Module Identifier IP34720  
Academic Year 2007/2008  
Co-ordinator Dr Jennifer G Mathers  
Semester Semester 1  
Course delivery Seminars / Tutorials   8 Hours. (8 x 1 hour)  
  Lecture   14 Hours. (14 x 1 hour)  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Exam2 Hours  60%
Semester Assessment Essay: 1 x 2,500 words  40%
Supplementary Exam Students may, subject to Faculty approval, have the opportunity to resit this module, normally during the supplementary examination period. For further clarification please contact the Teaching Programme Administrator in the Department of International Politics. 

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of this module students should be able to:

- Discuss the changing role which the Communist Party played in politics
- Outline successive attempts to reform the Soviet political system
- Assess Gorbachev's contribution to Soviet politics
- Describe the major characteristics of Post-Soviet Russian politics
- Compare Russia's political system with its Soviet predecessor

Brief description

This is a module about the development of politics and political power in the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia in the years since the death of Stalin in 1953. The early years of Soviet power, and particularly the period of Stalin's leadership, established distinctive patterns of political behaviour which have been either continued or challenged by subsequent leaders and citizens. During this semester, you will have the opportunity to learn about the ways in which leaders such as Nikita Khrushchev and Mikhail Gorbachev sought to reform the Soviet political system and to examine the political system which has been developing in post-Soviet Russia since 1992. In this module, we will be considering issues such as the roles of the media, political parties, parliaments, elections and other forms of political participation in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia. Much of the emphasis in the module is on the actions and perceptions of the political elite, but perspectives from other parts of Soviet and Russian society will be included where possible in the search to understand Russia's continuing struggle with the question of how much control the state and the government can and should exercise over its people.


The module begins with the death of Stalin and the dilemma faced by his successors of reducing the regime's dependence on the use of coercion and terror as instruments of politics without losing control of events and provoking a backlash which would sweep them from power. Khrushchev embarked on a campaign of selective revelations about the excesses of the Stalin period and the rehabilitation of some of its victims ('de-Stalinisation'), but his policies were inconsistent and the frequent changes of course alienated powerful interest groups. The Brezhnev leadership placed strong emphasis on stability and brought an immediate end to de-Stalinisation, even in the limited and inconsistent form which it had taken during Khrushchev's years in power. When Mikhail Gorbachev came to power he sought to invigorate politics with his policies of perestroika and glasnost, but instead released long-suppressed political aspirations which spiraled out of control, leading to the end of the Communist Party's monopoly on power and the collapse of the Soviet Union itself. Since the end of 1991 new political institutions and processes have been created, but Russia's political leaders continue to struggle with the perennial questions of how much control the state and the government can and should exercise over the people. While both Yeltsin and Putin offered distinctive styles of political leadership, it is still far from clear whether Russia is pursuing a course that will result in the development of a democratic state, or indeed whether the majority of Russian citizens desire such an outcome.

1. Key components of the Stalinist political system
2. Khrushchev and the problems of reforming Stalin's system
3. The 20th Party Congress
4. Khrushchev's legacy and the dilemmas of his successors
5. Brezhnev and the return to stability
6. The Andropov-Chernenko interregnum
7. Gorbachev: background and formation of perestroika
8. Perestroika and glasnost in action
9. Debates about the Gorbachev period
10. Russian politics under Yeltsin: confronting the legacies of the past
11. Russian politics under Yeltsin: building new institutions and processes
12. Vladimir Putin: Russia's choice?
13. Is there a `Putinist' political system?
14. Assessing politics in Russia: continuity and change

1. The Stalinist Political System
2. Khrushchev: The Hesitant Reformer
3. Brezhnev: Stability and Stagnation
4. Gorbachev and Perestroika I: 1985-1988
5. Gorbachev and Perestroika II: 1989-1991
6. Politics in Yeltsin's Russia
7. Putin: Return to Order?
8. Politics in Russia: Continuity and Change


The aim of this module is to examine the development of politics in the Soviet Union and Russia after the death of Stalin in 1953.

Transferable skills

Students taking this module will have the opportunity to develop and practice a wide range of transferable skills. In lectures students will develop listening and notetaking skills. In preparation for seminars students will develop their reading, notetaking and analytical skills. Seminar discussions will help students to develop their listening, explaining and debating skills, as well as team work and problem solving. The essay which the students will write will encourage them to develop their independent research, writing and IT skills. The examination will test students' analytical and writing skills under time constraints.

10 ECTS credits

Reading Lists

** Recommended Text
Archie Brown The Gorbachev Factor
Hill, Ronald J. & Frank, Peter The Soviet Communist Party
Martin McCauley The Soviet Union 1917-1991
Nove, Alec Stalinism and After (3rd Edition)
Sakwa, Richard Russian Politics and Society
Tompson, William Khrushchev: A Political Life


This module is at CQFW Level 6