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HIS2259 : The Russian Empire from Peter the Great to Lenin

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Stella Ghervas
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module examines the history of the Russian Empire from the reign of Peter the Great to the Revolution of 1917 and the rise of Lenin to power. Between about 1700 and 1917, Russia was a vast empire, the largest country in the world. The Tsar Peter the Great started a drive to modernize Russia by adopting Western technology and some aspects of Western culture; he also was the first Russian ruler to be addressed with the Western title of ‘emperor’. The autocratic system created a rift between the elites and the common people, a divide that Lenin’s 1917 Revolution attempted to mend by eliminating the elite. This module will look at the flow of events that led Russia to become a primary actor in European history. Yet the huge Eurasian state also maintained specific cultural traits and political traditions, a situation that affects international relations even today. We will examine several facets of Russia (particularly politics, economy, and culture), which shaped its unique historical trajectory.

The aims of the module are:
1.       To provide historical and geographical background on the history of the Russian Empire.
2.       To give opportunities to investigate selected problems in some depth (by close scrutiny of primary sources, and detailed and critical examination of particular aspects of the latest historiography) based on a sound general knowledge of the subject.
3.       To introduce students to handling translated primary sources on the history of the Russian Empire.
4.       To encourage students to read widely and critically in the secondary literature, and to develop their capacity for independent study.
5.       To enable students to focus on specific issues of interest and develop their own critical sense and interpretations of sources.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module consists of 24 one-hour lectures, 11 one-hour seminars, and three hours of Surgery time.

The outline lecture syllabus is intended as a guide only, and topics may vary slightly. Its principal themes include: the development and challenges to autocratic rule; social relations within Russia; the process of imperial expansion, the nature of the Tsar’s authority; Western cultural influences and their reception in Russia; the role of religious institutions and practices; the importance of trade and of political relations with other great powers (notably the Ottoman Empire, Britain, France); the creation of a uniquely Russian cultural style; the meeting between Russians and the many different people and environments, along the borders of what became in this period the world’s largest empire; Russian colonisation and russification.

Teaching Methods

Module leaders are revising this content in light of the Covid 19 restrictions.
Revised and approved detail information will be available by 17 August.

Assessment Methods

Module leaders are revising this content in light of the Covid 19 restrictions.
Revised and approved detail information will be available by 17 August.

Reading Lists