I strongly recommend that you consult a general history of Russia for background reading. There are many available (and still more being published, following the centenary of the Russian revolution), but I particularly recommend the following:
Catherine Evtuhov, David Goldfrank, Lindsey Hughes, and Richard Stites, A History of Russia: Peoples, Legends, Events, Forces (Boston: Wadsworth Publishing, 2003).
Geoffrey Hosking, A History of the Soviet Union (William Collins, 2017).
Geoffrey Hosking, Russia: People and Empire: 1552–1917 (Fontana Press, 2010).
Ronald Suny, The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States (New York: OUP USA, 2010).
Paul Bushkovitch, A Concise History of Russia (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012).
The following in Oxford University Press’s Very Short Introduction series are also useful:
Stephen Lovell, The Soviet Union: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2009).
Stephen A. Smith, The Russian Revolution: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2002).
Geoffrey Hosking, Russian History: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2012).
Peter Singer, Marx: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2000).
Finally, please take some time to explore the website Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, which we will be consulting regularly throughout this course. It is a treasure trove of documents, film clips, images and subject essays: please do take advantage!