History | Gorbachev Revolution and Collapse of the Soviet Empire
D302 | 2841 | Eklof


Above section open to undergraduates only
Above section carries culture studies credit

This course examines the remarkable and improbable implosion, and
sudden disappearance in 1991 of the world's greatest, and longest
lasting empire, of the Soviet state, which comprised one sixth of
the world's surface, and of the only major rival to US dominance of
the world. What was this empire, state and society, and why did it
seemingly vanish so abruptly?  What is the nature of
the "democratic" system that succeeded the USSR in Russia?  Who was
the charismatic leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and why did he launch his
peaceful revolution, unilaterally begin to end the Cold War, give up
a vast empire in Central Europe in 1989, but then see his revolution
spin out of control?  What was his program, and why did it go
wrong?  We pay equal attention to policy making and the dilemmas
confronting late Soviet rulers, to the generation which produced
Gorbachev and believed in "socialism with a human face," and to
daily life, or the lived experience of the population, as well as
the changing structure of Soviet and post-Soviet Russian society.
The course is divided into three segments: The Tsarist and Soviet
Legacy to 1979 (20%); the Gorbachev era (50%); and to post-Soviet
Russia (30%).  The format is combined lecture/discussion.  Sources
include introductory textbooks, analytical essays, a powerful
journalistic account of late Soviet society trying to come to grips
with revelations about its own Stalinist past; short works of
fiction from the late Soviet era, and documentary films.  Students
will also be introduced to electronic sources on contemporary
Russian life and required to assess their credibility.  Each student
will also be required to trace the trajectory of another Soviet
republic/post-Soviet state after 1991 in addition to Russia
(probably as a written homework exercise)

Readings:

Articles on e-reserve
M Galeotti, "The Gorbachev Revolution" (1997:I may replace this book
this year)
Minton Goldman, "Global Studies: Russian, the Eurasian States, and
Central Europe" (ninth edition: 2002)
Adam Hochschild, "The Unquiet Ghost" (1994)
S. Kotkin, "Armageddon Averted" (2002)

REQUIREMENTS:
Regular Attendance and Preparation (15%); Three Exams (10/40/15) and
5-page essay on "The Unquiet Ghost" (20%).  I reserve the right to
slightly alter the weighting at the beginning of the semester.  For
your participation (attendance and preparation) grade, I accept
notes taken from the reading, or during the class, as a contribution
(esp. for those who prefer not to talk in class).

No prerequisites (usually fewer than a tenth of students in this
class have background or career interests in Russia)