HST3027/3028: Stalinism and De-Stalinisation, 1929-1961

40 credits (semesters 1 and 2)

Module Leader: Dr Miriam Dobson



A pass in at least two history modules at level two.


Module Summary

Two decades after the end of the cold war, the Soviet Union continues to fascinate scholars and writers, generating a rich and fast-changing historiography. This module explores Russian history from 1929 – when Stalin's fiftieth birthday was celebrated across the Soviet Union and he was heralded as Lenin's great successor – to 1961 when his body was removed from the Red Square Mausoleum under cover of darkness. The module thus examines the rise, reign and – posthumous – fall of the Soviet leader and the nature of the new world he sought to create. We will explore not only the ideological and political dilemmas of the ruling elite, but also the diverse experience of ordinary citizens who faced both new opportunities and new ordeals during a period of radical transformation.

This module aims to familiarise students with the political, social and cultural history of the Soviet Union in this thirty-year period through the reading of key secondary and primary sources.


Teaching and Assessment

Seminars will be based around primary sources, including both 'official' materials such as political speeches, newspaper articles, posters, film, and novels and 'unofficial' sources including letters, diaries, memoirs, popular songs, jokes and graffiti. Through discussion of these primary sources, students will explore the relationship between state and society, considering both how Bolshevik ideology shaped citizens' thinking and how social reactions in turn informed party policy. We will also consider how different generations of scholars have addressed these issues through discussion of key texts in the rich historiography of the Soviet Union.

The module is divided into four broad sections, the first three of which take distinct time periods: high Stalinism (1929-1941); the war and late Stalinism (1941-1953); De-Stalinisation (1953-1961). Finally, we will seek to identify themes and patterns running through the period, centred on the questions: Can we identify something called 'Stalinism'? What are its origins? Does it disappear with Stalin}s death? What kind of legacy does Stalinism leave?

High Stalinism Destalinisation
  • Revolutionary Visions: An Introduction to Bolshevik Ideology
  • The Rural Apocalypse: The Collectivisation of Russian Agriculture
  • Building Socialism: The Soviet Union as a Construction Site
  • Speaking Bolshevik
  • Gender: What Happens to the New Soviet Man and Woman?
  • Daily Life in the Soviet Metropolis
  • The Purges
  • A National Tragedy?: The Death of Stalin, 1953
  • Khrushchev's Secret Speech
  • Repudiation of the Gulag: Stalin's Outcasts Come Home
  • The Thaw: Art and Literature in the 1950's
The War and Late Stalinism Comparative Themes
  • From Workers to Soldiers: The Great Patriotic War
  • Local, Russian, and Soviet Patriotisms during the War: Leningrad, Moscow, and Stalingrad
  • Post-war Reconstruction
  • Re-imagining the Soviet Community: Patriotism and Anti-Semitism
  • Culturedness and Consumerism
  • Youth Culture and Dissent
  • Protest: Uprisings, Riots, and Strikes
  • Rival Orthodoxies: Communism vs Christianity

Further guidance is provided in the module course booklet, available through MOLE.

Information on assessment can be found at: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/history/current_students/undergraduate/assessment/level3 


Selected Reading

  • Ron Suny, The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States (1998)
  • Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism. Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930's (1999)
  • Sheila Fitzpatrick (ed.), Stalinism: New Directions (2000)
  • Victoria Bonnell, Iconography of Power: Soviet Political Posters under Lenin and Stalin (1999)
  • Sarah Davies, Popular Opinion in Stalin's Russia: Terror, Propaganda, Dissent, 1934-1941 (1997)
  • J. Arch Getty and Roberta T. Manning (eds), Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives (1993)
  • Stephen Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization (1995)
  • Amir Weiner, Making Sense of War: The Second World War and the Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution (2001)
  • Elena Zubkova, Russia after the War: Hopes, Illusions and Disappointments, 1945-1957 (1998)
  • Stephen F. Cohen, Alexander Rabinowitch, Robert Sharlet (eds), The Soviet Union Since Stalin (1980)
  • Vladimir Kozlov, Mass Uprisings in the USSR: Protest and Rebellion in the Post-Stalin Years (2002)


Intended Learning Outcomes
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