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HIS3134 : The Great Patriotic War and its Aftermath (Inactive)

  • Inactive for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Robert Dale
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module seeks to explore the social, economic, political and cultural history of the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), and the late Stalinist period (1945-1953). The Soviet Union’s victory in 1945, after the catastrophic defeats of 1941 and 1942, was one of the most remarkable turnarounds in a society’s military efforts and war effort in modern history. However, the Great Patriotic War was won at a terrible economic and social cost. Approximately 27 million Soviet citizens died during the war, and vast swathes of Soviet territory, including some of its most economically advanced regions lay in ruins. This module examines how the Great Patriotic War was won, the ways in which waging modern industrialised warfare transformed Soviet Stalinism, and the lasting effects of the war on late Stalinist society. The module will examine both the effects of the war on high politics, government and the planned economy, as well as the lives of ‘ordinary’ citizens. The seminars will explore the wide and vibrant recent scholarship of the war and the immediate postwar period, as well as a variety of primary documents, including official reports, visual propaganda, memoirs, letters, literature and statistics.

The module aims are:
1) For students to have a detailed knowledge and understanding of the history of the Soviet war effort and the reconstruction of Soviet society from the start of the war in June 1941 through to Stalin’s death in March 1953.
2) For students to have an in depth understanding of the historiographical debates surrounding the political, economic, social and cultural history of the Soviet war effort and the reconstruction of Soviet society.
3) For students to consider to what extent the experience of the Great Patriotic War relaunched the Soviet project.
4) For students to conduct research using primary sources (including visual sources, documents in translation from Russian, and materials originally produced in English) and to bring that primary research to bear on historiographical debates.
5) To improve students' skills in analysing and interpreting a range of Soviet primary sources from across the period.

Outline Of Syllabus

Outline syllabus, intended as a guide only: week-by-week topics might be different to the following. This module is designed to be based on seminars, with lectures and document talks supporting the core of seminars.

The following are a representative guide to some of the central topics that synchronous seminars are likely to follow, although individual topics may vary in emphasis.

Seminar topics:

- Introductions to the Great Patriotic War and Key Historiographical Debates
- Stalinism at War – The Course of the War and Changes to the Soviet Political Order
- Why did Stalin’s soldiers fight? – The Soviet Frontline Experience / The Partisan War
- The Soviet Home Front and the Mobilization of Soviet Society
- Soviet Propaganda, Public Culture and Popular Opinion during the War
- The Soviet Gulag at War and in its Aftermath
Buffer / Enrichment Week
- The Siege of Leningrad and its Aftermath
- Occupation and its Aftermath: Restoring Soviet Power during and after the Great Patriotic War.
- Demobilizing the Red Army, Veterans and Postwar Society
- Postwar Reconstruction: Urban and Rural Comparisons
- Making Sense of War: The Great Patriotic War, Memory, Monuments and Commemoration

Seminars are intended to be supported by short lectures and/or document talks which introduce forms of evidence and how to work with them relevant to the corresponding seminar. Lectures and these non-synchronous materials are intended to align with the seminar topics.

Lecture / Document Analysis Talks:
- Counting the Death: Understanding Death and the Impact of the Great Patriotic War.
- Reading Soviet governments documents from the war.
- Orders No. 270 and No. 224 – Myths about Soviet combat motivation // Ethnicity in the Red Army
- How to Write a Documentary Commentary.
- Decoding Soviet wartime propaganda. Posters and literary forms of propaganda.
- Lecture Talk with author of Stalin’s Gulag at War.
Buffer / Enrichment Week
- Siege Diaries as Source Material
- The Soviet Union and the Holocaust
- Demobilization photographs and how to read them.
- Foreign Visitors to the Soviet and Post-War Reconstruction
- Essay Advice and Support

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials111:0011:00Exploring forms of evidence, how to read them, or supporting assessment. Contributes to contact hrs.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion551:0055:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading561:0056:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching112:0022:00Seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study561:0056:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Seminars are designed to encourage students to engage directly with a wide range of primary and secondary source materials, and to raise and discuss the issues that are explored in the historiography of the topic under consideration. Seminars give students the opportunity to actively engage with these debates, and to interrogate source materials for themselves. Seminars are intended to be student-led and facilitated by the module leader, and will hinge upon smaller and larger group discussions in response to questions and source materials circulated in advance. Seminars are an important forum for students to develop their own ideas and arguments in the light of wider discussion.

In the event that on-campus sessions need to be reduced (especially in response to the public health situation) there is the capacity to hold live seminar discussions online and retain timetabled slots.

Lectures in this module are intended to support and augment the seminar discussions, by introducing students to particularly important debates, or to take the form of lectures explaining how to read, interpret and work with a variety of different forms of Soviet primary documents, many of which will be unfamiliar to students. Some of these lectures will explain and provide advice and support about how to write for pieces of assessment, and how to use primary documents in both documentary commentaries and essays. Lectures then are intended to cover aligned topics, and offer guidance in how to examine particular evidence.

In the event that on-campus sessions need to be reduced, there is the capacity to present recorded lecture materials asynchronously.

There will also be opportunity for surgery/drop in time to support work on assessments in Office Hour (Feedback, Guidance and Consultation Hours.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M40A document commentary of 1,500 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography) analysing primary sources.
Essay1A602,000 word essay (including footnotes but excluding bibliography) focusing on a historiographical issue supported by primary sources
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Oral Presentation1MStudents will deliver a 10 minute presentation on a topic providing a max 500 word handout to accompany & structure the presentation
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The formative assessment for the module will take the form of a short 10 minute presentation on a particular topic, introducing the topic to the rest of the group. To support this a student will produce a short handout of maximum 500 words (and potential many fewer) which accompanies the presentation. This will enable students to begin to research a particular topic, and develop important presentation skills, and verbal reasoning skills.

The documentary commentary exercise tests knowledge and understanding of the primary sources examined throughout the module. The ability to compare and contrast related primary sources, and explore how they should be interpreted and the relevance to contemporary scholarly debates is an important historical skills. The ability to expound and criticize a textual extract lucidly, succinctly and with relevance in a relatively brief word count tests key historical, analytical and writing skills. In addition, this forms of assessment closely replicates the source commentary questions previously set in examinations for this module in previous academic year, albeit in a different format appropriate for the current situation.

The final essay for the module tests both students' knowledge and understanding of key historiographical questions in the study of the Great Patriotic War, and its aftermath, and provides an opportunity for students to develop their own historical arguments supported by the primary evidence that they have been looking at over the course of the module. This form of research-led question rewards steady and incremental engagement with the issues explored in the module, and allows students to bring ideas developed from seminars to bear of a major historical question.

Seminar preparation will help students to develop the skills required to select, prioritise and interpret a wealth of evidence and then use this evidence to support their arguments in their assessed work. All students will deliver a presentation on a prearranged theme, and provide a written handout to accompany and structure that presentation.

Work submitted during the delivery of the module forms a means of determining student progress.

Submitted work assesses the intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing, and allows students to demonstrate the historical skills and methodologies they have learnt in this module, and other parts of their degree.

This module can be made available to Erasmus students only with the agreement of the Head of Subject and of the Module Leader. This option must be discussed in person at the beginning of your exchange period. No restrictions apply to study-abroad, exchange and Loyola students.
All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree.

All of the assessments for this module will be submitted and marked online.

Reading Lists