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1989: History, Politics and Collective Memory


Admission requirements

Write an essay (750-1000 words) based upon:

For information on the characteristics of essays, see e.g.:


1989 became a magical year because of the capital blunder made by the spokesman for the East German Communist Party Politburo, Günter Schabowski (1929). Because of his poor understanding of new travel regulations issued by the government – claiming that ‘from now’ people were free to travel to West Germany – then hundreds of thousands of Berliners, both East and West, began converging on the Berlin Wall on the 9th of November 1989. Without orders for how to handle the surging crowds, the East German border guards had no other options than to open the gates. Within minutes the crowd began tearing down the wall that had symbolized the division of Europe into a Communist East and a non-Communist West.
Schabowski’s blunder was one of the most dramatic moments in the cascading events of 1989, events that ended the era of Communist rule in Eastern Europe. Though collective memory holds that the collapse of this repressive system was inevitable, the historical reality is much more complex. Both internal and external forces conspired to bring down the Communist regimes, and not every government that replaced them was fully democratic.
In this research seminar we will research and analyze the histories, politics and collective memories connected to ‘1989’ through the lens of cultural transfer. With this seminar we will find answers to three questions: 1) What happened in Eastern Europe around 1989? 2) What were the international dynamics in Eastern Europe in this era?, and 3) How is ‘1989’ remembered in Eastern Europe?
In terms of academic skills the students will learn how to edit the drafts of papers of their fellow students constructively and effectively. They will also organize a public panel and select three of the research papers to be presented.

Course objectives

  • To gain knowledge of and insight in the study of political upheaval and social movements.

  • To gain an understanding of the research challenges related to contemporary history.

  • To gain experience in doing research in a wide array of sources, from newspapers to parliamentary records.

  • To learn to report on research findings both orally and in writing.

  • To give an overview of historiographical debates about ‘1989’.

  • To critically evaluate diverse methodologies used in the historiography of ‘1989’.

  • To independently formulate a research question and set up a research project based on both primary and secundary sources.

  • To write a paper on the level of a MA-graduate.


See here.

Mode of instruction

Research Seminar.

Course Load


Assessment method

  • Participation during the sessions: 10%

  • Presentation individual research project (historiographical, methodological and theoretical): 30%.

  • Paper: ca. 7.500 words): 60%. Deadline: 17 december 2013. Considering the environment, papers are handed in via e-mail.



Reading list

To be announced.


via uSis.

Contact information

Email: Mw. Dr. A.C.M. Tijsseling.