Images of Stalinism (HIH1600)

StaffDr Matt Rendle - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The aim of the module is to introduce you to the rich range of sources available to study the immense political, social, economic and cultural developments that characterized Stalin’s Russia. Individual seminars will focus on various sources, from ‘traditional’ written sources (such as decrees, memoirs, diaries, and letters) to other, more diverse sources (such as posters, photographs, cartoons, adverts, architecture, art and literature). You will be encouraged to conduct your own research into these sources, consider their value and reliability, and use them to explore particular topics and themes. In doing this, the module will help you develop skills in source analysis and research that will provide a foundation for future historical work.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate a broad knowledge of the main developments of this period in Russian history.
  • 2. Assess critically the range of sources emerging from Soviet Russia.
  • 3. Assess the sources in relation to the numerous debates surrounding this period.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Identify the problems of using historical sources, e.g. bias, reliability, etc, and to compare the validity of different types of sources.
  • 5. Answer a question briefly and concisely.
  • 6. Present work orally, to respond to questions orally, and to think quickly of questions to ask other students.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Conduct independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 8. Digest, select and organize material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 9. Work with others in a team and to interact effectively with the tutor and the wider group.
  • 10. To write to a very tight word-length.

Syllabus plan

  • Introduction to Soviet History, 1924-1953
  • The Stalinist State: Decrees, Speeches and Statistics
  • Picturing the ‘Official’ Image: Posters and Animation
  • Filming Stalinism: Documentary Films
  • Impressions: Diaries and Letters
  • Memories: Autobiographies and Interviews
  • Capturing the Truth? Photographs and Art
  • Building Stalinism: Architecture and Monuments
  • Ambiguous Images: Adverts, Cartoons and Literature
  • Stalinism on Trial: Surveillance Reports and Trial Testimony
  • Fellow Travellers? The Experiences of Foreigners

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Lecture2 Introduction to module
Workshop20At a meeting of the whole class generally a different group of 3-4 students will give a presentation to the whole class, followed by class discussion and working through the sources for that week carefully. Additional sources may be issued in the class and the lecturer will also use the time to set up issues for the following week.
Guided independent learning128Students prepare for the session through reading and research; writing a weekly source essay and preparing one group presentation in the course of the term.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)10-15 minutes1-4, 6-7, 9Oral feedback
Lowest mark from portfolio of 5 source commentaries500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries602000 words (500 per commentary) (15% per commentary)1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments
Essay on Sources401500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period.
1500-word essay1500-word essay1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

E. Acton, The Soviet Union: A Documentary History (2 volumes, 2005-06)

A. Applebaum (ed.), Gulag Voices: An Anthology (2011)

V. Bonnell, Iconography of Power: Soviet Political Posters under Lenin and Stalin (1997)

P. Boobbyer, The Stalin Era (2000)

K. Clark and E. Dobrenko (eds.), Soviet Culture and Power: A History in Documents, 1917-1953 (2007)

V. Garros et al. (eds.), Intimacy and Terror: Soviet Diaries of the 1930s (1995)

J. Gheith and K. Jolluck, Gulag Voices: Oral Histories of Soviet Incarceration and Exile (2011)

B. Groys, Total Art of Stalinism (1992)

D. King, Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin’s Russia (1999)

B. Lewis, Hammer & Tickle: A History of Communism told through Communist Jokes (2008)

L. Lih et al. (eds.), Stalin’s Letters to Molotov (1995)

P. Radetsky, The Soviet Image: A Hundred Years of Photographs from Inside the TASS Archives (2007)

R. Sakwa, The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1999)

L. Siegelbaum and A. Sokolov, Stalinism as a Way of Life: A Narrative in Documents (2000)

J. Von Geldern and R. Stites (eds.), Mass Culture in Soviet Russia: Tales, Poems, Songs, Movies, Plays and Folklore, 1917-1953 (1995)

S. White, The Bolshevik Poster (1988)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Various websites containing Soviet posters, and images of art and architecture. Some examples:

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Earth (dir. A. Dovzhenko, 1930)

Man with a Movie Camera (dir. D. Vertov, 1929)

Soviet Propaganda: Russia’s Animated Propaganda War (2 DVDs, various)

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Stalinism, Images, Russian history, Soviet Union