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EUH 4572: Modern Russia

The 20th Century Soviet Experience: The Dream that Failed

Professor Steven Kreis

Florida Atlantic University, Davie
Spring 1996

COURSE OUTLINE: This course is designed to offer the upper division undergraduate a better grasp of the major social, intellectual, political and economic developments of 20th century Russia. We shall spend the majority of our time investigating the historical conditions of the Russian Revolution, Stalin's "revolution from above," the cold war and finally, the collapse of Soviet-style communism over the past five years. The one theme which perhaps unites the whole course is the development of totalitarianism in the 20th century. In this respect, we shall devote a great deal of attention to Joseph Stalin and the Stalinist years, c.1927-1953. In fact, the entire course is devoted to an understanding of totalitarianism and Stalin's role in its genesis. Although there are no stated prerequisites for this course, it assumed by the instructor that you have had Western Civilization or are, at the very least, familiar with the basic outlines of modern European history.

COURSE REQUIREMENTS: Attendance and informed participation at all class meetings is not just strongly recommended, but required. This means that you (1) show up to class on a regular basis and (2) complete your written and reading assignments on time. The entire success of the course, both from my standpoint and yours, is that you get involved, get interested and get motivated to study a nation whose history has been of such extreme importance in the 20th century. Remember, education is nothing more than dialogue, and according to the master of dialogue, Socrates, good dialogue ought to improve both the instructor and the student. Above all, you will be challenged to think and discuss freely and openly.


Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution 2nd ed.
Anna Larina, This I Cannot Forget: The Memoirs of Nikolai Bukharin's Widow
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
David Remnick, Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire

READING ASSIGNMENTS: The reading assignments may seem a bit hefty at first. Soviet history, from the western perspective is difficult primarily because of language and cultural traditions. Trying to memorize all the facts is both impossible and unproductive. Therefore, you ought to read your texts with and eye to themes and ideas. You must make the effort to keep up with the assigned readings. If you have not done the reading for a specific week, you should still show up to class. One hint which may help you to get through the course is as follows: whenever you encounter a word in Russian, try repeating it out loud. This will be especially helpful with those names which you will encounter on a regular basis. If you learn how to pronounce the word, your reading will be improved.

GRADING: will assign two or three take-home examinations during the course of the semester. These will be essay exams which ask you to comment and reflect upon topics we have dealt with in class. These exams will be announced in advance and you will have one week to complete them. For those of you interested in submitting a research paper in lieu of the exams, please see me as soon as possible to discuss your somewhat different requirements. I will also assign several short assignments based on your readings for a particular week. Your final grade is based upon two variable: (1) performance on the exams or research essay and (2) the level of your participation in class. At least 15% of your final grade will be determined by this last variable.

THE INTERNET: There are a vast number of resources available on the Internet which you may certainly utilize in adjunct to the requirements of this course. While much of the fun and tedium of the Internet consists in locating these resources, I can help to point you in the right direction. In the past I have tried to utilize a mailing list for my classes but the success of that list depends upon the willingness of the student to participate. So, I urge you all to get an FAU VAX account as soon as possible. Email is a wonderful method of communication and you should also be exploiting all the available resources on the Internet. After all, your account with FAU is FREE. I'll talk more about this in class.

THE CLASS: My conduct in the class, as you will soon see, is based on a genuine respect for the intellect of the student. My approach is informal and at times, irreverent. Just the same, I take my work very seriously and I expect you to do so as well. If you show up late for a class I expect you to enter the room as discreetly as possible. If you miss any class it is your responsibility to make sure that you make up for lost ground. I have found that a format of lecture AND discussion works to the advantage of everyone involved, including myself. If you are not prepared to at least think about our subject, then I suggest you will have a tough time overall. In other words, come to class prepared to learn and discuss new ideas, and above all, THINK!


