The Soviet Union and the Rebirth of Russia: Stalin, Gorbachev, and Putin

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Spring 2017 quarter

Taught by

This program will investigate the 74-year lifespan of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), as well as the two and a half decades that have passed since its collapse in 1991. We will explore poetry and prose and analyze why the USSR produced such remarkable and world-renowned talents as writers Bulgakov and Solzhenitsyn and composers Prokofiev and Shostakovich. We shall also investigate how this society included inhumane prison camps and totalitarian rule. Indeed, how did Josef Stalin became responsible for the murder of at least 20 million of his fellow citizens while at the same time transforming a relatively backward empire into an undisputed world power?

Economic difficulties and shortages of consumer goods plagued citizens of the USSR until its collapse, but the empire’s last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, did his best to revitalize the Soviet socialist experiment. Gorbachev’s campaigns to “restructure” the empire’s economy and become more “open” towards a free press simply hastened the collapse of the empire. We will examine these policies, but equally as important, we will also investigate the rise of 15 independent states that emerged and trace their paths since they gained independence in 1991. Vladimir Putin has led Russia since 2000 and his authoritarian policies suggest that he will remain in power until 2024.

Faculty will provide lectures to guide our study, students and faculty will seminar on a diverse selection of historical and literary texts, and we will view and discuss relevant documentaries and films. The centerpiece of student work will be a major research paper on any topic connected with the Soviet Union and Russia, along with the production of a professional-quality poster for a final presentation. Students will be able to choose between language study and a special history workshop segment, which will explore the former Central Asian republics of the Soviet Union through their ancient and diverse cultures, languages, religions, traditions, gender relations, ethnicity, and collective identities.

Program Details

Fields of Study

cultural studies geography history language studies literature

Preparatory For

education, diplomatic and security services, film, music, art, international business, and graduate studies in international affairs and in Russian and Slavic literary, historical, political, and social studies.          


Spring Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

First class meeting: Tuesday, April 4 at 9am (Sem II D1105)

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


$40 for poster presentations and workshop supplies.