BA History and Sociology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
The Revolutions of 1989 and their Aftermaths: Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia

Course unit fact file
Unit code RUSS20471
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The course studies two very important changes on the political map of Eastern Europe focusing on the period from the fall of Communism in 1989 to 2007 (the independence of Kosovo): the break-ups of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. It explores the reasons behind the brutal Yugoslav wars and the ‘velvet divorce’ of Czechoslovakia, and offers an insight into films, art happenings, images and texts created during the period in question. Contextualized within these two very different and yet comparable cases of political demise, these cultural products are examined as complex responses to the events, but also as strategies (aesthetic, political and psychological) to deal with the crisis and the imminent transformations. The course explores these cultural outputs as effective tools in voicing and shaping emerging identities and mapping out the real and symbolic geographies of the region.


Available on which programme(s)?

All programmes involving Russian as a named subject



•    To ensure students have a solid understanding of the political changes in Eastern Europe after fall of Communism
•    To provide students with the necessary skills to analyse the reasons behind the break-ups of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia
•    To provide students with the necessary skills to compare and contrast different cases of political break-ups
•    To enable students to analyse and contextualize cultural responses (films, images and texts) to political events
•    To ensure students have a solid understanding of the ways in which these cultural responses reflect the emerging identities of the region


Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:
•    demonstrate a solid understanding of political changes in Eastern Europe after 1989; 
•    demonstrate in-depth understanding of the reasons and the outcomes of the  break-ups of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia;
•    understand, analyze and discuss selected works of cinema, visual arts and literature, relating them to the appropriate political, social, historical and religious context.


Week One: Historical Context: Understanding 1989 Revolutions. Changes in Eastern Europe in comparative perspective (Czechoslovakia, USSR and Yugoslavia)

Week Two: Historical Context: Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia -- Outcomes of WWI. Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia between WWII and 1989

Week Three: Political Crisis after the Fall of Communism: The Economies of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia

Week Four: Political Crisis after the Fall of Communism: Ideological Vacuum in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia; Religion in Yugoslavia

Week Five: Political Crisis after the Fall of Communism: Nationalism in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia; The challenges of post-socialist space

Week Six: Political Crisis after the Fall of Communism:    Nationalism in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia II: The challenges of nationalism

Week Seven: Textual and Cinematic Responses to Disintegrated Communities

Week Eight: Textual and Cinematic Responses to Nationalism: Constructing New Identities (Public and Personal responses in non-Fiction Genres)

Week Nine:  Strategies of Conflict Representation: From Motherland to No Man’s Land (From Visual Document to Art and Back)

Week Ten: The Aftermaths of the aftermath: Eastern Europe Three Decades Later.  

Week Eleven: Week Twelve: Revision

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • demonstrate good knowledge of the political histories of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Serbia from 1989 to 2007;  
  • demonstrate detailed knowledge of the political, economic and cultural processes behind the creation of the new post-1989 Central and South- Eastern European states;
  • demonstrate solid knowledge of the artefacts (films, images and texts) produced as a response to the break-ups of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. 

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to: 

  • analyse, contrast and compare crucial political changes;
  • explore artefacts (films, images, texts) through plethora of critical methods;
  • analyse, contrast and compare the effectiveness of an image or a text in conveying a political and aesthetic message.

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to: 

•    make effective use of relevant academic text and primary sources; 
•    present their written work in a coherent, well structured and well articulated form;
•    present their work orally before an audience;
•    manage their time.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to: 

•    to draw appropriately on a range of sources (literary, historical and critical) from the library and the internet;
•    to communicate ideas effectively and to present structured well-supported arguments both orally and in writing.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
The module encourages the development of critical thinking and analytical capability: skills which are transferable to any number of spheres. The module enables the students to detect the symptoms of potentially dangerous political conflicts. The course content deepens the students¿ knowledge of Central and South Eastern European culture and recent political history, which will be applicable to any career dealing with the former Socialist states.

Assessment methods

Assessment task  Summative or FormativeWeighting within unit (if summative)  
1) Individual webpage (Wiki) project (second half of semester) Summative30%
2) Essay (due January beginning of exam period) Summative70%

Resit Assessment:


Feedback methods

Feedback methodFormative or Summative
Oral feedback on seminar discussionFormative
Written feedback on the presentation, and on the essay  Summative
Additional one-to-one oral feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)Summative


Recommended reading

Set Texts:

  1. Balkan Blues: Writing out of Yugoslavia, ed. by Joanna Labon (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1998).
  2. Vaclav Havel, Leaving. A Play. (London: Faber and Faber, 2008).
  3. Dubravka Ugreši, The Culture of Lies: Antipolitical Essays (London: Phoenix House, 1998).


  1. Before the Rain, directed by Milcho Manchevski (PolyGram Video, 1995, c.1994).
  2. Kolya, directed by Jan Sverak (Miramax Home Entertainment, 1997).
  3. No Man’s Land, directed by Danis Tanovic (MGM Home Entertainment, c. 2002).
  4. Pretty Village, Pretty Flame, directed by Srdjan Dragojevich (Cobra Films, 1996).

Recommended Texts:

  1. Ivo Banac, ‘The Fearful Asymmetry of War: The Causes and Consequences of Yugoslavia’s Demise’, Daedalus, 121, 2 (1992), 141-174.
  2. Robert Burgoyne, ‘Ethnic Nationalism and Globalization’, Rethinking History, 4, 2 (2000), 157-64.
  3. Mira Furlan, ‘A Letter to my Co-citizens’, Performing Arts Journal, 53 (1996), 20-24.
  4. Abby Innes, Czechoslovakia: The Short Goodbye (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001).
  5. Dina Iordanova, Cinema in Flames: Balkan Film Culture and Media (London, 2001).
  6. Igor Krstic, ‘Re-thinking Serbia: A Psychoanalytic Reading of Modern Serbian History and Identity Through Popular Culture’, Other Voices, 2, 2 (2002) 1-29.
  7. John Lampe, Yugoslavia as History. Twice There was a Country (Cambridge: CUP 1996/2000), pp.332-360; 365-415.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Adelina Angusheva-Tihanov Unit coordinator

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