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

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  • 225-page printed course guidebook
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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 4 out of 5 by from A little overwhelming - very complicated subject I really knew very little about Eastern Europe.The Professor showed that the history of Eastern Europe is complicated and the countries separate, but intertwined on many levels. I found his presentation informative and the subject matter fascinating.
Date published: 2020-05-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course! We loved this course! We initially thought it might be somewhat dry, but Professor Liulevicius made it come alive. We loved how he incorporated a number of jokes into his presentation, and we learned so much!
Date published: 2020-05-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very entertaining The lecturer includes jokes, folklore and a lively presentation style to bring this already fascinating history to life. Still hating the inaccurate and sometimes distracting captions.
Date published: 2020-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course This by far was one of the best courses to which I have subscribed. it gave me insight into Eastern European history and peoples which are largely ignored. It gave me an insight to my Polish ancestors; their history; culture and neighbors. It helped me to understand my background and culture.
Date published: 2020-04-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The progression of lectures is very effective This is a very detailed set of lectures, but the professor does a great job connecting the lectures and explaining how the events that occurred in Eastern Europe were relevant to each other. The professor has significant knowledge-you feel almost as if he lived through those times.
Date published: 2020-04-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Accurate A "must see" before European travel. It is difficult to unravel the changes from the present.
Date published: 2020-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is, literally, a Great Course This is the third course I've bought with this professor. He is relatively young, but is very knowledgeable and an accomplished lecturer. He begins most of the lectures with anecdotes which give the "student" a feel for what was going on in the time and place that he is covering that day. He does an excellent job of giving the broad picture as well as detailed events that shaped the histories of those nations. I cannot imagine a course on Eastern Europe in which I could have enjoyed or learned more.
Date published: 2020-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You need this course! I truthfully thought I knew “some” history of this region, but NOT much! Very engaging professor who is able to pronounce the unpronounceable names, and very engaging style, obviously loves his subject.
Date published: 2020-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent course! I have had little exposure to information about Eastern Europe before this class. I think it is more important than ever to familiarize ourselves with the information contained in this class, to increase our knowledge because more and more, current events require us to look to past history to understand what is happening in this part of Europe that ultimately has a bearing on major world events today. I found the professor to be clear, informative and has given me a lot to think about, especially as I consider, for example the current Russian annexation of Crimea and other parts of Ukraine.
Date published: 2020-02-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible historical elucidative and much more I purchased th is course as a Polish American second generation person who recently toured Poland and visited some relatives who lived through what was discussed I only wish that I had taken this course before I spent the time in Poland as it would’ve given me much better appreciation for their lives and what has been accomplished in a short time post communism I was so impressed with the Poland of today after hearing the history and the horrors that the Polish people have gone through and the other people of Central and Eastern Europe I have a new appreciation for my heritage in both Poland and in the United States I recommend this course to anyone who is interested in history both recent and associated with world war one and two and its aftermath the suffering and resiliency of people who would not be denied nationhood, freedom of choice,self government and their destiny
Date published: 2020-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comprehensive scope! Very knowledgeable and enthusiastic professor. The regular use of maps was especially helpful in learning about and understanding many of the course’s themes.
Date published: 2019-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WWII Didn't End the Bloodshed in Eastern Europe! It's ironic that so many came to America from Eastern Europe, and yet so few know anything about it! The history we learn here in America is Western European, not Eastern European. What shocked me the most about this course was learning how many people were murdered and "ethnically cleansed" AFTER WWII ended! It was a absolute blood bath! This course also taught me to appreciate the struggles and travails of Poland, nestled in between two countries that wanted to eat it (and did!). Oh, there is so much to learn about this crazy world! So much to learn!
Date published: 2019-12-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A history too often overlooked in the West. This course does a wonderful job of bringing to light many of the "what, when, why and how" of the nations that lie between western Europe and Russia. All too often those people and cultures disappear from the study of events that resulted in this era's political and military challenges.
