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The Russian Revolution Revisited


Admission requirements

Open to all students from the MA programme Russian and Eurasian Studies.


The Russian Revolution of 1917 has had its centenary in the past year. It remains to be seen what sort of celebration or commemoration this anniversary really was. 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 progress or retardation? Was it a liberation or a catastrophe?

In this master seminar we’ll have a fresh look at the Russian Revolution which started in 1917 and was only definitly over in 1991, but 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, after the revolution has got overshadowed in our consciousness by all the other enormous shocks which followed it during the past century, we will try with a fresh eye 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.


The timetable is available on the Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

  • Research

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Classes: 30 hours

  • Practical work: 10 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 100 hours

  • Assignment(s): 40 hours

  • Final research paper: 100 hours

  • Other components: some extra time for films, excursions, guest speakers etc.

Assessment method

  • Entry test in week two on the introductory text book (10%)

  • Weekly contributions to the discussion of the ‘source of the week’ on blackboard (10%)

  • Two oral presentations of small papers, on the literature and on the case-study (2x10%)

  • General preparation for, and participation in the various group discussions in class (10%)

  • Final essay (ca. 7000 words) on the case-study as the main research assignment (50%)

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

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficent..


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.

Exam review

How and when a review of the written paper will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the results, a review of the written paper will have to be organised.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Course program

  • Literature and sources

  • Student papers

  • Discussion Board

  • 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 through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Dr. J.H.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 introductory book by Steve Smith, The Russian Revolution, a very short introduction (Oxford UP, 2002) 168 pp.