam Michnik, two essays from his Letters from Prison and Other Essays (1976 and 1979), with a foreword by Czeslaw Milosz: Michnik (b. 1946), whose style is marked by his past as a Communist intellectual, argues differently from Havel; but how different is his approach to dissident agitation?
Fri., Nov. 8 -- FILM
A Report on the Party and the Guests (Czechoslovakia, 1966; 74 mins.): An allegory or parable, quite unlike any of our other films. Director Jan Nìmec deals directly if mysteriously with the responses of solid Czech citizens to the demands of a clever and confident authority. It took a sustained campaign to get the film released for viewing in 1968, and it was among four films banned "forever" by the Czech authorities in 1973.
Mon., Nov. 11 -- The Time of Stagnation as Seen by a Novelist
Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1979): The best-known Czech novelist of our time (b. 1929) wrote this work in emigration as a playful but cutting reflection on what history was doing to his countrymen. -- To read: parts One - Four
Wed., Nov. 13 -- The Time of Stagnation (continued)
Kundera, Book of Laughter and Forgetting, parts Five - Seven and the xeroxed "Afterword"
Fri., Nov. 15 -- FILM
The Witness (Hungary, 1969; 116 mins.): Farcical East European satires about Stalinism are rare. In this one, directed by Péter Bacsó, a seemingly clueless workingman creates havoc high in the Communist administration when people try to use him for their own sinister purposes. Made in 1969 when a relatively permissive period was ending in Hungary (as elsewhere in Eastern Europe), the film was released only nine years later.
Mon., Nov. 18 -- The Beginning of the End: Solidarity in Poland
*Lawrence Weschler, The Passion of Poland (1984): The story of the Solidarity trade union's challenge to the Polish state in 1980 and 1981, told as the experiences and reflections of an American journalist who was able to interview nearly every leading actor in the story. -- To read: all of it
Wed., Nov. 20 -- The Socialist System in Decay
Frankland, chs. 4-6
Fri., Nov. 22 -- REQUIRED FILM
Blind Chance (Poland, 1981; 112 mins.): This film examines three kinds of life open to young Poles of the period just before Solidarity by attributing each of them to the same young man, depending how his chase after a departing train comes out. Starting and restarting three times at the same moment, Krzysztof Kielowskis impressive film shows his protagonist becoming an apparatchik of the regime, a dissident, and an unpolitical professional man.
Mon., Nov. 25 -- The End of the Socialist Era: Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia
Frankland, chs. 7, 8 and 10
Wed., Nov. 27 -- NO CLASS
Mon., Dec. 2 -- The End of the Socialist Era: Yugoslavia
Misha Glenny, The Fall of Yugoslavia, 3rd rev. ed. (1996), chs. 5 and 6 and Epilogue 1996: "Return to Purgatory"
Wed., Dec. 4 -- Aftermath: Czechoslovakia
Tina Rosenberg, The Haunted Land: Facing Europes Ghosts after Communism (1995), Introduction and chs. 1 - 3
Fri., Dec. 6 -- FILM
Man of Marble (Poland, 1977; 160 mins.): Andrzej Wajda tells two interconnected stories from different periods of Communist Poland: a naive young bricklayer is selected by the regime as a representative workingman in the Stalinist early 1950s; and a young film-maker of the 1970s (Krystyna Janda again) tries to recover his story a quarter-century later. The release of this political movie about a younger generation trying to understand an older one was a major cultural event in the last years of the decaying Gierek regime, just before Solidarity.
Mon., Dec. 9 -- Aftermath: Poland
Rosenberg, chs. 4 - 6