A History of Eastern Europe
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
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.