A History of Eastern Europe

Course No. 8364
Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Ph.D.
University of Tennessee
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Course No. 8364
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Examine the impact of the Mongol invasion, retreat, and how that impacted the origins of many Eastern European peoples.
  • numbers Understand how imperial ideology grew into highly volatile nationalism in a number of Eastern European countries.
  • numbers Peer into the worldviews of Hitler and Stalin before their pact and how they led to redrawing the map of Eastern Europe.
  • numbers Look at the underpinnings of the Nazis' plans, as well as the terrible toll they took on Eastern Europe.

Course Overview

Eastern Europe has long been thought of as the “Other Europe,” a marginalized region rife with political upheaval, shifting national borders, an astonishing variety of ethnic diversity, and relative isolation from the centers of power in the West. Yet in recent years, Eastern European nations have begun integrating with Western Europe—joining NATO and the European Union—as the region has gained a new measure of self-determination in the wake of communist collapse.

Nonetheless, Eastern Europe still maintains an aura of “otherness” and mystery, due to its relatively tumultuous timeline and complex cultural tapestry. Indeed, history haunts this region, so to truly understand Eastern Europe today, it is necessary to examine its past in the broader context of world history, asking such questions as:

  • Who are the diverse ethnic groups that make up the region, and how have they cooperated and clashed?
  • How and why have national borders shifted so frequently?
  • What is the region’s relationship to Western Europe?
  • How has the region been isolated from—and connected with—the West?

You’ll find the answers to these questions and more in A History of Eastern Europe. Taught by Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, an award-winning professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, these 24 insightful lectures offer a sweeping 1,000-year history of Eastern Europe with a particular focus on the region’s modern history. You’ll observe waves of migration and invasion, watch empires rise and fall, witness wars and their deadly consequences—and come away with a comprehensive knowledge of one of the world’s most fascinating places.

This course goes far beyond issues of military and political history. Professor Liulevicius delves deeply into the cultures of this region—the 20 nations that stretch from the Baltic to the Black Seas. You’ll meet the everyday citizens—including artists and writers—who shaped the politics of Eastern Europe, from poets-turned-politicians to proletarian workers who led dissident uprisings. Breathtaking in scope and crucially relevant to today’s world, A History of Eastern Europe is a powerful survey of a diverse region and its people.

Discover the Historical Context for Today’s Eastern Europe

The story of Eastern Europe is very much in flux today. In 2014, Russia invaded Crimea during a time of chaotic unrest in the Ukraine. Slide back to the 1990s, and the Balkan states erupted into a brutal civil war that rewrote the national boundaries of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and others. Slide back another few years, and you witness the 70-year-old USSR disintegrate, leaving in its wake a hodgepodge of nations with crumbled economies and uncertain national identities.

These events are products of more than recent history—or even modern history. To truly understand the ongoing news in Eastern Europe, it’s necessary to step back a thousand years to find the foundations of today’s world.

  • See how the waves of invasions by Mongols, the Ottoman Turks, and others left their mark on Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages.
  • Trace the origins of the Slavic peoples, the Magyars, Germanic tribes, the Roma, and other ethnicities who make up the region.
  • Discover how events such as the Crusades and the Black Death led to a large influx of Jews to modern-day Poland.
  • Witness the battles, political strife, and nationalism that gave rise to nations such as Poland-Lithuania and empires in Russia, Prussia, and Germany.

Studying this history helps explain Eastern Europe’s wide mix of languages, religions, and cultures. In this course, you will see how these cultures clashed internally—and how a vast array of external enemies and empires have tried repeatedly to carve out territories or spheres of influence within the region. Professor Liulevicius brings to life the local people’s struggles—through cooperation among coalitions as well as through armed conflicts—for survival and self-rule.

Gain a New Perspective on Europe’s East vs. West Divide

Eastern Europe has long been a marginalized region—considered the home of “barbarians” by the Greeks, far-flung backwater provinces to the Romans, fair prey for the Mongols—a vast land for civilized empires to “enlighten.” But in the 20th and 21st centuries, the divide between East and West grew more pronounced as the world globalized and the United States and Soviet superpowers jockeyed for spheres of influence—epitomized by the imposition of the Iron Curtain across Europe and the rise of the Berlin Wall.

Professor Liulevicius offers you a different perspective on the last hundred years of history, beginning with the end of World War I. Whereas Western Europe viewed the Great War as a total catastrophe marked by years of stalemate and a shaky peace, Eastern Europeans viewed the war as a fiery baptism of national independence. Likewise, when the guns fell silent and stability returned to the West after World War II, a series of bloody conflicts continued in the East. And of course, the Iron Curtain that partitioned East and West for half a century has left deep marks on the Eastern Europe of today.

