From Conquest to Communism: Central Asia under the Russian and Soviet Empires, 1730-1945 (HIH2184A)

StaffDr Claire McCallum - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This course aims to introduce you to the rich and fascinating history of this oft-overlooked part of the world. You  will be able to explore political, social and cultural developments from the mid-eighteenth century until the end of the Second World War, examining both the view from Moscow and the realities of life in Central Asia. In the course of the module, as well as engaging with the debates present in the secondary scholarship, you will utilise a wide range of primary source material, to include decrees, law codes, diaries, letters, memoirs and cultural sources such as film, art and literature, which will allow you to reach independent conclusions about the issues under examination. There will also be plenty of scope for you to follow your own interests throughout the module and for you to develop your research skills in the process. In this way the module provides you with an opportunity to explore an area of history in more depth, and helps you to develop the depth of understanding you will require to study more specialised areas of history.  This module also aims to help you develop the effective communication and analytical skills, oral and written, which you will need to complete many of your modules and in a job after you graduate.  It will give you an opportunity to practise your skills in researching, interpreting, and analysing both primary and secondary material, and in reporting on your work.  It will also give you an opportunity to work in a team on a group presentation.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Be aware of the various developments in the history of Russia and the Soviet Union, particularly in relation to Central Asia.
  • 2. Make a close evaluation of the key developments and debates in Central Asia history from the mid-eighteenth to mid-twentieth century.
  • 3. Evaluate the main themes in the subject and to collate information upon, and evaluate in greater detail, those aspects of the module discussed in seminar and especially those topics selected by students for their coursework.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Analyse the key developments in Central Asian history under Russian and Soviet rule.
  • 5. Collate data from a range of sources, both primary and secondary.
  • 6. Interpret primary sources.
  • 7. Trace long-term as well as short-term historical developments.
  • 8. Recognise and deploy historical terminology correctly.
  • 9. Assess different approaches to historical writing in areas of controversy.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 10. Work both independently and in a group, including participating in oral seminar discussions.
  • 11. Identify a topic, select, comprehend, and organise primary and secondary materials on that topic with little guidance.
  • 12. Produce to a deadline and in examination conditions a coherent argument.

Syllabus plan

Seminar Programme:

  1. The Heritage of the Silk Road
  2. The Russian Empire in the Eighteenth Century
  3. Islam and Enlightened Absolutism
  4. Russia’s Civilising Mission: Conceptualising Colonial Rule in Central Asia
  5. The Exotic Other: Central Asia in Russian Culture
  6. Islamic Identity Under Late Imperial Rule
  7. Storm Over Asia: Revolution and Civil War in the East
  8. National in Content, Socialist in Form: Making Central Asia Soviet
  9. Creating a Surrogate Proletariat? Soviet Gender Politics in Central Asian Society
  10. A New Way of Life: The Stalinist Revolution in Central Asia
  11. On the Tashkent Front: Deportation, Evacuation, and War in Central Asia

Lecture Programme:

The lecture programme is designed to give you an overview of key themes and events across the whole of the Russian Empire/Soviet Union, as well as focussing on specific developments in Central Asian society. Topics that will be covered include: Islam and toleration during the Enlightenment; ethnography and travel; The Great Game; Russian identity in the nineteenth century; the Russian Revolution and Civil War; Soviet nationality policy and Central Asia; Collectivisation and famine in Central Asia; and Central Asia during the Second World War.

A number of the lectures will also be used as skills workshops and will deal with critical reading, academic writing, and preparing group presentations. We will also watch and discuss a film at some point in the term.

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
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities22Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities22Seminars; these will be tutor-led. You will need to prepare for each seminar and will be asked to present on a given topic in groups of 4 on at least one occasion
Guided independent study22Web-based activities located on ELE - preparation for seminars and presentations
Guided independent study234Reading and preparation for seminars and presentations

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan x 1500 words1-12Verbal and written
Group seminar task10-15 minutes1-11Verbal

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
Essay303,000 words1-12Verbal and written
Group presentation2025 minutes1-11Verbal and written
Exam502 questions in 2 hours1-12Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay3,000 words1-12Referral/deferral period
Group presentationScript as for individual presentation, equivalent to 10 minutes1-11Referral/deferral period
Exam2 questions in 2 hours1-12Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Abazov, R., Palgrave Concise Historical Atlas of Central Asia (Basingstoke, 2008).

Allworth, E. (ed), Central Asia: 130 Years of Russian Dominance, A Historical Overview (Durham, 1994).

Breyfogle et al. (eds.), Peopling the Russian Periphery: Borderland Colonization in Eurasian History (London, 2008).

Brower and Lazzerini (eds.), Russia's Orient: Imperial Borderlands and Peoples, 1700—1917 (Bloomington, 1997).

Carrère d'Encausse, H., Islam and the Russian Empire: Reform and Revolution in Central Asia (London, 1988).

Crews, R., For Prophet and Tsar: Islam and Empire in Russia and Central Asia (Cambridge, MA., 2006).

Edgar, A., Tribal Nation: The Making of Soviet Turkmenistan (Princeton, 2004).

Fitzpatrick, S., Everyday Stalinism. Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times. Soviet Russia in the 1930s (New Haven, 1999).

Igmen, A., Speaking Soviet with an Accent: Culture and Power in Kyrgyzstan (Pittsburgh, 2012).

Kamp, M., The New Woman in Uzbekistan: Islam, Modernity, and Unveiling under Communism (Seattle, 2008).

Keller, S., To Moscow, Not Mecca: The Soviet Campaign against Islam in Central Asia, 1917-1941 (London, 2001).

Khalid, A., Islam after Communism: Religion and Politics in Central Asia (Berkeley, 2007).

Northrop, D., Veiled Empire: Gender & Power in Stalinist Central Asia (Ithaca, 2004).

Sahadeo and Zanca (eds.) Everyday Life in Central Asia (Bloomington, 2006).

Wade, R. (ed.), Revolutionary Russia: New Approaches (New York, 2004).

Wirtschafter, E., Social Identity in Imperial Russia (Dekalb, 1997).

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Early Central Asian Photography Archive:

Icons and Images of Culture:

Marxist Internet Archive –

Museum of the Russian Poster:

Soviet History Online –

The Prokudin-Gorskii Photo Archive:

The Virtual Gulag Museum:

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Russia, Soviet, Central Asia, Islam, Stalin, Revolution, Nationalism, Empire, Imperialism, Communism