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Instructor Class Description

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Gregor Thum
EURO 494
Seattle Campus

Senior Seminar

Introduction to research into European topics and to the analysis of problems.

Class description

Ethnic Cleansing and Its Aftermath

"Ethnic cleansing" has shaped the societies and cultural landscapes of modern Europe. In particular Central and Eastern Europe experienced the forced unmixing of populations over the course of the twentieth century. This process was marked by eruptions of mass violence and permanently changed the face of Central and Eastern Europe. Cities and regions, once characterized by cultural heterogeneity, have become homogeneous places; others saw a complete change of their ethnic composition, sometimes overnight. Smyrna, which at the beginning of the twentieth century was a multiethnic city with a Greek majority, is today the overwhelmingly Turkish city of Izmir. Lviv, today a Ukrainian city with a small Russian minority, was a Polish-Jewish city with a small Ukrainian minority prior to World War II. At the beginning of the 1940s, the inhabitants of present-day Wrocław in Poland were almost exclusively ethnic Germans; just a decade later, they were almost exclusively Polish.

This course will examine the history of forced migrations in twentieth-century Europe by posing three basic questions: What led to the desire to drive certain populations from their homes? How were forced migrations executed on the ground? What was the long-term impact of ethnic cleansings on places (villages, cities, regions) and societies affected by these processes?

Student learning goals

Getting a better understanding for the history of forced migrations in 20th-century Europe and its broader international context

Understanding what terms and concepts are analytically useful to describe forced migrations, and what the hidden "ideological baggage" of many of the commnon terms is.

Realizing that ethnic cleansings have a long-term psychological impact on places and societies affected, spanning sometimes three or four generations until societies develop the desire to confront their historical involvement in ethnic cleansings.

General method of instruction

This course will provide a forum for discussion of the recent scholarly literature on "ethnic cleansing" and forced migration. Through a number of case studies, students will examine a set of systematic themes, such as the evolving terminology regarding forced population movements; the political, social, and economic rationale behind forced migrations; the “cleansing of memory” after populations have been expelled; the commemoration of forced population movements; and the attempts of Central European societies to come to terms with this past.

Recommended preparation

There are no prerequisites. Reading knowledge of a language relevant for one of the case studies (for instance, Czech, German, Greek, Polish, Russian, or Turkish), however, would be helpful.

Recommended readings as general preparation for this course: Norman M. Naimark. Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth Century Europe. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001; Benjamin Lieberman. Terrible Fate: Ethnic Cleansing in the Making of Modern Europe. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2006; Timothy Snyder. Bloodlands. Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. New York: Basic Books, 2010.

Class assignments and grading

Students are expected to write a research paper, to present the concept of this paper in class, and to participate actively in discussion of the reading assignments.

Typically, research papers will examine cases of forced migration in 20th-century (Central and Eastern) Europe. However, students interested in cases of forced migrations outside Europe are welcome and can write their papers on these non-European cases.

Grading will be based on the quality of the research paper (50%), the oral presentation during the in-class conference (20%), and general participation in class discussions (30%). There will be neither a midterm nor a final exam in this course, but preparing the assigned readings and working on the research paper will require serious and steady work over the entire quarter.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Gregor Thum
Date: 03/29/2011