East Building 122
Section Information for Summer 2012From 1945-1991, the Soviet Union was one of two major world superpowers, the U.S. “enemy” in the Cold War. Since 1991, Russia collapsed and reemerged as a powerful player in world politics. In order to understand the fifteen countries that were once part of the Soviet Union and to understand the post-Cold War world, we must understand the history of this former “enemy.” This course explores the history of the Soviet Union from the bloody rule of Joseph Stalin during World War II through the collapse of communism in 1991, and studies the Russia that emerged through its difficult "transition" to capitalism and the rise of Vladimir Putin (and, of late, popular opposition to Putin.) The course covers the creation of a distinctive and violent form of state and society called Stalinism, the attempts to reform the system through the renunciation of mass terror under Nikita Khrushchev until his removal in a “palace coup,” the stagnation and stability of the Leonid Brezhnev years, and Mikhail Gorbachev's final effort to reform communism that destroyed the Soviet Union. The post-Soviet years saw the radical recreation of every sphere of life, but also mass crime, corruption, an economic collapse as severe as the Great Depression, before recovery and return to international importance. Topics covered in the course include leaders’ cults of personality; the Cold War; the function and dysfunction of the centrally planned, non-market economy; the creation of a distinctive Soviet and post-Soviet culture; the reasons for the Soviet collapse; and the domestic and international politics of Russia and the Eurasian world.