Human Rights under Communism and Post-Communism
HMRT 24100 (= HIST 29409)
Instructor: Jennifer Amos, Graduate Lecturer, Human Rights Program
Tuesday – Thursday: 1:30 – 2:50 pm
In this class we will explore human rights under communism and in the post-communism societies of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. What did human rights mean in these societies and how did that meaning change over time and place? What role did ideology play in defining these rights and what happened to the rights once communist ideology disappeared? Communist governments were amongst the most vocal advocates of cultural, economic and social rights as well as the rights of minority and colonial peoples. These governments liberated women in Central Asia from forced marriage and encouraged both them and minorities to partake in politics. They introduced universal education, universal health care, and eliminated unemployment. They challenged ‘bourgeois’ ideas of human rights and influenced international human rights treaties with their ideas. At the same time, these states built one of the most notorious systems of forced labor camps and created elaborate networks to spy on its citizens. They jailed dissidents who challenged their governments’ legitimacy also using claims of human rights. However, when Communism collapsed, governments and their citizens did not automatically embrace Western ideas regarding human rights.