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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’? What 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
On completion of this subject, students should be able to:
- Demonstrate deep and nuanced knowledge of the current state of historical research on the Stalin years of Soviet history (1928-1953)
- Analyse the complex contributions of a developing source base, the changing political context, and evolving historical methodologies to our understanding of the Stalinist past
- Demonstrate the ability to identify the complex factors driving changes in historical research
- Demonstrate the skill to analyse historical debate and write about it in clear and precise language.
- Critical and analytical skills (including argument identification and analysis);
- Communication (written and oral), and
- Engagement (with real world ideas and problems).
Last updated: 1 March 2024