Episode 95: The Impossible Presidency

Host: Christopher Rose, Department of History
Guest: Jeremi Suri, Mack Brown Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs, LBJ School of Public Affairs and Professor, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin

Over the past two and a half centuries, the expectations placed upon the office of the President have changed and evolved with each individual charged with holding the position. From George Washington to Barack Obama, each occupant has left his mark on the office. However, since WWII, the occupant of America’s highest office has aspired to do more and more, but seems to have accomplished less and less. Have the expectations placed upon the office actually made the position less effective?

In his new book The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office, returning guest Jeremi Suri (UT-Austin) takes a long historical look at what has made presidents successful in the role of chief executive, and asks whether the office has evolved to take on too much responsibility to govern effectively.

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Episode 78: The U.S. and Decolonization after World War II

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History
Guest: R. Joseph Parrott, Doctoral Candidate, Department of History

William_Orpen_–_The_Signing_of_Peace_in_the_Hall_of_Mirrors,_Versailles_1919,_AusschnittFollowing World War II, a large part of the world was in the hands of European powers, established as colonies in the previous centuries. As one of the nations that came out on top of the geo-political situation, the United States was looked to with hope by aspiring nationalist movements, but also seen as a potential source by European allies in the war as a potential supporter of the move to restore the tarnished empires to their former glory. What’s a newly emerged world power to do?

Guest R. Joseph Parrott takes a look at the indecisive position the United States took on decolonization after helping liberate Europe from the threat of enslavement to fascism.

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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 69: The Amateur Photography Movement in the Soviet Union

Host: Christopher Rose, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Jessica Werneke, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin

How to repair a how to repair Zorkii camera for amateurs. M. Iakovlev, Untitled, black-and-white photographs. Sovetskoe foto no. 1 (January 1959)

In its early days, photography occupied an awkward middle ground between documentation and an art form, a debate which dragged on in the west for decades. The debate took place in the Soviet Union as well, where it was encouraged, discouraged, and then encouraged again in a roller-coaster of official policies between the eras of Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev. This interplay reveals a surprising amount about the lives of the artistically inclined Soviet middle class.

Guest Jessica Werneke has just completed her doctorate that looks at this oft-overlooked aspect of Soviet society, and discusses the turbulent world of amateur photography in the Soviet Union.

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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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