Revolutionary Russia



July 4, 1917: Nevsky Prospect, Petrograd

HIS 242.01                                                                                                          Spring 2007

D. H. Kaiser                                                                                                           Mears 216

TELEPHONE: 3088                                                                   E-MAIL:

OFFICE HOURS: MWF 3:15-4:30 PM; other times by appointment.





            This course examines twentieth-century Russia, emphasizing revolutionary ideology, the industrialization of agrarian society, the emergence of Soviet institutions and culture, and their demise late in the twentieth century.  New definitions of gender, national and class identity, and the interaction between elite and popular culture receive special treatment.  Most class sessions will include lectures, often interrupted with questions and discussion.  Lectures are intended not only to relay basic information about Russia's past, but also to model the work of historians, who must identify problems, study the pertinent sources, and develop coherent and graceful interpretations.  But students should not accept unquestioningly the interpretations advanced in lectures; rather, they should view the lectures as hypotheses that they should test against their reading and other evidence.  Essay examinations and course papers represent opportunities for students to develop their own abilities to identify historical issues, marshal evidence with which to argue an interpretation, and communicate the results gracefully.  Classroom discussion serves many of the same purposes, but presents the process and results in oral, rather than written, form.  Readers of Russian may opt to do some course reading in Russian; students interested in this option should discuss the matter with the instructor early in the semester.  Students with diagnosed disabilities who have filed requests for accommodation with Academic Advising should contact the instructor the first week of the semester to discuss what accommodations may be appropriate for them in this course.



Ginzburg, Eugenia.  Journey Into the Whirlwind.  Trans. Paul Stevenson, Max Hayward.  NY: Harcourt, 1975.

Gladkov, Fedor.  Cement.  Trans. A. S. Arthur, C. Ashleigh.  Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1994.

Hoffmann, David.  Stalinist Values: The Cultural Norms of Soviet Modernity, 1917-1941.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003.

Kaiser, Daniel H., ed. The Workers’ Revolution in Russia, 1917:  The View From Below.  NY: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Northrop, Douglas.  Veiled Empire: Gender and Power in Stalinist Central Asia.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004.

The Structure of Soviet History:  Essays and Documents.  Ed. Ronald Grigor Suny.  NY: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Suny, Ronald Grigor.  The Soviet Experiment:  Russia, the USSR and the Successor States. NY: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Trifonov, Iuri.  The Exchange and Other Stories.  Trans. Ellendea Proffer et al.  Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2002.



“The Catechism of a Revolutionary, 1868.”  In Imperial Russia: A Source Book, 1700-1917. 2d ed. Ed. Basil Dmytryshyn.  Hinsdale, IL: The Dryden Press, 1974, 303-308. e-reserve

Edgar, Adrienne Lynn.  “Emancipation of the Unveiled: Turkmen Women under Soviet Rule, 1924-1929,” Russian Review 62(2003):132-49. e-reserve

Ginzburg, Eugenia.  Journey Into the Whirlwind.  Trans. Paul Stevenson, Max Hayward.  NY: Harbrace, 1967.

Gladkov, Fedor. Cement: a Novel. Trans. A. S. Arthur and C. Ashleigh.  NY: Ungar, 1980.

Hoffmann, David.  Stalinist Values: The Cultural Norms of Soviet Modernity, 1917-1941.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003.

Kaiser, Daniel H., ed.  The Workers' Revolution in Russia, 1917:  The View From Below.  NY: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Kanatchikov, SemĎn.   A Radical Worker in Tsarist Russia: The Autobiography of SemĎn Ivanovich Kanatchikov.  Trans., ed. Reginald E. Zelnik.  Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1986.  Part I: Moscow.  e-reserve

Keller, Shoshanna. “Trapped Between State and Society: Women’s Liberation and Islam in Soviet Uzbekistan, 1926-1941,” Journal of Women’s History 10(1998):20-44. e-reserve

Michaels, Paula.  “Medical Propaganda and Cultural Revolution in Soviet Kazakhstan, 1928-1941,” Russian Review 59(2000):159-78. e-reserve

Northrop, Douglas.  Veiled Empire: Gender and Power in Stalinist Central Asia.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004.

