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2020/21 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST3900 The Soviet Union in World Politics, 1917-1991

20 creditsClass Size: 25

Module manager: Dr Geoff Waddington

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module examines the course of Soviet foreign policy from the triumph of the Bolsheviks in 1917 to the eventual collapse of the USSR in the early 1990s. The advent of the Soviet regime posed new challenges for an international community already decimated by bitter rivalries; by the same token, the fledgling Soviet state was immediately confronted with the paradox of ensuring its survival and development in a hostile environment while promoting the goal of world revolution. These and other issues will be scrutinised in the course of this module. Specific areas for investigation include: Soviet-German relations, 1922-41, the challenge and containment of imperial Japan in East Asia, Sino-Soviet relations during the Cold War, the global struggle with the United States following the defeat of Nazi Germany, and the USSR's involvement in African, Eurasian and Middle Eastern affairs.


On completion of this module students should be able to:
a. Identify and evaluate the key debates concerning the role of the Soviet Union in world politics during the period 1917-1991;
b. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the determinants and course of Soviet policy and the reactions it provoked in the wider international community;
c. Assess the significance of the role played by the Soviet Union in the origins of the major international conflicts of the twentieth century;
d. Evaluate the contribution made by the Soviet Union to international organisations during the period 1917-1991;
e. Demonstrate the ability to handle problems of change and continuity over time;
f. Display enhanced skills of written and oral presentation.

Skills outcomes
High-level skills in oral and written communication of complex ideas; independence of mind and self-discipline and self-direction to work effectively under own initiative; ability to locate, handle and synthesize large amounts of information; capacity to employ analytical and problem-solving abilities; ability to engage constructively with the ideas of their peers, tutors and published and unpublished sources; ability to present complex ideas effectively in formal oral presentations.


The Bolshevik view of the world; Marxist-Leninist doctrine, world revolution and the beginnings of Soviet diplomacy; the Rapallo partnership of the 1920s; Stalin, the League of Nations and collective security in the early-mid 1930s; the Comintern and the Spanish Civil War; the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany; Stalin and the Grand Alliance, the Soviet Union and the onset of the Cold War; the emerging global contest with the United States; the Soviet Union and international relations in East Asia, the African continent and the Near and Middle East; the management of the Soviet empire; the Cuban missile crisis and d├ętente; the 'second' Cold War; Reagan, Gorbachev and SDI, the implications for the international community of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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 hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Independent reading for lectures and tutorials; exam preparation; researching, preparing, and writing assignments; undertaking set reading; and self-directed reading around the topic.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Measured through a variety of formative assessments - contributions to class discussions, oral presentation component, and occasional class problem solving exercises. VLE contributions will generate both formative and summative monitoring of student progress. Throughout the module students will be encouraged to self-reflect on their own progress. Self-reflection forms have been designed to be used with regard to the oral presentations.

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 2,000-word essay due by 12 noon Monday of teaching week 840.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)40.00

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

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment48 hr 00 mins60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)60.00

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: 10/08/2020 08:40:28


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