This course presents the grand sweep of all this history and clues you in on the context necessary to understand today’s world. Professor Liulevicius also gives you specific, unique insights that are fascinating in their own right—and seldom mentioned in the history books. Among other historical details, you will:

  • Go inside the Jewish shtetls, most of which were destroyed during World War II.
  • Gain insight into the Nazi-Soviet Pact, including the motivating worldviews of Hitler and Stalin.
  • Learn about the waves of ethnic cleansing in Eastern Europe after World War II, and the resulting orphans known as “wolf children.”
  • Study the little-known Baltic Forest War, which, incredibly, continued until the late 1970s.
  • Experience daily life behind the Iron Curtain, from mass surveillance and the police state to the broken economies and worker uprisings.
  • Meet leaders such as the Yugoslavian President Josip Tito, the Polish dissident worker Anna Walentynowicz, the Czech writer-turned-president Václav Havel, and many other people who shaped the course of history.

You’ll also witness the stunning collapse of communism across Eastern Europe, sparked by mass protests and fueled by governmental ineptitude. The widespread chaos created great suffering, reshaping the region’s economies, politics, ideologies, and geographical boundaries.

Study the Cultural History of the Region

George Orwell once said, “Every joke is a tiny revolution.” Created and shared under circumstances of high pressure and risk, Eastern European jokes and satirical—or nationalistic—works of art are full of humorous and passionate expressions of resistance, defiance, despair, and the will to survive. Professor Liulevicius bridges the personal and the political in this course, analyzing the meaning and impact of widespread dark humor and introducing you to poets, writers, artists, and other cultural figures who all made an impact on Eastern European history. In fact, studying the history gives you a whole new context for understanding authors such as:

  • Franz Kafka
  • Czesław Miłosz
  • Milan Kundera
  • Václav Havel
  • Herta Müller
  • And many others

In addition, he introduces you to some authors who are relatively obscure in the West, such as Jaroslav Hašek (author of The Good Soldier Švejk, one of the funniest and most profound antiwar novels in existence), and Zlata Filipovic (a 12-year-old whose diary from the Bosnian War has been compared to the Diary of Anne Frank).

Professor Liulevicius is an ideal guide for this course, having focused on Germany and Eastern Europe during his entire academic career. From a period of study in Moscow and Leningrad in 1989, to dissertation research in Freiburg, Germany, and Vilnius, Lithuania, in the early 1990s, to his term as president of the international Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies (A.A.B.S.) for 2010–12, he has spent decades pursuing and disseminating knowledge of this fascinating region. His insights into the clashes and unexpected alliances of empires, peoples, and philosophies will clarify the complex twists and turns of the narrative of Eastern European history.

In Eastern Europe, culture and politics are inextricably linked with centuries of tumultuous change, and this in-depth course will explore the intersection of these factors to give you a comprehensive understanding of the region and its status in the world today. A History of Eastern Europe is a marvelous overview of the story of an essential and often overlooked area of the globe, and will fill in many critical gaps in the social and political history of the world.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    The Other Europe: Deep Roots of Diversity
    Begin your course with a geographic overview of Eastern Europe, a region that begins at the Baltic Sea in the north and spans 20 countries to the Black Sea in the south. Here, Professor Liulevicius introduces you to the key themes of this course: Eastern Europe’s remarkable diversity, it shifting borders, and its separateness from—and connections with—the West. x
  • 2
    Formative Migrations: Mongols to Germans
    Examine the many waves of people who settled Eastern Europe during the ancient and medieval worlds. Ethnic groups including Germanic tribes, Slavic peoples, the Vikings, the Mongols, and many more created a diversity of language and culture. Meanwhile, the mix of Christians, Jews, and Muslims led to the region’s first political strife—and laid the groundwork for the modern era. x
  • 3
    Clashing Golden Ages, 1389–1772
    Continue your study of Eastern Europe’s development with a look at several decisive battles, including the Battle of Kosovo and the Battle of Tannenberg. You’ll see how these battles were transformed into legends—and were also key turning points for the region’s political landscape. Witness the creation of a united Poland-Lithuania, as well as the rise of modern empires in Prussia, Austria, and Russia. x
  • 4
    The Great Crime of Empires: Poland Divided
    The combined nation of Poland and Lithuania was a powerful force in the 18th century—and its dissolution is one of the great crimes of the modern era. Civil strife provided the pretext for neighboring empires to swoop in and annex the nation. Consider the results of this partition and the political problem that would plague the region for the next century. x
  • 5
    The Origins of Nationalism, 1815–1863
    Glide into the age of Romanticism, when poets surpassed politicians in setting national agendas. In this lecture, after considering the distinction between civil and ethnic nationalism, you’ll study a number of 19th-century revolutions that swept across the region—and reflect how defeat in these revolutions paved the way for empires. x
  • 6
    The Age of Empires, 1863–1914
    After poetic romanticism failed to produce a new world order, conservative politicians co-opted nationalism in support of empire building. Review the stirrings of nationalism within the Russian, German, and Austrian empires. Then turn to emerging political ideologies that laid the foundation for the world wars of the 20th century. x
  • 7
    Jewish Life in the Shtetl
    The story of the shtetl—small Jewish towns once found throughout Eastern Europe—has been significantly lost to history due to the crimes of the 20th century. Here, Professor Liulevicius reconstructs what we know about the vibrant life in these communities and how it connects to modern Jewish culture. x
  • 8
    World War I: Destruction and Rebirth
    Examine the First World War from the very different vantage of Eastern Europe. Whereas the West’s view of the Great War is one of indecision and stalemate, the war in the East was one of movement—and perhaps even a cause for celebration as the old empires were destroyed, giving room for the creation of new states such as an independent Poland, among others. x
  • 9
    From Democrats to Dictators, 1918–1939
    After the guns fell silent in Western Europe, border wars and the fight for self-determination continued in the East. Take a look at the major events after World War I, including the little-known Soviet-Polish war, forcible population exchanges throughout the region, and the rise of dictators. x
  • 10
    Caught between Hitler and Stalin
    The Nazi-Soviet Pact is one of the most perplexing occurrences in modern history. Examine this uneasy alliance and how it accommodated Hitler’s and Stalin’s plans for expansion in the 1930s and 1940s. See how borders were redrawn yet again as Germany and the Soviet Union invaded neighboring countries. x
  • 11
    World War II: The Unfamiliar Eastern Front
    Continue your study of World War II from the Eastern European perspective. Here, you’ll see how Hitler caught Stalin off guard with a surprise attack, causing the Soviet Union to join the Allies. Nevertheless, Stalin had his own plans to expand the Soviet sphere of influence. Meanwhile, in the Balkans, communist partisans had other ideas. x
  • 12
    The Holocaust and the Nazi Racial Empire
