Scheda insegnamento

Anno Accademico 2017/2018

Conoscenze e abilità da conseguire

Students will be provided with an interdisciplinary introduction to the main relevant issues, which characterize the complexity of Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe in contemporary times. As a result, Student is expected to get a comprehensive knowledge of the controversial issues of development and its patterns, since the industrial revolution to Gorbaèëv, either in Russia/Soviet Union or in the East Central European countries, and in the Balkans by learning the most relevant aspects of narodnièestvo, peasantism, bolshevism, destalinization and socialist market.


This section of the core course examines the controversial issues of modernity and development, since the industrial revolution has accelerated the international competition, in terms of innovation, capitals, production modes, labour organization, social systems, and equality.

As well known, its crucial impact on Central, South East Europe, and Russia challenged the existing predominant rural organization of their societies as well as raised the controversial questions of “backwardness”.

Both these questions will be analysed under different aspects, focusing on debates about theories of development and the factors that contributed in rooting a sense of “distinctiveness”, with elements of frustration and exclusion, condensed in the category “Eastern Europe”.

The rejection of the notion of “East” and the fervour to achieve the same stage of development as Western Europe will be considered in their problematic approaches to the ideas of welfare and egalitarianism, in the tension between the desire for modernity and the economic, social, and cultural obstacles to it. Consequently, this section will particularly focus on (a) the aspirations of the narodničestvo in Russia and in the Balkans; (b) the peasant movement in East-Central Europe between the two World Wars and its competition with Bolshevism; (c) the debate about the industrialization of the Soviet Russia in the 20s and the outlets imposed by Stalin; (d) the reforms which stemmed from the process of destalinization and the debate on the socialist market in the 50s and 60s; (e) the growth without reforms and new waves of changes promoted by Gorbačëv.

Within this framework, the underlying reasons of the nexus between politics and economics will be investigated by considering either their far-reaching cultural implications in the spectrum of the political systems, or the desire for modernity in its relations towards the “West”, in terms of assimilation and/or distinctiveness, while the socialist experience will be approached as an attempt to overcome underdevelopment, with its scopes and limits, up to the collapse of 1989-1991.

To these ends, the course will look at a number of key methodological issues and how they are tackled in the social sciences; the approach will be interdisciplinary and students will be invited to read original documents and basic literature in order to prepare themselves for presentations.

Structure of the lectures, and readings

Lesson 1:

Introduction to the subject and methodology:

Introduction to the subject. Methods of working and studying. The Program of the course. Assignments

The notions: Eastern Europe

Modernity, networking, diasporas and the Métissage:

how to deal with development and nation-states

Lesson 2:

The Social Origins of East European Politics

Gerschenkron, Economic Backwardness in a Historical Perspective (pp. 5-30)

Daniel Chirot, The Origins of backwardness in Eastern Europe (pp. 2-13)

Lesson 3:

The Populist controversy on capitalism:

the first debate in the theories of development

Walicki, The controversy over capitalism (pp. 1-28)

Gerzen, From the Other Shore: on peasants in Russia (pp. 180-192)

Bakunin, Revolutionary Catechism, ch. X, Social Organization (pp. 87-95)

Lesson 4:

Industrialization and the «Peasant state»: the second debate

Lenin, Decree on the Land (1917), pp. 81-82, Daniels

Stambolijski, The Political and Social Foundations of the Agrarian Organizations (8 pp.)

Mitrany, The role of the Peasant Movement between the wars pp. 149-156 in Marx against the Peasant

Lesson 5:

Internationalism and the Soviet industrialization debate:

(the third debate)

Lenin, The Tax in Kind, pp. 143-144, Daniels

Bukharin, The NEP of Russia, pp. 188-193 in AA.VV. In Defence of the Russian Revolution

Trotsky, Thesis on Industry, pp. 195-208 IN Idem

Preobrazensky, The New Economics, pp. 175-178, Daniels

Lesson 6:

Reforming the Soviet system? the Origins of the Fourth Debate

Malenkov, On Agriculture pp. 316-317 Daniels

Hruscev, The Virgin Lands Program, pp. 317-320 Daniels

Liberman, Proposals and the 1965 Reform, pp. 365-370 Daniels

Kosygin, Soviet Consumerism, pp. 385-387 Daniels

Lesson 7:

