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The years of Joseph Stalin’s rule (1928-1953) were the most violent in Soviet history. They have inspired one of the most controversial, varied and interesting discussions in the history of the twentieth century. Did 'Stalinism' form a system in its own right or was it a mere stage in the overall development of Soviet society? Was it an aberration from Leninism or the logical conclusion of Marxism? Was its violence the revenge of the Russian past or the result of a revolutionary mindset? Was Stalinism the work of a madman or the product of social forces beyond his control? Could it have been avoided? Could the Soviets have won the Second World War without Stalin’s ‘Revolution from Above’? How was it like to live under Stalin? What did we learn from the opening of the archives after the breakdown of the Soviet Union in 1991? This seminar-based subject explores the answers historians and other social scientists have given to these questions. It analyses the political, moral, and emotional undercurrents of these debates. It introduces students not only to the state of historical research on the Stalin years, but also to the history of contemporary debates on Stalinism. This subject is part of the suggested pathway ‘political and international history’ which majors may follow, if they have a special interest in political and international history. It is also open to all other interested students.
Intended learning outcomes
Upon successful completion of this subject, students will have developed:
- deep and nuanced knowledge of the current state of historical research on the Stalin years of Soviet history (1928-1953);
- the ability to analyse the complex contributions of a developing source base, the changing political context, and evolving historical methodologies to our understanding of the Stalinist past;
- the ability to identify the complex factors driving changes in historical research, and
- the skill to analyse historical debate and write about it in clear and precise language.
Students who complete this subject will develop their:
- Critical and analytical skills (including argument identification and analysis);
- Communication (written and oral), and
- Engagement (with real world ideas and problems).
Last updated: 2 October 2020