The Department of Modern and Contemporary History was established 3 years after the foundation of History Faculty of the BSU. On the 29th of October 1937 the young postgraduate from Leningrad L.M.Shneerson was appointed the Head of the Modern History Department (it was called so till 1950s).The initial structure of the Department (four officers in the staff) stayed unchangeable till the beginning of WWII. The research guidelines of that time were the foreign policy of the European countries in XIX-XX cc. However, the serious research work was not carried out then.
In 1936-1939 several attempts to form the department of Modern History of Colonial Oriental Countries were made. But owing to the lack of the necessary specialists in the Republic those attempts were of no success. Since 1937 the course of Oriental History had been completely provided by the well-known Leningrad Sinologist V.G.Efimov.
In the post-war years the Department of Modern and Contemporary History turned into the leading republican center for research and academical training of relevant profile. The universally recognized concepts of its scientific work was the Study of the History of International Relations in XIX-XX cc. Professor L.M.Shneerson who had been the Head of the Department till 1989, contributed a lot to the examination of the European foreign policy in XIX c. as well as to the training of the research workers. Professor N.P.Poletika examined thoroughly the reasons and diplomatic preparation to WWI. A manuscript copy of the monograph dedicated to the II International was not published because of his concepts and points of view that were opposite to the official historiography. The series of monographs about the International Relations History of 1920-1930s was a good result of the successful research of Professor G.M. Trukhnov. He trained up a number of talented scientists. Professor D.S.Klimovsky made a remarkable contribution to the study of the German-Polish relations between the World Wars. Associate Professor M.G.Eliseev examined the complicated relations of two German states during the Cold War.
The present structure of the Department formed in 1970-1980s follows the best traditions of its lectures, readers and their forerunners. The scientific interests of the Department are about studying of actual problems of the present times, the history of particular nations and regions. The present Head of the Department is Professor V.S.Koshelev who is an expert in the History of Arab countries and Contemporary Islam. He examines the methodological and theoretical matters of the World History. Professor P.A.Shuplyak, Associate Professors V.M.Pisarev and O.G.Radkova are specializing in German History. Associate Professor V.I.Sinitsa has defended a thesis on the Balkan policy of Russia in the 2nd half of XIX c. Associate Professors E.G.Kolb and I.I.Shumsky are examining neoconservative policy of France and the USA. The Contemporary History of France and the USA are of great interest for E.A.Dolguchits. Lecturer N.A.Orlova has defended the thesis on the History of British Public Education. The subject of investigation of Associate Professor V.A.Ostry is dedicated to the historiography of Modern and Contemporary History of Foreign Countries. Lecturer E.A.Krasulin is an expert in the History of Pre-Columbus civilization, lecturer D.G.Larionov examines the social policy of the Catholic Church under the circumstances of globalization.
After having obtained the sovereignty of the Republic, the Belarusian historians faced the necessity of solving the complex and critical problems in education and history as a science. They had to overcome the outdated stereotypes, the simplicity and one-sidedness of the Marxist methodology in its historical materialistic variant. There was a renewal of the lectures and the themes for the course papers, diplomas and dissertations. A new specialty “Religion in the History of Mankind» was proposed by the Department and later introduced at the University. The periodization of the Modern World was completely reviewed. At present the historical reference points are the events of the worldwide value: the Great Geographical Discoveries, Renaissance and Reformation, the beginning of the establishing of stable links between Europe and Oriental civilizations. The internal periodization of the Modern History has been changed. The Industrial Revolution in the North America and France in XVIII c., for instance, are defined as the turning points that open a fundamentally new period in the history of contemporary civilization.
During 1990s the teaching staff of the Department elaborated a number of scientific projects. The largest one was “The Belarusian historiography of the World History”. At present the two more topical projects are being realized: “The political Islam in XX c.” and “The Social Democracy of Western Europe and neoconservative wave in 1990s”. The foreground aim of the department is an elaboration of the curriculum programmes and scientific literature for secondary school and higher educational establishments.
The department maintains liaisons with a number of research centers and educational establishments of Belarus, the CIS and Europe: The Institute of History of NAS of Belarus, the Gomel, Grodno and Mogilev State universities, the Belarusian State Pedagogical University, Belarusian Encyclopedia of History, the Institute of Asian and African Countries of the MSU, the Institute of Oriental Studies of RAS, the International Academy of Sciences of higher learning, the European Association of Historians, the Committee on Education of the Council of Europe.