Fall 2019 - HIST 419W D100

Problems in Modern Russian History (4)

Russia & East Europe 80s-2000

Class Number: 4992

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 3 – Dec 2, 2019: Thu, 1:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history. Recommended: HIST 224 or 225.



Advanced analysis of specific problems in social, intellectual, and political history of modern Russia. Content may vary from offering to offering; see course outline for further information. HIST 419W may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught. Writing.


From the devastation of the Second World War, the Soviet Union gained control of a bloc of satellites in Central and Eastern Europe, and attained a level of geopolitical power unprecedented in Russian history.  However, after a scant three decades, this colossus was already beginning to show signs of weakness, and the processes undermining Russian power accelerated in the 1980s.  Dramatic attempts at reform pursued under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev led to the surprising ‘collapse’ of first the Soviet Bloc and then the Soviet Union itself, while largely failing to address the underlying problems, which manifested themselves in different ways in the 1990s throughout the region.  Looking at Eastern European and Soviet/Russian history from the 1980s on, this seminar examines the implosion of the Soviet order and its consequences.


  • Seminar participation 30%
  • Short response assignments 10%
  • Research paper proposal with annotated bibliography 10%
  • Peer review 10%
  • Research paper 40%



William Taubman. Gorbachev: His Life and Times. New York: WW Norton, 2018.

Stephen Kotkin, Armageddon Averted. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Stephen Kotkin, Uncivil Society: 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment. New York: Modern Library, 2010.

Witold Szablowski, Dancing Bears: True Stories of People Nostalgic for Life Under Tyranny. New York: Penguin Books, 2018.

Additional weekly readings and/or videos may be assigned by the instructor.

Registrar Notes:

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