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Unit information: Russian Thought 1825-1881 in 2015/16

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Unit name Russian Thought 1825-1881
Unit code RUSS20048
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Coates
Open unit status Open




School/department Department of Russian
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit, which will be taught by Professor Derek Offord provides students with an opportunity to study in detail the major Russian social and political thinkers of the ages of Nicholas I and Alexander II and the historical, philosophical and literary contexts in which the thinkers were writing. Thinkers studied will include Chaadaev, the Slavophiles, Belinskii, Herzen, Chernyshevskii, Dostoevskii, Danilevskii and the revolutionary Populists.

The aims of the unit are to acquaint students with

  • the major preoccupations of Russian thinkers in the age of Nicholas I;
  • the intellectual rebellion in Russia after the Crimean War (1853-6) and the conservative reaction to it; and
  • the early development of the Russian revolutionary movement,

and to offer an insight into the nature of thought in a ‘backward’ country under an autocratic regime on Europe’s margin.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit, students will have:

1) Gained a thorough knowledge of Russian intellectual history at a crucial period, using primary as well as secondary sources.

2) Developed an awareness of the interplay of economic, social and political factors and ideas, and learned to evaluate conflicting ideas and interpretations.

3) Become familiar with the broad course of development of Russian thought between 1825 and 1881, with its most prominent representatives and its most important groupings or movements.

4) Learned to articulate and analyse the central questions for Russian thought and to relate these to the question of Russia’s national and cultural identity, particularly in relation to Western Europe.

5) Gained insight into the formation of the radical intelligentsia and the role of this group in laying the foundations for the Bolshevik revolution; they will also have developed their ability to assess the cultural and intellectual importance of the anti-socialist and anti-liberal tradition in Russian thought.

6) Acquired the skills necessary to evaluate and analyse relevant material from a significant body of source material as appropriate to level I.

Teaching Information

Two classes a week for 10 weeks, plus 2 revision classes. No formal distinction will be made between lectures and seminars, since in most classes there will be discussion. In approximately half of the classes discussion will be based on student papers. Topics to be covered in the papers will be set near the beginning of the unit and students will be advised individually on their preparation of these papers.

Assessment Information

An essay of 2000 words (50%), testing ILOs 1-6

A 2-hour exam (50%), testing ILOs 1-6.

Reading and References

Lampert, E. Sons against Fathers: Studies in Russian Radicalism and Revolution, London, 1965.

Leatherbarrow, W. J., and Offord, D. C., A Documentary History of Russian Thought from the Enlightenment to Marxism, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1987.

Leatherbarrow, W. J., and Offord, D. C., A History of Russian Thought, Cambridge, 2010.

Malia, M. Alexander Herzen and the Birth of Russian Socialism, 1812-1855, Cambridge, Mass., 1961.

Offord, D., Portraits of Early Russian Liberals: A Study of the Thought of T. N. Granovsky, V. P. Botkin, P. V. Annenkov, A. V. Druzhinin, and K. D. Kavelin, Cambridge, 1985.

Venturi, F., Roots of Revolution: A History of the Populist and Socialist Movements in Nineteenth-Century Russia, London, 1960.

Walicki, A., A History of Russian Thought from the Enlightenment to Marxism, Oxford, 1980.