Area Studies: Russia

Module Leader:
2016-2017 Autumn
Immersion 1
Social Sciences

From “the poor man of Europe” to world superpower to basket case: this course will examine the gripping tale of twentieth century Russia. The class will begin with a cursory historical overview, from the October Revolution to the August coup. Next, a variety of key periods, events and themes will be examined in more substantive detail. During this process the relationship between Russia, the other Soviet Republics, and the Central East European satellite states will also be considered. Lastly, Russia’s post-socialist experience will be briefly discussed. Class topics will be as follows: from October Revolution to August coup; a brief historical overview; Lenin’s New Economic Policy; Stalinist collectivisation and five-year plans; the rise of post-war socialist parties in Central Eastern Europe; socialist Hungary (field trip to the Memento Park); gender politics during socialism and their legacy; the decline and ultimate failure of the Soviet socialist adventure; and ‘Russia Today’. Exploration of these topics will be performed using various tools from a chest of academic disciplines. For example, gender will be investigated though the lens of sociology (discourse analysis). Economic theory will be used to examine the decline and failure of Socialism (János Kornai’s concept of the soft budget constraint). Soviet cinema and literature will also be employed to highlight the structure of socialist society. Students will be challenged to explore these topics from multiple perspectives. For example, the wider state achievements of collectivisation and five-year plans will be contrasted with the experience of the Soviet peasantry. Rather than fixate solely on women’s experience, the post-Socialist crisis of masculinity will also be examined. Upon completion of the course students will have gained an in-depth understanding of the Russian socialist period, thereby enhancing their understanding of contemporary Russia. Having acquired a variety of social science theories along the way, students will also hone their ability to consider periods, events, and themes from various perspectives. The module is fruitful for any student with an interest in the social sciences or history; given the ‘shared’ history and recently rekindled relationship between Hungary and Russia this course will also be insightful to ‘the informed Hungarian citizen’.

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