Skip to main content

Study information

The Collapse of Communism in Central-Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union

Module titleThe Collapse of Communism in Central-Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union
Module codeHIH1043
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Nelly Bekus (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module examines the Collapse of Communism, not only a major geopolitical event on the European continent, but also an important chapter in the global history of decolonisation. It introduces the history of the collapse of the system of state socialism, analyses different contexts in which the reasons and consequences of the collapse of Communism have been discussed. The course does not require prior knowledge of the topic and will allow students to engage with the wide range of sources, including archival documents, speeches, memoirs, posters, visual arts, and films.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of the module is to introduce you to the rich range of sources that allow historians to analyse the collapse of Communism in Eastern European and the Soviet Union in 1989-91. The course will examine a range of primary materials relating to this period from official documents, newspaper articles and memoirs, to film, documentaries and literature to prepare you for future independent research.

You will also have the opportunity to conduct your own research into the source materials, to consider their utility and limitations, and to use sources to explore particular topics and themes such the experience of system shift in socialist states, the impact of the collapse of communism on the fate of European integration, the geopolitical shifts in world order, the victory of neoliberal capitalism and the life without an ideological alternative. Skills will be developed through oral presentation and reflection, and you will be expected to contribute to the historical debate over the nature of events during the collapse of Communism.

The module will help you in developing skills in source analysis and research that will prepare you for future projects such as your final-year dissertations.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Understand and assess the main developments in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union before and during the collapse of Communism
  • 2. Work critically with a range of written and visual sources relating to the Collapse of the Soviet Union

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Identify the problems of using historical sources, e.g. utility, limitations, etc., and compare the validity of different types of sources
  • 4. Present historical arguments and answer questions orally

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Conduct independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning
  • 6. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment
  • 7. Write to a tight word-limit

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Major approaches to studying the end of Communism.
  • The changing nature of the Soviet regime under Gorbachev after 1987
  • The end of the Cold War and the new world order
  • Revolutions in Eastern European countries against external domination and totalitarian political regimes
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall as an emblematic image of Communism collapsing
  • The disintegration of the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia
  • Experiences of the collapse of Communism and the diversity of transition scenarios
  • The role of Western powers in facilitating the transition to a democratic rule
  • Defining the aims of future development or “back to Europe”
  • Remembering Communism across Eastern Europe and the former Soviet space
  • The legacies of Communism – between nostalgia and memories of resistance

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching2Workshop
Scheduled learning and teaching189 x 2-hour seminars
Guided independent study130Reading and preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)20-25 minutes1-6Oral
Source commentary850 words1-7Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Source Commentary 133850 words1-3, 5-7Mark and written comments
Source Commentary 233850 words1-3, 5-7Mark and written comments
Source Commentary 334850 words1-3, 5-7Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Source commentary 1 (850 words)Source commentary (850 words)1-3, 5-7Referral/Deferral period
Source commentary 2 (850 words)Source commentary (850 words)1-3, 5-7Referral/Deferral period
Source commentary 3 (850 words)Source commentary (850 words)1-3, 5-7Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Aron, Leon (2011). ‘Everything you think you know about the collapse of the Soviet Union is wrong: and why it matters today in a new age of revolution’. Foreign Policy, July/August.
  • Beissinger, Mark (2002). Nationalist mobilization and the collapse of the Soviet State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Bisley, Nick (2004). The end of the cold war and the causes of Soviet collapse. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Cox, Michael (Ed.), (1998). Rethinking Soviet collapse: Sovietology, the death of communism and the new Russia. London and New York: Pinter.
  • Dahrendorf, Ralf (1990). Reflections on the Revolution in Europe. London: Chatto & Windus.
  • Mark, James (2010) The Unfinished Revolution. Making Sense of the Communist Past in the Central Eastern Europe. Yale University Press.
  • Stokes, Gail (2012 [1993]) The Walls Came Tumbling Down. Collapse and rebirth in Eastern Europe. Oxford University Press.
  • Steven Kotkin (2001) Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse 1970-2000. New York NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Verdery, Katherine (1996). What was state socialism, and what comes next? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Vladimir Tismaneanu (1999) The Revolutions of 1989. London and New York: Routledge 

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Communism, Cold War, Eastern Europe, European history, system transformation

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date