Politics of Eastern Europe, Russia, and Post-Soviet States

Lecture, Open—Fall

About Eastern Europe, the British historian Timothy Garton Ash wrote: “We shall at once be lost in a forest of historical complexity—an endlessly intriguing forest to be sure, a territory where peoples, cultures, languages are fantastically intertwined, where every place has several names and men change their citizenship as often as their shoes, an enchanted wood full of wizards and witches, but one which bears over its entrance the words: ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here, of ever again seeing the wood for the trees.’” This quote, though a bundle of mixed metaphors, captures perfectly the nature of the unresolved tensions and unexpected conflicts that have come to characterize Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet states since the late 1980s. Though it has been more than 20 years since the breakup of the USSR, the consequences of that traumatic series of events continue to influence and shape the economic and political fortunes of these countries. From the civil war in Georgia to the recent conflicts between Eastern and Western Ukraine (as well as renewed tensions between Russia and the West), the region is haunted by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the socioeconomic and political transitions that followed. Looking closely at the complex and often contentious relationships between the many different economically and politically diverse actors involved, this class will attempt to make sense of the present political moment by understanding its relationship to its communist past.