Politics and Culture of Nineteenth Century Russia - HI440

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


The module is designed to be a wide-ranging introduction to 19th century Russia. The political history of Russia will be covered through a focus on individual tsars, with an emphasis on their approach to reform. Seminars will be devoted to Alexander I, Nicholas I and Alexander II in particular. Russia's involvement in war, and its impact on domestic life, will be another area of focus, with the Napoleonic War and the Crimean War receiving particular coverage. A seminar will be devoted to the birth of the Russian intelligentsia and the early growth of the revolutionary movement. Cultural traditions will be explored through examination of Russia's literary tradition. Social history will be explored through a focus on the changing status of the peasantry, with particular reference to the Emancipation of the Serfs in 1861. In addition, students will be introduced to the multi-ethnic reality of Russian life. Another theme will be Russian religion and spirituality. This broad approach to Russia will be helpful to students who wish to pursue Russian history at stages 2 and 3, but will also be of comparative interest to students who do not continue with Russian history.


Contact hours

There will be weekly one-hour lectures and weekly one-hour seminars. Use will be made of literary materials, and primary documents such as political essays, novels and/or short stories, and religious texts will be examined critically in seminars.

Method of assessment

The module will be assessed by 50% coursework, 50% exam.

The coursework will be made up of two essays of 2000 words each (each worth 40% of the coursework mark) and an oral participation mark (20% of the coursework mark).

The examination component will consist of one 2-hour paper in the Summer Term.

Indicative reading

Figes, O. (2003) Natasha's Dance. London: Penguin
Pipes, R. (1995) Russia under the Old Regime. London: Penguin
Saunders, D. (1992) Russia in the Age of Reaction and Reform, 1880-1881. London: Longman
Seton-Watson, H. (1988) The Russian Empire. Oxford: Clarendon Press
Tolstoy, L. (1882) Confession. London: Merchant Books (2009 ed.)
Turgenev, I. (1852) Sketches from a Hunter's Album. London: Penguin Classics
Venturi, F. (1960) Roots of Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
- Understand and interpret the history of Russia in the nineteenth century, and demonstrate a grasp of the relevant conceptual tools for understanding this period.
- Understand and demonstrate their comprehension of the key episodes of the history of the period, and some of the historiographical debate surrounding the subject.
- Understand and discuss the issues surrounding the distinctive nature of Russian culture, and the diversity of human cultures.
- Use and evaluate relevant primary sources relating to the political, intellectual and cultural history of nineteenth century Russia.
- Understand the problems that are inherent in the historical record and the limits within which interpretation is possible.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
- Demonstrate a range of intellectual and transferable skills, and the ability to acquire different kinds of knowledge and conceptual understanding.
- Think critically and with independence of mind, and demonstrate the capacity to marshal subtle and sophisticated arguments, and the ability to challenge received conclusions.
- Demonstrate their understanding of the subject through written arguments. They will be able to make good use of the relevant library resources.
- Demonstrate their understanding of the subject through oral arguments.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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