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 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 31: Who are the Turks?

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Carter Vaughn Findley, Humanities Distinguished Professor in History, The Ohio State University

Turkish merchant in Samarkand (now in Uzbekistan). Prokudin-Gorskii collection, c. 1905-1914.

Over the past two thousands years, the Turkic peoples have migrated and expanded from a small group of pastoral nomads in what is now western China to form Islam’s longest lasting empire, six modern nation-states that bear their names, and large minorities across Eurasia. But … who are the Turks? Do they even form a coherent social category? Where did they come from? And what makes them “Turk”ish?

Guest Carter Vaughn Findley has spent a career working on the Turkic peoples and their history, and helps us trace their long migration from the Gobi to the Bosphorus, adapting, absorbing, and transforming themselves and the societies they interact with along the way.

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