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Author: Christian Domnitz, in cooperation with Philipp Ther
Instructor: Georgiy Kasianov
Credits: 8

Main goals

  • To observe and to discuss major problems of the East European History
  • To develop generic skills in application of the history knowledge to the analysis of current politics and policies

General topics

  • Introduction to East European History
  • History: Art of Analysing the Past for Understanding the Present
  • Backwardness, Modernisation, Nationalism
  • Major periods in 20th Century East European History
  • Democracy, Communism, Totalitarianism in Eastern Europe
  • Passage to the Post-Communism and Transformation Problems
  • Legacies of the Past and Problems of the Present


Students are expected to take part in on-line discussions on above-mentioned topics, to comment on proposed compulsory literature and to write two brief essays and one final paper.

Example tassk from the History Module

Choose one of the offered three tasks:

  1. Please study the biographies of the three authors and discuss the context in which their understandings of history evolved.
  2. Do you share Berend’s optimistic perspective on the post-1989 developments in Central and Eastern Europe? Can the discussed societies still be marginalized after their EU accession in 2004? Please elaborate – why, or why not?
  3. Please comment on Nietzsche – what is the historical context of his text, how are your personal feelings about it? Do you see a conflict between happiness and historical consciousness as well?

Discuss your findings in a short comment on blackboard. Relate them to the statements of your colleagues. Feel free to address other issues as well.

1. Chapter
Historiography is based on source work

"Historians deal with source materials. The classical sources are written texts, such as contracts between governments, programs of political groups, or personal correspondences. However, especially in the last decades historians have been devoting more attention to pictures and audiovisual sources. To explore the culture and everyday habits of the past, they analyze theater plays, propaganda posters, and children’s songs. Artifacts like cinema tickets, beer bottles, or toys are used as historical sources as well.

Starting from the sources, historians develop historical narratives. Describing and interpreting forces historians to reduce the more complex and “un-tellable” reality. If their descriptions and interpretations are accepted by other academics in the field and by the intellectual community, then they have managed to establish a new historical narrative. History writing is not the re-construction of a “truth” from the sources. There are several possible narratives of the same historical events. Historians – the narrators – share different personal and cultural values and different perspectives on history.

Moldovan Postcard

Choosing their sources and delimiting their topics, they pre-form the resulting narratives. Thus, multiple perspectives on history emerge as well as controversies about the meaning of history. Historians feel obliged to question their basic assumptions, the choice of their sources and the methodology their research is based on. Furthermore, the theoretical and methodological reflection of history writing provides opportunities for broad academic exchange beyond the limitations of peculiar subjects of historiography."

Christian Domnitz, in cooperation with Philipp Ther: Historiography is based on source work. 1st Chapter of Unit 1 of the History Module. © East European Studies Online; 2010.