History 38: Russia in the Twentieth Century

Spring 2014


Bob Weinberg                                                                             Office Hours: MW 1-3

Trotter 218                                                                                                             By Appointment




This course focuses on the major trends and events in Russian history during the twentieth century.  Topics include the collapse of the Romanov dynasty, the Bolshevik seizure of power, the fate of the communist revolution, the rise of Stalin, the establishment of the Stalinist system, World War II, de-Stalinization, and the legacy of Stalin.  We shall pay particular attention to the interaction between social and economic forces and political policies and explore how the regime’s ideological imperatives and the nature of society shaped the contours of Russia in the twentieth century.  Readings include primary documents, historical monographs, oral histories, and literature.


Two Five-Page Papers (20 percent each)

Twelve-Page Research Paper (25 percent)

Final Exam (25 percent)

Class Attendance and Active Participation (10 percent)


All students are expected to read the College’s policy on academic honesty and integrity that appears in the Swarthmore College Bulletin.  The work you submit must be your own, and suspected instances of academic dishonesty will be submitted to the College Judiciary Council for adjudication.  When in doubt about citing sources, please check with me.


I will not accept late papers and will assign a failing grade for the assignment unless you notify me and receive permission from me to submit the paper after the due date.  Finally, students are required to attend class on a regular basis in order to pass the course.


All documents and articles are on Blackboard (M).  The following books are available for purchase in the bookstore and are also on reserve in McCabe:


Liudmila Alekseeva and Paul Goldberg, The Thaw Generation: Coming of Age in the Post-Stalin Era

Svetlana Alexievich, Voices from Chernobyl

Evgeniia Ginzburg, Journey into the Whirlwind

Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism (Also available on Tripod)

John Scott, Behind the Urals

Mark Steinberg, ed., Voices of Revolution


I am not asking you to buy a textbook, but you may find the following texts useful if you want to explore a topic at greater length.  They are on reserve.


Geoffrey Hosking, The First Socialist Society

Robert Service, A History of Modern Russia

Ronald Suny, The Soviet Experiment

John Thompson, A Vision Unfulfilled


Here is a list of websites you may find interesting.  They’re also useful for locating primary sources.


Russian History Blog


Prominent historians discus various aspects of Russian and Soviet history.


The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia


Based on letters, diaries, memoirs, and photographs collected by the historian Orlando Figes, this site explores private life and the Soviet Union in the Stalin period.


Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. http://www.soviethistory.org

Site devoted to the history of the Soviet Union through an innovative use of texts, music, documents, and video


Communal Living in Russia http://kommunalka.colgate.edu/

Site devoted to apartment living in the late Soviet period


Revelations from the Soviet Archives: Documents in English Translation. http://loc.gov/exhibits/archives/

Collection of documents and photographs from the archives of the Soviet Union from an exhibit at the Library of Congress


Gulag: Many Days, Many Lives http://gulaghistory.org/

Site devoted to the history of the gulag


Soviet Poster Collection in the Peace Collection, McCabe Library


Posters devoted to maternity care, industrialization, collectivization, and antireligious campaigns from the 1920s and early 1930s. 


Soviet Music


A website devoted to music written under communism.  It is a collection of songs about war, the military, patriotism, and leaders and also contains speeches and posters.


Soviet Poster Collection


The Hoover Institution at Stanford University owns over three thousand posters produced in the Soviet Union.


Soviet Poster Collection


Another excellent collection of posters.  However, the site is in Russian and German.


Kennan Institute-National Public Radio Russian History Audio Archive


On-line audio archive of speeches and voices of key political figures from the Soviet Union such as Lenin and Stalin.


January 21: Russia Enters the Twentieth Century


Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution, introduction and chapter 1 M


January 23: Approaches to Revolution


“Lenin’s Theory of the Party” M

Leon Trotsky, “The Peculiarities of Russia’s Development” M


January 28: Understanding the Bolshevik Seizure of Power


Leopold Haimson, “Dual Revolution” M

Stephen Cohen, “Scholarly Missions” M

Ronald Suny, “Revising the Old Story” M

Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution, chapter 2 M


January 30: The Bolsheviks Come to Power


Mark Steinberg, Voices of Revolution


February 4: Honing Your Library Skills


February 6: The Bolsheviks Come to Power


Mark Steinberg, Voices of Revolution


February 11: Revolutionary Dreams


Alexandra Kollontai, “Make Way for Winged Eros” and “The Family and the Communist State” M

