Nations and Religions: Majorities and Minorities in Modern Central and Eastern Europe

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Religious Studies
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The course is intended to give a short introduction to the origins and the transformations in the ethnic composition of the population in Central and Eastern Europe. It also analyzes the emergence of modern national identities (and the ensuing political aspirations). This is followed by a study of the religious denominations of the peoples living in the region with a special emphasis on the political and social role of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. The chronological discussion will start with 1848, the ‘spring of the peoples’. Key questions to be discussed include the ethnic and national conflicts which contributed to the rise and dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, as well as the ’Jewish Question’. Due attention will be paid to the ethnic and national tensions during the interwar years (1919-1939), with special reference to the roots of anti-Semitism, the idea of ‘scapegoating’ in the region and the Holocaust during World War II. This section will be followed by the discussion of the national problems in the Soviet bloc countries, with special regard to the events in 1956, 1968, and 1981. At the same time, the question of religion in the Communist countries will be covered at some length as well. The revival of national, religious, and ethnic identities following the introduction of ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika’ in the Soviet Union will be addressed through the analysis of three case studies: the disintegration of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, and the situation of the Hungarian minorities in the region. Finally, the position and the treatment of the Roma people in the region will be discussed.