Fall 2022 - HIST 419W D100

Problems in Modern Russian History (4)

Russia & East Europe 1989-present

Class Number: 4538

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 2:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    AQ 5017, Burnaby

  • 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.


“Yesterday” vs. “Go Your Own Way”: recent history of Eastern Europe and its relevance to all of us
In the heady days of 1989 Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev told the Communist party chiefs of Eastern Europe that the Soviet Union was embracing radical democratic reforms and you can either come along or “go your own way.” Some years later, in response to a journalist’s question in the 2000s, Vladimir Putin quipped that his favourite Beatles song is “Yesterday.” Are these just catchy pop tunes? Or can we use them for heuristic purposes – to glean the aspirations of historical actors formulating their relations with compatriots and neighbours?

The war in Ukraine, with its reverberations around the world, has brought home the notion that what happens in eastern Europe does not necessarily stay in eastern Europe. This seminar seeks to tap into the post-1989 history of eastern Europe to help us make sense of, or at least give context to, the current moment.

For much of the twentieth century, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), along with the ideology it represented (communism), seemed to have the wind at its back. From the mid-1940s on, much of eastern Europe, in the form of so-called “satellite” states, was also under control of the USSR and its ideology. In the early 1980s no one foresaw that the Soviet Union, one of the poles in the bipolar world of the Cold War era, would cease to exist within a decade, and all the Communist Parties of eastern Europe would be out of power. And yet before the end of 1991 the Soviet Union was no more and the satellites were in seemingly endless “transition” from socialist rule. What has happened since then?  Looking at East European and Soviet/Russian history from the late 1980s to the present, this seminar examines the diverse long and winding roads that different Eastern European countries have taken. Where are they now?


  • Seminar participation 20%
  • Debate position paper 15%
  • Map quizzes & short written assignments 10%
  • Research essay proposal & preliminary bibliography 5%
  • Peer review 10%
  • Research paper (of 12- to 18-pages) 40%



Paul D’Anieri, Ukraine and Russia: From Civilized Divorce to Uncivil War.

Ivan Krastev, The Light that Failed: A Reckoning.

Paul Lendvai, Orbán: Hungary’s Strongman.

Stephen Kotkin, Uncivil Society: 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment. [Kotkin’s book is the only one that is not available as an e-book in Canada. Be sure to secure a physical copy of this book before the semester begins.]


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html