crc  .  syllabi collection  .  alumni syllabi  .  history  .

   Course Title    Russian State and Politics in the Twentieth century
Lecturer    Sergei Podbolotov
Institution    European University of St. Petersburg
Country    Russian Fedaration

This course gives an overview of the development of the state and society in Russia and the Soviet Union. Specifically, it aims at providing a comparative perspective on the processes of modernization in Russia and in Europe.

The course is a combined lecture/seminar. Students will attend lectures, which present the key problems of Late Imperial Russian and the Soviet history. Discussion sessions will concentrate on major historiographical debates. Students will be expected to participate in discussions on a regular basis. The discussion grade will form one third of the final grade. Students will also write the final and the mid-term essays.


Periods in Russian History. Historical sources. Historical libraries, archives and research institutions in Russia. The role of History in Russia and in the Soviet Union.

The Great Reforms from Above: The Tsar – Liberator

The debate of Westerners and Slavophiles, and the official ideology. The decline of military power and modernising efforts. The limits of the tsarist reform.

W. Mosse, Alexander II and the Modernization of Russia. (1992)
T. Taranovski, ed. Reform in Modern Russian History: Progress or Cycle? (1995)
N. Riasanovsky, Nicholas I and Official Nationality in Russia. 1825-1855. (1967).
N. Stone, Europe Transformed 1878-1919. (1983) A. Walicki, The Slavophile Controversy. History of a Conservative Utopia in Nineteenth Century Russian Thought (1975).

The Reluctant Reforms from Above: Nicholas II

The political views of Nicholas II and the crisis of the Russian Empire.

Modernisation of S. Iu. Witte. "The constitutional experiment".

G. Hosking, Russia. People and Empire 1552-1917. (1997)
D. Lieven, Nicholas II: Emperor of all the Russias. (1994)
A. Verner, The crisis of Russian autocracy: Nicholas II and the 1905 revolution. (1990)
T. von Laue, Sergei Witte and the Industrialisation of Russia. (1978)

The World of Political Parties under the Autocratic Regime

The classification of the political parties and their role after 1905.

Revolutionary parties, radical and moderate liberals and the right wing.

  • Z. Galili, The Menshevik leaders in the Russian Revolution: Social Realities and Political Strategies. (1989)
  • O. Radkey, The Agrarian Foes of Bolshevism. (1968)
  • W. Rosenberg, Liberals in the Russian Revolution. (1974)
  • H. Rogger, Jewish Policies and Right-Wing Politics in Imperial Russia. (1986)
  • L. Shapiro, The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. (1972)

Could Stolypin Succeed?

The political regime after the 3rd of June, 1907. The programme and the ideology of Stolypin. Russian nationalism.

  • E. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780. (1990)
  • G. Hosking, The Russian Constitutional Experiment: Government and Duma
  • 1907-1914. (1973)
  • P. Waldron, Between Two Revolutions: Stolypin and the Politics of Renewal in Russia. (1997)
  • T. Weeks. Nation and State in Late Imperial Russia. (1997)

Was the Collapse of the Monarchy Inevitable?

The influence of the war. The government and the Duma. The February events in Petrograd.

  • T. Hasegawa, The February Revolution: Petrograd, 1917. (1981)
  • O. Figes, A people's tragedy: the Russian Revolution, 1891-1924. (1996)
  • R. Pipes, The Russian revolution, 1899-1919. (1990)
  • N. Stone, The Eastern front, 1914-1917. (1975)

The Bolsheviks' Seizure of Power: Coup or the Social Revolution?

The ideology and the programme of Bolshevism. The political developmentsof 1917. The consolidation of Bolsheviks' power.

R. Pipes, Three 'whys' of the Russian Revolution. (1998)
A. Rabinowitch, The Bolsheviks come to power: the revolution of 1917 in Petrograd. (1976)
C. Read, From Tsar to Soviets: the Russian people and their revolution, 1917-21 (1995)
S. Smith, Red Petrograd: revolution in the factories, 1917-1918. (1983)

The Regime of Stalin: Inevitable Result of Leninism?

The ideology, economic policy and the terror under Stalin and Lenin's legacy.

A. Bullock, Hitler and Stalin: parallel lives. (1991)
T. von Laue, Why Lenin? Why Stalin? (1978)
R. Tucker (ed.), Stalinism: essays in historical interpretation. (1977)
D. A. Volkogonov, Stalin: triumph and tragedy. (1992)

Did Bukharin Present an Alternative?

New Economic Policy and the Communist dictatorship. The unresolved conflicts of NEP. The programme of N. Bukharin and his failure.

  • S. Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution. (1980)
  • M. Malia, The Soviet tragedy: a history of socialism in Russia, 1917-1991. (1994)
  • M. Haynes, Nikolai Bukharin & the transition from capitalism to socialism. (1985)
  • J. Hughes, Stalin, Siberia and the crisis of the New Economic Policy (1991)

Khrushchev¹s Thaw²: Economic and Ideological Innovations

The effects of de-Stalinisation. The programme of the construction of communism. The attempts of economic reforms.

  • M. McCauley (ed.) Khrushchev and Khrushchevism (1987)
  • C. Linden, Khrushchev and the Soviet leadership. (1990)
  • W. Tompson, Khrushchev: a political life. (1995)


What can the students of political history learn from the presentation of Russian art in the Russian Museum? Excursion to the Museum.
Nicholas II: reformer, conservative or revolutionary? Discussion Material will be provided by the lecturer.

Witte's End? Memoirs of Count S.Iu. Witte as a Historical Document: Critical Analyses.

Witte's political career and the bureaucratic world of in late Imperial Russia.
The reasons for Count Witte to write his memoirs. Why did Witte try to keep his memoirs safe? Why write memoirs?
Witte`s attitude towards Alexander III and Nicholas II and the other way around.
Witte's enemies.
Witte¹s explanation of the revolution of 1905.
Are memoirs useful at all for History student?

Russian Revolutionary Movement: How did foreign and indigenous political philosophies and beliefs shape the actions and programmes of the revolutionary sects? Discussion.

The origins of Russian socialism.
The Russian version of Marxism.
SR and social-democrats: different, yet similar worldviews?
The role of revolutionary parties in 1905.
Bolshevism: Russian or the universal phenomenon?

[Reading: Material provided; Rogger, Russia in the Age of Modernisation and Revolution, pp. 132-61; general reading on revolution of 1905] Selected Documents to be Announced.

"Landmarks": the fate of Russian Liberalism. Life and thought of Petr Struve. Discussion. Material will be provided by the lecturer.

Tsar of ALL the Russias?" Nationalism and Russian State. Discussion.

What was 'the dilemma of Russian nationalism'? (H. Rogger) The official ideology of the Russian state.
The world of nationalities of the Russian Empire: 'reliable' and 'unreliable' nations for the Tsar?
'Russification': myth or reality?
Russian popular nationalism: for or against the Empire?

[Reading: Material provided; Rogger, Russia in the Age of Modernisation and Revolution, pp. 182-207; general reading on nationalities problem in late Imperial Russia]

The world of Russian political parties in the collection of the Museum of Political History. Excursion.
"Before and After": How did Lenin's programme change in the course of the revolutionary years? Discussion. Selected Documents to be Announced.

"Chicken and Egg": what social an historical factors influenced the birth of Stalinism? Discussion.

What continuities can be discerned in the development of Russian history? Discussion.

   crc  .  syllabi collection  .  alumni syllabi  .  history  .