Central Europe: Ideologies, Politics and Society (17th – 21st ct)

 Garrantor: David Robbins, PhD.

Lecturer:   Marcela Janíčková, M.A..

 Time:    lecture and seminar: from 12:30 to 15:00 with breaks.

 Consultation hours: after class, via e-mail, ZOOM session by agreement with the instructor (send an e-mail to janickovamarcela@hotmail.com)


 The history of Central Europe from the 19th century onward is a history of painful interactions between various ethnic groups – so-called "nations" in the European terminology (as opposed to states that are political entities.)

 These ethnic nations did not exist from time immemorial. In fact, up to the 19th century people defined themselves by their religion and homeland.  The early 19th century brought an enormous change. Under the influence of the Romantic movement, people began to view themselves as members of groups connected by an indissoluble bond of language and unique culture. Patriotism came under attack by nationalism.

 Nationalism was especially strong in multinational states where one ethnic group, not necessarily the most numerous, dominated other ethnic groups politically, economically, and culturally. Such was the case of the Austrian Empire, the largest political entity in Central Europe, the home of approximately nine ethnic groups. Under the influence of nationalism, the groups that historically had less influence started to rally around the idea of the uniqueness of each nation and of its right to exfolliate its potential free of imposition by another nation. They began claiming their place in the sun; they cultivated their language and culture vigorously, and aspired to greater self-government in the territory they inhabited. One must admit that nationalism had many positive results – even though these days we tend to interpret it in negative terms given our experience in the 20th century. 

 The Austrian Empire was not only threatened internally – it was also threatened from the outside by the longing of Germans to unite all the 35 independent states in which they lived into one great German Empire. This longing appeared for the first time in 1848, and it shook the very foundations of the Austrian Empire – namely, significant proportions of its ruling German classes were so attracted to the idea of a liberal German state that they were willing to break up the Austrian Empire and to take that part of the Austrian Empire they inhabited "into Germany."

 This danger was averted in 1848 but the German nation would not remain scattered for long. It was just a matter of time before a unified German Empire succeeded to the hegemony once enjoyed by the Austrian Empire in its original sphere of influence – Central Europe. 

 How did the Czechs fare in this tumult? Did they extricate themselves from domination by Austrian Germans? What happened after the Austrian Empire fell apart in 1918? How did the Czechs fare then – prior to and during World War II? And why is it that half of Central Europe embarked on the Communist experiment after the war? Did this development have anything to do with the old ideology of nationalism?

 We will try to address these questions by looking at interactions between the various peoples in the region at the societal and cultural level, as well as the political one. For it was the conflicting interests of these nations that shaped the politics and culture of Central Europe. Not all nations could attain their goals – at least not at the same time as all the others. That is the nature of the Central European experience – the notion that one cannot always get what one wants, that one must accept the circumstances and arrange oneself accordingly; the sense of the tragic, of things that must be and are beyond our control.

 Learning outcomes:

 1) to demonstrate that challenges faced by Central Europe and solutions adopted have foundationally influenced the shape of 21st centure Europe. Central Europe is responsible for the concept of the paternalistic welfare state, for ethnic nationalism, rabid race-based antisemitism as well as Marxism and Communism that provided a popular alternative to the „exploitation“ by capitalists.

 2) to recover the geopolitical and cultural concept of Central Europe that, after 1945, was eradicated by redividing the continent into Communist "Eastern Europe" and non-Communist "Western Europe" – even now we often hear about "East Central Europe" or "East Europe and the Balkans."

 3) to examine the historical struggle of Central Europe (Germany, Austria, Hungary – the former Hapsburg Empire and Poland) to political consolidation. We will take as an example the strenuous and some might say forceful road to German unification resulting in the creation of the Second Empire by 1900’s. We will compare it with an equally strenuous of Hapsburg monarchs to prevent decomposition of their Empire. Their effort was in vain, their empire fell apart and gave way after WWI and gave way to nation states. 

 4) to explain how this historical resistance to political consolidation resulted in nationalism and to discuss nationalism’s beneficial as well as the sinister forms.


Grading procedure:

 - midterm: 40% of the final grade

- final exam: 40% of the final grade

- participation: 20% of the final grade

- make-up essays are possible


Two absences are permitted. If you are absent more times, you will be asked to write a paper to make up for the class(es) missed.

 Key texts:

 Hugh LeCaine Agnew, The Czechs and the Lands of the Bohemian Crown (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2004). 

 Isaiah Berlin, The Roots of Romanticism (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999).

 Paul Robert Magocsi, Historical Atlas of Central Europe (University of Washington Press; Revised Edition, 2002).

