Zenon Wasyliw

Professor, History

The East of Europe Seminar




HIST-48100-01, CRN 43337

Monday, 4:00-6:30

Zenon V. Wasyliw   

Professor, Department of History and

Supervisor of Social Studies Teacher Education

Ithaca College                                                           



Muller 427                                                                                                                                                                      Office hours:

Monday, Wednesday and Friday 1:00-2:00

Tuesday 11:00-12:00   

By appointment other times and days

Phone – 274-1587 and 3303


The seminar assesses the twentieth century evolution of national and transnational identities through the lens of constructed memories and competing narratives with a focus on the lands and peoples geographically between Russia and Germany, “the East of Europe.”  The construction of the national or transnational ideal will be evaluated through a study of the transformative realities of everyday life and values. 


This seminar is a capstone experience in fulfilling the requirements of the history, social studies teaching majors and history minor. It is offered at the senior level to students who have completed substantially requirements of the major or minor as a culmination of a sequence of courses. The seminar reflects and builds upon those courses and connects to the following core attributes – communication skills, competence, critical thinking, global citizenship, life long learning and personal development. The capstone seminar culminates with the synthesizing experience of carefully researching and writing a twenty-five page paper. This critically evaluated research paper is central to the completion of the major and degree.


Brown, Kate. A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland.

Drakulic, Slavenka. Café Europa: Life After Communism.

Eksteins, Modris. Walking Since Daybreak: A Story of Eastern Europe, World War II, and the Heart of the Century.

Hoffman, Eva. Shtetl. The Life and Death of a Small Town and the World of Polish Jews.

Reid, Anna. Borderland: A Journey through the History of Ukraine.

Snyder, Timothy. Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.

Snyder, Timothy. The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999.

Todorova, Maria. Imagining the Balkans.

Recommended: hard copy - Benjamin, Jules. A Student’s Guide to History and online -


Chicago Manual of Style – citation guide


Tips for writing history papers –



Supplemental sources and handouts will be shared and distributed throughout the semester


1. “Students at Ithaca College are expected to attend all classes and they are responsible for work missed during any absence from class…Students should notify their instructor as soon as possible of any anticipated absences.” (Ithaca College Undergraduate Catalog, 2011-2012). Because the Seminar meets only once a week, perfect attendance is expected of all students. Everyone should complete all assignments and be prepared for seminar discussions and presentations.

2. Seminar participants are significantly graded on their participation. Students must arrive with a one page outline/summary of the assigned readings for the week as a guide for discussion and to assure that the assignment has been completed. The one page outline/summary will be collected.   

3. Seminar participants must write a twenty five page research paper to fulfill the Department of History senior capstone requirement noted above. Graduate and professional programs often require the submission of a significant research paper as part of the admission process.  Specific writing and research stages are carefully assigned in the Topics and Assignments section of this syllabus. All papers must follow the University of Chicago format.  Jules Benjamin’s A Student’s Guide to History is a very helpful source for writing research papers. All sources must be properly documented. Carefully read the Ithaca College Standards of Academic Conduct found at the following Student Policies link:


4. Please check my Other Europe and Rise and Fall of the USSR syllabi, both hard copy and on-line for additional historical background information, sources and relevant websites – http://faculty.ithaca.edu/wasyliw/USSR http://faculty.ithaca.edu/wasyliw/eastcentral  

5.  We shall visit Olin Library at Cornell University to become acquainted with resources and access additional research materials.

6. In compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disability Act, reasonable accommodation will be provided to students with documented disabilities on a case-by-case basis. Students must register with the Office of Academic Services and provide appropriate documentation to the College before any academic adjustment will be provided.

7. Diminished mental health (stress, depression, untreated mental illness) can interfere with optimal academic performance. There are many potential sources of personal difficulties. Academic studies, family, friends, poor health and difficult romantic relationships can contribute to personal difficulties – and impaired academic performance.

Through the office of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), cost-free support can be obtained when personal difficulties threaten your well-being.

In the event I suspect you might benefit from additional support, I will express my concerns, my reasoning, and remind you of resources (e.g., CAPS, Health Center, Chaplains, etc.) that might be of help to you. It is not my intention to know the details of what you might be experiencing, but simply to let you know I am concerned and that help, if needed, is available.

Getting help is a smart and healthy thing to do… for yourself and for your loved ones.

