Smolny Beyond Borders

A Liberal Arts Initiative

Soviet Origins of Contemporary Russia

Soviet Origins of Contemporary Russia


Course Schedule:

Spring 2023 | Mon Wed 8.30 - 9.50 EST

Semester: Spring 2023 | Monday, January 30 – Tuesday, May 23
Schedule: Mon Wed 8.30 – 9.50 New York 
Language of Instruction:
Course Prerequisites: Russian B2 / Equivalent or higher
Subject: POL (Politics) | Cross-Listing(s): RES (Russian and Eurasian Studies), HIS (History)
Distribution Area: Social Analysis
Max Enrollment: 25
Level: 200
Credits: 4 US / 8 ECT
Course Time Zone: Eastern Time (US/NY)
Professor’s Location and Time Zone: Helsinki, Finland

Course Description
Contemporary Russia has visible and clandestine rapport with its Soviet predecessor, manifested in the contemporary Russian state’s open declarations of its adherence to traditions and institutions of the Soviet past. This course aims to identify such connections while keeping track of how old Soviet institutions and practices were preserved, modified, and reinvented in Russia in the 2000s and 2010s. It covers such topics as political monopoly, state surveillance apparatus, welfare and gender contracts, anti-westernism and expansionism, a legacy of Soviet ethnic policies, contemporary and historical distrust of civic activities, and the importance of informal networks in the public sphere. Different segments of the course will distinguish elements of contemporary Russian politics that owe its potency to Soviet legacy, from those rooted in pre-Soviet Russian history to those that have been re-invented later, including remnants of XX-century “Universal Modernity.” We will discuss how different legacies enhance each other and what are the ways out of the existing “history traps.” The theoretical framework of the course relies on ideas of such scholars as M. David Fox, H. Hale, S. Fitzpatrick, O. Kharkhordin, S. Kotkin, and A. Yurchak.

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