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Soviet Russia 452.01. Section 1

M. Hickey  Old Science Hall Office 130  389-4161 hickey@planetx.bloomu.edu

Office Hours:  M, W 3:00-4:00; T, Th 2-3:30

Navigation links for this syllabus:

Introduction        Grading Criteria    Class Participation    Written and In-Class Report 

Research Paper and Historiographic Essay    Potential Paper Topics  Final Exam  Link to Final Exam Question

Required Texts    Reading Assignments, Links to Web Assignments and Study Questions

Quoting, Paraphrasing, Summarizing, Plagiarism/ Footnotes, Endnotes, Parenthetical Citations



Introduction:  In the ten years since the USSR collapsed, historians have had access to previously closed archives and a wealth of new evidence has helped us refine and revise our understanding of several important historical questions.  But documents long hidden in the archives have not answered all of our questions, nor have they dampened heated debates over key issues of Soviet history. 

This course addresses many of those key issues and considers the following questions:  Why did the Bolshevik Revolution occur?  How did the Soviet leadership reassemble the fragments of Russia’s former empire and how did the realities of functioning as a multi-national state shape the Soviet system?  What enabled Stalin’s rise to power? How did Soviet citizens cope with the enormous strains of industrialization, collectivization, state terror, and the other policies associated with Stalinism? How can we explain the terror of the 1930s?  How was the USSR able to defeat Hitler and at what costs?  How did subsequent Soviet leaders confront the legacies of Stalinism? What elements of the Soviet system impeded and continue to impede reform? What dynamics led to the  system's collapse?


Grading Criteria:  

A grade of "A" in this course means that your cumulative score on assignments equals 93 percent or more of possible points. A-=90-92; B+=88-89; B=83-87; B-80-82; C+=78-79; C=73-77; C-=70-72; D+= 68-69; D=60-67.

Your grade will be based upon: Class Participation (20 percent); a Written and In-Class Report (10 percent); a Research Paper or Historiographic Essay (30 percent); and a Final Exam (40 percent).   The due date for the report depends upon your topic.  The research paper is due at our last class session.  

I will enforce university policy on cheating and plagiarism as defined at the website http://www.bloomu.edu/academic/acadpol.shtml.


Class ParticipationThis class is a reading seminar.  My minimum expectation is that you attend class having completed all readings for the week.  Your grade will be based upon the quality of your contributions to class discussions. Attendance is mandatory, and your participation grade will fall in direct ratio to the percentage of class meetings that you miss.


Written and In-Class Report:  During week two you will select a topic on which you will conduct supplemental readings.  You must read three articles in major historical journals (or you can substitute one book) addressing a question relevant to that topic.  You will write a short (2-4 page) essay in which you explain the thesis of each of these readings and compare the authors’ arguments to the position taken by Suny in The Soviet Experiment.  You will turn in the paper at the session during which we discuss your topic.  During that session, you will also present the class with the main points of your paper.  I will grade your written report on the basis of its logic, clarity, and accuracy.  The in-class report is mandatory; failing to present it will void your written report grade.

Choosing a Topic for your Written and In-Class Report:  The subsections of each chapter in the Suny book provide good report topics. Look over the table of contents, skim the sections that interest you, and then choose a topic.  I will schedule you to report at the session during which we discuss that chapter and subsection.

Finding articles or books for your :  Start by looking in The Russian Review and The Slavic Review, but note that significant articles might appear in other journals as well.  To locate articles, you will have to learn to use the library, and in particular to use electronic data bases like “FirstSearch,” “Historical Abstracts,” and “Humanities Index.”  You should also consult the “Suggestions for Further Reading” at the end of each chapter in the Suny book, and ask me for suggestions.  Some articles and books will be in our library, but others will require use of interlibrary loan.  It is your responsibility to obtain the articles, so don't delay!  You must consult with me, and I must approve your choice.



Research Paper or Historiographic Essay:   You will choose a topic from the list that appears below.  You will either A)  look for primary sources such as document collections, newspapers, memoirs, and US government documents that shed light on that topic; or B) read a minimum of four books and eight journal articles on the topic.  You will then either A) write a research paper that makes a clear and supportable argument about the topic, or B) write an historiographic essay that compares and contrasts the arguments of different historians on the topic.

Finding Primary Sources:  In addition to the Siegelbaum document collection and the Temkin memoir assigned for this course, there are dozens of collections of translated documents and memoirs that deal with various aspects of Soviet history. You need to hunt for these using library databases and by searching the bibliographies of other books on the topic.  There are a also few very good collections of translated documents on the internet--follow the links on my Russian and Soviet History Resource Page.  English-language newspapers are often an interesting source on Soviet history—try searching the New York Times Index, for instance.  And the State Department kept a close watch of Soviet affairs; the series Foreign Relations of the United States, Russia and the Soviet Union, for instance, has many interesting materials related to some of the assigned topics.

