Episode 97: The Zionist Movement in Czechoslovakia

Host: Augusta Dell’Omo, Department of History, UT-Austin
Guest: Tatjana Lichtenstein, Professor, Department of History, and Director, Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies, UT-Austin

Lichtenstein book coverAfter World War 1, the Zionist movement – the Jewish nationalist movement that had the creation of a national homeland as its ultimate goal – took root in the new country of Czechoslovakia. However, through the mechanisms of the Zionist movement itself, Czechoslovak Jews realized their collective power as an organized group within their own country for the first time. What happened next was a struggle between the goals of international Zionism and the potential reality of what Czechoslovakian Jewry could attain through collective bargaining – until the rise of Hitler and WWII tipped the scales.

Guest Tatjana Lichtenstein has studied the Zionist movement in Czechoslovakia and gives us a glimpse into the interwar period when Czech Jewish leaders saw the possibility of being accepted into European society, ironically through the mechanisms of a movement that’s become associated with immigration to the Middle East.

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Episode 71: The Rise and Fall of the Latvian National Communists

Host: Christopher Rose, Assistant Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Mike Loader, Doctoral Candidate, King’s College, London

Eduard Berklavs

For a period in the 1950s known as the Khruschev Thaw, the Soviet Republics enjoyed a brief moment of relative autonomy from the heavy handed leadership of Moscow. Latvia, a small republic on the Baltic Sea, took prime advantage of this period of liberalization under the leadership of a group called the Latvian National Communists. They saw a way forward that diverged considerably from Moscow, and took concrete steps to resist Russification of Latvia’s politics and culture. The Thaw was short lived, however, and the Latvian National Communists were eventually thwarted and the republic brought back into the Soviet fold.

Guest Mike Loader gives an enthusiastic look at this high drama at the peak of the cold war, which gives us a glimpse into the inner workings of the Soviet Union from a different perspective.

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Episode 68: The Russian Empire on the Eve of World War 1

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past & Professor, Department of History
Guest: Dominic Lieven, Professor, London School of Economics and Political Science; Fellow, British Academy; Fellow, Trinity College, Cambridge

UnknownWorld War I is often described as “the war to end all wars,” a global conflagration unprecedented in human society whose outbreak reshaped the face of Europe, and led to the collapse of the Russian Empire and the rise of the Soviet Union. But did the war really come out of nowhere? What else was going on in Europe—and around the world—that led to the outbreak of this “global” conflict?

Our guest, Dominic Lieven of the London School of Economics, has spent his career examining problems of political stability in Europe in the 19th century, and the history of the Russian Empire’s waning days, and helps us understand the world on the eve of its first global war.

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Episode 67: How Jews Translate the Bible and Why

Host: Christopher Rose, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UT-Austin
Guest: Leonard Greenspoon, Professor of Near Eastern Civilizations and Klutznick Chair in Jewish Civilization, Creighton University

Saadia Gaon (882-942) is considered the father of Judeo-Arabic literature; his translation of the Bible into Arabic enabled the large portion of Judaism living in Arabic speaking lands to engage with the sacred texts.

Any student of a foreign language knows that the process of translating a text can be laden with unexpected choices about words, sentence structure, and phrases that don’t make sense in the target language. Now imagine the added pressures of translating a sacred text whose language is well known and imbued with religious significance and symbolism. Our guest Leonard Greenspoon from Creighton University has done just that with translators of the Jewish Bible over the centuries.

In this episode, Dr. Greespoon takes us on a fascinating journey into a Jewish perspective on how and why translating the Bible is necessary, and how and why it matters.

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Episode 55: Witch-hunting in Early Modern Europe

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past and Professor, Department of History
Guest: Brian Levack, John E. Green Regents Professor in History, University of Texas at Austin

Stories of witches and witch-hunting in early modern Europe have captivated us for centuries. During the early modern period of European history, stretching from roughly 1450 to about 1750, about 100,000 people—most of them women—were tried for the crime of witchcraft. About half of these people were executed, in most cases by burning at the stake. But witchcraft is more than just a Halloween story–for the men and women involved it was a very real, very frightening aspect of daily life.

