What was it like to live in Stalin's USSR? One way to answer that question is to study how those who lived through the Stalin era -- workers, peasants, youth, officials, women, prisoners, etc. -- represented their experiences in letters, diaries, memoirs and works of the imagination. In this course, students will write a 25-page research paper based on such sources, of which there are many in translation. During the first six weeks of the semester, readings of about 200 pages per week will provide students with background on the Stalin era (1928-53) and introduce them to the range of possible topics and available sources. Students will then carry out independent research on a topic to be chosen in consultation with the instructor. A draft of the paper will be due in mid-November, at which point we will meet again as a group to hear reports about the status of each student's research and writing. Final drafts will be due at the last meeting of the semester, during which students will present an oral report to the class on his or her findings.
This course fulfills the history thesis and second writing requirements. A background in Soviet history is highly desirable though not absolutely necessary. Possible texts for the first six weeks of common reading include: Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution and Everyday Stalinism; Chris Ward, Stalin’s Russia; J. Bardach, Man Is Wolf to Man: Surviving the Gulag; Maurice Hindus, Red Bread; Viktor Kravchenko, I Chose Freedom: The Personal & Political Life of a Soviet Official; N. Novak-Deker, ed., Soviet Youth: Twelve Komsomol Histories; and William K. Storey, Writing History: A Guide for Students.