BA Art History and History

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Remaking Russia: Constructing and Contesting Identity in Post-Soviet Film and Visual Culture

Course unit fact file
Unit code RUSS30812
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Russian & E. European Studies
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia’s position in the global system has changed dramatically, and more than once. These changes have not just affected Russia’s international partnerships and its worldview, however. They have also had a significant impact on Russia’s relationship to its history, its politics of memory, and its sense of identity. At the same time, film and other types of visual media have become more accessible than ever—to consume, to produce, and to circulate—thanks to the rise of the Internet and, more recently, the expansion of Internet access, the increasing affordability of smartphones, and the exponential growth in streaming media. This course unit focuses on the intersection of these two phenomena, examining ways in which post-Soviet Russian identity has been constructed and contested in the Putin era (2000-present) through a range of films and other visual media, such television programmes, viral videos, photographs and memes.


Medium of Language: English. However, students on programmes involving Russian as a named subject will be expected to engage with some sources in Russian.


• to survey major debates and issues in post-Soviet Russian identity in the Putin era (2000-present)

• to explore how Russia’s post-Soviet identity is inflected by memory of its Soviet and pre-Soviet pasts

• to examine ways in which film and other visual media are employed in debates about Russia’s post-Soviet identity

• to consider the impact of technology on the reimagination and contestation of Russia’s post-Soviet identity

Knowledge and understanding

On successful completion of the course unit, students will have:

• demonstrated an understanding of various approaches to defining ‘identity’, their strengths and weaknesses

• assessed the applicability of these approaches within the context of Putin-era Russia

• identified key issues and trends in debates on post-Soviet Russian identity

• demonstrated knowledge of particular forms of post-Soviet visual and audio-visual media in their historical, social and political context

• evaluated how film and other visual media constantly reimagine and contest history

Intellectual skills

On successful completion of the course unit, students will have acquired and developed:

• skills in analysing film and a range of other visual texts (such as television programmes, viral videos, posters, photographs and memes), drawing on a range of theoretical approaches and critical terms

• an ability to explore and appreciate the multiple cultural, social and political roles that various types of visual and audio-visual media can play

• an understanding of the impact of political, cultural, social and technological factors on visual and audio-visual media and on debates about identity

Practical skills

Through assessed coursework; in-class discussions; and feedback from and interaction with both the instructors and their classmates, students will develop skills in

• conducting independent research effectively, using a range of approaches and tools

• communicating ideas effectively and presenting cogent arguments in both oral and written form

• assessing the relevance, provenance, objectivity and timeliness of secondary sources

• understanding and applying feedback to improve mastery of skills and knowledge and to reflect upon and improve performance

Transferable skills and personal qualities

On this course unit, students will develop

• the ability to analyse and evaluate arguments and texts

• the ability to conduct focused research and to assimilate, summarise and present information clearly and concisely

• the ability to work constructively as part of a group

• the ability to take responsibility for their own learning and development

• the ability to manage their time and other resources effectively

• the ability to communicate their views cogently and compellingly, both orally and in writing

Employability skills

All of the transferable skills and personal qualities listed above are valuable employability skills. In addition, experience of and skills in analysing contemporary visual and audio-visual media can help students to demonstrate social media and digital media awareness that is relevant to careers in fields such as journalism, marketing and public relations.

Assessment methods

Analysis of still image - 10%

Analysis of moving image - 30%

Essay - 60%

Feedback methods

Individual written feedback on the still image analysis, plus oral feedback upon request

Individual written feedback on the moving image analysis, plus oral feedback upon request

Individual written feedback on the essay, plus oral feedback upon request

Recommended reading

Bassin, Mark and Catriona Kelly, eds., Soviet and Post-Soviet Identities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). Ebook.

Beumers, Birgit and Eugenie Zvonkine, eds., Soviet and Post-Soviet Russian Cinema: Ruptures and Continuities  (London: Routledge, 2017). Ebook.

Condee, Nancy, The Imperial Trace: Recent Russian Cinema (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). Ebook.

Borenstein, Eliot, Plots against Russia: conspiracy and fantasy after socialism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2019). Ebook.

Gritsenko, Daria, ed., The Palgrave Handbook of Digital Russia Studies (Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2021). Ebook.

Sharafutdinova, Gulnaz, The Red Mirror: Putin’s leadership and Russia’s insecure identity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020). Ebook.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Rachel Platonov Unit coordinator
Stephen Hutchings Unit coordinator

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