The Making of Modern Central Europe. Film and History — HIS

Instructor: Dr. Andrea PETŐ
E mail: Time: Tuesday 14.15- 17.00

Required Text: Richard J. Crampton, Eastern Europe in the 20th century and After. Routledge, 1994. Available at the Bookshop Work book p137.- available at the Admin.
Recommended: Laszlo Kontler, Millenium in Central Europe. History of Hungary, Budapest, Atlantisz, 1999.

Prerequisite: -

This course is designed as a general survey of history of Central Europe in the 20th century, to understand current events and their historical background. The focus will be primarily, although not exclusively on Central Europe and special attention will be paid to events and trends of Hungarian history in the 20th century. Special attention will be paid to visual representation and to understand moving images while connecting them to historical events, trends and personalities.

Participation in the class is mandatory. Each absence needs to be justified in written form via email to the instructor.
20% Seminar Activity (presentations, class activity)
40% Film essay
40% Final Essay


  1. Introduction and Definitions: Eastern Europe and Central Europe (Crampton ch.1.)
  2. First World War: The End of the Nineteenth Centrury. How did the Twentieth Century Begin? (ch.2.) Film: My Twentieth Century (Ildiko Enyedi)
  3. Interwar Eastern Europe (Crampton ch. 2., 11., recomended one country from 3-10)
  4. Social and Cultural History of Jewry in Central Europe (168-176), Film: Photographer (Dariusz Jablonski)
  5. Totalitarianism in Europe: Italy, Germany (ch. 11. 159-168), Film: Mephisto (Isván Szabó)
  6. Russia and the Making of the Soviet Union (ch. 11. 152-159) Film: Commissar (Askoldov)
  7. Second World War and the Holocaust (Crampton ch. 12.), Film: Anna Frank (on CD)
    Film essay is due
  8. Making the Communism in Eastern Europe (Crampton ch. 13, 14), Film: I am an Ox, I am a Horse, I am a Man (Sally Porter)
  9. Stalinism in Eastern Europe (ch.15.), Film: Angi Vera
  10. Resistence to Communism. (Cramton ch. 16. 17. 18) 1956 in Hungary, Film: Life Stands Still (Peter Gothar)
  11. The Building of the State Socialism and Collapse of Communism (Crampton ch. 19. 20. 21), Film: The Anna Akhmatova File (Semeon Aronovich)
  12. The Revolutions of 1989-1991 and After (Crampton ch. 22. 23.), Film: The Exiled Body (International Organisation for Migration)
  13. Presentation and discussion of the Draft Final Essays
  14. Final essay is due

Film essay. Answer the questions!

The essay of min 600 words expected to cover ONE of films we have seen during the class answering the questions. If somebody wants to write a film, which was not screened during the class, which is also possible after consultation with the instructor.
The aim is to give students the chance to dig deeper into certain parts of history and to make them aware of how "historical facts" and "historical knowledge" is created and conveyed. Students are encouraged to be critical and not take anything at face value. The underlying element is to question everything read or seen.
Why did you choose that film?
How are historical facts treated? Are they consistent with what we know? Or if the author/director has decided not to be too scrupulous, is it OK for the general impression the film gives?
Is something vital overlooked in the film? Or are we even being lied to, in order to control what we feel about the topic? As the themes are often very controversial, it is absolutely necessary to ask if we are only being shown one side of the argument. If the movie takes place in the long-gone past, what methods/tricks are used to create the right atmosphere? How are things like light, music, costumes etc.?
Does the movie add anything to what we already know? Is it worth seeing for those who don't know very much about the issue?
Or will it maybe leave the audience with a distorted image and all the wrong ideas? Are there any "right" ideas?

Final Essay (Follow this structure)

Choose one historical personality who personally matters to you. (Discuss your choice with the instructor). Write an essay (min. 1000 words) on his or her life following the structure below:
Point out why did you choose exactly that personality and what do you think his or her greatest contribution was to History which caught your attention.
Main text
Explore the family background, the historical and cultural conetxt. Try to find examples that person may have read or seen, and analyse its importance. Who were his or her friends and foes? Choose one year and one event which has a decisive impact on the personality's life and analyse that in details!
How does the historiography, the books you have used for the essay write about him or her? Was history "just" to him or her? Has she received enough acknowledgement according to your own judgement? Have you seen changes depending on time and space in his or her evaluation by the contemporaries or successors?
During the text use references (Crampton 34.) and compile a full bibliography at the end of the text with full publication information. (Richard J. Crampton, Eastern Europe in the 20th century and After. Routledge, 1994.) If you are using sources on the internet gave a full reference.