Behind the Iron Curtain

Ref: C2338003

Aspects of life in the “Warsaw Pact” countries: East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania from the end of the Second World War until 1989. How particular characteristics, cultures and even different political systems combined to undermine the Soviet Union’s protective barrier against the West. Among other things, we will cover Marxist-Leninist ideology, nationalism and ethnic diversity, socialisation through youth groups and clubs and societies, culture and popular culture, rebellions and uprisings, the reasons for the building of the Berlin Wall, how events in the Soviet Union affected life in Eastern European countries, why the Soviet leaders Stalin and Gorbachëv were so significant, and why the Roman Catholic religion was so important in Poland. We will also look at events in 1989 in particular and how the communist system came to a sudden end in Eastern Europe and then the Soviet Union.

Course aim

To show how the Soviet model of communism applied in Eastern Europe after WWII affected people's lives in Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria until the system collapsed in 1989.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Understand the practical difficulties in imposing an ideology from above and from outside on countries with different ethnic, cultural, political, historical and societal experiences.
  • Know why the arts often provided a focus for dissent in Eastern Europe.
  • Identify three major sources of tension in Eastern European countries that undermined the communist ideological framework.
  • Understand why two Soviet leaders. Stalin and Gorbachëv, were so important individually for the viability of the Soviet Bloc
  • Be familiar with the causes of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989 and in the Soviet Union in 1991.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • Informal group discussions will be encouraged throughout.

What else do I need to know?

  • Some means of taking notes

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here

Download full Course information sheet

Behind the Iron Curtain


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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