The International History of the Balkans since 1939: State Projects, Wars, and Social Conflict

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Svetozar Rajak SAR.3.15


This course is available on the MA in Asian and International History (LSE and NUS), MA in Modern History, MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International and Asian History, MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


The course is intended for students with or without a detailed knowledge of the history of the Balkans. Students without a detailed knowledge are advised to undertake preliminary background reading (useful titles in the section Indicative and introductory reading).

Course content

This course examines the history of Southeastern Europe / Balkans in the second half of the Twentieth century and in the beginning of the Twenty First century. The course aims to integrate broader themes and interpretations of the Cold War and post-Cold War order, and of deeper historical and civilizational undercurrents of the Twentieth Century with the history of the region. The course invokes three main themes that facilitate insight into the interaction between the global, regional, and country specific. The course explores the regional and inter-bloc dynamics within the structured Cold War system.  It examines the impact the Cold War had on the region and, inversely the influence the Balkans, in particular the Greek Civil War and Yugoslavia's conflict with the USSR exercised on the institutionalization and the dynamics of the early Cold War. Furthermore, the course investigates the unique role Yugoslavia played in the creation of the alternatives and challenges to the bipolar structure and rigidity of the Cold War world, namely the Non-aligned Movement, and the so called "Yugoslav Road to Socialism" that created a schism within the global Communism. Lastly, the course offers insight into the dramatic impact the end of the Cold War had on the developments in the region, namely the violent collapse of the Yugoslav federation and the transition of the regional Communist regimes. Moreover, it looks into the impact disintegration of Yugoslavia and the subsequent wars of secession had in inaugurating or legitimising concepts and phenomena  that would define the post-Cold War international order, such as nation-building, humanitarian intervention, conflict-resolution, marginalisation of the UN, NATO’s interventionism, US global hegemony, etc.


20 hours of seminars in the AT. 20 hours of seminars in the WT. 2 hours of seminars in the ST.

There will be a reading week in week 6 of the Autumn and the Winter Terms.

This course has no designated lectures; it is taught through two-hour seminars.

Formative coursework

Students are required to write one 2,500-word essay in the Autumn Term. There will also be a mock exam (a one-hour essay, in class, to help prepare students for the exam) at the start of the Spring Term.

Indicative reading

Indicative and introductory reading

Full bibliographies are provided on the HY465 Moodle. Students may consult the following introductory titles:

Crampton, Richard J., The Balkans Since the Second World War, (New York: Longman, 2002)

Glenny, Misha, The Balkans 1804 - 1999: Nationalism, War and the Great Powers, (London, Granta Books, 1999)

Jelavich, Barbara, History of the Balkans: Twentieth Century, Vol. 2, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983)

Dimitrov, Vesselin, Stalin's Cold War: Soviet Foreign Policy, Democracy and Communism in Bulgaria, 1941-48, (Basingstoke, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)

Todorova Maria, Imagining the Balkans, Oxford University Press, 1997

Rajak, Svetozar, The Cold War in the Balkans: From the Greek Civil War to the Soviet-Yugoslav Normalization in Leffler, Melvyn and Westad, Arne (eds), The Cambridge History of the Cold War, Volume I: Origins, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010)

Rajak, Svetozar, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union in the Early Cold War: Reconciliation, Comradeship, Confrontation, 1953-57, (London: Routledge, 2011)

Woodward, Susan L., Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution after the Cold War, (Washington D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1995)


Exam (50%, duration: 2 hours) in the spring exam period.
Essay (25%, 3000 words) in the WT.
Class participation (10%) and presentation (15%) in the AT and WT.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2022/23: Unavailable

Average class size 2022/23: 1

Controlled access 2022/23: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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