    The sheer number of casualties in the Holocaust defies the imagination. In this lecture, Professor Liulevicius guides you through this troubling history. You’ll learn about German goals and actions, Nazi collaborators who helped produce the Holocaust, and resistance from within the Jewish community and in the world at large. x
  • 13
    Postwar Flight and Expulsion
    After the war, the West saw a measure of stability, whereas Eastern Europe was chaotic as displaced populations and refugees shifted among new political territories in the wake of the Yalta and Potsdam conferences. Witness the travails of some of these populations, including ethnic Germans, refugees from Soviet rule, and Jews who couldn’t return to their former communities. x
  • 14
    Behind the Iron Curtain, 1945–1953
    In this lecture, Professor Liulevicius sets the stage for the next 40 years of Eastern European history. Go behind the Iron Curtain to examine how Stalin exerted control—and how countries such as Yugoslavia were able to resist. In the years after World War II, the battle lines were drawn for the emerging Cold War. x
  • 15
    Forest Brothers: Baltic Partisan Warfare
    Find out about a fascinating conflict largely unknown today. The Baltic Forest War raged in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania for many years after World War II. Learn about the guerrilla fighters who hid in the forests and attacked Soviet security forces—and then examine the Soviet tactics to stop them. x
  • 16
    Life in Totalitarian Captivity, 1953–1980
    Go inside daily life in Eastern Europe during the peak of the Cold War. After reviewing the dire economy, Professor Liulevicius delves into the apparatus of state control. Find out how secret police forces such as the East German Stasi and the Romanian Securitate oppressed ordinary citizens through surveillance and a culture of fear. x
  • 17
    Power of the Powerless: Revolts and Unrest
    As the Cold War continued, Soviet forces tightened their grip on Eastern European countries, yet dissident voices emerged. In East Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, witness the revolt of proletarian workers and see how writers used secret publications and the power of the pen to protest totalitarianism. x
  • 18
    Solidarity in PolandWalesas Union
    The beginnings of the end of Eastern European communism came with the firing of a shipyard worker in Gdansk, which led to a workers uprising and the founding of the Solidarity political movement. Dive into these exciting events, from rebellion to state crackdown, and meet some of the key players who altered the course of history. x
  • 19
    Toppling Idols: The Communist Collapse
    The fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union are two of the most iconic moments in modern history. Trace the events leading up to these moments, from the newly free elections in Poland to the botched press release in East Germany that led to the opening of borders. x
  • 20
    The Turn: The Post-Soviet 1990s
    Take an archaeological tour of Eastern Europe in the wake of the communist collapse. After considering the region’s tattered economy, you’ll look at some of the secrets that emerged with the fall of the USSR and the release of Stasi files. Then consider the shift of identity that took place thanks to redrawn borders and new national entities. x
  • 21
    Yugoslav Wars: Milosevic and Balkan Strife
    In the 1990s, Yugoslavia erupted into a brutal civil war between many different ethnic groups, including Serbs, Croats, and Bosnian Muslims. Unpack the many sides of this conflict, from its origins to ethnic cleansing and genocide to the country’s breakup into separate countries. Examine the world’s response to this crisis. x
  • 22
    The New Europe: Joining NATO and the EU
    Despite the breakup of the Soviet Union, NATO continued to exist, and began admitting newly liberated Eastern European countries into the organization. Reflect on Eastern Europe’s place in the western world and what joining NATO and the European Union means for the region. You’ll also explore Russia’s role in the post-Soviet world. x
  • 23
    The Unfolding Ukraine-Russia Crisis
    Survey the recent crisis in Ukraine and see how the origins of this conflict stem from the last hundred years of the region’s history, which is rife with skirmishes and shifting borders. After providing the historical context, Professor Liulevicius explains the ins and outs of the current crisis, including ethnic divisions within Ukraine and Russia’s attitude toward former Soviet territory. x
  • 24
    Eastern Europe at the Crossroads
    In this final lecture, you’ll revisit the four key themes running through this course and consider whether they still remain true of Eastern Europe today. Look at the region’s economy, politics, ethnicities, and relationships to Western Europe to consider the current state of Eastern Europe and what the future may hold. x

