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Course Descriptions: Fall 2013 - HTY 424: Russian History II: The Russian Revolution

Instructor:  Richard Blanke

Time:  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 10:00-10:50 a.m.

Description:  On the one hand, this course surveys the history of Russia and the Soviet Union since 1881, including the problems and achievements of late-Imperial Russia, the impact of world war and revolution, the development of Soviet totalitarianism, Russia’s role as a world power, and more recent dilemmas. It is the second half of a two-semester Russian History course sequence, but the first half (HTY 423) is not being offered this year (and so there will also be some pre-1881 review).

On the other hand, this course has one particular epic event as its primary focus: the Russian Revolution of 1917, defined in its broadest sense to include its pre-1917 origins, the entire Soviet experience to 1991, and its legacy. Viewed in world-historical context, the Russian Revolution remains the most ambitious attempt at ideology-inspired, state-driven social engineering ever undertaken – an unprecedented effort to redesign human beings as well as their government, economy, society,  and culture; pursued on a larger scale, over a longer period, by more extreme means, and at a greater cost in human lives than anything comparable on the historical record. Now that it is over, we can approach the Russian Revolution as a finite historical problem in ways that were not possible before; and are in a better position to consider some of the underlying reasons for the failure of this experiment and the broader ethical and intellectual questions that is raises.  For which reason this courses satisfies not only the General Education “Cultural Diversity and International Perspectives” requirement, but its “Ethics” requirement, as well. The prerequisite for this course is six hours of previous course work in History, or permission.


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