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Course Details


This 30 CATS final-year undergraduate Advanced Option module aims to examine the phenomenon of Stalinism between 1928 (the beginning of the “Revolution from above”) and 1953 (Stalin’s death). After a discussion of the transformation of the economy, society and culture the focus is on the social and cultural history of Stalinism as a ‘civilisation’. The Soviet leadership attempted to implement a socialist way of life and to construct a socialist identity. The consequences of this attempt for everyday life are considered as are central mythologies of Stalinist propaganda and the ‘culture of violence’. We will also discuss how far Stalinism was a purely Russian/Soviet phenomenon. We will therefore look at the consequences of Stalinism for the international communist movement and for the sovietisation of Eastern Europe after 1945. Students will examine theories on Stalinism and how the Cold War affected the interpretation of Stalinism. We will discuss the totalitarian approach, the revisionist approaches of the 1980’s and the post-revisionist discussions of the recent period. Students will examine primary sources, including official materials such as political speeches and propaganda and sources such as private letters, diaries, and memoirs.


Aims and Objectives

This module is an advanced option available to final-year students, as well as Honours Level part-time students. There are no prerequisites for this Advanced Option. The module will build on the lectures and seminars on Socialism in the core course Making of the Modern World. Those who have taken the 1st/2nd year option on the “History of Russia” or “Nation and Memory in Eastern Europe” will be able to explore the phenomenon of Stalinism in much greater depth.

Teaching and Learning Methods

The module will be taught through 17 1.45 h seminars + a revision session in Summer Term, which you must attend and through assigned reading, which I expect you to read. You will be asked to make short presentations at some seminars, or to focus on particular items on the reading list. The seminar discussions will be partly student-led. As a third-year student you will be expected to organise your own learning rather more independently than hitherto. The sessions overlap and we will revisit issues as the module progresses. Although the course is based chiefly on secondary material, emphasis is placed on introducing a range of primary sources.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • To understand the key social, political and cultural developments occurring within the Soviet Union between 1928 and 1953, be aware of the current debates on Stalinism, have a good knowledge of a wide range of primary sources
  • To show enhanced research, writing and communication skills
  • To have had the opportunity to develop an individual research project (4500 words), and as a result an improved ability to evaluate critically a range of secondary and primary sources, and an enhanced capacity for individual and self-motivated study.
  • To develop skills to deal with the historical controversies surrounding Stalinism and to analyse diverse types of primary source materials (including political speeches, propaganda material, diaries, art, and film)
  • To draw on writings in other disciplines, particularly political science, cultural studies, and sociology.

Workload and assessment

There will be 17 seminars and a revision seminar in summer term, each one hour and 45 minutes long. For details, see the module programme.


Oral Participation: 10%

1 x 1500 word essay 10%

1 x 3000 word essay: 40%

1 x 2 h exam: 40%

For more information on examinations, assessments and submissions please see the undergraduate handbook.

Deadlines on Tabula