This is an introductory survey of the history of Russia (broadly defined) from 1917 to the present. Briefly, our goal in the course is to explore the rise and fall of a distinct form of civilization -- a polity, society, culture and empire -- known as “Soviet Communism.” Why did that “civilization” arise in Russia, and what is “Russia” now that Soviet Communism is dead? To answer these questions, lectures and readings will focus on the social and cultural as well as the political history of the region. Major topics include: the revolutions of 1917; the Russian Civil War; Lenin’s New Economic Policy; Stalinism; the Great Fatherland War and post-war reconstruction; the origins and phases of the Cold War; de-Stalinization and the limits of reform (Khrushchev to Gorbachev); varieties of Communism within Europe and beyond; the quest for stability and the crisis of late Communism (the Brezhnev years); the disintegration of the USSR and the emergence of the Russian Federation and other successor states; and post-Soviet Russia’s transition to oligarch/crony capitalism and “sovereign democracy” (Yeltsin to Putin).
The course assumes no prior training in Russian history. Requirements include active participation in weekly discussion sections, a midterm exam, a final exam and three 600-word papers on required course readings. Readings (in English) of about 150 pages per week will include primary and secondary sources. Assigned texts include: Lydia Chukovskaya, Sofia Petrovna; Friedrich Engels & Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto; Alexander Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; and Ronald Suny, The Soviet Experiment. Two required class packets will be available for purchase at N.K Print & Design on Elliewood Avenue.