The Structure of Soviet History: Essays and Documents.  Ed. Ronald Grigor Suny.  NY: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Suny, Ronald Grigor.  The Soviet Experiment:  Russia, the USSR and the Successor States.  NY: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Trifonov, Yury.  The Exchange and Other Stories.  Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1991.

Turgenev, Ivan.  Fathers and Sons. Trans., Constance Garnett, Elizabeth Cheresh Allen.  NY: Modern Library, 2001, 17-28, 46-57.  e-reserve



            1.  Examinations: 2

a.  Mid-semester exam, Friday March 9.

b. Final Examination:  as assigned by the Registrar, Tuesday, May 15, 9 AM.

2.  Papers: Two short (5-6 pp.) papers are required (see last page of the syllabus.  Papers may be submitted early, but late papers can be accepted only with a full-grade penalty for each day (or part-day) late.

3.  Videos:  The viewing and discussion of twentieth-century Russian film, a genre to which Russian directors brought the enthusiasm and innovation of the Russian Revolution, will constitute an important element in the course.  A schedule of public screenings is attached to this syllabus; however, if the public showings prove inconvenient, the student must make arrangements to view these videos independently.  All films are held on reserve for this course (indicated by # in the course syllabus) either in the ARH AV Center or in Burling Library Listening Room, and private viewings can be arranged there.

4.  Attendance:  Regular attendance will increase the value of the course to the student, and frequent absences will adversely affect the student's final grade.

5.  Discussion:  Although most Fridays will be devoted specifically to discussions, students should complete the assignments listed for every class.  Most class sessions will include a chance to ask questions about the assignments; the instructor will also occasionally ask students about the assignments.  The ability to engage with the course assignments will play a part in the final grade (see below).

6.  Grading (105% total):

a. Mid-semester Examination: 20%

b. Discussion Contribution: 20%

c. First Paper: 20%

d. Second Paper: 20%

e. Final Examination: 25%




1/22    The Emergence of Modern Russian Imperial Society & Economy

Suny, Soviet Experiment (hereafter S) 3-33

            Visit “documents” on course website on Pioneer web and click on “Economy of Late Imperial Russia.  For additional on-line images of turn-of-the-century Russia, click on images of St. Petersburg, including St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the Nikolaev bridge, the Hotel Europe, Nevskii Prospekt, Gostinnyi Dvor (Merchant arcade), and fruit store,  You might wish to explore additional images available at this site.  For similar images of turn-of-the-century Moscow, go to this site, and click on the thumbnail images of interest


1/24    The Russian Revolutionary Tradition: Populist Terrorism

*Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons (selections)

           *1868 Catechism of a Revolutionary


1/26    DISCUSSION:  Factory Life in Late Imperial Russia

*Kanatchikov, A Radical Worker (selections)


1/29    Preconditions to Revolution

Kaiser 1-58


1/31    Marxism in Russia

Lenin, “Marxism and Revisionism” (1908)

Skim chapter 4 of Lenin, What Is To Be Done?


1/31 7:30 PM      Screening of "Strike" (Eisenstein, 1924, 75 mins.) in AV CEC


2/2      DISCUSSION: Origins of the Russian Revolution

#"Strike" (Eisenstein, 1924) (RUS-VHS-VT-065)


2/5      The Revolutions of 1917:  February

S 35-54

The abdication of Nicholas II

           Structure 32-45


2/7      The Revolutions of 1917:  October

Structure 45-47

Kaiser 59-97, 132-41

Graphic representations of election results of 1917 in





2/7 7:30 PM  Screening of "End of St. Petersburg" (Pudovkin, 1927) in AV CEC


2/9      DISCUSSION:  Interpreting the Russian Revolution

           #”End of St. Petersburg” (Pudovkin, 1927) (RUS-VHS-VT-141)


2/12    Who Was V. I. Lenin?

