Vilnius, the current capital of Lithuania, was once known as Vilna to its large Jewish population, and Wilno to its Polish speaking population. The city was for much of its history as much a Polish, Russian, and Jewish city as a Lithuanian one. By the end of the nineteenth century, more than a third of its inhabitants were Jewish, leading to its nickname, “The Jerusalem of Lithuania,” and making it one of the largest Jewish settlements in Eastern Europe. The extended study takes place in the modern city of Vilnius, but explores the cities known as Vilnius, Vilna, and Wilno. The course uses Vilnius as a case for studying the politics of nationalism and memory, which so shaped its history and which continue to inform its politics and culture today. How does the capital city of a modern European country, a member of the European Union, make sense of its past?
After a semester considering this question in The Politics of Nationalism and Memory in Eastern Europe (POSC 3xxx / JWST xxx), we will spend three weeks in Lithuania to explore this question in context. From our base in the Old Town of Vilnius, a UNESCO world heritage site, we will explore the multi-confessional and multi-national past of the city, as well as taking excursions to other locations of interest. During the on-campus course, students will begin work on an independent research project, due two weeks after the trip’s end. Students will have time during the trip to conduct fieldwork on their own, including working in the archives, conducting interviews, and exploring memorials or historical locations.