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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : European Languages and Cultures - Russian Studies

Undergraduate Course: Culture and Power under Stalin 1924-1953 (ELCR10022)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course will focus on the relationship between culture and power in the Soviet Union under Stalin (1924 to 1953). It will apply recent critical perspectives to an exploration of the ideas and aims that shaped official policy on the arts in different phases of the Stalin era. The course will introduce students to the mechanisms of co-option, coercion, control and terror used to implement Communist Party policy, and the complex power dynamics between members of the creative establishment and the state authorities. It will examine the factors that led to the development implementation of the prescribed form of Socialist Realism, Students will develop an awareness of the cultural context and familiarity with a range of critical approaches, which they will use in exploring and analysing of works in various artistic fields, looking at how these promoted, reflected or resisted the prevailing orthodoxy. Particular emphasis will be placed on censorship, propaganda, the weaponisation of word and image, and on strategies of collusion and resistance that enabled survival in totalitarian societies, the use of marginal genres such as children's literature, and the contrast between public and private narratives.
Course description The course will address various aspects of the relationship between art and power during the Stalinist period from a number of critical perspectives, drawing on classic scholarship and recent studies of Stalinist culture and society. Students will have the opportunity to engage critically with a range of primary sources including political and artistic manifestos, journalism, literary fiction, cinema, visual culture (photography, poster art, caricature) children¿s poetry and fiction, book illustration, painting, diaries, monumental art etc.

The course blends asynchronous and synchronous learning, with set reading and/or viewing or listening in preparation for weekly discussions in class. Each week there will be input from the tutor(s) in the form of a lecture style presentation and feedback in class.

The course aims to put some emphasis on language, so that Russian studies students will be encouraged to engage with primary texts in the original Russian, but the overall approach will be inclusive, with students from outside Russian using translated or subtitled work.

The course aims to develop critical skills and to promote reflection and independent thinking. This is embedded in the course assessment: for continual assessment, students will produce 32 personal reflective pieces (in writing or in audio/ video form) summing up what they learnt in class discussion. They will receive written feedback on these. The final research project will encourage self-led research, with students producing an original piece of critical analysis on a work of their choice, which they can present in a variety of formats.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 30% Continual assessment (2 reflective pieces following class discussion to be graded by tutor - 15% each).
60% Research Project ((for submission after classes finish)
10% Presentation in class (week 10) Feed forward to research project
Feedback Students will have oral feedback on their ideas in class and written/ recorded feedback on their reflective pieces as well as grades that go towards the continual assessment mark.

Students will present informal proposals in class in week 10 on the topics they have selected for their final research project. They can receive formative feedback from the tutor and their fellow students in preparation for their project.

Formative feedback will be assessed for abilities in: research, critical thinking, analysis and communication.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate an awareness of certain key aspects of the cultural policy and practice under at different phases of the Stalinist period.
  2. Understand, assess and apply a variety of critical approaches to Stalinist-era culture.
  3. Apply a knowledge of cultural context and a number of critical approaches in appraising primary sources in various genres.
  4. Demonstrate an ability to work with others to discuss ideas, to summarise the outcomes of discussions, and reflect on the learning process.
  5. Use critical tools acquired on the course to conduct a piece of original research on a topic relating to Stalinist culture.
Reading List
Secondary Sources Essential

Blium, Arlen. A Self-Administered Poison: the System and Functions of Soviet Censorship. Translated by I.P. Foote. Oxford: LEGENDA,European Humanities Research Centre, 2003.

Bowlt, John E. Russian Art of the Avant-Garde¿: Theory and Criticism 1902-1934, Edited and Translated by John E. Bowlt. New edition. London: Thames & Hudson, 2017.

Brandenberger, David. Propaganda State in Crisis : Soviet Ideology, Political Indoctrination, and Stalinist Terror, 1928-1930, Yale University Press, 2012

Clark, Katerina and Dobrenko, Evgeny. Soviet Culture and Power¿: a History in Documents, 1917-1953, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.

Clark, Katerina. The Soviet Novel: History as Ritual (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1985).

Dobrenko Evgeny. Political Economy of Socialist Realism, Translated by Jesse M. Savage. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.

Dobrenko, Evgeny. ¿Socialist realism¿. In E. Dobrenko, & M. Balina (Eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-century Russian Literature, 2011 (pp. 97-113). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dobrenko, Evgeny, and Jesse M Savage. Late Stalinism: The Aesthetics of Politics. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020.

Fitzpatrick, Sheila. The Commissariat of Enlightenment¿: Soviet Organization of Education and the Arts Under Lunacharsky, October 1917-1921, Cambridge: University Press, 2002

Fitzpatrick, Sheila. The Cultural Front¿: Power and Culture in Revolutionary Russia. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2018.

Glatzer Rosenthal, Bernice. New Myth, New World¿: from Nietzsche to Stalinism. University Park, Pa: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002

Helena Goscilo and Andrea Lanoux (ed) Gender and National Identity in Twentieth century Russian Culture

Lev Loseff On the Beneficence of Censorship, Bern: Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 1984.

Riggs, Thomas (ed). Histories of Everyday Life in Totalitarian Regimes Farmington Hills, Mich: St. James Press, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning, 2015.