Lecture Titles

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What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
Instant Audio Includes:
  • Download 24 audio lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 225-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 225-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

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Your professor

Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius

About Your Professor

Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Ph.D.
University of Tennessee
Dr. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius is Lindsay Young Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He earned his B.A. from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Liulevicius served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford...
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A History of Eastern Europe is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 167.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A History of Eastern Europe The course is very full of information and I find I have to interrupt it with background reading as Eastern Europe is not an area taught much in our schools. There is so much to absorb but that is why it is so interesting. Because of doing extensive family geneaology, I have become very interested in getting the background to family movement within much of the time the course covers. There are excellent visuals and it is obvious the professor loves and is comfortable with the material. An excellent learning experience!
Date published: 2019-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Relevant, interesting, and well presented I knew Dr. Liulevicius was an excellent presenter from his course on World War I, and in my opinion he outdoes himself in this course. He’s more relaxed, and one learns a little bit more about him--such as his own Eastern European heritage and his passion for collecting jokes, a number of topical and relevant examples of which he shares with us in the course. I knew much less about Eastern Europe than about either Western Europe (despite having lived there twice) or Russia, and found nearly everything in this course to be really interesting and insightful. The in-depth coverage of both historical and cultural aspects of the Baltic countries, Romania, the component nations of the former Yugoslavia, and other areas not covered in previous history courses was most welcome, as were the extensive discussions of Jewish and Roma life. The comprehensive coverage of both the Holocaust and the Stalin era was riveting and definitely lingers in the mind—more so than anything else I had ever seen or read about these things. Professor Liulevicius takes events right up to 2015, including current politics, so it’s effectively up-to-date and relevant. A terrific course!
Date published: 2019-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eastern Europe: Yesterday & Today It is difficult to define Eastern Europe given the DIVERSITY of its people and the comparative history of its cultures, ethnicities, religious identities, languages, and literatures. From the Baltic sea in the north to the Black sea in the south, from Germany to the West to Russia in the East, today consists of about 20 countries. According to Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius in A HISTORY OF EASTERN EUROPE -- the rise and fall of empires, the construction and partitioning of states, and the incessant changing of geographical boundaries due to ideologies, political alliances, world wars, political summits, cold wars, iron curtains, surveillance, migrations, expulsions, annihilations, and exterminations of peoples throughout world history -- all complicate the Western conception and historical understanding of Eastern Europe of yesterday and today. The geo-political significance of Eastern Europe to Hitler, Stalin, and the West cannot be underestimated. From this soil would arise a new form of social organization labeled TOTALITARIANISM in contrast to Eastern Europe's cultural diversity and the Western liberal capitalist democracies. From Nazi Germany's politicalization of RACE, fascist Italy's authoritarian NATIONALISM, and Russia's international communist consciousness of CLASS would arise the dictators that would challenge the Western democracies in all facets of their daily existence. According to the professor -- very different from the Western front -- the Eastern Front's Final Solution, its Holocaust would destroy Jewish populations throughout Europe, force migrations, change geographical borders, etc. which drove Churchill, Roosevelt, and the Soviets to reconfigure the international political map after the war. But an Iron Curtain, a Cold War, and an Eastern Bloc arose in its place, further separating Eastern and Western European political and cultural relations and the world for decades. The West would construct political, economic, and military institutions such as the Truman Plan, the Marshall Plan, NATO, and the European Union to navigate and respond to the COLD WAR environments. In true dialectical class struggle terms, the Stalinization of the Soviet Union and its now called Eastern Bloc countries would construct institutions known collectively as the WARSAW Pact as its response. Surveillance cultures and secret police forces would further complicate the divide between Eastern Europe and the Western democracies, while popular unrest and revolts would haunt and slowly weaken the Eastern Bloc's forced integration and undermine the Soviet Union's iron hand rule of orthodoxy. The professor offers various national literatures, ethnic stories, political jokes, etc. that helped lessen political anxieties and supported the social changes that were evolving to deconstruct the false dichotomy of an Eastern -- Western Europe. In the 1980s there was Gorbachev’s policies of GLASNOST and perestroika, the Chernobyl nuclear power accident and the slow unveiling of contamination exposure, and rising popular tensions demanding greater social change. But not all social changes are easily managed. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the 1990s Eastern Bloc regimes had to learn to survive in new and extreme environments. Ethnic cleansing, genocide, changing geographical boundaries, birth of new nations repeated itself in he Balkans; but the fall of the Iron Curtain encouraged Eastern European countries to join NATO and the EU constructing the New Europe. I used the course's four-theme structure as a way of organizing the vast amount of historical material presented. So let me close using the professor's own words as an open ended question about the future of THE NEW EUROPE: "From 1999, leadership in Russia passed to a former KGB lieutenant colonel Vladimir Putin, whose project for that state has been called managed democracy...2014 was in a sense a pivotal year, as Eastern Europe again saw borders altered by violence and the threat of force, as part of Ukraine (Crimea) was annexed by Russia. The question presented itself, whether one wanted it to or not: Is this the new normal in Europe? The background to this perspective was Putin’s declaration that the Soviet Union’s collapse was the greatest tragedy of the 20th century. The cultural and educational policies of Putin’s regime have praised the Soviet Union, and revived its symbolism and vocabulary. Putin’s government argued that its intervention was motivated only by concerns for order in Ukraine, which had become a failed state."
