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Study information

Understanding Russia

Module titleUnderstanding Russia
Module codeMLR2021
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Emily Lygo (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Module description

Employers who need experts on Russia will expect knowledge of relevant cultural affairs, politics, and ideology, and the ability to understand these through the lens of Russian history. This module will help you research and develop and present such specialist knowledge, think critically about common questions and oversimplifications about Russia, and access the necessary information to discuss them: Does Russia need a strong leader? Is Russia really so different from the West? Why is Putin so popular? Who are ‘the people’ and do they matter in Russia? This module will complement your study of Russian history, culture, and politics in other modules.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to:

  • Interrogate common assumptions or generalisations about Russia
  • Explore some recurring questions about Russian history and culture that are often answered in terms of stereotypes and prejudices
  • Equip you to research your own answers to questions about Russian artistic and political culture, history, and current affairs
  • Guide you in making judicious use of the mass of information and opinion published about Russia, and forming nuanced and insightful opinions

The teaching will be shared by all lecturers in the Russian department, who will share how their research touches these questions and helps illuminate them.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Develop subject-specific knowledge – an understanding of some of the key themes in the study of Russian culture
  • 2. Make interdisciplinary connections between Russian culture, politics, history

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. Develop research skills using libraries and the internet, in particular dealing with a large amount of information
  • 4. Recognise a range of paradigms for understanding Russia and be able to discuss and analyse them

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 5. Develop skills in expressing intellectual ideas for a variety of fora and audiences, e.g. blogs, round-table discussions
  • 6. Understand how to bring the ideas studied academically on the module to bear on discussions of modern Russian culture and even Russia in the news
  • 7. Reflect critically on individual performance in group work

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:

  • The State and Leaders in Russia: the strong, the real, and the pretenders
  • Stuck between myth and reality: ‘The People’ (narod) in Russia
  • Russia’s identity – between East and West
  • The Russian Soul – religion, spirituality, and myths of uniqueness

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 Teaching10Seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching5Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Conclusion
Guided Independent Study134Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Blog entry500 words1-6Written feedback and opportunity for further discussion
Annotated bibliography500 words1, 3, 6Written feedback and opportunity for further discussion

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
Participation in a round table discussion between 3-4 people5025 minutes1, 2, 4-7Written feedback and opportunity for further discussion
Reflective report in which student evaluates his/her performance in the discussion50750 words1-7Written feedback and opportunity for further discussion

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Participation in a round table discussionIndividual presentation (10 minutes) 1-6Referral/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

  • The Russia Reader (2010). Ed. by Barker and Grant, Duke University Press
  • The Icon and the Axe (1970). James Billington, Random House Press
  • A History of Twentieth-Century Russia (1997). Robert Service, Allen Lane
  • Nothing is True and Everything is Possible. Adventures in Modern Russia (2015). Peter Pomerantsev, Faber and Faber
  • Putin’s Russia (2004). Anna Politkovskaya, Harvill Press
  • The Cambridge Introduction to Russian Literature (2011). Ed. by Caryl Emerson, Cambridge University Press.
  • The Cambridge Companion to Modern Russian Culture (2012). Ed. by Nicholas Rzhevsky, CUP
  • The Russians (1997). Robin Milner-Gulland, Blackwell.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Russia, Russian culture, Russian politics, Russian history

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date