Utopia and Terror in the 20th Century

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Vejas Gabriel Llulevicius Excellent course. Great information. Best professor I have ever had.
Date published: 2021-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thought provoking information and analysis, well p This is an excellent class. The instructor provides a very insightful understanding of utopian movements since the French revolution. His shows conclusively the amazing similarities of these movements and how they have led to more death than any other human calamity. Yet he does not ignore the differences, either. It is one of the most thought provoking classes I have taken. I would really like to hear his take on many of the tensions in today’s world at the beginning of 2021.
Date published: 2021-02-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative The course was very interesting and thorough. Not sure where else you could find a lecture of this quality on a topic like this.
Date published: 2021-01-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A wide survey of the search for utopia This course provides a wide survey of different approaches to creating "utopia" in the 20th century. I found the first half of the lectures really informative, but as the series wrapped up (anything after World War II), I found the series speeding to the end. Note that this lecture series was filmed in the early 2000s, when it was still a possibility that Iraq had WMDs. As a historical artifact its interesting to see this viewpoint as a snapshot of history. I would recommend this to people seeking an understanding of world history in the first half of the 20th century.
Date published: 2021-01-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Horrors of the 20th Century laid bare This was a frightening course. To hear about what atrocities have been and are still being committed in the 20th century reads like the worst horror story of all time. This course should been seen and viewed as a warning to us in the 21st century.
Date published: 2020-12-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Erudite and Insightful Great on terror in Europe and Russia although I thought he sounded a bit out of his depth sometimes when looking at terrorist regimes worldwide. Giving the background to the 20th century by looking at the Terror of the French Revolution and it's attempts to recreate a whole new Utopian world was very helpful and made a lot of the "quirks"of European regimes much more comprehensible. Good references to literature throughout to illustrate - I remember reading about the Black Shorts in PG Wodehouse! Only thing I would say is the course could have said a lot more about resistance to these regimes - it was always there even against overwhelming odds and offers some redemption in a very bleak subject.
Date published: 2020-12-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from entirely worth a visit though Professor Liulevicius' presentation is not quite as objective as one would like from an historian, his picture of the violent 20th Century remains nevertheless instructive, convincing, and utterly compelling, if not inspiring
Date published: 2020-08-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Solid Course with some Hiccups As COVID19 quarantine dragged on in my part of the country, I decided to take this course. It is a topic of interest to me as I grew up during the Cold War and had many veterans of WWII as relatives. The lectures were interesting for the most part but many aspects of history which I had been looking forward to were given very short shrift. The lecture on WWII for example included all of 35 seconds on Japan's involvement and the shape that totalitarianism took in that country. Conversely, almost four entire lectures were expended on Hitler and the Holocaust which was excessive in my view particularly as the same points were made over and over and over again. I was non-plussed by some of the characterizations of actions as "terror" most notably the use of retaliation against civilian populations for supporting guerillas. By that standard I am afraid many nations continue to be guilty of "terror". The professor also appears overly-inspired by one or two philosophers and cites them repeatedly during his lectures (most notably Hannah Arendt). On balance the course held my interest and provided me with some variations on insights into the interplay between the related concepts of terror and utopia. That being said, I did not find the professor as inspiring or as captivating as many of the other professorsin the Great Courses (most notably Professor Gallagher and Aldrete). Not sorry I took the course biut I would not go out of my way to take another course with this professor.
Date published: 2020-05-22
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Defining Utopia and Terror
1: Defining Utopia and Terror

The 20th century saw the rise of brutal ideological regimes that promised total solutions. The key elements of such modern regimes are: 1) masses, 2) machines and mechanisms for control, 3) the seizure of the state by mobsters (political criminals), and 4) ideological master plans....

33 min
The Legacy of Revolutions
2: The Legacy of Revolutions

Nineteenth-century revolutions set the agenda for the 20th century. The French Revolution ushered in a new mass politics, while the Industrial Revolution created new productive power and confidence in science and progress. Both contributed to "utopian socialism," the point of departure for further revolutions....

30 min
Omens of Conflict
3: Omens of Conflict

The 20th century began with optimism, but darker omens also appeared: the growing influence of Marxism, a wave of anarchist terrorism and assassinations, the brutal rule of worldwide imperialism, and premonitions of a coming world war....

31 min
World War I
4: World War I

World War I brutalized Western civilization through such innovations as poison gas, aerial bombing, and targeting of civilians....

31 min
Total War-Mobilization and Mass Death
5: Total War-Mobilization and Mass Death

This lecture considers implications of modern industrial war, or "total war," including use of violence against civilians, expansion of strong central states, propaganda as a tool of persuasion, and modern genocide: the massacre of a million Armenians in 1915....

29 min
Total Revolution in Russia
6: Total Revolution in Russia

Total war led to a new kind of political upheaval: total revolution. Led by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the Bolsheviks seized control of Russia in 1917 and began a vast revolutionary experiment....

31 min
War's Aftermath-The Hinge of Violence
7: War's Aftermath-The Hinge of Violence

The peace treaty of Versailles set the terms for new conflicts that inevitably arose. The little-known movements of millions of refugees displaced by the war set a dire precedent for subsequent massive "population transfers."...

31 min
8: Communism

This lecture traces the early outlines of Soviet power: the establishment of the Cheka secret police and the Red Army, the use of propaganda campaigns, the repression of internal dissent, and, after Lenin's death, the emergence of Josef Stalin....

