HIST-475 Power and politics in Russia from the tsars to Putin
Spring for 2015-2016
To what extent is Vladimir Putin and today’s Russia a prisoner of the past, and to what extent does the past explain Putin’s Russia? This course examines continuities and discontinuities in Russian political history, engaging comparative, thematic, and theoretical perspectives. It pays particular attention to the imperial Russian autocracy starting in the reign of Nicholas I, Soviet power under Lenin and Stalin, and post-Soviet Russia under Vladimir Putin. In order to more deeply understand the particular dilemmas of autocracy and one-person rule in different authoritarian regimes that have coalesced in the Russian/Eurasian space, the course will first critically examine the most celebrated theories explaining historical continuity from Muscovy on, from Edward Keenan’s work on “Muscovite political folkways” to Alfred Rieber’s work on “persistent factors” in Russian foreign policy. Proceeding chronologically, the course will then make a series of targeted investigations into such key areas as the effectiveness and organization of central state administration; the relationship between state and society; the governing of rural Russia and the regions; borderlands, non-Russians, and the multinational state; the projection and representations of power; personality cults; the role of ideology; political violence and repression; and relations with great power rivals and the outside world. The goal will be, to paraphrase Marc Bloch, not only to better understand the present in light of the past, but to better understand the past in light of the present.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None

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Spring '16: David-Fox M. (description, file download)
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