Course Description

Course Name

Contemporary Politics in Central Europe

Session: VPGS1124

Hours & Credits

45 Contact Hours

Prerequisites & Language Level

Taught In English

  • There is no language prerequisite for courses at this language level.


This course is meant for students with different academic backgrounds but with strong interest in Central European developments during and after the democratic revolutions 1989. To understand Central European developments since 1989 it is necessary - according to our many years´ teaching experience - to get acquainted with main turning points of political history of respective countries of Central European geopolitical space on one hand and to undertake some comparative research into similarities and differences of such developments on the other hand.

The central part of the course will focus on the political developments after 1918 in both Czechoslovakia and neighboring Central European countries (Versailles conference, 1920s and 1930s, WWII, the divided Europe, the character of the Communist regimes). Lectures and discussions will especially focus on the democratic revolutions 1989, the institutional and international framework of the transition process and specific problems of democratization in Central Europe. Continuous attention will be dedicated to political elections in Central European countries.

By the end of the class the students will be able to outline main developments of Central European politics after the changes of 1989 and they will be able to analyze the effects of the EU integration process on this geopolitical region. According to the students´ academic interests they will be able to describe contemporary political developments in one of the Central European countries (e.g. Czech republic, Slovakia, Poland, Austria, Hungary) or be capable to compare some political trends in the whole geopolitical region (political systems, economic transition, cultural identity etc.) The weekly assigned readings will enable the students to discuss and interpret political literature concerning this area. Throughout class discussions the students will gain appreciation of the importance to study Central European languages. The base for future independent research will be laid.


The introduction to the course is very much about terminological problems. From book to book and from article to article any student of the above-mentioned topics is confronted with inconsistent usage of geographic, political and ideological terms and concepts: e.g. East and Central Europe, European integration, Czech and Bohemian, totalitarian, communist or socialist, Austrian, German or German-speaking etc. Each term has one or more connotations and should be used adequately.
-Different definitions of Central European space.
-This course will deal with major turning points in the modern political history (XX. century) of five Central European states: Czech republic, Slovak republic, Poland, Austria, Hungary.
-Reading: Cornej,P.-Pokorný,J.: A brief History of the Czech Lands. Praha, 2003

-Basic data (political maps, demography, religions, nations and nationalities, languages, etc.) of Central European countries.
-Reading: Statistics prepared by the lecturer.
Political maps of the region.

-Central European countries in the process of European integration in XX. century.
-Reading: Documents prepared by the lecturer.

-The World War I and the collapse of Empires. The new states in Central Europe.
-The political history of Czechoslovakia 1918 - 1945.
-Reading: Krejcí, Jaroslav
"Czechoslovakia at the Crossroads of European History" London, 1990 (selected pages)

-The political history of Czechoslovakia 1945 - 2010.
-Reading: Krejcí, Jaroslav
"Czechoslovakia at the Crossroads of European History" London, N.Y., 1990 pp. 172 - 202

-The political history of Poland.
-Midterm test.
-Reading: Ash, Timothy Garton
" History of the Present " The Penguin Press, GB, 1999 (selected pages)

-The political history of Austria and Hungary.
-Evaluation of the midterm test. Selection of the final topic.
-Reading: The selected texts will be prepared by the lecturer

-Convergent and divergent developments in Central European space after 1918.
-General discussion.

-The democratic revolutions 1989 in Central Europe. Constitutional, political, economic and cultural changes. The economic transformation in former communist countries.
-Reading: Wheaton, Bernard - Kavan, Zdenek
"The Velvet Revolution" Boulder, San Francisco, Oxford, 1992 (selected pages)

-The constitution as an expression of political philosophy of the respective country: the constitutions of the Czech and Slovak republics. Poland, Austria and Hungary.
-Reading: The Czech Constitution. The Slovak Constitution.
-The Polish Constitution. The Austrian Constitution. The Hungarian Constitution.
(The abbreviated texts will be prepared by the professor ).

-Five years of the membership of Central European states in the European Union. The developments from May 2004 till fall 2010.

-Foreign policy of the United States and Central -European space: Economy, security, culture.

The students will be offered regularly both selected pages from different books (see bibliography) and English-speaking articles on fresh developments in the countries under review (EU information, newspapers, academic journals).
-Ash, Timothy Garton: The Magic Lantern. New York, Random House, 1990
-Cornej, Petr-Pokorný, Jirí: A brief History of the Czech Lands. Praha, 2003
-Michnik, Adam: Letters from Freedom.University of California Press, 1998
-Stein, Eric: Czecho/Slovakia. Uni. of Michigan Press, 1997
-Tismaneanu, Vladimir: The revolutions of 1989. London/N.Y., Routledge, 1999
-Wasserstein Bernard: Barbarism and Civilization. Oxford Uni. Press, 2007

Recommended newspapers and periodicals:
Prague Business Journal, Prague
The Prague Post, English-speaking weekly
Transition, Prague Edition

The grading will be based on attendance and participation in the discussions, midterm test, final written exam and final paper.
-Class attendance and active participation: 20%
-Midterm essay: 20 %
-Final written test: 20 %
-Final Paper: 40%

General interest in European politics and in integration studies is expected. The course is based on active participation. The teacher will help the students choose and work on their final paper paying respect to their major and minor studies. Advice will be offered concerning individual travel plans in Central Europe.

Class attendance is mandatory.

The midterm test (app. 30 minutes) will be written in the classroom in the middle of the program.The midterm test will test basic acquaintance with the issues discussed in the first five weeks.

The final written exam in the classroom (app. 30 minutes) will test basic acquaintance with the issues discussed in the second half of the course.
The final paper ( 8-10 pages ) will be handed over for evaluation in the last week of the program. The selection of the topic will start by the end of October, the teacher will help with respective sources or interview persons.

*Course content subject to change