The Russian Revolution: Context (HIH3258)

StaffDr Matt Rendle - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15.00
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesAt least 90 credits of History at Level 1 and/or Level 2
Co-requisitesHIH3257 The Russian Revolution: Sources
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module examines the revolutionary period in Russian history (1914-22) through an in-depth study of the available sources. It looks at the emerging revolutionary movement in late tsarist Russia, the problems facing the autocracy, and the impact of the First World War, before devoting attention to the complex events of 1917. As well as examining political developments, the module explores important themes, such as the changing aspirations of lower social groups and the importance of nationalism. The module finishes by exploring the civil war, which saw the Bolsheviks struggle to hold on to power and the final failure of alternatives, such as moderate socialism and liberalism, before assessing the broader implications of the revolution for the future of Russia and Europe.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Display detailed knowledge of the complex political, economic, social, and cultural events of the revolutionary period in Russian history.
  • 2. Make close specialist evaluation of the key developments within the period, developed through independent study and seminar work.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Analyse the key developments within a particular historical environment
  • 4. Focus on and comprehend complex issues
  • 5. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible manner.
  • 6. Follow the complex reasoning inherent in the discourse of the period.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Independently and autonomously study and also work within a group, including presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 8. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment
  • 9. Present complex arguments orally.

Syllabus plan

This module begins by examining the political, social and economic position of Russia on the eve of the First World War before exploring the impact of the war and the background to the February Revolution. The main body of the module focuses on analysing the events of 1917 with seminars covering the political developments, popular interpretations of the revolution, and the role of regionalism and nationalism. The module then examines how the Bolsheviks established their authority, the failure of socialist alternatives, and the interplay between different forces during the civil war. It finishes with the formation of the Soviet Union in 1922, and an assessment of the image of the revolution in Soviet Russia and its broader impact.

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 Activities44Seminars (22 x 2hrs)
Guided independent study256Reading and preparation for seminars, coursework and presentations.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussionOngoing through course1-7, 9Verbal from tutor and fellow students

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
Essay253000 words1-8Verbal and written
Unseen exam502 questions in 2 hours1-8Verbal and written
Essay253000 words1-8Verbal and written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Two essaysTwo essays1-8Referral/deferral period
Unseen examUnseen exam1-8Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Acton, E. and Stableford, T., The Soviet Union: A Documentary History. Vol. I (Exeter, 2005) 

Browder, R. and Kerensky, A., The Russian Provisional Government. Documents (3 vols., Stanford, 1961) 

Butt, V. et al. (eds.), The Russian Civil War: Documents from the Soviet Archives (Basingstoke, 1996) 

Denikin, A., The Russian Turmoil (Westport, 1973) and The White Army (Westport, 1973) 

Got'e, Iu., Time of Troubles: The Diary of Iurii Vladimirovich Got'e,1917-1922 (London, 1988) 

Keep, J. (ed.), The Debate on Soviet Power (Oxford, 1979) 

Kerensky, A., The Kerensky Memoirs (London, 1966) 

Kowalski, R., The Russian Revolution, 1917-21 (London, 1997) [collection of various sources] 

Steinberg, M., Voices of Revolution, 1917 (New Haven, 2001) 

Sukhanov, N., The Russian Revolution, 1917: A Personal Record (Oxford, 1955)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Lenin's Collected Works and those of other socialists: 

Russian Civil War Posters:

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

October (Ten Days that Shook the World) (DVD, dir. S. Eisenstein, 1928) 

The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty (DVD, dir. E. Shub, 1927)

Available as distance learning?


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