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Study information

Exploring Revolution: The Making of Soviet Society and Culture in the 1920s

Module titleExploring Revolution: The Making of Soviet Society and Culture in the 1920s
Module codeMLR2024
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Emily Lygo (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

For many people, understanding of Soviet history begins with the revolution, skates over the 1920s in sketchy detail, and then focuses on the ‘big’ topics of Stalinism, the Great Patriotic War and the Cold War. This module puts the spotlight on the key decade of the 1920s, when the Bolshevik Party and members of the new Soviet nation more widely sought to revolutionise Russian society. The module focuses on a variety of groups contributing to ideas about what this new society would be – women, intellectuals, workers, peasants – using primary and secondary sources to see the hopes, dreams, ideals and reality that revolution brought to Russians and Russians brought to revolution.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module will help you to focus on selecting and interpreting sources relating to the 1920s – you will not need to know Russian, as we will look at them in translation. You will be provided with a source pack at the beginning of the module and will work in groups to explore questions about the 1920s in seminar discussions and presentations. Your final assessment involves two tasks: to produce a commentary on one or more primary sources used in the module demonstrating your ability to critically engage with a primary source showing how you can use it to learn about the historical topic and period; and to write an answer to an essay question based on your selection of sources.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Develop understanding of how the concept of revolution was variously understood and implemented in Soviet society in the 1920s
  • 2. Relate visual, literary and historical sources from the period to wider arguments about the nature of revolution in the USSR in the 1920s

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. Select from a defined range of sources those most appropriate for exploring a question
  • 4. Respond to historical sources with a nuanced reading of their significance, drawing on contextual knowledge
  • 5. Develop interdisciplinary research skills by using both literary and historical sources to address key module themes

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 6. Work together in a group to create a presentation using Padlet
  • 7. Give a presentation to the group as part of a small group working together

Syllabus plan

While the syllabus may vary from year to year, the following is an indicative outline of the main topics:

  • Introductory Lecture
  • Topic-themed lectures on 1920s USSR and Revolution
  • Weekly 2-hour seminars discussing key questions about revolutionary ideas and reform in 1920s USSR
  • Concluding session

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 Teaching 66 x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 105 x 2 hour seminars
Guided Independent Study134Independent Study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Response to a single source250 words1-5Written feedback
Group creation of a Padlet for seminar presentation250 words1-7Oral feedback in the seminar

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
Essay on a set question drawing on 3 sources502000 words1-5Written feedback and mark
Commentary on primary source(s)501000 words1,2Written feedback and mark

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-5Referral/deferral period
Commentary on primary sourcesCommentary on primary sources1, 2Referral/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

Source Pack available via ELE

  • Douds, Harris and Whitewood, The Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution: Illiberal Liberation, 1917-1941
  • Figes, Orlando, A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924
  • Fitzpatrick, Sheila, The Russian Revolution, 1917-1932 (2nd edn.)
  • Hosking, Geoffrey, A History of the Soviet Union 1917-1991, (final edition)
  • Hosking, G. Russia: People and Empire (final edition)
  • Lewin, Moshe, Russia, USSR, Russia: The drive and drift of a superstate
  • Lewin, Moshe, The Making of the Soviet System: Essays on the social history of interwar Russia
  • McAuley, Mary, Soviet Politics 1917-1991
  • Naiman, Eric, Sex in Public: The Incarnation of Early Soviet Ideology
  • Service, Robert, A History of Twentieth-Century Russia
  • Steinberg, Mark, Proletarian Imagination: Self, Modernity and the Sacred in Russia, 1910-1925
  • Stites, Richard, Russian Popular Culture: Entertainment and society since 1900
  • Stites, Richard Revolutionary Dreams. Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution
  • Suny, R.G., The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States
  • Smith, S.A., Russia in Revolution: An Empire in Crisis, 1890 to 1928                    
  • Willimott, Andy, Living the Revolution: Urban Communes and Soviet Socialism, 1917-1932

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Soviet History, USSR, Russian Revolution, Soviet Culture, Soviet Society

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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