Guest Brian Levack explains that, at its heart, accusations of witchcraft and sorcery are based in the all too human need to explain the ordinary cycles of birth, death, sickness, wellness, and the constant struggle between rich and poor.

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Episode 46: Ukraine and Russia

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past and Professor, Department of History
Guest: Charles King, Professor of International Affairs and Government, Georgetown University

In the first months of 2014, a popular uprising in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine led to the deposition of the Ukrainian president and triggered an intervention of the Crimean peninsula by Ukraine’s neighbor, Russia. No one knows what’s going to happen next in Ukraine, but we can try to understand how we got to this point. What led to such deep and widespread discontent? What are the historical connections between Russia and Ukraine? How does Ukraine’s complex mix of ethnicities contribute to its sense of national identity? What role did economics and global geopolitics play?

Guest Charles E. King from Georgetown University discusses the state of Ukrainian-Russian relations, and historical developments in Ukraine itself, before and after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 to help us understand the situation in Ukraine today.

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Episode 44: Climate Change and World History

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Sam White, Department of History, the Ohio State University

Peter Bruegel the Elder, "Hunters in the Snow"What do a failed war by the Ottomans against the Hapsburg Empire, a rural rebellion in eastern Anatolia, the disappearance of the Roanoke colony, and near starvation at Jamestown, Santa Fe, and Quebec City have in common?  They all take place during a period of global cooling known as the Little Ice Age, which brought extreme climate conditions, drought, heavy winters, and contributed to rising fuel prices, failing crops and massive civil unrest in places as diverse as North America and the Middle East.

Guest Sam White from Ohio State University makes the convincing argument that environmental and climactic factors are as influential in human history as economic, social, political, and cultural factors, and suggests a cautionary tale for human history as it enters another period of climate change.

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Episode 37: The Ottoman Balkans

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Mary Neuburger, Professor, Department of History

Southeastern Europe, or the Balkans, grabbed headlines in the 1990s after the collapse of communism with the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the bloody conflicts that followed. At the time, much was made of the region’s unique history, having been separated from Europe and languishing under the rule of the Ottoman Empire for centuries. But, was this really the cause of the conflict in the 20th century? What was life in southeastern Europe like under the Ottomans?

Guest Mary Neuburger walks us through current historical thinking about the five hundred year legacy of Ottoman rule in southeastern Europe, and gives us an alternate explanation for the turbulence of the 19th and 20th centuries.

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Episode 29: The Slavic Vampire

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Thomas Garza, Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies & Texas Language Center

NosferatuShadowLong before Bill and Sookie, Bella and Edward, there was the upyr’, a mythical creature that caused crops to fail, infants to die in their cribs, and plagues to spread throughout the Slavic lands of eastern Europe. How did we go from upyr’ to Vampire: the creature of the night who survives by drinking on blood and sparkles in the sunshine? And, more importantly, what can we learn about medieval Eastern Europe by talking about vampire myths and mythology?

Guest Thomas Garza takes us on the trail of vampires from their eleventh century origins to the days of Stoker, Harris, and Meyer, and helps us learn a thing or two about how society copes with its deepest fears along the way.

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Episode 27: History of the Ottoman Empire, Part 2

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Barbara Petzen, Director, Middle East Connections

A Venetian-style portrait of Süleyman the Lawgiver ("the Magnificent"), attributed to Titian, ca 1530.

In this second of a two part series, we look at life in the Ottoman Empire for an average person, and the factors that led the Empire to the gates of Vienna … and why Vienna remained an elusive goal. Finally, we re-examine the myth of the Empire’s long “decline and fall,” which lasted longer than English settlement in North America. Was the Empire truly the Sick Man of Europe, or is there another version of this story?

Guest Barbara Petzen returns to walk us through the cobbled lanes of Istanbul, past bath houses and coffee houses, to help us look at the Ottoman Empire as a nuanced, complex, and changing entity that defies the traditional story of “decline and fall.”

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