Date published: 2019-11-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mindblowingly Good! I realized before viewing this course that I was somewhat less well-informed about the countries of Eastern Europe than I was about those of the Mediterranean area, Western Europe, and the Americas. Even though I knew that, I am amazed at how much information was new to me in this survey of the cultural, social, and political history of the so-called “Other Europe.” Professor Liulevicius showed how it has been a crossroads of migrations and a battlefield of empires for millennia. He moved me profoundly with what he shared about the human triumphs and tragedies of the region. The course was so interesting that I was sorry when it ended. Lecture #9, “From Democrats to Dictators, 1918–1939,” and Lecture #18, “Solidarity in Poland, Walesa’s Union,” were especially memorable. Excellent maps and other graphic illustrations, the enthusiastic references to books for further study, and the professor’s use of analogies and surprisingly relevant jokes were welcome accompaniments to all 24 lectures. Dr. Liulevicius even did a fine job of helping me to better understand history I had actually lived through during more than seven decades, so much so that I’m certain I could benefit from how he would analyze Eastern European events since 2015, the copyright date of this Great Course. Dr. Liulevicius examines issues from multiple angles, and he is a superlative “explainer.” Though his text seems precisely planned, he speaks with an air of immediacy and spontaneity. I have the impression that he is one of those rare teachers who could be a highly successful generalist. Even if asked to prepare to teach a subject outside his usual range of professional expertise, I’ll bet he could still instruct students very effectively.
Date published: 2019-10-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Excellent Great Courses product! Outstanding course on an area I was unfamiliar with. Spouse origins are from the Eastern European area and we were both very interested in finding out more about the history of the region. The professor is outstanding! Clearly knowledgeable and an expert in the field. Production values are the normal, high standard we've come to expect from the Great Courses! So very glad we bought this course, especially at such a huge discount!!!
Date published: 2019-10-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating and Revealing The professor is clear, informative, and keeps your attention. Looking at events that I was familiar with from other Great Courses history series, I gained new insights from different perceptions of the same events when viewed through the lens of Eastern Europe. As just one example, how radically different WWI was experienced in the east and how the outcome was viewed quite differently there. Recommended for anyone with an interest in the history of Europe.
Date published: 2019-10-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging Narrative These are lively and engaging lectures. I would always be looking forward to the next one. I imagine Professor Liulevicius had some personal baggage to bring to his story, resulting in a style of presentation with more panache than might be normally expected from an academic historian. The series is certainly none the worse for that. Professor Liulevicius covered much material which was new to me as most of my previous exposure was to Western European History. Now I realize how limited my former perspectives had been. I am glad I discovered his though-provoking series.
Date published: 2019-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course Learned history of eastern europe. Before have no idea.
Date published: 2019-09-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent information The insturctor was informed and was able to explain the course work in easy to understand language. The information was new to me, though I've explored the area before.
Date published: 2019-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Truly a "Great Course" My wife and I enjoyed this course, particularly because Prof. Liulevicius is a very engaging lecturer with a relaxed and natural speaking style with hand gestures that draw you into the flow of his words. While we only knew a few basics about Eastern European history before watching this series, we found that the course was accessible, well thought out, and not confusing, despite the complexity of all the changes of national territories and numerous ethnicities involved. If you have any interest at all in Eastern Europe's past and its effect on the present, we would recommend this course without hesitation.
Date published: 2019-08-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent presentation Bought this topic to prepare for ancestral trip to Poland. I now know exactly what was occurring when my family emigrated in the 19th century. Thank You!!!
Date published: 2019-05-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Already gone through the course twice. So many answers! Going to take this professor’s course on WWI
Date published: 2019-05-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very interesting Good overview of a subject we didn't know well, and good presentation by the speaker. My mother-in-law (of Czech ancestry) has now borrowed the series.
Date published: 2019-04-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A recent history of eastern European Unfortunately the title of this series is a bit misleading. 17 of the 24 lectures deal with the period from 1914 to date. That's fine if you're interested in recent popular history, but it ignores the ancient roots of eastern Europe beginning over 1000 years ago at a time when the area was thinly populated by unrelated tribes. Subjects such as the development of Russia from old Kievan Rus and Muscovy and their rivals, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Poland, Prussia dating back to the beginnings of the Teutonic Knights, the Great Northern War, are all fascinating topics I would have liked to hear more about, but they're not discussed to any great degree. The series also pays little attention to the fact that Europe begins (or ends) at the Ural Mountains. Russian history before the eighteenth century is sparse. Why are these earlier times important? The existing states of eastern Europe are often the end result of dynamic empires that developed (and often faded after a couple hundred years) long before recent times. This is among the most interesting aspects of eastern European history, but we don't get much depth on the subject. The lecturer, Prof. Liulevicius, is excellent and does his best with his material. But for me, too much of the subject matter just repeats a lot of what I already knew from reading twentieth century history.
