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On Christmas Day 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev ended two things: his tenure as President of the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union itself. In the years that followed, the Soviet Union’s fifteen national republics splintered overnight into more than a dozen nation states along uneven and highly contest ethnic lines. In Russia, Boris Yeltsin assumed office as the first president of the Russian Federation, and without delay, began to institute radical economic and social reforms. Under his watch, the country privatized national industry, cut the state budget, and courted foreign multinational businesses. The world most commonly used to describe Russia in the early 1990s is “disappear”: money, jobs, food, and people. The very things that Soviet-style socialism had committed itself to providing for started to vanish as a result of invisible and market forces. Russian nationalism replaced Soviet internationalism as a guiding national idea. This course will explore what emerged in the spaces left empty after Soviet-style socialism’s demise in three parts. The first part of the semester will examine the origins of the Soviet Union’s collapse and its breakup into fifteen successor states. The second part of the semester will survey the political, economic, and social processes that followed the collapse. Finally, the third part of the course will focus on Putin’s ascendancy to the presidency and its consequences for Russian citizens at home and Russia’s image abroad. Three themes will occupy a prominent place in the course: political-economy, nationalism, and identity. By semester’s end, students will have acquired the content and analytical literacy to place the former Soviet Union in its specific historical context and identify multiple sources of causation that may help explain Russia’s transition from socialism to capitalism to Putinism during the past quarter century.
Format: seminar; Each week, students will watch a pre-recorded asynchronous lecture that will provide context for the readings due that week. Students will be assigned to a small group of no more than 5 students which will "meet" with the instructor for a weekly, tutorial-style discussion on Zoom.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
active class participation, three short essays (3-5 pages), and one long essay (10-12 pages)
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
GBST Russian + Eurasian Studies Electives
HIST Group C Electives - Europe and Russia