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  The Chatter Box : Blathering On
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Eastern Europe by tucsonmike on 14 December 2005 11:26pm
I know this was under series, but I am posting this for a different reason. When I taught my China class last Semester, one of the students wants to see a Russia and Eastern European class. I know Mr. P discussed making that his next trip. I am trying to make this useful to a lot of people. If he does do this what would Mr. P and the folks on here like to see from such a class? In other words, what would people be interested in knowing about Russia and Eastern Europe? If Russia is covered, all of it including Siberia, or just European Russia? How far back in the mists of history? I will try and find the old Eastern European posts as well and glean stuff from that.

As always, thanx!
Re: Eastern Europe by peripatetically on 15 December 2005 1:10pm
It all sounds interesting to me, Mike. Is there any chance of breaking it into studies for more than a semester? Perhaps, an overall view of everything you mentioned--Russia and Eastern Europe, Maybe cover some topics that really interst YOU the most ,as it will show in presentation and be a class with passion. Then, next semester, or next year, have advanced classes--- one for Russia and SIberia, and one for Eastern Europe or one about how one effects the other. Is this college or high school? Not sure how much classroom time you have at your fingertips. Introduction to Russian and/or Eastern European Culture or Government (or whatever) 101.

Then Russia/Siberia (blah blah blah) 102 or Eastern Europe 103 or
some other combination of studies. That way you can cover things in depth for those truly interested.

It's a vast amount of material to cover in one class and almost impossible to cover all aspects, even in an introductory class. Maybe culture, maybe government . Even then, one would be hard to discuss without mention of the other. Classes could include anything prior to WWI for Russia, and prior to the fall of the Iron Curtain for Eastern Europe.

You sure have your work cut out for you. Good luck and let us know what you do and how you reach your decisions.

Re: Eastern Europe by tucsonmike on 15 December 2005 9:22pm
Thanx Patty. It gives me a place to start. Anyone else?
Re: Eastern Europe by Tauriel on 16 December 2005 1:46am
Well, Russia is a rather special country. Since it's so huge and spreads across two continents, there's a large spectrum of cultures and ethnic minorities present there.

So, if you want to aim for the European context (Russia AND Eastern European countries), I'd suggest you concentrate more on the European part of Russia. Like Patty said, it's too vast an amount of material. I agree with her on the pre-WWI Russia (the Great October Socialist Revolution and all) and the late eighties and fall of the Iron Curtain.

If I may speak from a Czechoslovakia point of view, you should mention the Prague Spring and the invasion of Warsaw Treaty armies in August 1968, which was quite a dramatic period of time, not just for Czechoslovakia, but for other Eastern bloc countries as well.

As something extra, I'd recommend watching the Oscar-winning Czech film "Kolya", which portrays very faithfully the situation in the late 80's Czechoslovakia.

Good luck! :-)
Re: Eastern Europe by tucsonmike on 16 December 2005 6:44am
Thank you Maria. At least I am getting a start. Tell me something. If Mr. P does Eastern Europe as his next series, as a Slovak what would you like him to show to the rest of us? I know what I saw and thought being in those countries.

I'll take your advice and aim for the European part. I'll worry about Russian expansion in Asia in another class.

Also, as someone from that part of the world, how far back in time should I go that would make it relevant to today? In other words again, what would you like us to learn?
To answer Patty's question, this is for the Community College, Pima Community College

Anyway I can explain the Velvet Divorce?
Thank you for the recommendation of the film Kolya.
I may think of more questions as I go along.

Re: Eastern Europe by Tauriel on 16 December 2005 12:01pm
The Velvet Divorce... well, that's another interesting period of time. Let me put it VERY short: Most of the people DIDN'T want Czechoslovakia to split up. In fact, many Czechs blame us, Slovaks, that WE caused the split. That's not exactly true. It is true that during that time we had this very nationalist government (under the Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, who was also responsible for the terribly managed privatisation which resulted in a handful of people becoming milliardaires practically overnight, and also for the fact that Slovakia fell very much behind in the negotiations about joining the EU. His government was very anti-Gypsy and anti-Hungarian, and practically ruining our economy, which, after the change of government in 1998 inevitably led to a crisis; the average rate of unemployment was something around 30%, in my region it was as high as 45%). Anyway. What happened, very simply said, that Meciar and the Czech Prime Minister, Vaclav Klaus pretty much made a deal between themselves and decided that Czechoslovakia would split. There wasn't even a referendum, which is apalling and ironic at the same time - I'm sure it wouldn't pass, neither in Slovakia nor in Czechia.

As to your question how far in time you should go, I think it's good to start with the Revolution in Russia before WWI, because the victory of the Bolshevics in Russia influenced the whole region of Eastern Europe - especially after WWII, when Europe split up into two blocks.

"If Mr. P does Eastern Europe as his next series, as a Slovak what would you like him to show to the rest of us?"