Be unflappable!  And ask me for help.  

You may have to order books and articles through interlibrary loan, so don't delay!

Finding Secondary Sources:  Try doing “subject” and “keyword” searches on the various databases at the library, use Suny’s “Suggestions for Further Reading,” sift through the bibliographies of other books and articles, and (as always) ask me for help.  You may have to order books and articles through interlibrary loan, so don't delay.

Writing your paper:  

Research PapersIf you are doing a research paper, then your aim is to ask and answer a clear and important historical question about the topic.  Define your question as clearly as possible.  Explain what (if anything) Suny has written about your topic in The Soviet Experiment.  Then use the primary source materials to make a coherent argument that—to the extent possible given the sources—answers your question.  Make sure that you are conscious of the limits of your sources.  And be sure that the evidence supports your argument

Historiography Papers:    Historiography is the history of how history gets written.  Your aim in an historiographic essay is to explain changes in historical interpretation across time or differences between various “schools” of historical interpretation.  Define your topic as clearly as possible.  Then analyze the works that you have read, either in chronological order or by historiographic “school.”  Discuss the thesis of each work and the kinds of sources the author has employed, then explain how it relates to previous historical interpretations.  Assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of each work or school.  Finally, come to a working conclusion as to the most useful interpretative approach to your topic.

Whether you choose to write a research paper or a historiographic essay, your paper must be at least 10 pages long (typed, double-spaced), not counting endnotes.  You must use endnotes to document the source of all quoted, paraphrased, and summarized material.  I will grade your paper on the basis of its clarity, logic, accuracy, and utilization of source material.  

Potential Topics for Research or Historiographic Essays:

             Workers in the 1917 Revolution

            The Bolshevik Party in 1917

            Bolshevik Policies During the Civil War

            Military Aspects of the Civil War

            Social Policy During NEP

            Cultural Policy During NEP

            Party Power Struggles During NEP

            Economic Policy During NEP

            Trotsky and Politics in the 1920s

            Stalin and Politics in the 1920s

            Soviet Foreign Policy in the 1920s

            State Policy towards Collectivization in the 1930s

            State Industrial Policy in the 1930s

            State Science/Educational/Cultural Policy in the 1930s

            The State and Famine in the 1930s

            Peasant Resistance to Collectivization

            Workers and Resistance to State Labor Policy in the 1930s

            The Causes of the Terror in the 1930s

            The Impact of the Terror in the 1930s

            Soviet Foreign Policy in the 1930s

            The Red Army in World War Two

            Soviet Domestic Politics During World War Two

            Stalin and the Post-War State

            The USSR and the Origins of the Cold War

            Khrushchev's Rise to Power

            Labor Policy and/or Conflict Under Khrushchev

            Agricultural Policy under Khrushchev

            Foreign Policy Under Khrushchev (including the Cuban Missile Crisis)

            Politics Under Brezhnev

            State Social Policy Under Brezhnev

            Foreign Policy Under Brezhnev (including the "Second Cold War")

            The Meaning of the Gorbachev Era

 Or you can choose your own topic in consultation with me.


Final Exam:  In November I will give you a take-home final exam.  It will be an essay question, and it will require you to draw together material from all of our assigned readings and also from outside readings.  It will be due at our scheduled final exam meeting.  Your essay must be at least ten pages long (typed, double-spaced), not counting endnotes.  I will grade your exam on the basis of its logic, clarity, accuracy, and use of relevant evidence.   Link to Final Exam Question


Required Texts:

Ronald Grigor Suny, The Soviet Experiment:  Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1998)

Rex A. Wade, The Russian Revolution, 1917 (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2000)

Lewis Siegebaum and Andrei Sokolov, Stalinism as a Way of Life:  A Narrative in Documents (New Haven and London:  Yale University Press, 2000)

Gabriel Temkin, My Just War:  The Memoir of a Jewish Red Army Soldier in World War II (Novato, CA:  Presidio, 1998)

Stephen Kotkin, Steeltown USSR:  Soviet Society in the Gorbachev Era (Berkeley and Los Angeles:  University of California Press, 1991)  



Reading Assignments, Hot Links to Web Assignments and Study Questions

Week I (28, 30 August):  Late Imperial Russia.  

Suny, 1-19.  Link to Suny study questions.

Wade, preface and pages 1-17. Link to Wade study questions.


