After Stalin: The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union - HIST6060

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


This modules address the politics, ideology and culture of the USSR in the post-war era. It starts with an exploration of late Stalinism, before covering Khrushchev's reforms, Brezhnev's neo-Stalinism and Gorbachev's perestroika. Along with these themes, time will be devoted to: the intelligentsia; labour camps and the release of detainees in the 1950s; Soviet science; religion and spirituality; emerging nationalism; the Human Rights Movement; 'village’ prose; the Soviet economy; foreign policy and policy in the ‘near abroad’; the collapse of the USSR; and Yeltsin’s reformism and the new Russian state. The approach is interdisciplinary, and this will be reflected in the wide range of primary sources used; and throughout the module students will be introduced to the relevant historiography.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 60
Private study hours: 540
Total study hours: 600


Please note that this module is only available to single-honours and joint-honours students on the BA History and BA War Studies/Military History programmes. It is not available as a Wild module, nor is it available to short-credit students.

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

Essay 3,000 words 8%
Set Text Essay 3,000 words 8%
Commentaries 3,000 words 8%
Presentation 15 minutes 8%
In-class Test 1.5-hours 8%
Examination 1 2 hours 30%
Examination 2 2 hours 30%

Reassessment methods :
Reassessment Instrument: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

P. Boobbyer. (2005) Conscience, Dissent and Reform in Soviet Russia. Routledge: Oxon
V. Bukovsky. (1979) To Build a Castle: My Life as a Dissenter. New York: Viking Press
T. Colton. (2008) Yeltsin: A Life. New York: Basic Books
R. Daniels (ed.). (1994) Soviet Communism from Reform to Collapse. Boston: Cengage
J. Dunlop. (1995) The Rise of Russia and the Fall of the Soviet Empire. Princeton: Princeton University Press
R. English. (2000) Russia and the Idea of the West. New York: Columbia University Press
M. Gorbachev. (1987) Perestroika. New York: Harper and Row
M. Heller, and A. Nekrich. (1986) Utopia in Power. Mandaluyong, Philippines: Summit Books
J. Keep. (2002) Last of the Empires. Oxford: OUP
M. Malia. (1995) The Soviet Tragedy. New York: Free 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:

1 Demonstrated an in-depth historical knowledge of the USSR from the 1940s to the collapse of the USSR, and the first attempts to re-create the Russian state in the early 1990s.
2 Gained the conceptual tools to understand and interpret the political, social and intellectual last decades of Soviet power, and the historiographical debates which are relevant to it.
3 Acquired sufficient contextual knowledge to answer complex questions such as why the Soviet Union, so soon after gaining 'superpower status', suddenly collapsed from within.
4 Demonstrated a broad conceptual command of the subject matter of the course, and a thorough and systematic understanding of the latest research in Russian history.
5 Demonstrated their capacity to assess and critically engage with a wide range of primary sources, and particularly to analyse the literary works of relevant contemporary Russian writers.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Improved and demonstrated their ability to express complex ideas and arguments orally and in writing, skills which can be transferred to other areas of study and employment.
2 Improved and applied their communication, presentational skills and information technology skills.
3 Demonstrated the acquisition of an independent learning style.
4 Analysed, discussed, deconstructed and demonstrated cogent understanding of central texts and, subsequently, assembled and presented arguments based on this analysis.
5 Approached problem solving creatively, and formed critical and evaluative judgments about the appropriateness of these approaches.


  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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