View a timeline of Lenin’s life and a series of photographs of Lenin


V. I.. Lenin, October 1918


2/14    The Revolution in 1918

Kaiser 98-131

Structure 62-83

Graphic representations of returns from 1917 elections to the Constituent Assembly

from whole country

by region

from Western Front

from Kursk Province (rural)

from Vladimir Province (industrial) 

from Petrograd Province

                  from Moscow Province


2/16    NO CLASS

Start reading Gladkov, Cement (see assignment for 3/2 below)


2/19    War Communism and Civil War

S 56-94

Structure 103-117

Chapter 1 from Lenin's State and Revolution

           Chapters 1-5 and 13 from 1918 RSFSR constitution


2/20  4:30 PM     First Paper Due in Mears 103        


2/21    Civil War and the Nations

S 96-120

Structure 93-102, 120-24

           Recommended: Chapter 7 of Stalin's 1913 work, The National Question


2/21  7:30 PM     Screening of "Bed and Sofa" (Room, 1927, 75 mins.) in AV CEC       


2/23    DISCUSSION:  Gender and NEP Society

#"Bed and Sofa" (Room, 1927) (RUS-VHS-VT-115)

Structure 130-37


Bourgeois Diners in the Europe Hotel, Leningrad, 1920s


2/26    The Rise of Stalin

S 123-68

Structure 117-20, 124-30, 137-41

At this site you can view the history of Lenin's death and "immortalization"

At this site you can view several images of Stalin (scroll down to “Images”)

Read Stalin’s January 26, 1924 speech On the Death of Lenin


2/28    New Economic Policy and NEP Society

S 170-93


3/2      DISCUSSION:  Politics, Gender and Economy in a Revolutionary World

           Cement (all)


“Let’s Organize Independent Dining Halls in Housing Cooperatives and Free Women from Slavery in the Kitchen!”  Kichikin 1932


3/5      Primer on the Soviet 1930s

Hoffmann, Stalinist Values 1-87

Stalin’s short summary of Socialism in One Country (available on Pioneer Web)

           Stalin in 1929 laying out the “Great Turn”: A Year of Great Change


3/7      Gender, Family and State in the Soviet 1930s

Hoffmann, Stalinist Values 88-117

1936, 1944 legislation on family (Pioneer Web)




3/12    Collectivization of Agriculture, Famine of 1932-33

S 217-31

Structure 209-22

Stalin, January, 1930, “Concerning the Policy of Eliminating the Kulaks as a Class” (available on Pioneer Web)

View photo of parade under banners “We will liquidate the kulaks as a class”, a poster calling all “Off to Collective Work,” and a photo of collective farmers at work

Letter to Stalin and Kalinin from workers, March, 1930

Letter to Pravda, 1930

Letter on extra-hard assignments, 1932

Letter to Pravda on collectivization, 1930

Letter from Kovalchuk on flight, 1932


3/14    Stalinist Industrialization

S 233-51

Structure 222-28

View poster of shock brigade striking blows against “antedeluvian way of life of laziness”

View photos of young worker at Magnitogorsk and a worker eating at Magnitka

Read a personal letter from Magnitogorsk, June, 1931


3/16    DISCUSSION: Nations and Socialist Modernity

Hoffmann, Stalinist Values 166-75

Yuri Slezkine, “The USSR as a Communal Apartment, or How a Socialist State Promoted Ethnic Particularism,” Slavic Review 53, no. 2 (Summer 1994):414-52.



* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * S P R I N G   B R E A K * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



Vera Mukhina, “Worker and Woman Collective Farm Worker,” 1937


4/2      Politics and Purges

S 252-68

Hoffmann, Stalinist Values 146-75       

1936 USSR Constitution (especially Chapters I, IX, X, and XI)

View images of open-air meeting to discuss constitution and of a Moscow demonstration celebrating adoption of new constitution

Read “Letter from kolkhoznik on Constitution,” “Kolkhoz farmer on the Constitution,” and “Letter praising Constitution


4/4      The Stalinist Terror

Hoffmann, Stalinist Values 175-83

Read “Letter on the NKVD,” “Letter to Supreme Soviet,” “Letter on arrests in Tula,” and “Letter on the Removal of Yezhov

J. Arch Getty et al., "Victims of the Soviet Penal System," American Historical Review 98(1993):1017-49

Letters to Editor, American Historical Review, June, 1994

Letters to Editor, American Historical Review, December, 1994


4/6      DISCUSSION:  Experiencing the Terror: Arrest, Interrogation, Trial

Ginzburg, Journey Into the Whirlwind 3-247


4/9      Heroes and Heroism

Hoffmann, Stalinist Values 118-45


4/11    DISCUSSION:  The Revolution Comes to Central Asia

*Edgar, “Emancipation of the Unveiled: Turkmen Women under Soviet Rule”

*Keller, “Trapped Between State and Society: Women’s Liberation and Islam…”

*Michaels, “Medical Propaganda and Cultural Revolution in Kazakhstan…”


Max Penson, “At the Medical Course,” Uzbekistan, 1930s


View postcards and photographs of 19th-century Central Asia


4/13    DISCUSSION:  The Veil: Colonial Tool or Emblem of Oppression?

Northrop, Veiled Empire 3-68

Deniz Kandiyoti, “Bargaining with Patriarchy,” Gender and Society 2(1988):274-90.



4/16    Gallery Tour:  “Spaces of Freedom” exhibit, Faulconer Gallery

View the photographs of a St. Petersburg communal apartment (see handout key)


4/18    DISCUSSION:  The Apartment: Socialism, Morality and Late Communism

Trifonov, The Exchange, 18-70


4/20    DISCUSSION: Unveiling in Soviet Uzbekistan—Modernizing Imperialism?

Northrop, Veiled Empire 69-101, 164-208, 242-83, 314-57 (read as much of this assignment as possible; it will prove useful for the second paper—see below)


4/23    The Great Fatherland War

S 291-335

Structure 264-73, 298-313

View at least ONE of following three videos (each about 50 mins. long):

#World at War, vol. 5, "Barbarossa" Burling Listen Rm Video  W8919 v. 5

#World at War, vol. 9, "Stalingrad" Burling Listen Rm Video  W8919 v. 9

#World at War, vol. 11, "Red Star" Burling Listen Rm Video  W8919 v. 11


4/25    Stalinist Culture and Post-War Stalinism

S 269-90, 363-75

Structure 251-63, 273-85


4/25 7:30 PM  Screening of "The Cranes Are Flying" (Kalatozov, 1957, 95 mins.) in AV CEC


4/27    DISCUSSION: Remembering the War

#”The Cranes Are Flying” (Kalatozov, 1957) (RUS-VHS-VT-119)


4/28 12 Noon Second Paper Due Mears 216


4/30    Khrushchev and Destalinization

S 380-83, 387-420

Structure 330-56

Read account of Stalin’s death and placement of his body in the Lenin Mausoleum


5/2      USSR After Stalin, After Khrushchev

S 421-51

Structure 359-85, 397-99


5/2  7:30 PM  Screening of "Burnt By the Sun " (Mikhalkov, 1994, 134 mins.) in AV CEC


5/4      DISCUSSION:  Remembering Stalin

#”Burnt By the Sun” (Mikhalkov, 1994) RUS-VHS-VT-257


5/7      DISCUSSION: Remembering Stalinism

Ginzburg, Journey into the Whirlwind 247-418


5/9      The End of the Soviet Union

S 451-84

Structure 403-475, 505-516


5/11    DISCUSSION: Summing Up


PAPERS:  Each student must complete two papers, each approximately 5-6 pages long.  Because this course is basically a survey, the papers are not meant to depend upon original research, but rather to allow the student to synthesize course reading on selected issues of modern Russian history.

