Module and Programme Catalogue

Search site

Find information on

This module is inactive in the selected year. The information shown below is for the academic year that the module was last running in, prior to the year selected.

2014/15 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST3387 The Transformation of the Soviet Union, 1945-1970

40 creditsClass Size: 16

Module manager: Dr Lara Cook

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 (Sep to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2014/15

Module replaces

HIST3386: New World, New Jerusalem

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This special subject offers you the chance to get to know one of modern Europe's lost worlds, by studying in detail the history of the Soviet Union in the decisive period between 1945 and 1970. In May 1945, the Soviet Union was a wreck, devastated by the wartime loss of twenty-seven million people and the destruction of 70,000 villages and towns. Society was chaotic, violent, and desperately poor. Yet by 1970, living standards were greatly improved, society was stable, and the shadow of Stalin had receded. Between 1945 and 1970, the Soviet dictatorship recovered – but it also reinvented itself. It redefined the legacy of the Bolshevik Revolution in order to recover from the catastrophes of terror and war, and to survive the extraordinary challenge posed by Stalin's death.We will study the transformation of Soviet life during the late Stalinist period, the Khrushchev era, and the onset of developed socialism under Brezhnev, focusing not on foreign policy and the Cold War, but on political, socio-economic and cultural experience inside the Soviet Union. Seminars will take us from life in communist neighbourhoods to death in the camps of the Gulag, from power struggles in the Kremlin to cultural struggles over literature, ballet and painting, and from the moral dilemmas of ordinary people to the moral crusades of the dissidents. All these topics require us to engage with a general question which unsettles the western imagination: can a reasonable person live a normal life in a dictatorship?


The objectives of this module are:
1. to develop high-level skills of historical enquiry, interpretation, synthesis and argument, and the ability to demonstrate these in written papers, seminar discussion, and presentations;
2. to develop a critical understanding of the relevant secondary literature and a diverse set of primary sources;
3. to study closely the development of all aspects of life in the Soviet Union between 1945 and 1970.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students should possess:
1. detailed knowledge of the course of the history of the Soviet Union between 1945 and 1970;
2. fluent understanding of recent research and controversies in this period;
3. the ability to define and explain the nature of the Soviet dictatorship and the interaction between political, socio-economic and cultural life.


Likely topic areas include: relaunching and rebuilding the USSR during the late Stalinist period (1945-53); opposition, coercion and the Gulag during late Stalinism; the early ‘thaw' (1953-56) and the Secret Speech (1956); coming to terms with war and terror and terror during the Khrushchev era (c.1953-64); the transformation of the Gulag under Khrushchev; urban life and cultures of consumption in the Khrushchev-era city; challenges of welfare, censorship and protest during the Khrushchev era; the shift to developed socialism in the early Brezhnev era (1964-70). Likely prescribed documents include novels, travellers' accounts, state documents, banned writings, and memoirs. Films will also be shown.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours356.00
Total Contact hours44.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)400.00

Private study

Weekly reading, preparation of ten short pieces of assessed work (such as short papers, mini-presentations, gobbets), writing non-assessed gobbets, work for assessed essay, revision for the exam.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Seminar discussion, ongoing formal work (short papers, gobbets and presentations) and meetings in office hours. Students will also be offered meetings to discuss essays and for essay feedback. Many students will write a dissertation in the area of the special subject, supervision of which offers another one-to-one opportunity to monitor general progress.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 4,000 word essay to be submitted by 12 noon on Monday of the second week of the January examination period40.00
Assignment5 short pieces of work per semester (short papers, mini-presentations, gobbets)10.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc)3 hr 00 mins50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 27/03/2015


Browse Other Catalogues

Errors, omissions, failed links etc should be notified to the Catalogue Team.PROD

© Copyright Leeds 2019