The Soviet Century|
Fall 2021 not offered
RULE 256, RUSS 256, WLIT 246|
This course begins and ends with two of the most important dates of the 20th century. On November 7, 1917, the Bolshevik party launched a revolution against the government of the Russian Empire with the aim of overthrowing not just the state but capitalism, the economic and social system that defined modern civilization. Over the coming decades, the state they created (eventually named the USSR) embarked on an unprecedented project to transform human beings and remake the world. On December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed into 15 European and Asian countries.
The Soviet project raises fundamental questions about political systems, economics, and human nature--questions that are a long way from being answered. It also shaped modern history all over the world, including in the United States, which confronted the Soviet Union as its political and ideological archenemy during the Cold War. In charting the USSR's trajectory from pariah nation after World War I to global superpower following World War II, we will move beyond the cliched view of the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire. Instead, we will examine the ways in which socialist modernity offered an alternative to its capitalist twin.
In an effort to understand the contradictions of Soviet life leading up to and during the Cold War, the class will examine how the Soviets sought to rethink issues of class struggle, family structure, education, gender dynamics, race, religion, sexuality, and patriotism. We will consider the theoretical writings of Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky in addition to poetry and prose by Babel, Mayakovsky, Akhmatova, Platonov, Pasternak, Tsvetaeva, Berggolts, and Nabokov, among others. Particular attention will be paid to underground cultures that arose in response to the repression of free speech, ethnic discrimination, and the Gulag prison system. All readings are in the English translation.
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|Course Format: Lecture||Grading Mode: |
||Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (REES-MN)(REES-Lang/Lit/C)(REES-Social Sci)