Week II (4, 6 September):  Bolshevism, World War One, and the February Revolution. 

Suny, 19-39.  Link to Suny study questions. 

Wade, 17-52. Link to Wade study questions.

Linked documents:  Link to web-linked documents assignment.

This includes the following documents: Vladimir Lenin "On the Two Lines in the Revolution" (at http://www.marx2mao.org//Lenin/TLR15.html); The Abdication of Nikolai II, March 15, 1917
(at http://www.dur.ac.uk/~dml0www/abdicatn.html); and The First Provisional Government (at http://www.dur.ac.uk/~dml0www/provgov1.html)


Week III (11, 13 September):  The “February System” and the Provisional government.

Read Suny, 39-52. Link to Suny study questions. 

Wade, 53-231.  Link to Wade study questions.


Week IV (18, 20 September):  Bolsheviks come to power, their first steps, the onset of the Civil War. 

Suny, 52-72.  Link to Suny study questions.

Wade, 232-298  Link to Wade study questions.

Linked documents.  Link to web-linked documents assignment.

This includes the following documents:  The Decree on Peace (at http://www.dur.ac.uk/~dml0www/peacedec.html); Lenin on the organization of the Cheka (at http://www.dur.ac.uk/~dml0www/cheka.html);and The Declaration of Rights of Toiling and Exploited Peoples (at http://www.dur.ac.uk/~dml0www/decright.html).


Week V (25, 27 September):  The Civil War, the non-Russian peoples, dictatorship, and the origins of NEP. 

Suny, 72-139.  Link to Suny study questions.

Linked documents.  Link to web-linked documents assignment.

This includes the following documents:  V. I. Lenin, "Preliminary Draft Resolutions of the 10th Congress of the R.C.P" (at http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/mar/x01.htm); Lenin's "Last Testament" (at http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1922/dec/testamnt/congress.htm).


Week VI (2, 4 October):  NEP and the intra-party struggle.  

Suny, 140-213.  Link to Suny study questions.

Linked documents.  First, re-read the documents assigned for last week!  Link to web-linked documents assignment from last week. [This includes the following documents:  V. I. Lenin, "Preliminary Draft Resolutions of the 10th Congress of the R.C.P" (at http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/mar/x01.htm); Lenin's "Last Testament" (at http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1922/dec/testamnt/congress.htm]. 

Second, in class on Tuesday 2 October I will give each of you one or two short document excerpts from the political and policy debates of the 1920s.  On Thursday, you will have to "report" on that document--you will be responsible for making the argument made by the author of your document during the policy debates.  We will in effect reconstruct the debates, with each of you acting as one of the key "players." 

Also, and this is optional (!!!), I have set up links to full-length texts of some key documents by Trotsky and Stalin.  Go to these by clicking to the Web-Linked Documents For Week VI page.  These documents are picked from the J. V. Stalin Internet Library (http://www.marx2mao.org//Stalin/Index.html) and the Leon Trotsky Internet Archive ( http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/index.htm).  

Also, read the Introduction to Siegelbaum (1-27)Link to Siegelbaum questions

Week VII (9, 11 October):  The Stalin Revolution, Collectivization, and Industrialization.   

Suny, 217-251.  Link to Suny study questions.

Siegelbaum, 28-157.  Link to Siegelbaum questions.

Week VIII (16, 18 October):  Politics, purges, and terror in the 1930s.  

Suny, 252-268.  Link to Suny study questions.

Siegelbaum,158-281.   Link to Siegelbaum questions.  

Week IX (23, 25 October):  Stalinist culture and public life in the 1930s.  

Suny, 269-290Link to Suny study questions.

Siegelbaum, 282-424.  Link to Siegelbaum questions.


Week X (30 October, 1 November):  Soviet foreign policy and the USSR in the Second World War.  

Suny, 291-336Link to Suny study questions.

Temkin, entire book.  Link to Temkin study questions.



Week XI (6-8 November):  The origins of the Cold War and late stalinism.  

Suny, 337-384. Link to Suny study questions.


Week XII (13 November; no class on 15 November):  The rise of Khrushchev.  

Suny, 387-403.  Link to Suny study questions.

Week XIII (20 November; no class on 22 November):  The Khrushchev years.  

Suny, 404-420.  Link to Suny study questions.

Week XIV (27, 29 November):  Brezhnev, the “Period of Stagnation,” and the early Gorbachev reforms. 

Suny, 421-468.  Link to Suny study questions.

Begin Kotkin.


Week XV (4, 6 December):  Gorbachev’s reforms and the collapse of the USSR.

Suny, 469-504.  

Finish Kotkin.

FINAL EXAM Due by 5:30 on 11 December


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