History | Heroes and Villains in Russian History
D303 | 0399 | Eklof

This course examines major themes in Russian history through the
lives of colorful, controversial, mainly famous, but also obscure,
individuals.  We examine biography and memoirs as historical
sources, and focus upon the connection between the private and
public, the individual and society.  With legendary figures such as
Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Nicholas II, we look at the
myth-making process surrounding their lives to learn what such
myths, as much as the truth of their lives, tells us about Russian
identity and its search for a “usable past” (a term to be discussed
in class).  We also look at more obscure figures (Avvakum, Andrei
Rublev, Kanatchikov, Vera Figner, E. Ginzburg), whose lives embody
significant themes (religious belief, rebellion against the state,
martyrdom and heroic deed, or major groups-the peasantry, nobility,
workers, intelligentsia).  We pay equal attention to the experiences
and contributions of women to Russian history.  This is a course
focusing on Russians; the lives of the colonized peoples of the
Russian Empire, the world’s largest, cannot be treated in a course
of this brevity and chronological sweep (we will travel from the
time of the Mongols-13th century, to the Gorbachev era).  We watch
and analyze famous films on several of these figures.