The Soviet Experiment From Lenin to Stalin: Comparative and Entangled Perspectives

Course Description: 

The elective seminar is designed to provide a larger comparative and entangled view on the Soviet history from Lenin to Stalin. MA and PhD students are welcome. The course discusses the comparative and entangled perspectives on Soviet history, using both contemporaneous and diachronic cases (e.g. pre-WWI empires and states and post-WWII socialist states). Recently we witnessed a number of attempts to put the history of the Soviet Union in a comparative framework. With renewed strength historians are trying to go beyond the borders of the Soviet Union in order to explore new issues in Soviet history or to revisit the old ones. At the same time these attempts coincide with the popularity of new trends in historiography and historical methodology. The notions and methods of the world history, transnational history, entangled history, history of transfers etc emerge increasingly more often in historical studies, including research on Soviet history. Thus, this course puts the two tendencies together and discusses some of their products in Soviet historiography. One of the key recurring and in many respects classical questions of recent historiography is to what extent the Soviet Union is unique or similar to other states. Can we apply the same or similar concepts and analytical frameworks, as we do with other historical cases or should we approach Soviet history differently? Can there be a middle ground, which incorporates both these approaches? In addition, increasingly the historians pay more attention to the questions of the interaction of the Soviet Union with the external states, actors, models, ideas etc. How does this broader, transnational view help us understand better the Soviet history in Lenin and Stalin times?

Learning Outcomes: 

The course has three key tasks: 1) to provide an in-depth knowledge of the Soviet history on selected topics and to familiarize the students with the main historiographical approaches and debates in contemporary Soviet studies (on the general level and based on the specific issues); 2) to give a deeper understanding of the Soviet experiment under Lenin and Stalin in a larger comparative and transnational framework; 3) to use Soviet history as a “testing ground” in order to analyze the examples of application of various methods and techniques of the comparative, transnational and entangled history. Therefore, the readings are chosen in order to demonstrate their uses in specific cases, based on the specialized readings on the Soviet history. Thus, the students are provided with the opportunity to assess the promises and limitations of various comparative and transnational methods and approaches on the basis of concrete research and publications.


Students are expected to attend all seminars, read the assigned readings and actively participate in discussions. The grading breakdown is the following: 1) participation in the class discussions – 30%; 2) oral presentation of a book or a key article on the topic related to course – 25%; 3) final essay (7-10 pages) on the topic chosen in consultation with the instructor – 45%. The topic of the essay should discuss and analyze the application of comparative and entangled approaches to Soviet history in specific case-studies.