8. The syllabus outline, topics and assignments are subject to change.


Seminar Date:

Jan. 23

1. Introduction and overview of seminar requirements. A historical and cultural background on Twentieth Century Eastern and Central Europe. Online sources will be shared ahead of time. One site worth visiting is -  http://www.ucis.pitt.edu/reesweb/ connect with the Browse REESWeb link

Ithaca College Library visit.

Assignment for this seminar session – Be prepared to discuss and bring questions related to 20th Century Eastern and Central European history.

Assignment for our next seminar session - Read Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999. We will have three study groups, each focusing on one of the three major book sections.

Jan. 30 

2. From Commonwealth to Modern Nationhood – Time, Territories, Identities, Myths, Meta-histories and the Narrative Voice and Mode

Discussion of Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations

Assignment: Eva Hoffman, Shtetl, read Introduction through chapter 3.

Feb. 6

3.  Jewish Life and History in Poland and Eastern Europe from Medieval Times through the First World War – Mega-histories and Micro-histories

Discussion of Hoffman Introduction through chapter 3

Assignment: Hoffman, read chapter 4 through Epilogue

Feb. 13

4.  Nationalism, Competing Identities and Rising Inter-ethnic and Cultural Hostilities. 

German Arrival and the Shoah-Holocaust

Competing Memories and Narratives

Continued discussion of Hoffman

Selection and presentation of research topics and theses

Assignment - Read Snyder, Bloodlands, Introduction through chapter 4

Feb. 20

5. The Rise of Hitler and Stalin and Their Plans for the Lands between Berlin and Moscow.

The Ukrainian Famine, Class Terror and National Terror.

Molotov-Ribbentrop Europe

Discussion of Snyder, Bloodlands

Progress reports on research projects

Assignment - Read Snyder, Chapter 5 through Conclusion

Prepare an oral presentation on your research paper thesis, a summary, outline and bibliographical update

Feb. 27

6.  The Holocaust, Ethnic Cleansing, High Stalinism.

Humanity and Humanists Role to Turn Numbers back into People

Discussion of Snyder, Bloodlands

Assignment – Prepare a research paper thesis, paragraph summary, outline and initial bibliography due for March 5 seminar distribution and discussion

March 5

7. Research paper thesis, paragraph summary, outline and initial bibliography are due for seminar distribution and discussion

Assignment: Read Kate Brown, A Biography of No Place. From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland for March 19 seminar discussion

March 12


Assignment - Finish reading Brown, A Biography of No Place

Compile an extended research paper bibliography and begin writing an approximately ten page rough draft of the research paper due for March 26.  

March 19

9. Ambiguous and Transformative Identities. Modern States and the Transformation of a Multiethnic Borderland 

Discussion of the Brown book

Assignment - Read Modris Eksteins, Walking Since Daybreak: A Story of Eastern Europe, World War I, and the Heart of Our Century

March 26

10. The Baltic Nations Before, During and After the Second World War: Part History and Part Memoir – An Unconventional Account

Discussion of Eksteins

Assignment – Read Anna Reid, Borderland. A Journey through the History of Ukraine

Research paper bibliography and rough draft is due along with research paper progress reports. Continue writing and revising rough drafts.

April 2

11.  A Journalist’s Observations and Interpretations of Ukraine’s and Ukrainians Past and Present

The writing of History – The Professional Academic Historians and Journalist Historians Writing for a General Audience

Discussion of Reid, Borderland

Assignment:  Read Maria Todorova, Imagining the Balkans, Introduction through Chapter 4

April 9

12.  Balkanism and Orientalism: Are They Different Categories?

Discussion of Todorova Introduction through Chapter 4

Update and discussion of research papers.

Assignment – Read Todorova, Imagining the Balkans, Chapter 5 through the Conclusion

April 16

13.  From Discovery to Invention from Invention to Classification

The Balkans and the Myth of Central Europe

Assignment – Read, Slavenka Drakulic, Café Europa: Life After Communism

Complete and submit a rough draft of your research paper with proper citations included by Friday April 21

April 23

14.  Everyday Life and Transitions in Post-Communist Eastern Europe (mainly the Balkans)

Discussion of Drakulic, Café Europa

Assignment - Complete Research Papers.

April 30

15. Extended Research Paper Presentations and Discussions

May 7-11

16. Final Examination Week

Discussion of research papers during officially designated examination time