History 4360 — Fall 2012
G. Shanafelt


Russia can neither be grasped by the mind, nor measured by any common yardstick
— no attitude to her other than blind faith is admissible.
Fyodor Tyuchev, 19th century Russian poet


Edward Acton, Russia, The Tsarist and Soviet Legacy
Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls
Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution, 3rd ed.
Loren R. Graham, The Ghost of the Executed Engineer

The Course

Winston Churchill called it “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”  Whether under the tsars or the communists, explaining Russia has been a major problem for people — a problem which has in no way gone away since the fall of the Iron Curtain.  The purpose of this course is not to find a definitive answer to the question, but, through a study of the country’s past, to explore some of the answers that have been suggested.  Specifically, by the end of the course students will be able to

Compare the characteristics of Russian history that have been seen as setting it apart from the rest of Europe with those that have been seen as being held in common with it;
2. Explain the factors involved in the origins of the tsarist autocracy;
3. Elucidate the background to and unfolding of the communist revolution that overthrew it;
4. Describe the evolution of the Soviet economic and political system from Lenin through Stalin to Brezhnev;
5. Discuss the problems that led to the collapse of the Soviet system under Gorbachev.

Reading Assignments

The reading assignments should be completed on the week assigned to make possible full comprehension of the lectures or participation in class discussion.


There will be a total of three tests during the semester. The final exam will simply be the third test; it will be non-comprehensive.


George Orwell, the British writer, once observed that “the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”  To develop both your thinking and your writing ability, you will write a 8-10 page research paper on a topic in Russian or Soviet history to be chosen later in the semester.


The final grade will be computed as follows: 25% for each of the two midterms, 25% for the paper, and 25% for the final exam. Note that to get credit for this course in your major, as with all courses in all majors, you'll need a final grade of a C or better. A final grade of C- is not considered adequate for this course to count toward your major requirements.

Students With Disabilities

McMurry University abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which stipulates that no otherwise qualified student shall be denied the benefits of an education “solely by reason of a handicap.” If you have a documented disability that may impact your performance in this class and for which you may be requesting accommodation, you must be registered with and provide documentation of your disability to the Disability Services Office, located in Old Main Room 102. Arrangements will be made for students needing special accommodations.

State Board of Educator Certification Standards for Teacher Education Candidates

If you plan to minor in Curriculum and Instruction, with a teaching concentration in History 8-12, or in Social Studies 8-12, this course provides partial fulfillment of the following standard of the TEKS competencies:
Standard IV. History: The social studies teacher applies knowledge of significant historical events and developments, as well as of multiple historical interpretations and ideas, in order to facilitate student understanding of relationships between the past, the present, and the future.

Proposed Class and Reading Schedule

Aug 28
Aug 30

Origins: What is Russia?
The Autocracy and the Time of Troubles

Acton, 1-37

Sept 4
Sept 6

The Petrine Reforms
From Peter to the Decembrists

Acton, 38-64
Turgenev, chs. 1-10

Sept 11
Sept 13

The System of Nicholas I
Society and Culture

Turgenev, chs. 11-20

Sept 18
Sept 20

The Tsar-Emancipator
The Revolutionary Intelligentsia

Acton, 65-92
Fitzpatrick, 1-23
Turgenev, chs. 21-28

Sept 25
Sept 27

The Last Tsars and the Police State

Acton, 93-119

Oct 2
Oct 4

Lenin and the Bolsheviks

Fitzpatrick, 24-39

Oct 9
Oct 11

On the Eve
World War I

Acton, 120-148

Oct 16
Oct 18

The Provisional Government
The Bolshevik Seizure of Power

Acton, 149-177
Fitzpatrick, 40-67

Oct 23
Oct 25

Reds, Whites, and Interventionists: The Civil War
Kulaks and NEPmen

Acton, 178-209
Fitzpatrick, 68-119
Graham, 1-22

Oct 30
Nov 1

World Revolution or Socialism in One Country?


Nov 6
Nov 8

Stalin’s Russia: The Five-Year Plans — I
Stalin’s Russia: The Five-Year Plans — II

Acton, 210-242
Fitzpatrick, 120-148
Graham, 23-79

Nov 13
Nov 15

Stalin’s Russia: The Purges
The Great Patriotic War

Acton, 243-272
Fitzpatrick, 149-172

Nov 20
Nov 21-23

The Cold War
[Thanksgiving Vacation]



Nov 27
Nov 29

Khrushchev: Thaw
Brezhnev: Freeze

Acton, 273-296
Graham, 81-106

Dec 4
Dec 6

Gorbachev and the End of the Soviet Union
Another Time of Troubles: Another Boris

Acton, 297-356

Dec. 11

FINAL EXAM (10:30-12:30)