Everyday Stalinism: Life in the Soviet Union, 1928-53: Context (HIH3188)

StaffDr Claire McCallum -
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesAt least 90 credits of History at Level 1 and/or Level 2.
Co-requisitesEveryday Stalinism: Life in the Soviet Union, 1928-53: Sources 
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module aims to introduce students to some of the cutting-edge developments in the study of Stalinism by getting them to think beyond the political and ideological aspects that have traditionally dominated scholarship and instead engage with ideas surrounding identity, resistance and how citizens negotiated their lives within the parameters of the Stalinist state. This will be achieved through both secondary reading and detailed examination of a range of source material, to include diaries, letters, memoirs and cultural sources such as film, art and literature. Students will be actively encouraged to think about how these shifts in scholarship, and increased access to sources following the opening of the Soviet archives after 1991, have impacted upon how we perceive Stalinism and the experiences of those who lived through it. 

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Ability to evaluate the different complex themes in the history of the Soviet Union under Stalin.
  • 2. Ability to make close specialist evaluation of the key developments within the period, developed through independent study and seminar work.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Ability to analyse the key developments within the history of the Soviet Union under Stalin
  • 4. Ability to focus on and comprehend complex issues.
  • 5. Ability to understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible manner.
  • 6. Ability to follow the complex reasoning inherent in the discourse of the period.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Independent and autonomous study and group work, including presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 8. Ability to digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 9. Ability to present complex arguments orally.

Syllabus plan

Term 1:

1. Bolshevik Visions: An Introduction to Soviet Ideology

2. Life in the Metropolis: Industrialisation, Modernisation and Five Year Plans

3. Life in the Countryside: Collectivisation and Its Consequences

4. Creating the New Soviet Person: Sex, Sexuality and Gender Ideals

5. Regulating the Private Sphere: Home and Family Life under Stalin

6. Growing Up Under Stalinism: Childhood, Schooling and Youth Movements

7. The Great Terror: Show Trials and Purges

8. The Great Terror: Everyday Experience

9. The Gulag Archipelago: Everyday Life in the Camps

10. Holding Out for a Hero: The Everyday and the Extraordinary in Stalinist Culture

11. Socialist Realism vs Socialist Reality: Depicting Life in the Stalinist State


Term 2:

1. Building the Stalinist State: Architecture and Ideology

2. Red Plenty: Consumption, Consumerism, Shortages and Socialism

3. Godless Communists?: Religious Belief and Practice in Stalinist Society

4. From Deveiling to Deportation: Ethnic Minorities Under Stalin

5. The Soviet Experience of the Second World War: On the Front

6. The Soviet Experience of the Second World War II: Behind the Lines

7. Life After Peace: Dealing with the Legacy of War

8. ‘Farewell Father!’: Public Responses to the Death of Stalin

9. Rethinking the Stalinist Past: The History of Stalinism Since 1991

10. Assessed Presentation Conference

11. Assessed Presentation Conference

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 activities4422 x 2 hour seminars.
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 other students.
Worse of two essay marks3000 words1-6, 8-9Verbal and written.

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
Better of two essay marks333000 words1-8Verbal and written
Unseen exam672 questions in 2 hours1-8Verbal and written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Better of two essaysBetter of two essays1-8Referral/deferral period
Unseen examUnseen exam1-8Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Brandenberger, D., National Bolshevism: Stalinist Mass Culture and the Formation of Modern Russia (2002)

Brooks, J., Thank You, Comrade Stalin!: Soviet Public Culture From Revolution to Cold War (1999)

Davies, S. and Harris, J. (eds.), Stalin: A New History (2005)

Davies, S., Popular Opinion in Stalin’s Russia: Terror, Propaganda and Dissent 1934-1941 (1997)

Edele, M., Stalinist Society (2011)

Fitzpatrick, S. (ed.), Stalinism: New Directions (2000)

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

Fitzpatrick and Geyer, Beyond Totalitarianism: Nazism and Stalinism (2008)

Hoffmann, D. (ed.), Stalinism: The Essential Readings (2003)

Hoffmann, D., Stalinist Values (2003)

Hoffmann, Cultivating the Masses: Soviet Social Intervention in Its International Context (2011)

Kotkin, S., Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as Civilisation (1997)

Platt and Brandenberger, Epic Revisionism: Russian History And Literature As Stalinist Propaganda (2006)

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

Viola et al (eds), The Tragedy of the Soviet Countryside: The War Against the Peasantry, 1927-1930, v. 1  (2005) 

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Marxist Internet Archive – www.marxists.org

Museum of the Russian Poster: http://eng.plakaty.ru/posters

Soviet History Online – www.soviethistory.org

The Virtual Gulag Museum: http://www.gulagmuseum.org/index_eng.htm

Available as distance learning?


Last revision date


Key words search

Stalin, Stalinism, Soviet Union