Three Eras of Political Change in Eastern Europe

Three Eras of Political Change in Eastern Europe

Three Eras of Political Change in Eastern Europe

Three Eras of Political Change in Eastern Europe

Synopsis

The revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe made it possible for people who had always considered themselves part of the European mainstream to reemerge from two generations of Communist separation. At the same time, however, the war in the former Yugoslavia threw doubt on the stability of the region. In Three Eras of Political Change in Eastern Europe, Gale Stokes, a noted specialist on the history of Eastern Europe and Yugoslavia, covers a broad range of topics, including the revolutions of 1989. The first section of the text describes the historical sources of the regions distinctiveness. Part two illuminates the background of the 1990s crisis in Yugoslavia and the final section discusses the conditions of Eastern Europe after 1945. Because the text is broken into three interrelated parts, instructors are able to choose the sections that are most appropriate for their courses. Stokes discusses the social determinants of East European politics, but argues that ideas were more important in the revolutions of 1989. These interpretations, along with his optimistic assessment of the regions future, are sure to provoke debate. Clear and concise, these articles are both wide-ranging and cross-cultural, giving students not only an overall historical view of the region, but also a glimpse into more recent events as well. The scope and penetration of the essays, along with their challenging viewpoints, are sure to engage undergraduates and scholars studying Eastern European history and international politics.

Excerpt

When I meet new people and tell them that I am a Balkan historian, they almost always ask me, with some surprise, how I got into the study of Balkan history. the question could be interpreted as merely polite conversation. I have come to believe, however, that it reveals the depth of ethnic consciousness that permeates modem thinking. Questioners usually are quite specific: my non-Slavic name has confused them. They assume that only those with an appropriate ethnic background could be interested in the arcane history of Southeast Europe. If my name were, say Miloš Marković, it apparently would be obvious to them why I chose Balkan history as my subject -- ethnics are interested in their own history. But of course everyone is an ethnic. We are all part of a community in which we have been nurtured and feel comfortable. and not all of us chose to be historians. Nevertheless, I cannot recall a single instance of someone asking me why I chose to be a professional historian rather than to pursue some other career.

I have my dinner party answer to why I chose the Balkans. It goes like this: the Christmas before I graduated from college, my mother gave me one thousand dollars to visit Europe the summer of my graduation, after which I was to enter the Air Force as an rotc second lieutenant. Her condition was that I travel with the Experiment in International Living, which placed young people with families in host countries. I chose Yugoslavia and spent several weeks in Ljubljana (the student I stayed with remains a good friend), following which our group traveled around Yugoslavia.

After a number of years' service as a regular officer, I realized I wanted to leave the Air Force. One of the things I did to think more clearly about this decision was to list all the books I had read over the previous two years. To my astonishment, most of them were history books. Even though I had been convinced since my undergraduate days that history was boring, I had read Florinsky's two-volume history of Russia and even B. H. Sumner's history of the Eastern Crisis almost without realizing it.

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