            1. The Russian Revolution:  In the Historian’s Workshop.  As Ronald Suny points out, for a long time most western scholars viewed the October Revolution through the prism of totalitarian theory, emphasizing the political methods and consequences of the revolution that created what they regarded as an illegitimate state.  In the 1970s and 1980s, however, a cadre of younger scholars interpreted 1917 as a social revolution, marshalling evidence that seemed to legitimate Soviet power.  Today, more than fifteen years after the demise of the USSR, politicians and historians continue to invoke the Revolution either to condemn or valorize the Soviet Union. . What accounts for the different interpretations that historians bring to their readings of the past?  Do historians simply “uncover” history, or do they, in organizing an interpretation, in fact “create” history?  The Russian Revolution offers an interesting case study with which to consider this question.  Frederick C. .Corney has recently written that “The October Revolution did not first occur, only later to be written about.  It occurred in the process of writing.  It was not first experienced by contemporaries, only later to be remembered.   It was experienced (i.e., ‘understood’) by them in the process of remembering.” (Frederick C. Corney, “Rethinking a Great Event: The October Revolution as Memory Project,” Social Science History 22[1998]:407-408). Read the rest of Corney’s article (389-414), and, with the help of the evidence and interpretations of 1917 we have considered, along with the help of additional documents you will receive, decide whether you agree with Corney or not, and why.  DUE TUESDAY, February 20, 4:30PM in Mears 103.

2. Unveiling Uzbek Women—One More “Civilizing Mission?”:  The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979, declares that “State Parties condemn discrimination against women in all its forms…[and] undertake…to take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women….” (2.f).  However, as Ann Elizabeth Mayer points out, although many Muslim countries have acceded to and ratified the convention, “Appeals to domestic and or religious laws to justify non-compliance with the international norm of full equality for women are becoming a serious problem” (“Rhetorical Strategies and Official Policies on Women’s Rights: The Merits and Drawbacks of the New World Hypocrisy,” in Faith and Freedom: Women’s Human Rights in the Muslim World, ed. Mahnaz Afkhami [Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1995], 104).  The same Enlightenment values that inform the UN conventions on human rights inspired Marxist attempts to emancipate women in the USSR; in the Communists’ view, “separate” was not equal, and they therefore undertook a militant campaign against practices that they judged discriminatory, among them the veiling about which Douglas Northrop writes in Veiled Empire.  Northrop reads the Communist reformers as “bearers of modern European cultural norms (such as gender equality) and as a transmission belt for European notions of social reform,” likening the USSR to other imperialist adventures (Veiled Empire, 8, 22). Northrop’s study invites the reader to wonder, as Lila Abu-Lughod does about contemporary worries about the veil, “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?”  In light of Soviet efforts to redefine gender roles and to re-conceive the family,  decide whether the battle against the veil may better be understood as a continuation of western hegemony and imperialism or the liberation of women unfairly oppressed by “traditional” value systems.  DUE  Saturday, April 28, 12N in Mears 216.


Videos to be shown for HIS 242.01


*All screenings at 7:30 PM in Cultural Education Center of AV Center, ARH*


Wed. 1/31       #”Strike” (Eisenstein, 1924) (RUS-VHS-VT-065) 75 mins.


Wed.  2/7        #”End of St. Petersburg” (Pudovkin, 1927) (RUS-VHS-VT-141)


Wed. 2/21       #”Bed and Sofa” (Room, 1927) (RUS-VHS-VT-115) 75 mins.


Wed.  4/25      #”The Cranes Are Flying” (Kalatozov, 1957) (RUS-VHS-VT-119) 95 mins.


Wed.  5/2        #”Burnt By the Sun” (Mikhalkov, 1994) (RUS-VHS-VT-257) 134 mins.