Date published: 2018-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great stuff. Lot of good information on a region often neglected.
Date published: 2018-12-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Course I accidentally bought this course as a CD instead of a DVD. That being said, I enjoyed listening to all this history of Eastern Europe. I do think though that I would have enjoyed it more as a DVD with maps and pictures. So it is on my short list to purchase again.
Date published: 2018-11-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Educational & enjoyable My wife and I are both History graduates (from University College London many years ago) but now are semi-retired. We both studied a lot of European history, but found the course really interesting and informative. It took a little while to get into the Professor's style of presentation (neither of us are fond of American accents), but now we really enjoy it - very engaging - and have bought another series of his lectures ("History's Greatest Voyages of Exploration"). We think this course would work well for both the history buff and for those with little background knowledge of history, who are keen to learn. Much of the material is highly relevant to modern day society and politics. The variety and depth of the subject-matter keeps you interested at all times. We watched one lecture a night, then read the course chapter the following morning to embed the learning. The presentation was analysis, not just narrative, and expressed in a thematic way. The people movements and conflict in the region certainly give plenty of material to discuss. We liked the fresh and interesting way material was presented e.g. the old East German joke - capitalism is all about man's exploitation of man, whereas communism is the exact opposite. All in all, we are big fans of Professor VGL and this course.
Date published: 2018-10-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Informative Exposition Prof. Liulevicius' lectures clarified many things for me. I had always been curious about the region and its ethnic, religious and language groups; and their alliances. I found his presentation engaging and pleasant. He demonstrated great knowledge of his subject matter. I have since bought another of his lecture series. I am now retired and ordered the course as I want to broaden my understanding of the world. I was inclined to give it a higher rating, but want to keep something in reserve..
Date published: 2018-10-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating journey through a turbulent history. My wife's grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Slovakia and Ukraine and we wanted to know more about the area before we travel there. Happily, we bought this excellent course as a result. Even though Eastern Europe has been much in the U.S. news throughout my life, I've been familiar with its history only superficially. And what a history it is. Professor Liulevicius delivers in a dramatic (but not cheesy) style. He is articulate, has a sense of humor and a comprehensive grasp of the complex forces working over the centuries to shape and reshape the area. It's a tumultuous history and the lectures center on the fault lines where empires rise and fall and clash. All of the course is of interest but, for me, the lectures on the turmoil of the last several decades were particularly riveting as it clarified what I only tangentially understood from following developments in the news over the years. We both recommend the course highly, for both content and delivery. It's one of the best we've encountered through the Great Courses.
Date published: 2018-10-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Overview The lecturer is very enthusiastic, never boring, tells lots of East European jokes. He clearly knows this subject well and loves it. I learned about much of this region that I knew very little about. In general, very good visuals and maps. The professor follows the guidebook about 99% of the time, which is really helpful. 24 lectures 30 minutes each is just right. The video course is much preferred, because the maps very greatly aid in understanding of the region. However, for many lectures, it seems that there were very few visuals, mostly pictures of people, so I think listening to the audio only version would still be satisfactory. Suggestions for improvement: the lecture on the partisans (Forest Brothers) could have been condensed to a 10 - 15 minute talk, leaving time for other topics. Also, when mentioning events that were discussed in previous lectures, a quick reminder or review would have been helpful to gain context of the current topic. Also, additional maps of cities/rivers that are mentioned in the later lectures would be very helpful. I just stopped the lecture and looked them up in Wikipedia, but it would have been nice to have such maps presented by the course. But overall, these are small points. The entire series is excellent and I strongly recommend purchasing the video course.
Date published: 2018-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well done, very informative I really enjoy this lecture. It rounds our my understanding of Eastern Europe that I have developed from my own personal study.
Date published: 2018-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Surprised by what I didn't know Having extensively studied Western European and Russian history, I thought I had covered Eastern Europe in the process. This course proved how little I knew. Delivered with a storyteller's art, the course fills in the gap marvelously. While I agree with those reviews that complain there is too little pre-20th century material and the treatment of some countries is too scant, I nonetheless award 5 stars. The professor makes a very compelling case regarding the immense diversity of eastern Europe, and I think does great work in picking examples that best illustrate his main themes even while bowing to the inevitable need to leave out a lot under the constraint of a 24-lecture series. I hope to see a revised version of 36 lectures in the future as this course demonstrates to Teaching Company regulars that such a series would be worth paying for!
Date published: 2018-09-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A History of Eastern Europe I totally enjoyed the course, 'A History of Eastern Europe.' although I am well traveled, I did not know many of the things brought up in this course. It was clearly presented. I also enjoyed the subtitles since I am hard of hearing. With the subtitles and the distinct speech of the author I could following all the complex aspects of Eastern European history.
