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2023/24 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST3005 The 'Russian' Civil Wars, 1916-1922

40 creditsClass Size: 16

Module manager: Yuexin Rachel Lin

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

Year running 2023/24

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 ushered in five years of bloody Civil War, an ideological, political, and military contest between Reds and Whites. Yet the conflict drew in a host of unlikely participants of international origin – Ukrainian nationalists, Korean partisans, Central Asian Basmachi fighters, American doughboys – who contributed to some of the most important theatres of war. This, in turn, had a profound impact on the Bolsheviks’ wartime policy towards Russia’s ethnic groups, gender and religion, and international diplomacy. Even as the Civil War reached its conclusion in 1922, famine and mass emigration brought Bolshevik Russia back into international society, this time as the focal point of humanitarian aid. And today, controversies persist over the historical memory of the Civil War, from the military intervention of foreign troops in Russia to the suppression of nationalist movements in Eastern Europe. This module examines the Russian Civil War through an international lens, uncovering the origins and impact of the conflict in Eurasia and the world.Content note: to cover the module content effectively it is necessary for us to read/look at/discuss material which addresses topics that may be challenging for you. These topics include: scenes of death and violence, including gender-based and sexual violence; racist and sexist views and language; and depictions of torture and emotional distress. The module tutor can provide more information on this if required.


This module introduces students to an in-depth study of the Russian Civil War, with a particular emphasis on its international dimensions. Moving beyond the domestic contours of the Civil War, it examines how Russia’s entanglements with its neighbours in Europe and Asia shaped the War’s origins, development, and long-term impact. It explores how the War was influenced by tsarist Russia’s imperial rivalries, by the aspirations for autonomy among its subject peoples in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and by the Bolsheviks’ changing position in international diplomacy. It approaches the crises of famine and refugeedom with reference to the emerging international infrastructure for humanitarian relief. Finally, it investigates some of the legacies of the Civil War in the historical memories of Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. These questions will be analysed through a broad range of primary sources – both written and non-written – including those of non-Russian origin.

Learning outcomes
By the end of this module, students will be able to:
1. Show a keen grasp of the key events, personalities, and themes of the Russian Civil War and its international aspects;
2. Critically interpret a range of primary sources across several genres, including non-written ones;
3. Understand and assess the historiographical debates surrounding the Russian Civil War;
4. Sensitively apply the knowledge acquired in this module to understand the contemporary debates surrounding historical memory in Russia and its neighbouring states;
5. Communicate ideas effectively and persuasively in writing;
6. Select, analyse, and synthesise primary sources and secondary scholarship to develop independent and creative arguments.


Topics may include:
- Tsarist Russia’s imperial legacies in Eastern Europe and Central and Northeast Asia;
- Movements towards greater autonomy or independence in Ukraine, Poland, the Baltics, Central Asia, Siberia, and the Russian Far East;
- Foreign intervention in the Russian Civil War, including American, British, and Japanese military involvement and the participation of international troops in the Red Army;
- Famine, the Russian refugee crisis, and international relief efforts;
- The historical memory of the Russian Civil War in Russia and its neighbours, and its implications for contemporary politics.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours351.50
Total Contact hours48.50
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)400.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students will be expected to submit non-assessed essay plans a day in advance of certain seminars (1 x 200-word based on a source commentary, 1 x 200-word on literature review and 1 x 200-word on a set discussion topic per semester). Although these plans will not be formally marked, they will form the basis of in-class discussion and provide opportunities for collaborative learning and formative feedback from the tutor.

On weeks where plans are not submitted in advance, in-seminar group work is assigned to facilitate tutor-led and peer-to-peer feedback. Further personalised formative feedback will also be provided through consults with the tutor.

Assessed essay: Students are entitled to a 15-minute one-to-one meeting with the tutor to discuss their essay plan on Week 9 or 10 of Semester 1. In advance of this consult, they may submit a 500-word draft or plan for written feedback.

Portfolio: As with the essay, students can schedule a 15-minute personalised meeting with the tutor to go over their work towards the middle of Semester 2. This can be accompanied by a 300-word draft or plan.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay4000 words50.00
Portfolio4500 words50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Essay: Students will be provided with a set list of questions but may develop their own in consultation with the tutor. Portfolio: This consists of 1 x 1,500-word primary source analysis, 1 x 1,500-word literature review and 1 x 1,500-word essay. Students are given the choice to select their own sources and develop their own essay questions in consultation with the tutor, based on their areas of interest.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 15/05/2023


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