In search for a “socialist market”:

Broadening the Fourth Debate to the Camp

Varga, Democracies of a New Type, pp. 142-144 Daniels 2

Imre Nagy, Reform Communism, pp. 82-87 in Gale Stokes, From Stalinism to Pluralism

Recommendations of the Hungarian Trade Union Council on Workers’ Council, 1956, pp. 236-237 Daniels 2

Kadar, The New Economic Mechanism, pp. 321-324 Daniels 2

KPC, The Action Program (April 1968), pp. 329-336 Daniels 2

Lesson 8:

The Third Player between USSR and the Camp:

the Yugoslav Self-Management

Tito, On the Law of Self-Management, June 1950, pp. 73-78

Djilas, The New Class, pp. 101-106 in Gale Stokes, From Stalinism to Pluralism

Boris Kraigher, On Economic Reform 1965, pp. 183-194

Edvard Kardelj, On Pluralism of Interests in Self-managed communities, 1977, pp. 379-399

Lesson 9:

The Communist Idea of Modernity and the Dissent:

the penetration of the world interdependence

The Helsinki Accords, pp. 366-371 Daniels 2

Currents of Dissent, from Sacharov to Medvedev, pp. 371-380 Daniels

CPSU, The Scientific Technological Revolution, pp. 387-392 Daniels

Sabine Rosenbladt, Environmental Concerns in Poland 1988, pp. 188-192 in Gale Stokes, From Stalinism to Pluralism

Lesson 10:

The Communist Idea of Modernity and Gorbacev:

the Fifth Debate on politics and economic

Gorbacev, On Cooperation between Socialist Countries, from the speech in Prague 1987 (pp. 194-196)

Gorbacev, Socialism in Development and Perestrojka (pp. 41-54)


Compulsory reading:

Stefano Bianchini, Eastern Europe and the Challenges of modernity1800-2000, Routledge, London-New York, 2015.

Together with:

All the documents selected and discussed during the lectures

And the support of the following references:

Piotr S. Wandycz, The Price of Freedom. A History of East Central Europe from the Middle Ages to the Present, Routledge, New York, 1992, pp. 1-11;

George D. Jackson Jr., Comintern and Peasant in Eastern Europe 1919-1930, Columbia Univ. Press, New York and London, 1966, pp. 3-150;

David Mitrany, Marx against the peasant: a study in social dogmatism, Chapel Hill, 1951 (only the third chapter on the “Peasant Revolution”).

Ivan T. Berend, Central and Eastern Europe 1944-1993. Detour from the periphery to the periphery, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 1998 pp. 127-181;

Barbara Falk, The Dilemmas of Dissidence in East-Central Europe, CEU Press, Budapest, 2003, pp. 313-364;

John B. Allcock, Explaining Yugoslavia, Columbia U. Press, New York, 2000, pp. 67-89;

Additional suggested readings:

Björn Hettne, Development Theory and the Three Worlds, Longman, Harlow Essex, 1995, pp. 219-248.

Larry Wolff, Inventing Eastern Europe: the Map of Civilization on the Mind of Enlightenment, Stanford Univ. Press, Stanford, 1994, pp. 1-16;

Andrzey Walicki, The Controversy over Capitalism, Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 1969;

Stephen Cohen and others, Was the Soviet System Reformable?, in «Slavic Review», n. 3, vol. 63, fall 2004, p. 459-554.

Metodi didattici

Methodologically, classes are organized interactively. Regular lessons include discussions on the topic of the day and students' acquisition of transversal skills. In particular, students are expected to organize themselves in team-works and make oral presentations of the selected documents with the support of readings, according to the instructions received during classes. Social responsibility toward classmates, ability in addressing the audience, direct focus on the key issues and strictly respect of deadlines are among crucial components of the lessons guided by the Professor. His lesson explanations will help students to understand the historical context and receive additional interpretative inputs aimed to increase their critical thinking.

Modalità di verifica dell'apprendimento

Oral exam. Students are expected to analyze and discuss in details the topics that have been developed during classes with appropriate references to the sources offered by the readings. The ability of comparing theoretical approaches and policies implementation will be highly appreciated.

Strumenti a supporto della didattica

PowerPoint and overhead projector

Orario di ricevimento

Consulta il sito web di Stefano Bianchini