Fall 2020

The Soviet Experiment

Moodle site: Course


Catherine A. Ciepiela (Section 01)


For most of the twentieth century, the peoples of the Russian empire took part in a mass human experiment: to create a society in which social and economic justice were realized. What can we learn about social transformation from the Soviet experiment? How do the Russians themselves view the Soviet past? In this course we will study the evolution of Soviet society from its beginning in 1917 to its sudden collapse in 1991, and the aftermath that yielded Putin’s reign, as a case study in the complex interactions of ideals, customs, mythologies, politics and individual fates in the making of culture.

Most of our materials will be primary, meaning they were produced during the period we are studying. These include literary texts, films, cultural artifacts, memoirs and historical documents, such as declarations of state policy on how artists should make their work. We also will read secondary materials, namely, analyses of such materials by scholars. Throughout our work, we will be attentive to how various commentators argue for their conclusions, and we will bring the same awareness to our own arguments. You will do frequent writing and will have the opportunity to bring one of your papers to final form through a process of revision. This course is discussion-based, and most of our work will be done collaboratively.

Fall Semester. Professor Ciepiela.


2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020