Modern history of Russia


Mgr. Zbyněk Vydra, Ph.D.


Aims / Competences / Time requirements / Credits / Semester / Requirements / Content / Literature / Useful websites


The course was created with the support of a grant FRVŠ 2013 B5/b "The support of the english-language teaching in the Historical Sciences' study program". 

Předmět byl vytvořen s podporou grantu FRVŠ 2013 B5/b "Podpora anglo-jazyčné výuky v studijním programu Historické vědy".



In the first part, the course is focused on the evolution of Russian society in the second hal of 19th century until the revolution in 1917. The main objective is to explain the social and cultural changes which the Russian society undewent. The political, social and cultural history is analyzed, with regard to the changing structure of Russian society: the transition from estate society to the civic society before 1917. In the second part, the course is focused on the evolution of the Russian society after the revolution, with the objective to analyze the political mechanisms of the Soviet state and to explain the social, cultural and political changes in the society during the „building of stalinism“. To put the stalinism into the broader context of totalitarianism is the other important part of the interpretation.


Student is able to define and interpret the elementary changes in the Russian society in the followed period and put the Russia’s evolution in the European contex.

Time requirements

2 hours (lecture)

ECTS credits



winter / summer


written exam


1) Limits of reforms, limits of autocracy: Russia in 1860’s
2) Russian society before the revolution: Elites
3) Russian society before the revolution: Peasants
4) Women and State in prerevolutionary Russia
5) Russia as a multi-national Empire
6) Revolution as a moment of truth: 1904-1906
7) Constitutional Experiment, 1906-1914
8) War and Revolution, 1914-1917
9) The formative years of new regime and civilization: Civil War, 1917-1921
10) Stalinism in Politics and Economy: First Five Year Plan and Great Terror, 1928-1940
11) Stalinism as a Way of Life: Everyday Life in Russia, 1928-1940
12) Triumph and Tragedy: Russia in the Second World War, 1941-1945
13) Russia after Stalin


The Cambridge History of Russia, 3 vols., Cambridge 2006.

Allan Ball, And Now My Soul is Hardened, Abandoned Children in Soviet Russia, 1918-1930, Berkeley 1996.

Laurie Benstein – Robert Weinberg, Revolutionary Russia: A History in Documents, Oxford University Press, 2010.

Robin Bisha (ed.), Russian Women, 1698-1917: Experience and Expression, An Anthology of Sources, DeKalb 2002.

Victoria Bonnell, Iconography of Power. Soviet Political Posters Under Lenin and Stalin, Berkeley 1997.

Daniel R. Brower, Russia's Orient: Imperial Borderlands and Peoples, 1700-1917, Bloomington 1997.

Jane Burbank (ed.), Russian Empire: Space, People, Power, 1700-1930, Bloomington 2007.

The Cambridge History of Russia, 3 vols., Cambridge 2006.

Toby W. Clyman (ed.), Russia Through Women's Eyes: Autobiographies from Tsarist Russia, New Haven 1999.

James Cracraft (ed.), Major Problems in the History of Imperial Russia, D. C. Heath and Company 1993.

Heather D. Dehaan, Stalinist City Planning. Professionals, Performance, and Power, Toronto - Buffalo - London 2013.

Sheila Fitzpatrick - Yuri Slezkine (edd.), In the Shadow of Revolution. Life Stories of Russian Women from 1917 to the Second World War, Princeton 2000.

Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism, Oxford 2000.

Sheila Fitzpatrick, Stalin’s Peasants, Oxford 1996.

Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Cultural Front: Power and Culture in Revolutionary Russia, Cornell University Press, 1992.

Sheila Fitzpatrick, Stalinism: New Directions. Routledge 1999.

Sheila Fitzpatrick (ed.), Russia in the Era of NEP, Bloomington 1991.

Gregory L. Freeze (ed.), Russia. A History, 2nd ed., New York - Oxford 2002.

Veronique Garos – Natalia Korenevskaia – Thomas Lahusen (edd.), Intimacy and Terror. Soviet Diaries of the 1930s, New York 1997.

James van Geldern – Richard Stites (edd.), Mass Culture in Soviet Russia. Tales, Poems, Songs, Movies, Plays and Folklore, 1917-1953, Bloomington 1995.

Wendy Goldman, Women, the State and Revolution, 1917-1936, New York 1993.

Wendy Goldman, Women at the Gates. Gender and Industry in Stalin’s Russia, New York 2002.

Wendy Goldman, Inventing the Enemy: Denunciation and Terror in Stalin's Russia, New York 2011.

Anne E. Gorsuch, All This is Your World. Soviet Tourism at Home and Abroad After Stalin, Oxford 2013.

