Timetable information in the Course Catalogue may be subject to change.

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: Collapse: The End of the Soviet Union and What Came Next, 1970-2020 (HIST10517)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryOn December 21, 1991, the Soviet news anchor Vladislav Fliarovskii opened his report with the now-infamous phrase: "The USSR is no more." This simple phrase marked the collapse of the world's second superpower and the end of the Cold War era, defined by the contentious competition between capitalism and communism, East and West, Soviet and free. This course explores the economic and social transformation that accompanied this apparent rupture, and its consequences for the world we live in.
Course description This course explores one the most transformative events of the twentieth century as national, personal, and global history. Before focusing in of the drama of 1991, we will move back in time to explore the roots of the Soviet collapse during late socialism. We will review the USSR's ambitions to create an alternative future for the world and its inhabitants, as well as what had been made. We will deepen our understanding of where the USSR, its leaders and people found themselves in the 1970s, which historians are identifying as a pivotal decade worldwide. We will explore three classic explanations for the superpower collapse and their roots in late socialism -- economic impossibility, a revolution of truth-telling, and national self-determination -- adding to them a consideration of the global economic and political context.

Moving forward, we examine the ways everyday life changed in the 1990s as consequence of the loss of Soviet identity as well as the Soviet state and economy. Throughout, we will consider the varied experiences of social and economic upheaval for women, men, ethnic minorities, resident foreigners, and other social groups. We will assess the effects of new and old dreams, and the loss of them. We will consider the implications of the metaphors and narratives we employ, such as "collapse," "fall," "transition," "crisis," and "revolution", and ask how the process of writing histories of recent events may differ from those in the deeper past. At the end of the course, we will turn towards the memories and legacies of Soviet life, and of the disintegration of the world's second superpower, continue to flicker, stabilize, and explode as post-Soviet generations build new lives, including in times of war.

Course note: The study of History inevitably involves the study of difficult topics that we encourage students to approach in a respectful, scholarly, and sensitive manner. Nevertheless, we remain conscious that some students may wish to prepare themselves for the discussion of difficult topics. In particular, the course organiser has outlined that the following topics will be discussed in this course, whether in class or through required or recommended primary and secondary sources: societal breakdown, war, homophobia, financial insecurity. The following topics may come up either in class or or through required or recommended primary and secondary sources: hyper-sexualisation, sexual violence, inter-ethnic and racial violence. The course organiser will provide more specific guidance regarding assigned texts or weekly topics the week before. While this list indicates sensitive topics students are likely to encounter, it is not exhaustive because course organisers cannot entirely predict the directions discussions may take in tutorials or seminars, or through the wider reading that students may conduct for the course.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass or passes in 40 credits of first level historical courses or equivalent and a pass or passes in 40 credits of second level historical courses or equivalent.

Students should only be enrolled on this course with approval from the History Honours Programme Administrator.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 History courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses. Applicants should note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 172 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 40 %, Coursework 40 %, Practical Exam 20 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework:
500 word proposal (10%)
2,000 word essay (30%)

Non-written skills:
Class participation (10%)
Oral presentations (10%)

Written exam:
Two hour exam (40%)
Feedback Students will receive feedback on their coursework, and will have the opportunity to discuss that feedback further with the Course Organiser during their published office hours for this course or by appointment.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. identify main events, themes and key questions of late Soviet history, including the non-Russian populations and territories, developing a chronological framework with which to do so.
  2. show greater knowledge of global interactions of the USSR and its successor states, including the influence of historical legacies.
  3. better recognize the ethnicity/race, class and gender shape experiences of the same historical events, and their impact on power relations in societies other than their own.
  4. think more critically about history and its production, with greater comprehension regarding the power and uses of narrative and metaphor, in conjunction with an exploration of primary sources from across the post-Soviet region.
Reading List
Stephen Cohen, "Was the Soviet System Reformable?", plus forum, Slavic Review (2004)

Kate Brown, Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future (2019)

Olga Shevchenko, Crisis and the Everyday in Postsocialist Moscow (2008)

Glennys Young, The Communist Experience (2011) (primary source collection)

Jeffrey Sachs, "What I did in Russia," March 3, 2012

Yeltsin's resignation speech:

Svetlana Alexievich, Second Hand Time: The Last of the Soviets (2016).

Ron McKay (ed.) Letters to Gorbachev (1991). (primary source collection)

Tengiz Abuladze, Repentance (Monanieba/ Pokoianie, 1984-87) (film)

Dan Healey, Russian Homophobia: From Stalin to Sochi (2017)

Vladimir Putin's speech on Crimea, March 18th 2014.

Togzhan Kassenova, Atomic Steppe: How Kazakhstan Gave Up the Bomb
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Graduates of this course will be able to:

1. understand the power and methodological value of narrative metaphors in our everyday thoughts as well as in historical accounts.
2. acquire a good knowledge of the most significant scholarship in late Soviet history.
3. read primary and secondary sources on certain late-Soviet and post-Soviet phenomena in a global historical perspective, and analyse them critically and creatively.
4. transcend Russia-centric accounts of the USSR in order to understand the Soviet and post-Soviet region as a multi-ethnic space, seeing the center from the edges, not just the reverse.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Elizabeth Banks
Course secretaryMiss Annabel Samson
Tel: (0131 6)50 3783
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information