History 347

HIST 347
Stalin and Stalinism

Catalog Entry

HIST 347
Stalin and Stalinism
Three hours lecture/discussion: (3)

Prerequisite: Three hours of History at the 100 level.

This course critically examines the era in Soviet history known as Stalinism. It explores the biography and the personality of Joseph Stalin. Topics include: Stalin’s political machinations to grab power, the establishment of the Gulag prison camp system, the show trials and great terror of the 1930’s, Stalin and World War II, and the beginnings of the Cold War. Students learn the core concepts of the Stalinist ideology and how it varied from earlier and later Soviet theories and practices. They contemplate levels of collaboration with and resistance to the system. Students also examine the legacy of Stalinism at home and abroad.

Detailed Description of Content of Course

This course examines the biography of Josef Stalin, the era from 1924 to 1953, and the system, Stalinism, in order to better understand the history of the USSR and the legacy that is left today. In addition the students will examine the migration of these Stalinist concepts and practices to other cultures and situations.  Whereas the 1917 Russian Revolution was full of hope and creative experimentation to end tsarist oppression, gave voices to the millions of peasants and workers who had no rights, and brought Russia into the modern world, Stalin turned this hope into a gargantuan monolithic system to carry out his own visions. The levels of terror and repression used, as well as the levels of cooption through cheerful propaganda and the call for a new Soviet Man, remain unsurpassed. Yet, despite and some would say, because of this control from above, Stalin and the Soviet Union were able to defeat Hitler's Germany against all odds, modernize the country, and become a super power on the world stage. In this course, students will learn about Stalin's biography, ideology, and the systems he set up such as the Gulag and the five year economic plans. The course also considers his control over the perceived opposition to his plans ~ the Great Terror, the War with Hitler, and finally the rise of the USSR as a super power. The students will also consider how Stalinism spread beyond the borders of the USSR. The course examines the various perspectives on how Stalin is remembered and his impact on Russian culture today.

Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The course will be conducted through lectures, structured and informal discussions, and student presentations. Assignments may include reading and writing assignments connected with that reading, individual and/or group presentations on readings or research projects, and essay examinations. The course will also offer research opportunities, as students will be able to explore in greater depth topics of special interest through secondary and primary source readings. The course will provide the academic support services that students need in order to succeed.

Goals and Objectives of the Course

•    Students will practice thinking critically and analytically about historical issues, acquire a broader knowledge and deeper understanding of pertinent historical events and processes, and cultivate a familiarity with the concepts of historical argument and interpretation.
•    Students will develop disciplinary research skills by designing strategies to locate and analyze primary and secondary source evidence, processing and organizing the resultant data, and composing proper citation and bibliographical entries.
•    Students will apply their critical thinking, research, and compositional skills to the creation and presentation of thesis driven essays that discuss, for example, historical social, economic, political, and/or cultural developments and that address issues such as the causes and consequences of historical change and continuity.
•    Students will also gain an appreciation of the problems of cross-cultural historical interpretation.
•    Students will be exposed to a variety of peoples and beliefs and thus better understand identity, appreciate diversity, and participate in global communities.  

Assessment Measures

Knowledge and understanding of the material covered in this course will be measured using an array of assessment tools that may include, among other things, class attendance and participation, written examinations, formal writing assignments of various types, and informal writing assignments. All exercises are designed to expand the student's ability to evaluate historical events and to develop his or her ability to compose persuasive arguments.

Other Course Information


Review and Approval
Date Action Reviewed by
October  2010 Reviewed and Approved by Sharon Roger Hepburn