JANUARY 8 Course Introduction: Objectives and Expectations. The 20th Century and the Problem of Totalitarianism.
READ: Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
JANUARY 10 Russia on the Eve of 1917, Part 1: Demographics and Social Classes
READINGS: Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution, pp.1-16
JANUARY 17 Russia on the Eve of 1917, Part 2: Economy, Education and the Arts
READINGS: Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution, pp.16-31
JANUARY 22 Russia on the Eve of 1917, Part 3: The Revolution of 1905
READINGS: Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution, pp.31-39
JANUARY 24 FILM: The Battleship Potemkin (1925)
JANUARY 29 DISCUSSION: Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
JANUARY 31 Origins of the Russian Revolution: Karl Marx and the Materialist Conception of History
READINGS: Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution, pp.40-52
FEBRUARY 5 The Russian Revolution, Part 1: February 1917 and the Provisional Government
READINGS: Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution, pp.52-61
FEBRUARY 7 The Russian Revolution, Part 2: Red October and the Bolshevik Revolution
READINGS: Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution, pp.61-67
FEBRUARY 12 The Aftermath of 1917: The Civil War
READINGS: Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution, pp.68-92
FEBRUARY 14 The Aftermath of 1917: The New Economic Policy (Lenin's Blunder?)
Lenin's Death and the Cult of Stalin
READINGS: Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution, pp.93-119
FEBRUARY 19 The Russian Revolution and the View From the West: A Synopsis
FEBRUARY 21 Stalin's "Revolution From Above," 1928-1940: The Five Year Plans
READINGS: Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution, pp.120-172
FEBRUARY 26 DISCUSSION: What is the meaning of the Bolshevik Revolution?
Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin compared.
Why did the dictatorship of the proletariat become the dicatatorship of the Party and finally, the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin?
READINGS: Larina, This I Cannot Forget, pp.11-85
FEBRUARY 28 Stalin and the Soviet Authoritarian State, 1931-1943: The Great Terror
READINGS: Larina, This I Cannot Forget, pp.85-112
MARCH 11 FILM: Stalin (1917-1928)
READINGS: Larina, This I Cannot Forget, pp.112-246
MARCH 13 FILM: Stalin (1928-1939)
READINGS: Larina, This I Cannot Forget, pp.246-279
MARCH 18 FILM: Stalin (1939-1953)
READINGS: Larina, This I Cannot Forget, pp.279-351
MARCH 20 DISCUSSION: Larina's, This I Cannot Forget
MARCH 25 The Great Patriotic War
READINGS: Remnick, Lenin's Tomb, pp.3-51
MARCH 27 The Death of Joseph Stalin and the Life of Stalinism
READINGS: Remnick, Lenin's Tomb, pp.52-85
APRIL 1 The Khrushchev Revival, Part 1: The "Anti-Stalin" Speech of 1956.
The Beginnings of the Soviet Thaw
READINGS: Remnick, Lenin's Tomb, pp.86-161
APRIL 3 The Khrushchev Revival, Part 2: Change and Reform Under the Thaw.
Communism in Europe
READINGS: Remnick, Lenin's Tomb, pp.162-197
APRIL 8 The Brezhnev Regime, Part 1: Politics, the Economy and Technological Progress
READINGS: Remnick, Lenin's Tomb, pp.198-289
APRIL 10 The Brezhnev Regime, Part 2: The Soviet Bloc and Life in the Soviet Union
READINGS: Remnick, Lenin's Tomb, pp.290-323
APRIL 15 The Origins of the Second Russian Revolution, 1982-1985: Brezhnev, Chernenko and Andropov
READINGS: Remnick, Lenin's Tomb, pp.324-411
APRIL 17 The Second Russian Revolution: Gorbachev and the Politics of Glasnost and Perestroika
READINGS: Remnick, Lenin's Tomb, pp.412-429
APRIL 22 The New Russian Revolution: The Coup of August 1991
READINGS: Remnick, Lenin's Tomb, pp.433-530
APRIL 24 The Birth, Life and Death of the Soviet Union: A Retrospective
READINGS: Remnick, Lenin's Tomb, pp.533-542

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copyright � 2000 Steven Kreis
Last Revised -- April 13, 2012