 Bradley F. Abrams, The Struggle for the Soul of the Nation:Czech Culture and the Rise of Communism (The Harvard Cold War Studies Book Series), (Rowman&Littlefield Publishers, 2004)

 Joseph Rothschild, East Central Europe between the Two World Wars (University of Washington Press, 1974)

 Joseph Rothschild and Nancy M. Wingfield, Return to Diversity (4th Edition), (Oxford University Press, 2008)

 Carol Skalnik-Leff, The Czech and Slovak Republics: Nation versus State (Bolder: Westview Press, 1997)

 Essays and excerpts supplied by the instructor from the following publications:

 Mikuláš Teich, Bohemia in History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998)

Jürgen Tampke, Czech-German Relations and the Politics of Central Europe, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003)

Jiří Musil, The End of Czechoslovakia, (Budapest: Central European University Press, 1995)

Franklin Le Van Baumer, Main Currents of Western Thought (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978)

Heda Margolius Kovaly, Under a Cruel Star (New York: Holmes&Meier Publishers, 1997)

Jaroslav Krejčí and Pavel Machonín, Czechoslovakia 1918-1992 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996)

What Works for Roman Inclusion in the EU (Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2012) http://ec.europa.eu/justice/discrimination/files/whatworksfor_romainclusion_en.pdf

Reference texts:

Eric Roman, Austria-Hungary and the Successor States: A Reference Guide from the Renaissance to the Present (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2003).


Course schedule:

Monday, October 3

Session 1         Enlightenment in theory

Monday, October 10                 

Session 2         Enlightenment in practice: reforms under Maria Teresa and Joseph II


                        Agnew: Cha 7, pp. 84-92 (focus on Enlightenment reforms of the state)

                    Monday, October 17

 Session 3         Romanticism as a backlash against Enlightenment

                        Birth of Nationalism, its growth during the Napoleonic Wars


                        Berlin: Cha 2, pp. 21-29, 34-45 (The First Attack at Romanticism)

                        Berlin: Cha 3, pp. 46-49 (True Fathers of Romanticism)

                        Berlin: Cha 3, pp. 57-67 (on J.G. Herder)

                        Roman: Cha 7 (on Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna)

 Monday, October 24

 Session 4         Czech national revival and its phases: recovery and development of the                             language, synthesis of the Czech cultural tradition and history, and                                   creation of works/institutions that expressed the above and formed Czech identity                        .

                         Weaknesses of the national revival                        


                        Agnew: Industrialization and the Bohemian Crownlands, pp. 105-108

                        Agnew: Pre-March culture and nationalism, pp. 108-116



Monday, October 31

 Session 5         The Springtime of Nations in the German Confederation – plans for                                   revamping of the Austrian Empire.

                        Consequences of German unification movement on the  relations                                      between Czechs and Bohemian Germans.


                        Roman: Cha 9, pp. 63-67

                        Agnew: Cha 8, The Springtime of Nations, pp. 116-123

                        handout on the chronology of the revolutions in the Austrian Empire

                         Aftermath of the revolution of 1848 – from the Enligntenment-inspired                             absolutism to constitutional monarchy and Ausgleich of 1867  

 Monday, November 7

 Session 6         Czech politics and culture from 1860’s to WWI


                        Roman: pp. 66-77

                        Roman: Cha 14, pp. 102-109

                        Agnew: Cha 9, pp. 124-145                  

                        Jews in the Austrian Empire (18th and 19th ct); rise of modern anti-                                    semitism


                        Krejčová, Helena: “Czechs and Jews”    

 Nov 7-11           Midterm week     

 Monday, November 14

 Session 7         First Czechoslovak Republic: experiment in building a pluralist society

                        State right argument vs. right to national determination; idea of the                                  Czechoslovak nation state with minorities; geography, demographics,                                political system, economic system


                        Krejci and Machonin: pp.3-12

                        Agnew: Cha 10, pp. 161-172

                        Agnew: Cha 11, pp. 175-185

                        Rothschild: East Central europe between the Two World Wars:

                        Cha 3, Czechoslovakia, pp. 74 – 136 (marked pages)

 Monday, November 21

 Session 8         Relations of Slovaks and Czechs from 1918 to 1945


                        Kovac: “Czechs and Slovaks in Modern History”

                        Suda: “Slovakia in Czech National Consciousness”

                        Krejci and Machonin: pp 8-12

                         Relations of Bohemian Germans and Czechs from 1918 to 1945


                        Tampke: Cha: Czechoslovakia

                        Agnew: pp. 190-208      

 Monday, November 28

 Session 9         Post-war changes in Central Europe and Czechoslovakia: crafting of          welfare state     

                        changes of the political system, expulsion and forced resettlement of                                populations, coping with the past (retribution decrees and amnesty law),                          first nationalizations in the economic system


                        Krejci a Machonin: pp. 150-158 (The Second Attempt at a Democratic                                Common Life)

                        Teacher’s handout        

                         Communist seizure of power in February 1948, construction of the  Communist Utopia


                        Krejci a Machonin: pp. 159-167 (The Installation of a Totalitarian and                                  Egalitarian Social System)

                        Agnew: Cha 13, pp. 233-247

 Monday, December 5

 Session 10      Causes and the program of the 1968 Prague Spring reform movement


                        Rychlik, Jan: “From Autonomy to Federation” pp. 190-197

                        Agnew: Cha 13  , pp. 247-260

                        Czechoslovak experience under Normalization


                        Pithart, Petr: “Towards a Shared Freedom”, pp. 201-222

                        Rotschield, Wingfield: Return to Diversity, Cha 5

 Monday, December 12

 Session 11      Velvet revolution of 1989

                        Minorities in the Czech nation state


                        Agnew: Cha 15: Velvet Revolution to Velvet Divorce, pp. 284-292

                        European Commission Report 2020: What Works For Roma Inclusion in                            the EU, pp. 28-35       

Monday, December 19

 Session 12        make-up session

 Friday, December 19 –23 – Final exam period