Date published: 2018-09-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from In the way when East meets West Many of us are familiar with Western European History and there are many courses on East Asian History, but what happened to the peoples caught in the middle. "Growing up" as nations while caught between several expanding empires is a recipe for turmoil. Prof Liulevicius explains how Eastern Europe was trampled upon by many neighboring states and how that sowed the seeds for events that affected the whole world. Wonderfully and interestingly presented.
Date published: 2018-08-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I am about a third of the way through History of Eastern Europe. I find it very informative! I never knew how little I got in school/college about Eastern Europe. I find the teacher a good presenter, well-organized with much disparate material. Eastern Europe is becoming more than a few countries on a map for me. Thank you!
Date published: 2018-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative Brilliant content but also superbly delivered. Made it easy to follow a complex subject with with very important implications now and in the future.
Date published: 2018-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent! This is one of the best courses I've taken from The Great Courses. Though I have some knowledge of Eastern European history from my Polish grandmother, and Hungarian and Lithuanian aunts, this course presented a wide variety of perspectives. The lectures were engaging. Dr. Liulevicius filled them all with stories, jokes and recommended readings along with his vast and thorough knowledge. His love for this subject shines through in every lecture. Even the introductory music bespeaks the strength and courage of the people of Eastern Europe, especially on the face of decades of unspeakable oppression. This course has deepened my fierce pride of my heritage. As well, it has inspired me to pursue more in-depth learning.
Date published: 2018-07-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating. I will have to watch this twice. All of my education focused on Western Europe and I wanted to learn more about Eastern Europe. This was a fabulous course. I hope it can be updated as events have overtaken it since the course was made.
Date published: 2018-06-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Material is well selected and well presented. Thew rolling text, presenting for the deaf of what the prof says needs proofreading! Especially names and foreign expressions (e.g. Lenin became Lennon)
Date published: 2018-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting material The professor in this series of lectures on the history of Eastern Europe is very engaging. He tends to draw you in to this history with his passion and eloquence. In some ways, it is depressing to hear about how humanity can be so brutal malevolent. But in between these narratives of disasters (i.e. the brutality of Stalin and other dictators, the Holocaust), there are stories of brilliance and the human resiliency. It is a good learning experience, but is a good reminder that humanity can do a lot better.
Date published: 2018-06-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from good enough I am from Romania originally and while enjoying the course I am disappointed of the very little coverage about Romania and the fact that territory with Romanian majority in Transylvania is called as belonging to Hungary and in Bucovina , Basarabia as belonging to Russia ; I felt that he has more sympathy for Poland and Baltic states ; Honestly I would like more details and fair allocation of time about Romanian issues.
Date published: 2018-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from good title I learned a great deal from this course. While we focus of Western Europe as being the catalyst for ushering in the modern era we tend to overlook the events which took place in Eastern Europe. The cultural and intellectual achievements of Eastern Europe helped in many ways to shape the course of Western European history. Great empires rose and fell in Eastern Europe. This course explains the greatness and often tragic events of these Eastern Europe empires.
Date published: 2018-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Orientation to the complex histories! Amazing presentations of the vast territories and difficult histories usually unknown to novice of these Eastern Europe like me. I knew fragmentally about Budapest 1956 and Praha 1968 etc and by this lectures I learned these people suffered so much, but now they have hope of having better lives. Difficult subjects well presented. Truly amazing!
Date published: 2018-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant As a third generation American with Eastern European roots, a life-long student of Russian history married to a women raised in Leningrad with all that implies I was eager to confirm what I believed was my deep understanding of the region.We own an apartment in St. Petersburg and travel frequently and extensively in Eastern and Central Europe. Dr. Liulevicius confirmed facts I knew but added so much more nuance and context to my disjointed self education. He really brought all by experiences together in a cohesive understanding of the areas interdependence. And, he is a wonderful speaker. It is a pleasure to listen to his lectures. He introduces humor relevant to the time and events of that course lecture. Of the many fine courses I have from the Great Courses series I consider the History of Eastern Europe among the best.
Date published: 2018-04-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Excellent Overview This course provides a pretty complete overview of Eastern European history. If you just want a general understanding of the narrative, then this is the course for you.
Date published: 2018-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course! The professor is from the Chicago area like I am and many here should also be aware that there are more people in Chicago who are Polish than there are in Warsaw. I have many Polish neighbors and can feel more attached to them with this very interesting input that brings more understanding. He organized things well and admitted that the course could not cover everything, since Russia would need to have a course of its own. Get the video version. More maps are there that aren't in the course guide.
Date published: 2018-04-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Video not needed The most frustrating thing about buying the video is watching it. The instructor reads the lecture while pacing between three cameras in order to give the video more motion. Motion isn't needed, graphics are. The maps are helpful but nothing you couldn't get elsewhere. Just sit and Google while listening. It is aggravating to have the guy stop and walk over to the next camera for no good reason. The lecture is pretty good even though it's tough to cover all the important material in the length he's given. There are lots of gems of information and I got a very good idea of why the history of Eastern Europe is so different than that of Western Europe.