Mostly the historical sites and nature. When it comes to nature, we feel we have pretty much everything - mountains, forests, wide plains, mighty rivers; we're only missing a sea. :-P That's a joke, of course. I think there are many historical jewels that are often overlooked. I think we Slovaks still can't handle the tourism very well. We seem unable to "sell" our country - there are many regions that are quite poor (especially the Tatras Valley and the Spis region), but they have so many beautiful historical places and a truly amazing pieces of nature, that they could literally live off tourism - but they just seem unable to present it to the world. Which is a bit sad, I think. Of course, it's much better now than it used to be, but the progress is still a bit slow, I'd say. Most of the Westerners (especially Americans), if they come to Central Europe, it's usually Prague or Vienna or Budapest (we have a joke, that the two most beautiful cities of Slovakia are Vienna and Budapest... :-D ). Slovakia is often overlooked. Sure, a lot of people visit Tatras, but it's mostly because of skiing. I think Eastern Slovakia especially could use some propagation for tourists. :-)
stuff you do for money by arty_farty on 16 December 2005 1:09pm
on wednedsday for £50 i had 2 walk up and down Billericay high street dressed as a tin man (i'm a girl by da way) giving out leaflets for Havering college, i have a cold and doing that stunt means i can't breath threw my nose or hear very well. but still FIFTY QUID!!!!!!!!!!!!!! in Virgin vouchers no less. any one got fify quid on dem? :-0
Czechs vs. Slovaks Re: Eastern Europe. by tucsonmike on 17 December 2005 6:00am
Maria, then you can answer a question from your opinion. (I have my own ideas on what I saw there)...How different are Czechs and Slovaks? I realized they had very different histories, because of who ruled them. That is a theme, I am building. The region rarely ever had control of its own destiny. My fathers friends in Poland had a field day when I was there explaining Polish history. In Poland, I could tell Warsaw was a very different city from Krakow.

I thought the Tatras were beautiful, seeing them from the train. I saw a guidebook for Slovenia in Borders with the snow covered peaks. The only place in Slovakia I really got to explore was Bratislava. Bratislava is only 40 miles from Vienna. (There are commuter rail lines from Manhattan that go farther than that). I bring this up, because I wondered. Would Slovakia, as a tourist place do better "selling" it's tourism as a package with Prague, Vienna and Budapest? Actually, on my trip, all the places I went were in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire with the exception of Warsaw, which was ruled by Russia.
Actually, I have a fairly good book in my possesion called A History of Middle Europe by Leslie Tihany. I may use some of that.
Re: Eastern Europe by Tauriel on 17 December 2005 11:09am
Yes, that's right. While the Czechs have the long history of their own kings, Slovakia was always part of something else. The "Upper Land" or the "Upper Hungary" it was called when we were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Czechs and Slovaks are very similar in nature. After all, we all come from common roots - our first common state was in fact the Great Moravia, before the Middle Ages. It's really a bit hard to describe in words, so I apologise if I come out a bit incoherent. :-D The differences are very subtle - it's like a difference between two sisters. But deep down we're almost the same. Both Czechs and Slovaks are a friendly people in general, we both enjoy criticising politicians and yet we (sadly) don't bother to go and vote (there are always only 60-70% of voters coming to the elections). We both like drinking alcohol - although the Czechs are more into beer (no need to introduce Pilsner lager), we Slovaks are more into hard stuff (sliwowitz, borovicka, and various other fruit distillates). We both love ice hockey and football, and while the Czechs are good in both, Slovak football sucks, and that's a fact. :-P We get on well when together, but when it comes to hockey, we're mortal enemies. ;-) Slovaks are also much more religious than Czechs. While the Czechs are considered to be one of the most atheist countries in Europe, while in Slovakia, around 70% of the population are Catholics (though I think that with Czechs it's not really the atheism, it's more of a general distrust towards the Church. I think most of the Czechs do have a faith of their own, they just don't like it organised). I think the real differences can be described by pointing out little details like that, because truth is, we only differ in small details. :-)

"Would Slovakia, as a tourist place do better "selling" it's tourism as a package with Prague, Vienna and Budapest?"

Maybe, but I fear that doing so, it would always stay in their shadow. Because let's face it, all three are beautiful cities (I've been to all of them, and am living in one!). This "big historical city" type of tourism isn't the right one for Slovakia, mainly because we don't have a big historical city. And I don't count Bratislava, because it's not that big, and there's hardly any "historical centre" to it, apart from the St. Martin's cathedral and the castle which looks like a table turned upside down... :-P (all right, I admit, I'm a bit biased. I don't like Bratislava too much) What Slovakia could really use, I think, is agrotourism. It's quite popular and developed in countries like Austria, Switzerland and France, and it's slowly getting developed here, but there are still gaps in what we could do with it. Also one of the big problems is the infrastructure. We have very few highways, and the rest of the roads are very often in terrible state. The problem is - not enough money. And that's perhaps the biggest problem there is in Slovakia - there isn't enough money for ANYTHING... :-/
Re: Eastern Europe by perfectbitch on 17 December 2005 8:53pm
60% - 70% voting is pretty high by our recent electoral turnouts. I think most people are disillusioned and distrustful of politicians wherever they are. It's interesting to read your postings and makes me await the new series eagerly. I remember looking down Wenceslas Square from a window in the Natural History Museum and thinking, "My God. I remember tv pictures of Russian tanks moving along this street and look at it now."

I loved Prague and I would love to see more of both the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Linz
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