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The Russian Revolution Revisited


Admission requirements

This course is part of the MA Programme of Russian and Eurasian Studies.
This course is also part of the (Res)MA History Programme PCNI.
This course is accessible for BA graduates only.


The Russian Revolution of 1917 will have its centenary in the coming year. It remains to be seen what sort of celebration or commemoration this anniversary will become. During the past hundred years, the image of the revolution has gone through a full circle of both positive and negative evaluations. The historical events have been regarded as the beginning of a new life, but also as the continuation of old habits. The legacy of the revolution is complex, ambiguous and is still problematic for Russia and the world. Did it bring modernity or retardation?
In this master seminar we’ll have a fresh look at the Russian Revolution which started in 1917, was over in 1991, and still lingers on in the collective memory and conditioned behavior of Russia today. We’ll make an analysis of the successive efforts by historians to explain and (re)frame the revolution. Subsequently, we’ll conduct case-studies to compare these various images in historiography with the available primary sources on the impressions which the revolution has made on eyewitnesses at the time and on observers in later years. Nowadays that the revolution tends to get overshadowed in our consciousness by all the other enormous shocks that followed it during the past century, we will try to fathom the true meaning of this fundamental watershed in Russian history.

Course objectives

  • Thorough knowledge of the history of the Russian Revolution, its main events, its historical backgrounds and causes, its main actors and moving forces, its political consequences and cultural legacy, and of its lasting impact on Russia and the world.

  • Insight in and understanding of the various approaches and interpretations of the Russian Revolution, both in academic history writing as in primary sources for the personal reflections of eyewitnesses and later observers, insight in the contrast and interactions between history and memory of the Russian Revolution, understanding of the complex and multilayered character of the historical experience in general.

  • Research abilities in mastering general historical overviews and academic expert literature, in finding and processing (translated) primary sources for a case-study on a specific topic of choice, in delimitating keys issues and raising innovative research questions, in giving adequate reports group both in oral and written form, and in participating in peer group discussions on outcomes and implications.

  • Showing an academic attitude in the exploration of the topic, approaching it with an open mind and curiosity, taking a critical stand towards the authoritative sources and the established ideas, being creative and innovative in the design of a case-study, engaging in self-reflection and reflection on the work of others, contributing with an individual effort to a collective research project.



Mode of instruction


Course load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours

  • Lectures: 30 hours

  • Practical work: 10 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 100 hours

  • Assignments (i.e. test, papers, presentations and final report): 140 hours

Assessment method

  • Written entry test with essay-questions in week 2 (10%)

  • Two oral presentations on a short reading paper (20%)

  • Participation in and contribution to group discussions (20%)

  • Final research paper on an individual case-study (50%)

  • Resits for written work if necessary (up to 70%)


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Course program

  • Literature and sources

  • Student papers

  • Any additional information

Reading list

  • S.A. Smith, The Russian Revolution, a very short introduction (Oxford UP, 2002)

  • M.D. Steinberg, Voices of the Revolution, 1917 (Yale UP, 2003)

  • J. Daly and L. Trofimov eds., Russia in War and Revolution, 1914-1922: a documentary history (Indianapolis 2009)


Enrolment in uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


For questions about the content of the course, you can contact the teacher:
Dr. H.J.C. Kern
Coordinator of Studies: mw. drs. T. Bouma
Administrations Office: Van Wijkplaats


The entry test will be in week two on the little but very informative book by Steve Smith, The Russian Revolution, a very short introduction (Oxford UP, 2002) 168 pp.

This course will be offered in the MA programs of PCNI and Russian and Eurasian Studies. Students of both fields of study will be combined in one group.