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A History of Eastern Europe

Experience the astounding history of one of the world's most fascinating places, in this course that explains the complicated context of Eastern Europe.
A History of Eastern Europe is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 244.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Important and relevant in 2022 This is the second course we have watched by Professor Liulevicius. A great lecturer, clear and comprehensive. An enormous subject, distilled well and after the course we understood more of the complexities of Eastern Europe. Thank you
Date published: 2022-09-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eye-Opening This course addresses the rarely taught subject of Eastern Europe, i.e., the peoples between Germany and Italy to the West and Russia to the East. This history is very different from that of Western Europe but it is very important to us today. Obviously, there is much international strife in the area; understanding this history lends great insight into these world events. Also, immigration from these peoples into the United States has significantly influenced American history and values. About a third of the course is devoted to the history of Easter Europe through the 19th century, a third to the period from World War I to World War II, and the remaining third to the time after World War II. I learned things that I never heard before, even from the lectures that focused on the time period through which I lived, addressing events that I remembered. Dr. Liulevicius is one of the elite in the pantheon of teachers at The Great Courses. It is always worthwhile listening to all of his courses. As one would expect, his delivery is smooth and engaging. However, Dr. Liulevicius has a unique weapon in his teaching arsenal: his repertoire of Eastern European jokes is always poignant and insightful. “Q: Is the Soviet Union our friend or our brother? A: Our brother because you can choose your friends.” The course guide is written in bullet format rather than paragraph format. I think that the bullet format is less effective than paragraph format. There are about ten maps, which are useful. The remaining graphics do not add value. The appendix includes a useful bibliography (I intend to purchase three of the books) but not a timeline nor a list of key people with dates and a two-sentence biography. I used the video version. The maps are helpful but one can still listen to the course in audio-only mode such as while commuting or exercising. The course was published in 2015. Note: When Lecture 23 refers to “The Unfolding Ukraine-Russia Crisis,” it is referring to the seizure of the Donbas and Crimea by Russia in 2014, not to the Russian invasion in 2022.
Date published: 2022-09-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Appropriate title. Just finished first lecture and appreciate content but am out off by the shotgun attached to the coffee table. I’m a Canadian who finds firearms offensive. Why is the gun there? One could be cynical and think it has to do with professors and teachers in America having to be armed to protect themselves and their students. Or is the gun somehow symbolic of the “ Wild West” perception people may have of Eastern Europe. I’m confused. Overall I find the stage setting rather drab, unfocused and unrelated to the theme. Otherwise the content is very interesting, well covered and quite well presented. Thanks.
Date published: 2022-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Professor I bought this before the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and very much enjoyed the manner in which the lecturer presented the always interesting content. I just finished it a second time and it really enhances my knowledge of the politics related to the war. The history of the ever changing boundaries of the East European states is fascinating.
Date published: 2022-08-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You can't miss with Professor Liulevicius This is the third course of Professor Liulevicius that I've purchased; he continues to deliver outstanding historical content in an impressive way. I needed to fill in a knowledge gap; his History of Eastern Europe did it, as did his cosmic course on The Rise of Communism. He's what a teacher is supposed to be. Thank you, Professor Liulevicius.
Date published: 2022-08-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent, too much on recent history I agree with many of the reviews here; it’s an excellent course, but too narrowly focussed on recent history. I have two complaints which I’m not allowed to mention.
Date published: 2022-08-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent overview of Obscure to me region The series is one of many wide ranging topics viewed and discussed by a group of eight professionals as part of our life long learning goal. All have advanced degrees, mostly in STEM but some in business related fields. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine in Feb 2022 we realized none of us knew anything about the region's history. Some Youtube videos on the Kevan Russ and the Mongols were decent but hard to follow when not simply boring. This Series is excellent in providing cogent information without being boring. The series is fresh enough relate to current events. I'd love to have an couple more lectures to include evens from 2018 -2022.
Date published: 2022-07-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good lecturer with good content I just finished this course and I really enjoyed it. It’s a complicated subject and I was happy there were maps. Eastern Europe is comprised of many countries whose borders keep changing and have done so done for centuries. Prof Liulevicious does a fabulous job of explaining how and why these changes keep happening. He introduces the key leaders and describes a lot about the people and the culture. He even tells jokes that further enrich one’s understanding. He is a great lecturer whose knowledge and enthusiasm for his subject is infectious. It would be fun to take a class from him in person. I think this course would appeal to people who want to understand this important region of the world, especially now in 2022, and to anyone who enjoys history. It makes one feel very lucky to live in a western democracy.
Date published: 2022-07-16
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Experience the astounding history of one of the world's most fascinating places-and fill in a critical gap in your understanding of the globe. Uncover waves of migration and invasion, battles over the formation and dissolution of nations, and struggles for self-rule and self-identification that form the captivating story of this region. This survey gives you the historical context to understand Eastern Europe today.


Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius

To study the deepest impulses in human nature, we see the lure of wealth and conquest, the deep-seated urge for fame and glory, the quest for higher ends, a basic human determination.


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 University. Professor Liulevicius has won many awards and honors, including the University of Tennessee's Excellence in Teaching Award and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. At the university he teaches courses on modern German history, Western civilization, European diplomatic history, Nazi Germany, World War I, war and culture, 20th-century Europe, nationalism, and utopian thought. Dr. Liulevicius has published numerous articles and two books: War Land on the Eastern Front: Culture, National Identity, and German Occupation in World War I and The German Myth of the East, 1800 to the Present.

Professor Liulevicius participated in The Great Courses Professor Chat series. Read the chat to learn more about diplomacy and war

By This Professor

Turning Points in Modern History
A History of Eastern Europe
The Rise of Communism: From Marx to Lenin
Communism in Power: From Stalin to Mao
History's Greatest Voyages of Exploration
The Secret World of Espionage
A History of Eastern Europe


The Other Europe: Deep Roots of Diversity

01: 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.

30 min
Formative Migrations: Mongols to Germans

02: 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.

31 min
Clashing Golden Ages, 1389–1772

03: 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 Ru...

30 min
The Great Crime of Empires: Poland Divided

04: 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.

31 min
The Origins of Nationalism, 1815–1863

05: 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.

31 min
The Age of Empires, 1863–1914

06: 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.

30 min
Jewish Life in the Shtetl

07: 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.

30 min
World War I: Destruction and Rebirth

08: 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.

29 min
From Democrats to Dictators, 1918–1939

09: 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.

30 min
Caught between Hitler and Stalin

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.

29 min
World War II: The Unfamiliar Eastern Front

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.

31 min
The Holocaust and the Nazi Racial Empire

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.

30 min
Postwar Flight and Expulsion

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.

30 min
Behind the Iron Curtain, 1945–1953

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.

31 min
Forest Brothers: Baltic Partisan Warfare

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.

29 min
Life in Totalitarian Captivity, 1953–1980

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.

31 min
Power of the Powerless: Revolts and Unrest

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.

30 min
Solidarity in Poland: Walesa’s Union

18: Solidarity in Poland: Walesa’s 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.

28 min
Toppling Idols: The Communist Collapse

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.

31 min
The Turn: The Post-Soviet 1990s

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.

30 min
Yugoslav Wars: Milosevic and Balkan Strife

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.

31 min
The New Europe: Joining NATO and the EU

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.

29 min
The Unfolding Ukraine-Russia Crisis

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.

32 min
Eastern Europe at the Crossroads

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.

32 min