BA Politics and Modern History / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
100 Years of Revolution: Russia from Lenin to Putin

Unit code RUSS20242
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Russian & E. European Studies
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit is concerned with the upheavals Russia has experienced over the past century.  It explores the creation,  development and subsequent disintegration of the Soviet Union; and the emergence of a new Russia from the wreckage of the world’s first socialist state. Emphasis is placed on key political, social and cultural developments, seen within the context of modern Russian and, more broadly, modern European history.



  • to help students develop a solid understanding of Soviet and post-Soviet Russian history;
  • to provide students with the necessary analytical skills to achieve this understanding;
  • to develop students’ skills at analysing and understanding primary sources;
  • to develop students’ skills at presenting cogent arguments, both in writing and orally.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:


  • make effective use of relevant resources; 
  • critically evaluate different approaches to and interpretations of events in Russian history;
  • present their written work in a coherent, well-structured and well-articulated form;
  • present and defend their views orally;
  • manage their time effectively.



  • Week 1: background to the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917; Marxist theory and its adaptation to the Russian context
  • Weeks 2-3: the Revolution, the Civil War, and the introduction of the New Economic Policy
  • Weeks 4-5: the rise of Stalin and his ‘second Revolution’
  • Week 6: the ‘Great Patriotic War’ and its long-term effects
  • Week 7: the Khrushchev ‘Thaw’ and de-stalinisation
  • Week 8: the Brezhnev ‘era of stagnation’ and its legacy
  • Week 9:  Gorbachev and perestroika
  • Week 10: the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of post-Soviet Russia
  • Week 11: post-Soviet Russia under Putin

Teaching and learning methods

Two lectures and one seminar per week.

The Blackboard site will contain an extensive range of materials including the course syllabus; lecture handouts and slides; coursework assignments and guidance on how to complete them; and sample exam questions.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:


  • understand the history of Soviet and post-Soviet Russia;
  • understand the upheavals Russia has experienced in the last century;
  • make a clear differentiation between different  periods of Soviet and post-Soviet history; 
  • understand the reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union;
  • understand  the form of capitalism which is emerging in post- Soviet Russia, and how and why  it differs from its Western counterparts.

Intellectual skills


By the end of this course students will be able to:


  • explore a variety of texts on Soviet and post-Soviet history;
  • differentiate between varying interpretations of historical events;
  • understand the Marxist ideas that underpinned Soviet social and political attitudes and approaches;
  • understand the concept of ideology and how it differs from one society to the next.

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • analyse and understand primary and secondary sources of various types;
  • make effective use of primary and secondary sources to develop cogent arguments, both in writing and orally;
  • present their written work in a coherent, well-structured and well-articulated form;
  • work successfully in groups with others.

Transferable skills and personal qualities


  • the ability to gather, synthesise and organise material from a  variety of sources and to critically evaluate their significance;
  • the ability to construct and defend arguments, both in writing and orally;
  • the ability to work in a team, recognising different opinions and approaches and using them to best advantage;
  • the ability to work to deadlines.

Employability skills

The development of the skills outlined above can all be translated into in-demand employability skills.

Assessment methods


Assessment task


Weighting within unit


Primary Source Analysis



Written Exam


1750 words (Level 1)/

2250 words (Level 2)


2 hours









Assessment task


Written Exam

2 hours


Feedback methods


  • Individual written feedback on the primary source analysis;
  • Individual written feedback on the final exam upon request (during the appropriate feedback window);
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment), on the understanding that this de-anonymises marking.

Recommended reading


Peter Kenez, A History of the Soviet Union from the Beginning to its Legacy, 3rd edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016)


Richard Sakwa, Russian Politics and Society, 4th edition (London: Routledge, 2008)


Robert Service, The Penguin History of Modern Russia: From Tsarism to the Twenty First Century (London: Penguin, 2015)


Ronald Grigor Suny, ed. The Cambridge History of Russia, Volume 3: The Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)


Seventeen Moments in Soviet History: An on-line archive of primary sources (2015)


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 178

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Rachel Platonov Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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