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Unit Overview


Russia's twentieth century was a history of extremes. At its beginning, Europe's last great aristocratic autocracy was violently overthrown by a series of revolutions, the last of which purported to be the harbinger of the paradise of world communism. A brutal civil war marked the beginning of the planet's first experiment in socialist state power. Lenin's early death witnessed the ascendancy of Stalin and the ruthless imposition of his own revolution from above: collectivisation, breakneck industrialisation and mass terror paved the way for the coming into being of a Soviet Union capable, through the sacrifice of millions of more Soviet lives, of meeting and defeating the exterminatory war unleashed by the Nazis on Russia and the world. Emerging from that conflict as a global superpower, the Soviet Union, expanded to an empire spanning now from Berlin to Japan, locked horns for planetary supremacy with the USA. Communism survived Stalin's death in 1953, and sought to keep pace internally and externally. Matching its rival in nuclear weaponry and in the space-race, as well as in policing its sprawling empire, Russia under Khrushchev and Brezhnev gradually fell behind in the battle for the hearts and minds of its citizens and the world. By the 1980s the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe emphatically symbolised the Soviet Union's redundancy. Under Gorbachev, reform aimed at salvaging the salvageable spiralled out of control and between 1989 and 1991 the Soviet Union first lost its empire and then imploded. The entity emerging from the wreckage of so many dreams and disasters struggled to find its way. Putin's rise to power in the last years of the twentieth century opened up yet another dramatic chapter in this nation's extraordinarily fraught history. Through engagement with and analysis of a broad range of documents, histories, debates and historiography, this unit surveys Russia's awe-inspiring, tragic and brutal twentieth century.

6 points
Not available in 2024UWA (Perth)Face to face
Not available in 2024AlbanyFace to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 2 option in the History major sequence
  • Level 2 elective

Students are able to (1) demonstrate a detailed understanding of the history of Russia and the Soviet Union in the 20th century; (2) describe and assess the basic methodological issues characteristic of the discipline of history through the example of historical writing on Russia and the Soviet Union; (3) identify and evaluate interpretative problems posed by the history of Russia and the Soviet Union; (4) present advanced arguments in both written and oral assessments using the conventions of the historical discipline; and (5) locate and analyse appropriate primary and secondary sources.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) source analysis/book review; (2) research essay; and (3) tutorial performance. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Giuseppe Finaldi
Unit rules
Successful completion of
two level 1 Unit(s) from the Bachelor of Arts
Successful completion of
HIST3002 Russia and the Soviet Union in the Twentieth Century
Contact hours
1 hour lecture per week for 12 weeks
1 hour tutorial per week for 10 weeks
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.