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Unit information: Life and Death with Stalin in 2021/22

Unit name Life and Death with Stalin
Unit code RUSS30082
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Knight
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Russian
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

March 1953, dozens of Soviet citizens were stampeded to death as overwrought crowds flooded the resting place of the coffin of Soviet General Secretary Joseph Stalin. He had overseen construction of the world’s first socialist state but had built on the bones of millions of his own people. He had served as inspiration in teh epic battle to defeat Nazism but used this reputation after the war to inaugurate the most intensive phase of regulation and censorship in Russia's long history of centralised control. He had induced industrialisation seemingly out of thin air, modernising a nation dogged with "backwardness", but did so through terror, even weaponising famine. And when he died, the people mourned. It took several years for his successors to acknowledge officially the violence and abuse of Stalin's leadership, and several more for them to do so publicly. When they did, the Soviet Union experienced a "Thaw" or loosening of censorship and tentative rapproachment in the Cold War. Yet most Soviets were cautious in their celebration, awareof Stalin's spectre haunting the USSR.

This unit will examine Soviet life under Stalin and afterwards, under Khrushchev's Thaw.

It will focus in particular on the processes of Stalinisation and De-Stalinisation, which were rooted in cultural history, but help deep implications for political, economic and social history as well.

Each class, students will engage with a key primary source text (in Russian with translation), or a central scholarly debate concerning such themes as the nature of Stalinism, the origins and extent of Stalin's power, and the limits of Thaw and de-Stalinisation.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate a high degree of understanding of the history and historiography of the Soviet period;
  2. select and synthesise an appropriate range of cultural and historical criticism through which to interperet such material within methodologies that are pertinent to this field;
  3. analyse and evaluate different texts and images as the unit's primary sources;
  4. articulate knowledge and understanding at a level of writing and oral presentation appropriate to Level 6;
  5. formulate an independent research project as a written assignment.

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous sessions and asynchronous activities, including seminars, lectures, and collaborative as well as self-directed learning opportunities supported by tutor consultation.

Assessment Information

1 x presentation (formative: required to pass) with 1500-word report (40%), testing ILOs 1-5.

1 x 3500-word coursework essay (60%) testing ILOs 1-4.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. RUSS30082).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.