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


Spring 2015 quarter

Taught by

Russian history, environmental history
Russian language and literature

This program will investigate the 74-year lifespan of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), as well as the two decades that have passed since its collapse in 1991. We will explore Russian and Eurasian poetry and prose from this period and analyze the reasons why the USSR produced such remarkable and world-renowned talents as the writers Bulgakov and Solzhenitsyn and such composers as Prokofiev and Shostakovich. We shall also investigate how this society included inhuman prison camps, governmental rule by terror and totalitarian rule. Indeed, we shall attempt to determine how 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 continued to plague citizens of the USSR until its collapse, but the empire’s last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, did his best to revitalize the Soviet socialist experiment via peaceful and more open means. 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 from the ashes of the former Soviet Empire 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 and students will read and discuss a diverse selection of historical and literary texts in seminars and 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 the students' final presentation of their research this term. 

Students are strongly urged, but not required, to take the Beginning Russian Language segment within the full-time program. To enter language study at this point, students should have the equivalent of two quarters of college Russian. 

A special history workshop segment is available to students within or from outside the program for four credits. It will investigate aspects of the "Cold War" from U.S. and Soviet perspectives, as well as lend a greater understanding of the worldwide struggle for political, economic, military and ideological supremacy. 




Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

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.          

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


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Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning

More information about online learning.


Date Revision
December 16th, 2013 Title changed from "Stalin, Gorbachev and Putin: The Soviet Union and the Rebirth of Russia"

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Spring)

Variable Credit Options

A 12-credit option is available to students who do not wish to participate in the daytime Russian language segment within the program or the special workshop; a four-credit option available to students wanting only the Russian language segment or special workshop.

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 50



Faculty will provide students with suggested readings for some advance preparation.

Course Reference Number not yet available.

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