Date published: 2019-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from From the Mongols to Putin - Eastern Europe For many history buffs, like myself, we have a fair understanding of the history of France, Germany, and Britain, and over to the east, Russia, but the history of the in-between area, i.e., the Eastern Europe of this course, is less familiar to us. Thus, I was very much interested in purchasing this course and was not disappointed. I can see why Professor Liulevicius has a number of courses with TGC because he's an excellent lecturer and his knowledge of European political and cultural history is encyclopedic. And don't let his last name intimidate you...he's a Lithuanian-American straight from the south side of Chicago who speaks perfect English. In this course we learn that Eastern Europe, a land of almost 20 countries and 180 M people, is both distinct from Western Europe (it's semi-feudal and economically backward status in the 19th century contrasted sharply with the industrializing west), but also part of the broader Europe with a shared history and religion which is amplified by current membership in the EU and NATO. Professor L. shows us that in much of the history of Eastern Europe it served, unfortunately, as an area of conflict between the stronger nations of Russia and Germany, and thereby paid a heavy price. Poland was actually removed from the map as a nation for almost 130 years. But we do learn, however, that the Germanic Teutonic Knights were eventually ejected from the Baltic area in the late Middle Ages, and the Kingdom of Poland-Lithuania in the 16th century ranged from the Baltic to the Black Sea. To give the reader some idea of some of the interesting topics and themes discussed in this course, we have: (1) why European Jews migrated and settled in Eastern Europe and how they lived under the Czars, (2) how both World Wars I and II continued in Eastern Europe long after the formal surrenders, (3) the enormous ethnic cleansing and expulsion of up to 20 M people after WW II, particularly of Poles, Ukrainians, and especially of Germans, (4) the happy news that current relations between Germany and Poland have never been better in their history and that Poles today, according to the Professor, "fear German inaction more than expansionism", and (5) the relative ascent of Poland and decline of Ukraine as both were starting from similar low per capita incomes upon their independence around 1990 but today Poland enjoys a degree of economic prosperity while Ukraine is mired in economic backwardness and political corruption. I could go on, of course, but my understanding of current Eastern European politics has been very much enhanced by this course. I enjoyed the Professor's use of jokes in the course, jokes that is that illustrated the frustration of people living "behind" the Iron Curtain. My one regret is that the course focuses on modern history; 75% of the lectures cover the 20th century onward, and 25% cover the post-Soviet era. It's great on current politics but I would have liked to learn more of the medieval and early-modern periods. Also, the Course Guidebook needs a copy editor.
Date published: 2019-03-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent series This course was very well presented with many illustrative examples. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested. If I might put in a wish it would be to have an update periodically. Much has happened in the region since this course was made.
Date published: 2019-02-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is an outstanding review of eastern european history. I would recommend getting the transcript book to follow because there is a lot of detail. For the same reason I think the video is easier to follow than just the audio.
Date published: 2019-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent - absolutely! Tremendous communication skills - not a note in sight. Brilliantly conveys the distinctive history of peoples, thoughts, & nations through this period.
Date published: 2019-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dt. Liulevicius is a great story teller I make a point to buy all lectures from Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius and to listen to each one of them several times. He is thorough, knowledgeable, engaged, conscientious, and has a way bring to the matter he is talking about with precision. He stresses the most important facts, gives background information, reminds listeners when touching the same matter from a different point of view, and last but not least, to make listeners aware to the implications of those issues to the present and the future.
Date published: 2019-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from good overview and great detail I have been somewhat disappointed in other courses by Professor Liulevicius but he really comes alive in this course. His knowledge and enthusiasm are captivating. There is enough detail to make the course more than just a survey but the lectures don';t get mired in minutiae. Professor Liulevicius weaves his personal experience into his academic knowledge to make the lectures informative and lively.
Date published: 2019-01-25
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