Advanced Russian Political and Intellectual Thought from 1850 to 1989

Final year module

Lecturer: Arfon Rees

The first semester examines the political and intellectual history of the tsarist era from 1850 to 1917. It examines the official ideology of the regime and the challenge posed by various political and intellectual  – Nihilism, Populism, Anarchism, and Marxism. It examines the roots of these different movements both domestically and internationally. It looks at the debates between these various currents regarding the future development of Russia.

The second semester examines the political and intellectual history of the Soviet era from 1917 to 1989, and the elaboration of the official state ideology. It analyses the role of ideas in shaping the development of the regime, and the way ideas were adapted to changing circumstances Attention will be paid to the reception of official ideas, from their  internalisation to their rejection. 

In both semesters students will study political programmes and declarations, as well as selected novels and short stories and their reception.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module the student should be able to understand the main trend in Russian political and intellectual history through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and be able to relate these trends to broader social and cultural developments, and to be able to compare the main direction of developments in the tsarist and Soviet eras, and to identify elements of continuity and change between the two periods.


One 2,500 word essay on a specific topic in semester 1 (25% ), one 3,000 word essay on a broad theme of the course in semester 2 (25%), and a three –hour written examination covering both semesters (50%)