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The University of Southampton

HIST3234 Political Culture in Modern Russia, part 1

Module Overview

This module is a study of political culture in both imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, considering the media, surveillance and coercion. It will start with a question: what is propaganda, and how does it work? Chronologically, part one of this year-long special subject will start in the second half of the nineteenth century and continue into the early Soviet period. It will examine examples of propaganda from both the autocracy and also revolutionary culture. Conversely, the module will consider the evolution of the public sphere in late imperial Russia and the role political propaganda played in the form of symbol and ritual on the part of both the Romanovs and their opponents. Part one will follow the emergence of political radicalism in the nineteenth century through to the revolutions of 1917, and then the mobilization of the people in the early Bolshevik state. The birth of the ‘propaganda state’ will examine the development of the Soviet Union through the 1920s. This special subject will use different genres of sources, including literature, film and the visual arts, to understand historical change, and encourages students to analyse the role of culture in politics and society, to explore the inter-relations among ideas, identities, representations and political and social practices, and to reflect on culture as an historical phenomenon.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • The question of how political, social, cultural, economic and technological changes between the 1870s to the 1920s were the consequence of different motives for the specific groups under review
  • How these changes in political culture reflect wider process of social, political and economic developments in Russia (i.e., the role of culture in politics and society)
  • The contested historiographical debates concerning political culture in major groups like the Bolsheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, as well as that of the autocracy
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Work independently and unsupervised for extended periods of time when preparing for class and for assessed coursework
  • Display effective time management, not least in adhering to a timetable for the preparation, writing, and submission of a lengthy assignment;
  • Write speedily yet fluently for an extended period of time in examination conditions, and retain that ability to organise and clearly articulate your ideas when working under pressure;
  • Adapt and apply the skills and knowledge acquired or consolidated during the module to problem-solving and policy-making.
  • Adhere to guidelines re referencing/footnotes and demonstrate an adequate prose style.
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Gather, assimilate, synthesise, and interpret a wide range of primary and secondary source material as the first stage in writing your essay
  • Engage with specific texts, comment upon them fluently, cogently, and at length; and in so doing demonstrate depth of knowledge, insight, and understanding appropriate to the advanced study of a specialist area;
  • Draw upon that same bank of knowledge, insight, and understanding in examination conditions.


• What is propaganda? • The development of mass media in late imperial Russia • How various political and social groups used propaganda against the tsars • How the Romanov dynasty used political propaganda: symbolism, ritual and ceremonials • The role of different types of media in the construction of Soviet power (1917 onward) • The symbolism of the revolutionary project (1917) • The creation of propaganda during the early Soviet period (1917-1920s)

Learning and Teaching

Independent Study252
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Orlando Figes and Boris Kolonitskii, Interpreting the Russian Revolution. The Language and Symbols of 1917 (1999).. 

Peter Kenez, The Birth of the Propaganda State (1985).. 

Louise McReynolds, The News Under Russia’s Old Regime. The development of a mass circulation press (1990).. 

Jeffrey Brooks, When Russia Learned to Read (1995).. 

Richard Wortman, Scenarios of Power. Myth and Ceremony in the Russian Autocracy. 2 vols. (1995 and 2000).. 

Hubertus Jahn, Patriotic Culture in Russia during World War One (1995).. 

Mark D. Steinberg, The Russian Revolution, 1905-21 (2017).. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 50%
Timed Assignment  (3000 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Students could have to purchase additional textbooks.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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