Spring 2009

Topics in European History: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe

Listed in: History, as HIST-76


Catherine A. Epstein (Section 01)


(EU) Although the term “ethnic cleansing” was first widely used in the 1990s, the process it describes has a long history. Before World War I, much of Europe was characterized by different ethnic groups living in close proximity. During the course of the century, however, virtually all of Europe came to be made up of relatively homogenous nation-states. This seminar will explore the violent process of the “unmixing of peoples.” How and why do various nationalisms lead to ethnic cleansing? How do individuals experience ethnic cleansing? What does it mean for an area to be “ethnically cleansed”? And what are the costs and consequences of ethnic cleansing? Case studies will include the Turkish removal of its Armenian population during World War I, Nazi ethnic-cleansing measures (including the Holocaust), the post-1945 removal of Germans from East Central Europe, and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans during the 1990s. Class meetings will focus on secondary readings on nationalism and ethnic cleansing, and primary sources such as photographs, autobiographies, official documents, and documentary films. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Epstein.