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

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Stella Ghervas
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 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 completion501:0050:001/3 of independent study
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading501:0050:001/3 of independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching123:0036:00Seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery44:0016:00Surgery hours
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study481:0048:001/3 of independent study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Seminars encourage independent study and promote improvements in oral communication, problem solving skills and adaptability.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1801A75N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M25An essay of 2000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Seminar preparation is essential; it 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.

The exam tests knowledge of the subject; analytical ability; skill in writing and argumentation. Students will be expected to show:
- clear knowledge and understanding of sources on the specific Russian cities covered in the seminars;
- understanding of each city as an object of historical study in itself, with its specific traits as well as its commonalities with other cities in Russia and in the world;
- the capacity to relate historical facts about a city with present key traits (location, urban form, demography, social composition, political, social and cultural life, commerce, etc.)
- basic principles and methods for approaching historical research on a city.

Research component:

In order to practice those principles and methods over the course of the semester, and to refine their research and analytical skills, students will write a 2000-word essay on a Russian city based on one or more primary sources. This work will be divided into sub-assignments with set delivery dates (selection of the city and rationale; selection of source(s): key questions; themes to be studied to answer those questions, etc.)

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will require the provision of an alternative assessment before the end of teaching week 12. The alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 1500-word essays in addition to the other coursework assessment. The essays should be set so as to assure full coverage of the course content.

Study-abroad, exchange proper and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 1 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.

Reading Lists