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The University of Southampton

HIST2031 Stalin and Stalinism

Module Overview

This module begins with an assessment of the legacy of Lenin and goes on to investigate Stalin's rise to power and his methods in modernising economy and society. We will engage with historical debates concerning his role in the purges of the 1930s and the impact of the Great Patriotic War on his rule. We go on to evaluate the first effort at reforming the Stalinist system under his successor Khrushchev, whether there was a (partial) return to Stalinism under Brezhnev, and why the attempts to reform eventually failed under Gorbachev. We conclude by addressing Stalin's continuing popularity as a historical figure in post-communist Russia.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The basis of Stalin’s personal autocracy
  • The role of the state bureaucracy within the Stalinist system
  • The social and cultural as well as political characteristics of Stalinism
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Explain the role of a key individual in shaping history
  • Assess the links between ideology and society
  • Evaluate interpretations of a deeply contentious subject
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Handle a range of primary and secondary sources (in translation) with an appropriate degree of sophistication
  • Explain your ideas effectively in written exercises
  • Demonstrate your ability to communicate under pressure of a timed unseen examination
  • Show increasing confidence in group discussion


You will examine both the rule of Joseph Stalin and the development of the ideology associated with him. You will consider Stalin’s rise to and consolidation of power; the various attempts after his death to reform the system he established; and the causes of its ultimate failure. You will also analyse the relationship between Stalinism and Leninism; assess the possibility of alternatives to Stalinism within the Soviet system; and evaluate the debates among western historians, focusing on the totalitarian/revisionist arguments, especially in the light of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • Lectures (one hour, twice a week) • Complementary seminars (one hour, once a week) • Informal essay tutorials Learning activities include: • Preparation for weekly seminars by reading and interpreting a variety of sources, both primary and secondary • Enhancement of your organisational and analytical skills through the two modes of formal assessment

Independent Study264
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Fitzpatrick, S (2004). Stalinism: New Directions. 

McDermott, K (2006). Stalin: Revolutionary in an Era of War. 

Hoffmann, D.L (2011). Cultivating the Masses: Modern State Practices and Soviet Socialism 1914-1939. 

McCauley, M (2008). The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union. 

Chubarov, A (2001). Russia’s Bitter Path to Modernity: A History of the Soviet and Post-Soviet Eras. 

McLoughlin, B. & McDermott, K. (eds) (2004). Stalin’s Terror: High Politics and Repression in the Soviet Union. 

Ree, E. van (2002). The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin: A Study in Twentieth-century Revolutionary Patriotism. 

Edele, M (2011). Stalinist Society 1928-1953. 

Khlevniuk, O. V (2004). Master of the House: Stalin and his Inner Circle. 

Davies, S. & Harris, J. (eds) (2005). Stalin: A New History. 

Rees, E.A. (ed.) (2004). The Nature of Stalin’s Dictatorship: The Politburo 1924-1953. 

Brown, A (2007). Seven Years that Changed the World: Perestroika in Perspective. 

Service, R (2003). A History of Modern Russia: from Nicholas ll to Putin. 

McCauley, M (2008). Stalin and Stalinism. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal feedback: • You will engage in structured seminars based on set reading of both primary sources and extracts from secondary works, with occasional presentations of short papers which will be reviewed in class • You will be encouraged to discuss preparation for your formal assessment with your tutor • You will have the opportunity to seek individual advice on your work in progress from your tutor • Guidance and advice in class on preparation, completion and presentation of assignments will be available to you The formal assessments set out below will promote skills of analysis and critical thinking and also reinforce organisational, planning and writing skills.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 50%
Written assignment 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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