Date published: 2018-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course! Major challenge to cover such a broad expansive period of a major part of the world. Professor Liulevicius did a superb job! I'm looking forward to new course educate me in these tumultuous modern times in Eastern Europe.
Date published: 2018-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative course, Balkans 101 for me. My maternal grandparents was from "Serbia" (only it wasn't then...) I wanted to learn a little more before I plan a trip there to see their towns on the Croatian border. I didn't buy the Ottoman one because I don't want to hear how wonderful those murdering butchers were. I put intermediate below but I have read a lot about the Danube Swabiens (Danauschwabens) and Vojvodina.
Date published: 2018-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unveiling the Other Europe I have often wondered why, in the United States, we rarely discuss Eastern Europe. The Great Courses has again distinguished itself by providing cutting edge topics that are very difficult to find in most college curricula. The scope of Liulevicius’ course is enormous and provides a needed counterpoint to standard campus fare. The content was so stunning, I purchased 2 books Liulevicius recommended that were written by those who played out this history. Considerations: L1 – Get out a map and carefully memorize where you are going. L2-4: The incessant attacks by imperialistic Islamic Ottomans are seen in contrast to what we see in other courses. Liulevicius tells us that Eastern Europeans put it this way: “One people’s Golden Age might be another(’s)…darkest time of misery”. The immigrations of Slav slaves, Bulgars, Magyars, the Germans who terrified of Rome, the Black Sea Cossacks, etc. are a vast canvas that change our perspective. L2 – “Today, from a safe distance, academics praise Mongols as an early force for globalization” yet the Hungarian word “tartaryarash” means “something as a total ruin”. L4 - 6: Empires and nationalism including the disastrous results of Napoleon’s cynical use of the Polish military to attack slaves in Haiti. There is so much unexpected insight here on multi-cultural topics including the German-Polish cross-cultural “Kindertausch” to force peace among peoples, the decline of Islamic imperialism after 600 years of coerced religious control, the counterintuitive introduction of Marx and Engels to Eastern Europe - despite their contempt for the “idiocy of rural life”, they were able to gain ground with a promise of secular salvation, etc. The parable about Jews fleeing on a train to Russia from Germany meeting Jews fleeing on the same train in the opposite direction is telling. L7-17 There is so much here that few of us know much about. The US educational system and media seem to label everything evil as “Nazi”, glossing over nearly identical butchery in the opposite political totalitarian pole. L10 “Caught between Hitler and Stalin” highlights this absurdity. Such denial is easy to demonstrate: simply ask the person you are talking to if they have heard of the Jewish ghettos and the Holocaust. Then ask them about the abandoned shtetl and the Holodomor (L9). Liulevicius implies this academic amnesia occurs because: 1. Hitler kicked out Marxists professors of the Frankfurt school who then became faculty at Harvard, et al and 2. Because we were allies with Russia (who sacrificed millions of soldiers during the world wars), war propaganda was directed against the German far right and the Russian far left was given a pass. L16 is particularly revealing for some of what we see taking place since 2008 on campus and elsewhere: “Everything has to look democratic, but everything has to be controlled by us”; “the power of the regime based on the correctness of the party”; “the cult of the personality”; the violent US campus riots by outside groups imitating “Jugendweihe” and ZOMO tactics (L18); the “constant and total manipulation of society”; and internal crackdowns against out-of-favor religious and political groups under the ironic name of “normalization”. Truly, Eastern Europe has lived through a time when “wrong became right” and as such this course holds lessons for the turmoil we see today. L18-20 Unsung heroes: the iron-will of Anna Walentynowicz, Pope John Paul’s “Be not afraid” message, & Vaclav Havel’s “The Power of the Powerless” essay. A recent WSJ editorial: “Communism’s Bloody Century” backs up the need for a more reasonable approach to university study of leftist totalitarianism and supports why everyone needs Liulevicius’ course: “Communism’s tools of destruction have included mass deportations, forced labor camps and police-state terror - a model established by Lenin and…Joseph Stalin…Communism has killed huge numbers…intentionally, even more have died…as a result of its cruel projects of social engineering.” I highly recommend Liulevicius 6 other courses. Each has its own solid merits. BONUS nerd trivia: An eclectic way to enhance this course is through the hobby of historical board gaming. Examples: L6: The board game “Hapsburg Eclipse” regards the complexities of the Austria-Hungary-German/Serbia-Russia conflict; L8: “Ottoman Sunset” duplicates the decline of the Ottoman Empire; and L17: “Days of Ire: Budapest 1956.” immortalizes students against Russian tanks. L15 - The Forest Brothers is a topic begging for a board game.
Date published: 2018-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Still another great course from Prof. Liulevicius This was my third course with Prof. Liulevicius. As with the previous two (Spies and WWI), it was an informative and enjoyable experience. His knowledge of and interest in the topic is very evident. His lectures are clear and easy to follow. As with the other courses, he begins each lecture with an interesting vignette to draw one into the topic. Sometimes, it's a funny anecdote. Sometimes, it's a different perspective on a well-known event. He brings it back up later in the course, and often wraps up by referring back to it. I became interested in this course due to the role of Eastern Europe in WWI. This area played an important role in the great conflicts of the 20th century, especially in both World Wars and in the Cold War. It is also an area that has been reshaped repeatedly during the 20th century and before. This is partly why I had only a vague idea of what and where Eastern Europe is. I knew that it's somewhere east of Germany and west of Russia, but which countries are included and exactly how they relate to each other was often confusing. This made me want to better understand it. This course helped me more fully understand what and where Eastern Europe was and is, and its role in European history. This means that it meets my first criterion for a good course: I did learn a lot. It also gets a good grade on the second criterion: did it make me want to learn more about the topic. It did that. I'm now listening to the course on the Ottoman Empire. As with Prof. Liulevicius's other courses I would strongly recommend it for anyone who has an interest in understanding 20th and 21st European history more fully.
Date published: 2018-02-16
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