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East-Central Europe, 1989: the History and Philosophy of the Peaceful Revolutions

Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers

Postmark Deadline: March 4, 2013

A four-week seminar in Berlin and Prague for sixteen school teachers on the background of the anti-communist movements leading to the peaceful revolutions in East-Central Europe in 1989.

Project director Christiane Olivo leads a seminar on the history and philosophical underpinnings of the dissident movements in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland, and the revolutions in 1989 that brought down communist rule. Beginning with three weeks in Berlin and ending with a final week in Prague, this project seeks to elucidate the role of democratic opposition movements in the fall of Marxist governments and the enduring significance of these movements. A day trip to Leipzig, "which was an extremely important center of dissident activities and helped to usher in the large, peaceful demonstrations in the GDR [the communist German Democratic Republic] in late 1989," is also included in the program activities. The seminar focuses on the "power of the powerless" to undermine totalitarian rule by, in Vaclav Havel's phrase, "living in truth" and rejecting the ideological lie at the base of communist rule. The seminar examines the role of ideas among the dissidents: communism as "virtually immune to reform," rural resistance against "a vast but vulnerable machine," self-organization in an alternative civil society, and the affirmation of individual dignity. The seminar engages teachers in careful reading, journaling, and discussion of pertinent texts; guest lectures by leading scholars and major figures from the East German and Czech dissident movements, such as Martin Palous and Jan Wielgohs (Europa University Viadrina); tours of sites significant for the pre-1989 opposition (including Stasi Headquarters in Berlin and the Vaclav Havel Library in Prague); and screenings of films such as Czechoslovakia 1968: We Don't Want to Live on Our Knees and Solidarity. Works by the following authors are included: Timothy Garton Ash, Adam Michnik, Vaclac Havel, George Konrad, Vladimir Tismaneanu, and Gale Stokes. The project director has allotted time for the development and presentation of lesson plans by participants and has mounted a comprehensive website to be sustained after the seminar.

Dates: June 23—July 20 (4 weeks)
Director(s): Christiane Olivo, University of Northern Colorado
Grantee Institutions: University of Northern Colorado
Location: Berlin, Germany and Prague, Czech Republic

About NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers

Each year the NEH’s Division of Education Programs offers teachers opportunities to study a variety of humanities topics in NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes. An NEH Summer Seminar for school teachers enables sixteen participants to explore a topic or set of readings with an expert scholar. The core material of the seminar need not relate directly to the school curriculum; the principal goal of the seminar is to engage teachers in the scholarly enterprise and to expand and deepen their understanding of the humanities through reading, discussion, writing, and reflection.

Amount of Award

NEH Summer Scholars are awarded fixed stipends to help cover travel costs, books and other research expenses, and living expenses. Stipend amounts are based on the length of the NEH Summer Seminar or Institute: $2,100 (2 weeks), $2,700 (3 weeks), $3,300 (4 weeks), $3,900 (5 weeks), or $4,500 (6 weeks).


Full-time teachers in American K-12 schools, whether public, charter, independent, or religiously affiliated, as well as home-schooling parents, are eligible to apply to NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes. Americans teaching abroad are also eligible if a majority of the students they teach are American citizens. Librarians and school administrators may also be eligible.

You may request information about as many projects as you like, but you may apply to no more than two NEH Summer Programs (seminars, institutes, or Landmarks workshops) and you may attend only one. Eligibility criteria differ significantly between NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes and NEH Landmarks Workshops.

Please note: Up to two seminar spaces and three institute spaces are available for current graduate students, who intend to pursue careers in K-12 teaching.

How to Apply

For more information and application instructions, please visit the program website listed above.