31 min
9: Stalin

Josef Stalin, the "Man of Steel," made himself synonymous with the state. This lecture examines obscure beginnings, his rise to power, and the cult of personality deliberately crafted around him....

32 min
Soviet Civilization
10: Soviet Civilization

The new society of the U.S.S.R. was self-consciously revolutionary and modern, heralding the construction of a "new man" and "new woman." Foreign visitors enthusiastically hailed what they saw as a vision of the "future that works."...

31 min
11: Fascism

Coming to power in 1922 through the falsely mythologized "March on Rome," the Fascists brutalized their opponents, prepared to mobilize society in a "total state," and chanted slogans of "Believe, Obey, and Fight." The Fascist style of "Il Duce," Mussolini, was imitated by would-be dictators worldwide....

31 min
The 1930's-"The Low Dishonest Decade"
12: The 1930's-"The Low Dishonest Decade"

The 1930's were marked by deepening worldwide economic crisis, the rejection of liberal ideas, and the ominous revival of imperialist desires. Poet W.H. Auden called it the "low dishonest decade." The Japanese invasion of China foreshadowed World War II, while the Spanish Civil War was its dress rehearsal....

30 min
13: Nazism

This lecture surveys the origins of the Nazi movement, its ideological roots, and its rise to power in Germany. All of these were linked to the brutalizing legacies of World War I....

31 min
14: Hitler

Adolf Hitler, the man behind the Nazi movement, was indispensable to its success and its growing radicalism. This lecture profiles Hitler and considers the keys to his effectiveness as a dictator, in particular his capability for boundlessly cynical propaganda....

31 min
World War II
15: World War II

The Second World War was unleashed by Hitler in 1939 with help from Stalin. On all sides, this "perfected" total war resulted in massive civilian casualties, especially in war from the air, culminating in the opening of the atomic age....

32 min
Nazi Genocide and Master Plans
16: Nazi Genocide and Master Plans

This lecture considers the Nazis' program of mass murder against the Jews, beginning with escalating persecutions and culminating with extermination camps like Auschwitz....

32 min
The Cold War
17: The Cold War

No sooner had World War II ended than a new confrontation emerged: ideological blocs of countries faced off against one another in the Cold War....

32 min
18: Mao

After decades of civil war and struggle, Chinese Communists came to power in 1949 under the leadership of Mao Zedong. This lecture examines the society formed by the ideology of "Mao Thought," the "Little Red Book," the uniform dress of "Mao suits," and the cultural break with a rich past forced by the regime....

31 min
Cambodia and Pol Pot's Killing Fields
19: Cambodia and Pol Pot's Killing Fields

In 1975, Cambodian Communist leaders educated in France and led by the mysterious Pol Pot turned their own land into a social experiment. In the three years of their rule, the Khmer Rouge killed some 2 million people, more than 25 percent of Cambodians....

32 min
East Germany, the Soviet Union, North Korea
20: East Germany, the Soviet Union, North Korea

During the Cold War, different variants of communist regimes emerged. The German Democratic Republic was considered a success story. In the Soviet Union, the system lurched towards stagnation. North Korea enshrined its militarized isolation from the world in the ideology of "juche" or self-reliance....

31 min
From the Berlin Wall to the Balkans
21: From the Berlin Wall to the Balkans

As the 20th century neared its end, the spirit of the times sent mixed signals. From 1989 to 1991, Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union fell with astonishing speed. Yet, as Yugoslavia began to crumble, Europe saw a reversion to the crimes that had marked World War II....

31 min
22: Rwanda

In 1994, horrific events unfolded in the central African country of Rwanda. The Hutu-dominated government organized the mass murder of the Tutsi minority. In 100 days, 800,000 people were slaughtered; the international community failed to intervene....

30 min
Saddam Hussein's Iraq
23: Saddam Hussein's Iraq

This lecture traces how Hussein established his personal dictatorship in Iraq, modeling himself on long-ago despots and surrounding himself with elite Republican Guards. His eight-year war against Iran resembled World War I in its ferocity....

32 min
The Future of Terror
24: The Future of Terror

Ultimately, what are the lessons of the 20th century's linked experiences of the promise of utopia and the reality of terror? This lecture poses the urgent question of how to be vigilant against the revival of movements such as those surveyed, and examines the growing appeal of Arab radicalism and groups like al-Qa'ida. The question of whether these global trends are likely to continue is of vital...

33 min
Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius

Modernity is a notoriously slippery concept, because, obviously, what is modern now will soon become the past, as time marches relentlessly forward.


University of Pennsylvania


University of Tennessee

About Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius

Dr. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius is Lindsay Young Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He earned his B.A. from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Liulevicius served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University. Professor Liulevicius has won many awards and honors, including the University of Tennessee's Excellence in Teaching Award and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. At the university he teaches courses on modern German history, Western civilization, European diplomatic history, Nazi Germany, World War I, war and culture, 20th-century Europe, nationalism, and utopian thought. Dr. Liulevicius has published numerous articles and two books: War Land on the Eastern Front: Culture, National Identity, and German Occupation in World War I and The German Myth of the East, 1800 to the Present.

Professor Liulevicius participated in The Great Courses Professor Chat series. Read the chat to learn more about diplomacy and war

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