Nadezhda Krupskaia, “What a Communist Ought to be Like” M


February 13: The Revolution Off-Track? Civil War and War Communism


Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution, chapter 3 M

Moshe Lewin, “A Dictatorship in the Void” (Read pp. 12-20) M

“The Kronstadt Revolt: What We Are Fighting For” M

“On Party Unity” M


February 18: Soviet Power and Nationality


Watch Seekers of Happiness (84 minutes) for class


February 20: The Dilemmas of NEP and Building Socialism


Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution, chapter 4 M

Leon Trotsky, “Trotsky on Industrialization” M

Watch Bed and Sofa (72 minutes) Streaming


February 25: The Cults of Lenin and Stalin


February 27: The Rise of Stalin


Stephen Cohen, “Bolshevism and Stalinism” MB

Joseph Stalin, “Socialism in One Country” M

Moshe Lewin, “Lenin’s Testament” and “If Lenin Had Lived” M

“Bukharin on the Opposition” M

“Condemnation of the Trotskyist Opposition” M

Watch: PBS Documentary on Stalin (Part One) Streaming


March 4: Visualizing the Revolution


Meet at Peace Collection (Basement of McCabe)


March 6: The Great Leap Forward: Collectivization and Industrialization


“Bukharin on Peasant Policy,” “Bukharin on the Menace of Stalin,” “Stalin’s Revolution,” and “Stalin on the Liquidation of the Kulaks” M

Lynne Viola, “`Bab’i Bunty’ and Peasant Women’s Protest during Collectivization” M

Alec Nove, “Was Stalin Really Necessary?” M

Lev Kopelev, “The Education of a True Believer” M

Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution, chapter 5 M


March 18: Culture and Politics in the 1930s: The End of Revolution?


Documents on Socialist Realism M

Documents on the Family and Abortion (Read 251-269) M

Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution, chapter 6 M


March 20: An American Experiences the Building of Socialism


John Scott, Behind the Urals


March 25: Explaining the Purges


Peter Holquist, “State Violence as Technique: The Logic of Violence in Soviet Totalitarianism” M

Amir Weiner, “Nature and Nurture in a Socialist Utopia: Delineating the Soviet Socio-Ethnic Body in the Age of Socialism” M

J. Arch Getty, “Afraid of Their Shadows: The Bolshevik Recourse to Terror, 1932-1938” M


March 27: Experiencing the Purges


Evgeniia Ginzburg, Journey into the Whirlwind

Watch: Burnt by the Sun (135 minutes) Streaming


April 1: World War II and Its Aftermath


William Fuller, “The Great Fatherland War and Late Stalinism, 1941-1953” M


April 3: Daily Life under Stalin


Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism

Watch PBS Documentary on Stalin (Part Two) Streaming


April 8:  Final Years of Stalin


Andrei Zhdanov, “Report to the Leningrad Branch of the Union of Soviet Writers” M

“The Campaign against `Cosmopolitanism’” M

“The Arrest of a Group of Doctor-Saboteurs” and “Spies and Murderers in the Guise of Physicians and Scientists” M

Mark Edele, “Strange Young Men in Stalin’s Moscow: The Birth and Life of the Stiliagi, 1945-1953” M

Watch PBS Documentary on Stalin (Part Three) Streaming


April 10: Khrushchev and De-Stalinization


Nikita Khrushchev, “Secret Speech at the Twentieth Party Congress” M

Stephen Cohen, “The Stalin Question since Stalin” M

Nanci Adler, “Life in the `Big Zone’: The Fate of Returnees in the Aftermath of Stalinist Repression” M

Susan Reid, “`Our Kitchen is Just as Good’: Soviet Responses to the American Kitchen” M

Gregory Freeze, “From Stalinism to Stagnation, 1953-1985” M (Read over the next several weeks)


April 15: The Thaw


Liudmila Alekseeva and Paul Goldberg, The Thaw Generation: Coming of Age in the Post-Stalin Era


April 17:  Daily Life under “Developed Socialism”


John Bushnell, “The `New Soviet’ Man Turns Pessimist” M

James Millar, “The Little Deal” M

Steven Harris, “`I Know All the Secrets of My Neighbors’: The Quest for Privacy in the Era of the Separate Apartment” M

Natalya Baranskaia, “A Week Like Any Other Week” M

Watch Little Vera (110 minutes)


April 22: Environmental Degradation


Svetlana Alexievich, Voices from Chernobyl

Watch The BAM Zone (19 minutes)


April 24: The Beginning of the End: The Gorbachev Phenomenon


Mikhail Gorbachev, “Restructuring,” “Glasnost,” and “Challenging the Party” M

Mikhail Gorbachev “Speech from 1987” M

Nina Andreyeva, “I Cannot Forego My Principles” M


April 29: Explaining the Collapse


Martin Malia, “To the Stalin Mausoleum” M

Alexander Dallin, “Causes of the Collapse of the USSR” M


May 1: Dealing with Loose Ends