Behind the Iron Curtain

Ref: C2344500

How particular characteristics, cultures and even different political systems in the six countries of Eastern Europe under Soviet control combined to undermine what was the USSR’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; and the reasons for the building of the Berlin Wall. We will also look at why the Soviet leaders Stalin and Gorbachëv were so significant, why the Roman Catholic religion was particularly important in Poland, and how the events of 1989 brought an end to the communist system in Eastern Europe and then the Soviet Union.

Course aim

A look at life in the Soviet bloc countries Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria from when Marxism-Leninism was applied in the aftermath of the Second World War until the system collapsed in 1989.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • You will need your own personal email address so that you’re able to login to the WEA’s digital learning platform: WEA Canvas. You will need to be able to understand how to follow URL links to pages on the internet. If you want to understand more about Canvas please visit:
  • You will need to be able to follow links to join our WEA live video learning platform: WEA Zoom. If you’d like to understand more about our video learning platform, Zoom please visit: and
  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • This course includes live online lectures delivered by a subject specialist during which there will be opportunities for discussion and asking questions. You will therefore need to be able to access the internet on a device with speakers or earphones. Please visit:

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

  • Discuss how Poland's recent history meant that subjugation by the Soviet Union after WWII was more difficult to achieve than in other East European countries
  • Explain why unrest in Poland and in Hungary in 1956 were treated differently by the Soviet Union.
  • Explain why the Roman Catholic Church in Poland was such a problem for the communist authorities.
  • Give examples of how the erection of the Berlin Wall affected life for East Berliners and East Germans.
  • Outline some of the challenges to the power of communist states in Eastern Europe in the 1980s

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA’s digital learning platform, Canvas, will be used to provide resources or to support lessons. You will be able to contribute during lectures and take part in activities online. If you want to find out more about our digital learning platform please visit:

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


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you enrol. Please check the details below to ensure you meet the basic eligibility critiera:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2020
  • You declare that the address you provide is correct and that you will provide evidence of this and your eligibility to live and work in the UK
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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