Gwybodaeth Modiwlau

Module Identifier
Module Title
The Soviet Union and the World, 1917-1991
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 20 x 1 Hour Lectures
Seminar 6 x 1 Hour Seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay  50%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   (1 x 2 hour exam)  50%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 2,500 word supplementary (resit) essay  50%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   1 x 2 hour supplementary (resit) examination  50%

Learning Outcomes

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

Demonstrate an understanding of the historiography of Soviet foreign policy.

Demonstrate an understanding of the main developments in Soviet foreign policy.

Identify and evaluate a wide range of relevant primary and secondary material.

Demonstrate an ability to analyse and deploy relevant historical evidence to produce appropriate arguments.


This module is intended to offer an additional Part 2 option to undergraduate students.

The Soviet Union and its relationship with the World are of great significance in understanding the modern world, not least in terms of the legacies of Soviet foreign policy in contemporary Russia and Eastern Europe. Considering the Soviet Union as a global power, the module will provide students with a detailed overview of the development and implementation of Soviet foreign policy during the twentieth century and how the Soviet Union engaged with foreign powers. It will examine controversies in the historiography, make some use of primary documents, and consider internal and external pressures, and explore continuity and change in foreign policy before, during and after the existence of the Soviet Union.

Brief description

The Soviet Union was a state at odds with others throughout much of the twentieth century. As a revolutionary state, other powers viewed the Soviet Union as aggressively expansionist, dangerous, and difficult to deal with. The Soviets held much the same view of the capitalist world, and in the second half of the twentieth century the Soviet Union and the United States were locked in the Cold War. This module examines the content and conduct of the foreign policy of the Soviet Union. Beginning with an overview of late Russian imperial foreign policy, the module examines the impact of the Russian Revolution and the rise of the Bolsheviks on the relationship between Russia and the rest of the world, how security was sought in a challenging interwar world, the development and origins of the Cold War, foreign policy after Stalin’s death, and the demise of Soviet power under Gorbachev. Themes addressed include continuity and change in foreign policy, ideology, the export of revolution, diplomacy, intelligence, anti-fascism, imperialism, reform, arms control, and ultimately the loss of power in the 1980s.


1. Introduction: Russian Foreign Policy in late Russian Empire
2. The Russian Revolution and the World
3. Capitalist Encirclement: the Russian Civil War and Foreign Intervention
4. World Revolution and Normalization, 1919-1923
5. Socialism in One Country and the Third Period
6. The Soviet Union and Nazi-Germany, 1933-1941
7. The Soviet Union and the Far Eastern Crisis, 1931-1941
8. The Soviet Union and the Anglo-French Entente in the 1930s
9. Soviet Intervention in the Spanish Civil War
10. The Great Patriotic War
11. The Grand Alliance
12. Birth of the Soviet Superpower: Stalin and the Onset of the Cold War, 1945-1953
13.The Soviet Union, Communist China and the Korean War, 1949-1953
14. Foreign Policy after Stalin’s Death: challenges and responses
15. Khrushchev, Peaceful Coexistence and the Cuban Missile Crisis
16. Brezhnev, Developed Socialism and Detente
17. Gorbachev and the Demise of the Soviet Union
18. Russian Foreign Policy in the 1990s

1. The Russian Revolution and Foreign Reactions
2. Diverging Paths of Soviet Foreign Policy in the 1920s
3. The Challenge to the Soviet Union from Germany and Japan in the 1930s
4. The Birth of the Soviet Empire in the Post-War World
5. Crises and Confrontations, 1956-1968
6. Brinkmanship and Solutions in the 1970s and 1980s

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Written communication skills will be developed through the coursework and written examination; skills in oral presentation will be developed in seminars but are not formally assessed.
Improving own Learning and Performance Students will be advised on how to improve research and communication skills through the individual tutorial providing feedback on submitted coursework.
Information Technology Students will be encouraged to locate suitable material on the web and to apply it appropriately to their own work. Students will also be expected to word-process their work and make use of Blackboard. These skills will not be formally assessed.
Personal Development and Career planning Students will develop a range of transferable skills, including time management and communication skills, which may help them identify their personal strengths as they consider potential career paths.
Problem solving Students are expected to note and respond to historical problems which arise as part of the study of this subject area and to undertake suitable research for seminars and essays.
Research skills Students will develop their research skills by reading a range of texts and evaluating their usefulness in preparation for the coursework and the written examination.
Subject Specific Skills Students will develop knowledge of sources and historical literature relating to the Soviet Union and its role in global affairs.
Team work Students will be expected to play an active part in group activities (e.g. short group presentations in seminars) and to learn to evaluate their own contribution to such activities.


This module is at CQFW Level 5