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Study information

Images of Stalinism

Module titleImages of Stalinism
Module codeHIH1600
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Nelly Bekus (Convenor)

Dr Matt Rendle (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Since the collapse of Communism in Russia, the emergence of new sources and the increasingly innovative work of historians has produced more complex and dynamic ‘images’ of Stalinism than was the case beforehand. This has partly emerged from newly-available written sources – archival material, memoirs, diaries, letters and so on – but it has also come from a greater appreciation of other, less traditional sources, from posters, film and photographs to adverts, cartoons, literature and architecture, to name a few. This module encourages you to utilise all of these sources to conduct your own exploration of one of the most turbulent and contentious periods of Russian history.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of the module is to:

  • Introduce you to the rich range of sources available to study the immense political, social, economic and cultural developments that characterised Stalin’s Russia. Individual seminars will focus on various sources, from ‘traditional’ written sources (such as decrees, memoirs, diaries, and letters) to other, more diverse sources (such as posters, photographs, cartoons, adverts, architecture, art and literature).
  • Encourage you to conduct your own research into these sources, consider their value and reliability, and use them to explore particular topics and themes. In doing this, the module will help you develop skills in source analysis and research that will provide a foundation for future historical work.

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 Russia under Stalin
  • 2. Work critically with a range of written and visual sources relating to the topic

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 work orally, respond to questions orally, and think quickly of questions to ask other students

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:

  • Stalin
  • Industrialisation and Collectivisation
  • Building the Soviet Utopia
  • Uncovering the Truth – the Famine
  • the Purges and the Terror
  • Experiencing the Gulag
  • Popular Opinion
  • Fashioning the Soviet Self
  • Stalinism on Trial
  • Mobilising the Nation – The Great Patriotic War

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 Teaching2 Workshop
Scheduled Learning and Teaching189 x 2-hour seminars.
Guided independent learning128Reading and preparation.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)10-15 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 words11-3, 5-7Written
Source commentary 233850 words1-3, 5-7Written
Source commentary 334850 words1-3, 5-7Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Source comSource commentary 1 (850 words)mentarySource 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

Basic reading:

  • E. Acton, The Soviet Union: A Documentary History (2 volumes, 2005-06)
  • Applebaum (ed.), Gulag Voices: An Anthology (2011)
  • V. Bonnell, Iconography of Power: Soviet Political Posters under Lenin and Stalin (1997)
  • P. Boobbyer, The Stalin Era (2000)
  • K. Clark and E. Dobrenko (eds.), Soviet Culture and Power: A History in Documents, 1917-1953 (2007)
  • V. Garros et al. (eds.), Intimacy and Terror: Soviet Diaries of the 1930s (1995)
  • J. Gheith and K. Jolluck, Gulag Voices: Oral Histories of Soviet Incarceration and Exile (2011)
  • Groys, Total Art of Stalinism (1992)
  • King, Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin’s Russia (1999)
  • B. Lewis, Hammer & Tickle: A History of Communism told through Communist Jokes (2008)
  • L. Lih et al. (eds.), Stalin’s Letters to Molotov (1995)
  • P. Radetsky, The Soviet Image: A Hundred Years of Photographs from Inside the TASS Archives (2007)
  • R. Sakwa, The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1999)
  • L. Siegelbaum and A. Sokolov, Stalinism as a Way of Life: A Narrative in Documents (2000)
  • J. Von Geldern and R. Stites (eds.), Mass Culture in Soviet Russia: Tales, Poems, Songs, Movies, Plays and Folklore, 1917-1953 (1995)
  • S. White, The Bolshevik Poster (1988)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  •  Man with a Movie Camera (dir. D. Vertov, 1929)
  • Soviet Propaganda: Russia’s Animated Propaganda War (2 DVDs, various)

Key words search

Russia, Stalin, Stalinism

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date