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History of Russia since 1881 - Suggested essay titles



1. How helpful is the term ‘backwardness’ in analysing late-nineteenth-century Russia?


2. Why did so many intellectuals in late-nineteenth-century Russia join revolutionary movements?


3. Were peasants becoming richer or poorer between 1881 and 1900?


4. ‘With respect to industrialisation, Russia faced not only obstacles, but possessed significant advantages.’ Discuss this comment on the period from 1881 to 1900.


5. Assess the effect of the October Manifesto in the 1905 revolution.


6. To what extent were Russian workers motivated by revolutionary impulses in the early twentieth century?


7. To what extent could Stolypin be said to have undermined the autocracy rather than consolidated it?


8. How successful was the autocracy in re-establishing its authority between 1905 and 1914?


9. How far was Russia responsible for the outbreak of the First World War?




1. Assess the role of the moderate socialist parties (S.R.s and Mensheviks) in the revolution of 1917?


2. To what extent did workers and peasants share similar political and social aspirations in 1917?


3. ‘The real struggle in the period from 1918 to 1921 was between the Bolsheviks and the popular movement rather than between the Bolsheviks and the Whites.’ Discuss.


4. ‘The revolts of 1920 and 1921 show that Lenin’s government was deeply unpopular’. Discuss.


5. ‘Lenin expected to establish democracy in Russia after the October revolution. Instead, circumstances drove him to establish a dictatorship.’ Discuss.


6. To what extent could the 1920s be considered the ‘golden age’ of Soviet Russia?



1. Assess the role of either Trotsky or Bukharin in Soviet politics up to 1929.


2. How far did Stalin maintain control over the ‘Second Revolution’ of 1928-32?


3. How far were Stalin’s internal policies from 1928 to 1938 inspired by revolutionary ideals?


4. Assess the impact of the Great Terror of 1936-8.


5. ‘Soviet victory over Nazi Germany owes more to the efforts of the Russian people than to those of their government.’ Discuss.


6. ‘The onset of the Cold War took Stalin by surprise.’ Discuss.


7. ‘One need only look closely at inter-allied relations during the war to see that the subsequent onset of cold war was practically inevitable.’ Discuss.




1. Assess Khrushchev’s credentials as a reformer of the Soviet system.


2. To what extent could the Brezhnev regime be said to have destalinised without noticing?


3.To what extent did the policies of the Brezhnev era begin the process of collapse in the Soviet Union?


4. Assess the view that Gorbachev was swept away by events he had unwittingly unleashed.


5. ‘A powerful wrecker but a weak constructor.’ Assess this view of Yeltsin’s role in national politics?


6. Who should be more favourably remembered, Gorbachev or Yeltsin?


7. What, if anything, has the Russian population gained from the collapse of communism?


8. Why has the Chechen problem become so intractable?


9. Does Putin have any policies for the reconstruction of Russia?



Alternative titles available on request.