(includes Lawrence, Adam. Belomor: An Account of the Construction of the New Canal between the White Sea and the Baltic Sea (Vol. 3: Literary Approaches. )


Groys, Boris, and Charles Rougle. The Total Art of Stalinism: Avant-Garde, Aesthetic Dictatorship, and Beyond. London: Verso, 2014.

Groys, Boris. The Art of Totality¿ in Dobrenko, E. A., Eric Naiman, and E. A. (Evgenii¿ Aleksandrovich) Dobrenko. The Landscape of Stalinism: the Art and Ideology of Soviet Space Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003

Kaganovsky, Lilya. How the Soviet Man Was Unmade¿: Cultural Fantasy and Male Subjectivity Under Stalin.Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008.

Larissa Klein Tumanov, ¿Writing for a Dual Audience in the Former Soviet Union: The Aesopian Children's Literature of Kornei Chukovskii, Mikhail Zoshchenko, and Daniil Kharms,¿ in Sandra L. Beckett, ed., Transcending Boundaries Writing for a Dual Audience of Children and Adults (New York: Routledge, 2012)

Maguire, Robert A. Red Virgin Soil: Soviet Literature in the 1920s. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1968.

Plamper, Jan. Abolishing Ambiguity: Soviet Censorship Practices in the 1930s. The Russian review (Stanford) 60.4 (2001): 526 544. Web.

Shentalinskii¿, Vitalii¿. The KGBs Literary Archive, Translated from the Russian, Abridged and Annotated by John Crowfoot; with an Introduction by Robert Conquest. London: Harvill Press, 1995.

Primary sources.

The following is intended to give a guide to the types of works studied. It is not a definitive list, and it contains more works than we will probably be able to study. It will need to be worked out in detail upon finalisation of course structure.

Original historical documents, journalism and articles:

Bogdanov The Proletarian and Art and ¿The Paths of Proletarian Art:

Anatolii Lunacharksy Revolution and Art¿ and other documents in Russian Art of the Avant-Garde¿: Theory and Criticism 1902-1934, Edited and Translated by John E. Bowlt. New edition. London: Thames & Hudson, 2017 (see above)

Gorkys speech to the 1934 Writers Union on Socialist Realism in Masing-Delic, I. (Irene). From Symbolism to Socialist Realism a Reader Compiled, Edited and with Introductions by Irene Masing-Delic. Ed. Irene Masing-Delic. Boston: Academic Studies Press,

Central Committee Resolution on the Journals October and Zvezda (1946) and other documents in Clark, Katerina and Dobrenko, Evgeny. Soviet Culture and Power: a History in Documents, 1917-1953, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.

Literature. These texts can be studied in original Russian and / or in translation. I have indicated available translations.

Isaac Babel Red Cavalry translated by Boris Draluyk, Pushkin Press 2014.

Leonid Grossman In the Town of Berdichev¿ and A Small Life translated by Robert Chandler in The Road London: Maclehose Press, 2011.

Mikhail Bulgakov, Master and Margarita translated Hugh Aplin, New York: RosettaBooks, 2016. (extracts)

Iurii Olesha, Envy Translated by Marian Schwartz. New York Review Books Classics. 2004 (extracts)

Mikhail Zoshchenko, Sentimental Tales trans Boris Dralyuk New York, NY: Columbia University Press,, 2018. Story of a Life Remade

Daniil Kharms, About how an old woman tried to buy ink, transl. Anne Marie Jackson (online) (illustrated version available online at Playing Soviet: The Visual Languages of Early Children Books -

Daniil KharmsThe Old Woman (English translation available online)

Nikolai Ostrovsky, How the Steel was Tempered translated by Prokofieva Moscow: Foreign Languages Pub. House, 1959. (extracts)

Maxim Gorky - Mother. Project Gutenberg (extracts)


Eisenstein October, Alexander Nevsky, Extracts from Bezhin Meadow, Dziga Vertov Man with a Movie Camera¿, Three Songs about Lenin , Lullaby

Vasiliev Brothers, Chapaev

Children¿s Literature

How the Revolution was Victorious - Alisa Poret (available online on the site Playing Soviet: The Visual Languages of Early Children¿ Books - (in Russian can easily be translated as mainly visual)

Korney Chukovsky selected poems

Mikhail Zoshchenko Stories about Lyola and Minka.

Daniil Kharms, Oleinikov, Zabolotky selected poems

Arkadii Gaidar, The Blue Cup, The Fate of the Drummer Boy (in Russian)

Visual resources

Playing Soviet: The Visual Languages of Early Children¿ Books -

Krokodil online at

USSR in construction

Paintings and other work by various artists: Kazemir Malevich Natalya Goncharova, Liubov¿P opova, Alexander Deneika, Kuzmin Petrov-Vodkin, Isaak Brodsky, Vera Mukhina
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills On this course, students will develop their ability

- to think, analyse, evaluate and debate critically and effectively

- to communicate complex ideas, presenting ideas to others using a variety of media

- to collaborate with others in working to a shared aim.

- to engage effectively in self-led research and inquiry.

- to reflect on their learning.
KeywordsRussian Studies,Stalinism,Stalin,Soviet Union,Art,Culture,Power,Socialism,Marxism.
Course organiserDr Rose France
Tel: (0131 6)50 8932
Course secretaryMr Callum Lennie
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