Course Content

Total learning: 15 lessons Time: 1 semester

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Week 10. After the Fall: Nation-Building, Challenges of Modernity, and Ethnic Strife on the Ruins of Empires

This class will discuss the aftermath of WW I in the post-imperial East European setting, with a specific emphasis on imperial legacies, the connection between state-building and violence on a micro- and medium level, and the transformation of the strategies for ethnic mobilization between 1918 and 1923. It will also examine the geopolitical realignment of the postwar East European space from a comparative and trans-national perspective, building on several case studies of successor states, to be discussed during the seminar (i.e., Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Lithuania). The readings have been chosen with the explicit goal of covering these empirical cases. The broader aim will be to tackle the issue of ‘continuity vs. rupture’ in the interwar period. Returning to Stephen Kotkin’s concept of the ‘interwar conjuncture’ from a case-oriented perspective, we will seek to uncover the specificity of the interwar context by assessing the long-term impact of wartime developments. This class focuses on the ‘intermediary’ space between the (former) imperial centers of Germany and Russia, attempting to restore some agency to the local actors while also paying attention to the geopolitical constraints and ideological models that limited the effectiveness of their state-building projects. The ‘politics of ethnicity’ and its link to state-building will be the key element of the discussion.


  • Roshwald, Ethnic Nationalism and the Fall of Empires, chapter 6 (“Defining the Boundaries of the Nation, 1918-1923”), 157-171, and chapter 7 (“Old Elites and Radical Challengers in the New Nation-States, 1918-1939”), 198-211.
  • Prusin, The Lands Between, Chapter 4 (“The Interim, 1920-1939”), 98-124.
  • Balkelis, War, Revolution, and Nation-Making in Lithuania, 1914-1923, chapter 3 (”New War, New Mobilizations”), 57-77, and chapter 4 (“Two Visions of Lithuania: Revolution and the Advance of the Red Army”), 78-95.
  • *Eley, “Remapping the Nation,” in: Potichnyi, ed. Ukrainian-Jewish Relations, 1988, 205-246.