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Fulbright Lecture: Laszlo Borhi "The Power of Weak States in International Politics"

Mon, Mar 25, 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm
Walnut Room, Indiana Memorial Union

The role of weak states in the international system is ambiguous and their role in shaping international politics is underappreciated. On the one hand they are often pawns in the international system. The coup in Yugoslavia in 1941 disrupted Hitler`s timetable to attack the USSR, the U.S. provoked Hitler to invade Hungary to spread the Germans thin on the western front, Churchill horse traded the Balkan states and Hungary into the Soviet zone in 1944. East Germany forced Moscow to construct the Berlin wall and Cuba engineered a nuclear standoff between the two superpowers. Thus weak states can be both policy takers and – occasionally policy makers.

This talk will examine weak states in East Central Europe in the 20th century through case studies. These will include instances when powerful actors of the international system shaped the destinies of the weak states there and also examples of how small countries were able to occasionally influence and even shape the course of international politics. Three critical periods will be investigated: the aftermath of World War I and the creation of the new European order; the diplomacy of the cold war that established the division of the continent immediately before and after 1945; and finally the collapse of the Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe in 1989. Contrary to the position of realists such as Kenneth Waltz, fluctuations in the distribution of power isn`t the only agency making change in the international system. In the 20th century profound domestic changes in weak powers led to major changes in the international regime. Weakness and power in international politics may not always be determined by military and economic factors alone.

László Borhi is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He held multiple appointments as the IU CEUS Ránki György Visiting Hungarian Chair Professor, most recently 2010-12. Borhi has also held visiting faculty appointments at the University of Pécs, ELTE University Budapest, and Dartmouth College, and as guest researcher in a number of international institutions including the Woodrow Wilson Center and the Norwegian Nobel Institute. His publications include Hungary in the Cold War – Between the Soviet Union and the United States, 1945-1956 published by CEU Press and currently being translated into English. In 2006 he was awarded the Gold Cross of Merit of the Hungarian Republic.

In 2012-13 Dr. Borhi has taught courses in the IU Departments of History and Central Eurasian Studies as the first recipient of the Hungarian Fulbright Visiting Professor position, which is funded under an agreement between IU and the Council for International Exchange of Scholars and the US Departemnt of State.

The lecture will be followed by a small reception.