In the summer of 1944, the Red Army entered Eastern Europe in its westward push towards Berlin. The Soviets liberated these territories from the Nazi occupation, but did not leave them. Instead, with the help of local communists, they implemented the communist system patterned on the Soviet model. By the late 1970s, the Soviet model began to break apart, only to collapse in the late 1980s. Why did the communist system, which seemed politically and militarily strong, suddenly collapse? Why did it find so few defenders in the late 1980s even among its own ruling elites? By focusing on the countries of the former Soviet Bloc (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania), this seminar will address the long- and short-term causes of the decline of communism. Special attention will be paid to the relationship between state and society, and between everyday life and geopolitical issues.
Seminar led by Malgorzata Fidelis, University of Illinois at Chicago