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Unit information: Soviet Experiment: Constructing Socialism 1917-1991 (Level I Lecture Response) in 2015/16

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Unit name Soviet Experiment: Constructing Socialism 1917-1991 (Level I Lecture Response)
Unit code HIST25017
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Furst
Open unit status Open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


John Reed called it 'Ten Days that Shook the World'. The Russian Revolution and the subsequent rise of the Soviet Union were to shake the world for more than seventy years. The experiment of creating socialism in the huge, but backward Russian empire produced a genuinely different society. It brought about exciting new forms of art and literature, yet also terror and repression. It pushed through modernisation at an unprecedented pace, yet also gave rise to archaic practices and stagnating economies. This course traces the development of the Soviet Union from its very beginning to its very end, looking at social and cultural aspects as well as political and economic factors. It charters the rise of the Soviet Union to super power status and attempts to explain its slow decline as a country unable to mobilise its citizens and unable to keep up economic and military standards.


  • To provide a broad grounding in the the social and cultural history of the Soviet Union
  • To provide a particular perspective from the tutor to which students can react critically and build their own individual views and interpretations.

Intended learning outcomes

  • wider historical knowledge of the the social and cultural history of the Soviet Union
  • deeper awareness of how to approach a long term historical analysis
  • ability to set individual issues within their longer term historical context
  • the ability to analyse and generalise about issues of continuity and change
  • ability to select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general historical points
  • ability to derive benefit from and contribute effectively to large group discussion
  • ability to identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically and form an individual viewpoint.

Teaching details

  • Weekly 2-hour interactive lectures
  • Tutorial feedback on essay
  • Access to tutorial consultation with unit tutor in office hours

Assessment Details

1 x 3000 word essay (50%) and 1 x 2 hour exam (50%)

Reading and References

  • Robert Service, A History of 20th Century Russia (Harvard, 1997)
  • Ronald Suny, The Soviet Experiment (Oxford, 1998)
  • Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution (Oxford, 1994)
  • Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism (Oxford, 2000)
  • Jochen Hellbeck, Revolution on my Mind (Harvard, 2006)
  • Alexei Yurchak, Everything was Forever until it was no more (Princeton, 2006)