Steven E. Harris, Communism on Tomorrow Street. Mass Housin and Everyday Life after Stalin, Washington - Baltimore 2013.

David L. Hoffmann, Cultivating the Masses. Modern State Practices and Soviet Socialism, 1914-1939, Ithaca - London 2011.

David L. Hoffmann, Stalinist Values. The Cultural Norms of Soviet Modernity, Ithaca - London 2003.

Geoffrey Hosking, Russia. People and Empire, 1552-1917, Harvard 1998.

Andreas Kappeler, The Russian Empire: A Multi-Ethnic History, Longman 2001.

Catriona Kelly – David Shepherd (edd.), Constructing Russian Culture in the Age of Revolution: 1881-1940, Oxford 1998.

Christina Kiaer – Eric Naiman (edd.), Everyday Life in Early Soviet Russia: Taking the Revolution Inside, Bloomington 2005.

David King, Red Star over Russia: A Visual History of the Soviet Union from the Revolution to the Death of Stalin, Abrams 2009.

Lisa A. Kirschenbaum, Small Comrades: Revolutionizing Childhood in Soviet Russia, 1917-1932, Routledge 2000.

Charles King, The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus, Oxford University Press 2009.

Stephen Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain, Berkeley 1997.

Dominic Lieven, Empire, Yale University Press, 2002.

Paul Robert Magosci, A History of Ukraine, Toronto 1996.

Olga Maiorova, From the Shadow of Empire: Defining the Russian Nation through Cultural Mythology, 1855-1870. University of Wisconsin Press, 2010.

Arno J. Mayer, The Furies. Violence and Terror in the French and Russian Revolutions, Princeton 2002.

Christopher Read, War and Revolution in Russia, 1914-22: The Collapse of Tsarism and the Establishment of Soviet Power, Palgrave Macmillan 2012.

Aaron B. Retish, Russia's Peasants in Revolution and Civil War: Citizenship, Identity, and the Creation of the Soviet State, 1914-1922, Cambridge 2012.

Nicholas V. Riasanovsky - Mark D. Steinberg, A History of Russia, 7th ed., New York 2005.

The Routledge Atlas of Russian History, London 2007.

Lewis H. Siegelbaum, Cars for Comrades. The Life of the Sovie Automobile, Ithaca - London 2011.

Richard Stites, Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution, Oxford 1991.

Richard Stites, Culture and Entertainment in Wartime Russia, Bloomington 1995.

Orest Subtelny, Ukraine: A History, Toronto 2009.

Rex A. Wade, Russian Revolution, Cambridge 1997.

J. N. Westwood, Endurance and Endeavour. Russian History 1812-2001, 5th ed., Oxford - New York 2002.

Elisabeth Wood, The Baba and the Comrade. Gender and Politics in Revolutionary Russia, Bloomington 2000.




 Useful websites


University College of London (UCL) School of Slavonic and East European Studies

The UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies is one of the world's leading specialist institutions, and the largest national centre in the UK, for the study of Central, Eastern and South-East Europe and Russia. UCL SSEES Library is one of the leading teaching and research collections in the UK for the study of Central and Eastern Europe and Russia. Its collections comprise almost 400,000 printed volumes, two thirds of which are on open access, and extensive archive and audio-visual holdings. The Library also provides and supports computing facilities for SSEES staff and students.

Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian and East European Culture

The Bakhmeteff Archive, the second largest depository of Russian émigré materials outside Russia, was officially founded in 1951. The main goal of the Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian and East European History and Culture is to preserve and document the Russian and East European émigré heritage. The Archive also plays a significant role as a rich source of information for scholars from the United States and abroad studying subjects related to the Russian diaspora and Eastern European émigré communities. Ranging widely in subject matter from art history and literature to organizational history and politics, the approximately 1,500 collections of the Bakhmeteff Archive allow scholars from the former socialist block to discover aspects of pre-Soviet and émigré life that had not been known at all in their home countries. The Archive’s greatest collecting strength is in the manuscript and visual materials of prominent figures in politics, literature, art, and religion from the “first wave” of Russian emigration (1880-1940). The Bakhmeteff holdings also include many collections from the “second wave” (1945-1970) of Russian emigration. It includes papers of prominent figures in politics and culture, as well as memoirs and personal papers of “ordinary witnesses of the epoch”. Materials from the “third and fourth waves” of Russian emigration (1970-until now) are also collected. Besides original materials, the Archive collects relevant newspapers, journals, leaflets, and posters (legal and illegal), brochures of a political character, photographs, drawings (including caricatures and cartoons), and many other materials of historical significance.
The collapse of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1990s and the rejection of the socialist model of economic development in Eastern Europe have changed the international scene. Participants in the current rewriting of history are drawing heavily on the unknown legacy of their predecessors. To satisfy this growing demand for information, more Eastern European collections were acquired for the Bakhmeteff Archive.

Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace.

Collecting Russian and related materials began in 1919, when, at Herbert Hoover's instigation, Professor E. D. Adams from the History Department of Stanford University went to Paris to gather documentation on the First World War and the ensuing peace conference. The first materials on Russia came from members of the Russian political conference, in which two prominent politicians and diplomats, Vasilii Maklakov and Sergei Sazonov, played leading roles. In September 1920, Professor Frank Golder, a specialist on Russian history who had lived in Russia before and during World War I, was sent to Eastern Europe as a roving acquisitions agent for the Hoover Library. He and Professor Harold Fisher of the American Relief Administration acquired quantities of material: books, pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers, and archival collections dealing with Russia and its former provinces of Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine. An additional trip by Golder to the then independent Caucasian states produced further documentation. Golder obtained the greatest amount of published matter concerning Russia when he participated in the American Relief Administration mission to Soviet Russia between 1921 and mid-1923. With funds provided by Herbert Hoover, Golder acquired more than 40,000 valuable items, aided by Anatolii Lunacharskii, who was Soviet People's Commissar for Education. Along with the previously gathered documentation, these acquisitions from Russia served as a solid foundation for further developing the Hoover Library collection.
The early appointment of area specialists as curators for particular area collections at Hoover guaranteed a high scholarly level of selection and organization of the materials. In 1924 Dimitry M. Krassovsky, a Russian-trained lawyer and a graduate in library science from Berkeley, became the first curator of the collection. Former General N. N. Golovine became acquisitions agent in Europe. Both men, particularly Krassovsky (1924-1947), contributed substantially to the growth and quality of the collection. Succeeding curators have included Witold Sworakowski (1947-1964), Karol Maichel (1964-1974), Wayne Vucinich (1974-1977), and Robert Conquest (1981- ). For more than seven decades, the collection on Russia and related areas has been systematically expanded. Gaps that emerged during World War II and in the late Stalin period, when acquisitions from the Soviet Union were limited, have been later filled in with original materials or microfilms. Since Witold Sworakowski wrote the first survey of Hoover's Russian/Soviet Collection in 1954, the collection has grown more than eightfold. The fall of communism and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 have brought about another great period of growth for the Russian/CIS Collection.
The Russia/Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Collection emphasizes the twentieth century, though some materials from the latter half of the nineteenth century also form part of the collection. In accordance with the Hoover Institution's dedication to the study of war, revolution and peace, the collection is concerned primarily with the history, ideology, politics and international relations of Russia and the former Soviet Union. There are also holdings related to economics, demography, and law. This collection is one of the most outstanding features of the Hoover Institution. Few libraries in the world can match its depth or quality. It encompasses writings on Imperial Russia after 1861, the period of the Provisional Government of 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Civil War, the Soviet period, and contemporary events.

Annals of Communism Series (Yale University Press)

Annals of Communism presents selected documents concerning the history of Soviet and international communism from Russian state and party archives. Virtually all the material contained in these archives has never before been available to Western or even Russian scholars The series spans the 75-year history of the USSR. Individual volumes focus on various topics, from the reactions of ordinary citizens to forced-draft industrialization and collectivization to the history of the Communist International (Comintern), from the last days of the Romanovs to the GULAG system, from victory in the Second World War to the collapse of the Soviet bureaucracy in the Brezhnev period. Each book contains documents selected by teams of Western and Russian editors which are published with scholarly commentary, annotation, and interpretation in both an English-language edition for Western audiences and a Russian-language edition for distribution in Russia. Documents are selected not for their support of any single predetermined interpretation, but for their historical significance or their value in deepening understanding and facilitating discussion. We expect that the entire corpus of Annals of Communism materials will constitute a new, comprehensive and essential textbook for the further study of Soviet history and perhaps the most important political phenomenon of twentieth-century world history, the rise and fall of international Communism. The volumes are designed to be useful to students, scholars and interested general readers.

Seventeen Moments in Soviet History

Seventeen Moments in Soviet History contains a rich archive of texts, images, maps and audio and video materials from the Soviet era (1917-1991). The materials are arranged by year and by subject, are fully searchable, and are translated into English. Students, educators, and scholars will find fascinating materials about Soviet propaganda, politics, economics, society, crime, literature, art, dissidents and hundreds of other topics.

Various websites containing Russian and Soviet posters, and images of art and architecture. Some examples:
[various documents on Russian and Soviet History]
[Imperial memorabilia, including memoirs]
[the photographs of Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944)]