Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Soviet Union and the Cold War
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 10 x 2 hour seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 3,500 word essay  60%
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay  40%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Account for key turning points and major developments in Soviet foreign policy between 1945 and 1991.
2. Explain the relative importance of ideology, tradition, national interests and leadership struggles in the making of Soviet foreign policy.
3. Analyze the connections between Soviet foreign and domestic policies.
4. See continuities and changes in Soviet foreign policy throughout the Cold War.
5. Analyze the interplay between Soviet approaches to the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Third World.
6. Discuss and critique the historiography of Soviet foreign policy.
7. Understand how Soviet-era legacies continue to influence Russian foreign policy today.

Brief description

The aim of this module is to acquaint students with Soviet foreign policy during the Cold War. It examines why and how Joseph Stalin moved from cooperation to confrontation in relations with the West, and whether in doing so he harbored expansionist designs or defended his gains in Europe and Asia against perceived American threats. The module explores the impact of de-Stalinization on the fortunes of the international communist movement and the Soviet reaction to events in Poland and Hungary. This is followed by a discussion of the Cuban Missile Crisis not only from the familiar perspective of Soviet-American relations but also in the context of the Sino-Soviet competition for the Third World, leading to a broader analysis of the Sino-Soviet split and its global consequences. The module shows the evolution of Soviet foreign policy in the 1970s, through the rise and fall of détente, and in the 1980s, as Moscow sought to escape international isolation through innovative approaches to foreign affairs, which ultimately led to Soviet retrenchment and collapse, and to the end of the Cold War.


1. Introduction
2. The origins of the Cold War in Europe
3. The origins of the Cold War in Asia
4. De-Stalinization
5. The Cuban Missile Crisis
6. The Sino-Soviet split
7. Détente
8. The second Cold War
9. The End of the Cold War
10. Conclusion


The module will form part of the baskets of five degree schemes: International History, Strategic Studies, Intelligence and Strategic Studies, Intelligence and International History, and Global Politics. It will be an optional module for students of other degree schemes in the department and the Institute, for example students of International Security Studies and International Relations

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Students will learn how to present their ideas both verbally and in writing. They will be required not only to acquire information and make academic judgements about it but also to communicate their analytical conclusions clearly and effectively. They will learn to consider only that which is relevant to the topic, focus and objectives of their argument or discussion. Some of the teaching sessions will involve small group discussions in which all students will be required to participate and communicate. Students will be expected to submit their work in word-processed format and the presentation of work should reflect effective expression of ideas and good use of language skills in order to ensure clarity, coherence and effective communication.
Improving own Learning and Performance The module aims to promote self-management but within a context of assistance from both the academic staff and the fellow students alike. Students will be expected to improve their own learning and performance by undertaking their own research and to exercise their own initiative, including searching for sources and deciding (under guidance) the topic of their essays. The need to meet deadlines for assessed work will focus students' attention on the need to manage their time.
Information Technology Students will be expected to submit their work in word-processed format. Also, students will be encouraged to search for sources of information on the web, as well as seeking sources through electronic information sources (such as BIDS and OCLC).
Personal Development and Career planning The seminar discussions in particular will help to develop students' verbal and presentation skills. Learning about the process of planning an essay and a case study report, framing the parameters of the projects, honing and developing the projects and seeing through to completion will contribute towards their portfolio of transferable skills
Problem solving Independent project work and problem solving will be one of the central goals of the module; all the forms of assessment will require that the student develop problem-solving skills. The ability of students to solve problems will be developed and assessed by asking them to: examine issues from differing points of view; organize data and estimate an answer to problems; reason logically; construct theoretical models; consider similar cases; look for patterns; divide issues into smaller problems.
Research skills The assignments will require the students to develop their research skills in order to locate appropriate research resources and present the results in a coherent and analytical manner.
Subject Specific Skills Students have the opportunity to develop, practice and test a wide range of skills that are specific to the subjects that contribute to this module. These skills will help them to understand, conceptualise and evaluate examples and ideas about the internet and social media. Such subject specific skills include: Collect and understand a wide range of data relating to the topic Evaluate competing perspectives Demonstrate subject specific research techniques Apply a range of methodologies to complex problems
Team work Team-work skills are an essential component of this module. Students will frequently be required to work together during teaching sessions. Much of the core learning students will do will come through sharing and debating their ideas with their peers.


This module is at CQFW Level 7