HISTORY 302 - Topics in History
Section: 001 Stalin and Stalinism
Term: WN 2008
Subject: History (HISTORY)
Department: LSA History
May be elected three times for credit.
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Arguably, Stalin was the most powerful man in the world at the time of his death. He controlled not only the Soviet Union and much of Eastern Europe but also had enormous influence over the near billion people of China. He had turned the revolution of 1917 into an authoritarian dictatorship based on terror and police infiltration, yet was admired by intellectuals and activists around the world and adored by millions of his own citizens. This course will explore the roots of Stalinism, first through the biography of the dictator himself, then through a study of the ideology and practices of the Soviet system in the Stalinist years (1928-1953). Special emphasis will be placed on the Cold War and Stalin’s foreign policy, but other topics will include the collectivization of the peasantry, the Great Terror of 1936-1938, and the Soviet struggle against Nazism in World War II.

Besides historical and political science works, students will read some fiction dealing with the period, as well as watch a film from the Soviet Union. The course will be run largely through discussions, though half-period lectures will be interspersed to cover various subjects. The course is appropriate for Honors students both as an introduction into the historical literature on a crucial period of twentieth century history and as a means to understand a society that stands at the opposite pole from democratic capitalist countries. Questions raised by studying the rise and maintenance of a powerful dictatorship, the major opponent of the United States in the Cold War, can help dedicated students to understand the variety of political solutions to problems of social transformation.


  1. All students will complete the readings and participate in the discussions.
  2. All students will prepare a mid-term paper (6-8 pages, typed, double spaced), which will analyze the readings to date.
  3. All students will report on their research and write a final research paper (12-15 pages, typed, double spaced) based on a topic that has been discussed with the instructor.

Readings will include:

  • Milovan Djilas, Conversations with Stalin (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962).
  • Sarah Davies and James Harris (eds.), Stalin, A New History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
  • Eugenia Semyonovna Ginzburg, Journey Into the Whirlwind (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1967).
  • Yoram Gorlizki and Oleg Khlevniuk, Cold Peace: Stalin and the Soviet Ruling Circle, 1945-1953 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
  • Maurice Hindus, Red Bread (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988).
  • Moshe Lewin, Lenin’s Last Struggle, trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005).
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn, "Matryona's Home." translated by H. T. Willets, Encounter, XX, 5 (May 1963), pp. 28-45.

HISTORY 302 - Topics in History
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
3LSA Hnrs
W 2:00PM - 5:00PM
Note: Meets with POLISCI 389
002 (LEC)
MW 10:00AM - 11:30AM
Note: Meets with POLSCI 389
003 (REC)
TuTh 2:30PM - 4:00PM
Note: Meets with JUDAIC 317.003 and HJCS 291
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