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Melissa Feinberg: Rutgers Institute for High School Teachers

Friday, February 21, 2020, 09:00am - 02:30pm

Communism in Eastern Europe: Myths and Realities

February 21, 2020, 9am-2:30pm

Melissa Feinberg, Professor of History, Rutgers University

For those looking at it from the outside, Eastern Europe has often seemed a mysterious place, backward, savage, and unknowable, hidden behind the veil of what Czech novelist Milan Kundera called its “strange and scarcely accessible languages.” This sense of Eastern Europe’s strangeness was at its height during the Cold War, when the region was isolated from the West by militarized borders and travel restrictions. This workshop will examine the world behind the Iron Curtain. While some might imagine it only as a totalitarian hellscape, the reality was much more complicated. The socialist states of Eastern Europe were dictatorships, but they were also societies in which people built meaningful lives. Instead of concentrating on whether state socialism was “good” or “bad,” we will try to understand it as a world with its own values, routines, and modes of being. Why, even thirty years after its fall, is Communism’s legacy still felt around the region?

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