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HIS3337 : Russian Cities and Culture from Peter the Great to the Revolution

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • 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 is an invitation to visit key Russian cities through their history and culture, from Peter the Great to the Bolshevik Revolution. We will make extended stays in the two Russian capitals, Moscow and St. Petersburg; in Kiev, the capital of the ancient Rus and today’s Ukraine; in the new city of Odessa on the Black Sea; in the provincial city of Nizhny Novgorod; and in the two merchant cities of Kazan and Rostov-on-Don. During our journey, we will ask a number of questions: How were these cities created? Why did they evolve in the way they did, sometimes dramatically? What types of populations lived there and what were their cultural expressions? To answer these questions, we will examine critically a variety of primary sources written by those who planned, ruled and lived in these cities, by foreigners who visited them and by authors who re-imagined their life and history in literature.

The module goals are:
1.       To provide historical and geographical background on the varied urban realities of Russia, as well as to show commonalities and comparisons with other European cities.
2.       To impart the methods of historical research on cities and an insight on the range of themes that this research subject may cover, within and beyond Russia.
3.       To introduce students to handling translated primary sources on the history of Russian cities.
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 interpretations of sources.
6.       To encourage students to think about their own communities and how they have developed over time.

Outline Of Syllabus

Using works of history, literature, and film we will cover such topics as: the rationale for the location of cities; the circumstances of their foundation; trade routes; populations and demography; architectural and cultural productions; religious institutions and practices; music and theatre; and the perception of these cities in Russian culture and literature, as well as by foreigners who travelled or lived there. We will examine these topics in relation to the cities of Novgorod, St Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, Odessa, Nizhny Novgorod, and Kazan. Each city presents an opportunity to explore specific themes in the history of cities more broadly.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion371:0037:00Additional time for work on summative assessments
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading201:0020:00Essential background reading in secondary literature
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching103:0030:00Weekly group seminar
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities301:0030:00Structured reading to prepare for primary source seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study801:0080:00Wider reading
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesScheduled on-line contact time31:003:00Drop-in surgeries for assessment preparation
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Small-group teaching provides students with an opportunity to summarize and ask questions about the readings, and to improve their ability to engage in debate and discussion.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2A1003000 word extended essay (includes footnotes, excludes bibliography)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Oral Presentation2MStudents will give presentations on one specific topic as a means of gaining feedback from the module leader and other students
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The extended essay will test the acquisition of a thorough knowledge of the history of Russian cities and culture. It will assess the general knowledge of history and historiography the student has gained throughout the course of the module, as well as the detailed knowledge of particular primary sources, and the student’s ability to draw on these to construct a focused and clearly-expounded argument under the constraints of time.

The ability to present ideas clearly and convincingly in oral form will be tested by (non-assessed) pre-prepared presentations in the seminars, and through ongoing group discussion.

The form of the resit is no different from the above, i.e. no marks are carried over from the sit to the resit. Students are not allowed to submit for the resit any work that they have previously submitted.

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.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will take the form of an alternative assessment, as outlined in the formats below:

Modules assessed by Coursework and Exam:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be one essay in addition to the other coursework assessment (the length of the essay should be adjusted in order to comply with the assessment tariff); to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Exam only:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 2,000 word written exercises; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Coursework only:
All semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be expected to complete the standard assessment for the module; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Reading Lists