Political Change: Eastern Europe in Transition (L2017)

30 credits, Level 6

Autumn teaching

The main objective of the module is to explain the process of radical political change by examining the decline of communism in Eastern Europe and the reasons that led to its sudden collapse in 1989. It focuses on the six countries that comprised the former Soviet bloc: Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the GDR, Hungary, Poland and Romania.

The central issue that the module seeks to address is: why did the East European communist regimes collapse so rapidly in 1989?

We begin by looking for the underlying causes of the collapse and examining:

  • the establishment of communist systems in post-war Eastern Europe
  • failed attempts at reform
  • the emergence of opposition
  • the impact of Gorbachev’s accession to power in the Soviet Union in 1985.

Secondly, the 1989 revolutions are examined in detail to identify their immediate causes in each of the individual countries.

Thirdly, we seek to identify common factors and examine critically various theories and approaches to explaining the collapse of communist power such as legitimation crisis and comparative theories of democratisation.


67%: Lecture
33%: Seminar


30%: Coursework (Essay)
70%: Written assessment (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 30 hours of contact time and about 270 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2023/24. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: