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HISTORY 4QQ3 The Soviet Experience

Academic Year: Fall 2016

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: E

Instructor: Dr. Tracy McDonald

Email: tmcdon@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 627

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24148


Office Hours: Mondays 3:30-5:00 pm

Course Objectives:

The course combines important areas of historical training: putting together the historical narrative; historiography; interpretation and methodological approach; the use and analysis of primary sources; and writing. The unifying thematic focus is the question of identity.

The senior seminar is an intensive presentation, research and discussion class that allows the student to consider the study of history at an advanced level. The ultimate aim of the course is for the student to produce high-level, written, historical work as well as engage in high-level discussion and analysis. Students will work on identifying and shaping an argument, peer review, refining arguments, writing, and revising. 

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Books for Purchase

  • Jochen Hellbeck, Revolution on my Mind: Writing a Diary Under Stalin (Harvard, 2009)
  • Garros et al, Intimacy and Terror (New Press, 1997)
  • Vasily Grossman, A Writer at War (Vintage, 2007)

Method of Assessment:

Term Work and Percentage Value of Final Grade


Task                                                                            Value              Due

Participation                                                                20%                 ongoing

Facilitation                                                                  10%                 varies

Research Proposal and Bibliography                          15%                 04 October 2016

(2-3 page proposal and 2-3 page bibliography)          

Formal Critique (5 pages / 1250 words)                     15%                 varies

Final Paper (20 pages / 5000 words)                           40%                 6 December 2016

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

There is a late penalty of 3% per day for all late assignments

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Week 1 (6 September 2016) Introductions and What is Historiography?


Discussion of Syllabus

Understanding Historiography

Assigning Facilitations

Week 2 (13 September 2016) 1917’s Historiography

Pipes, Richard. “1917 and The Revisionists,” National Interest 1993 (31): 68-79.

Malia, Martin. “A Fatal Logic,” National Interest 1993 (31): 80-90.

Kotkin, Stephen. 1991 and the Russian Revolution: Sources, Conceptual Categories, Analytical Frameworks,” Journal of Modern History 1998 70(2): 384-425.

Baron, Nick. “New Spatial Histories of Twentieth Century Russia and the Soviet Union: Surveying the Landscape,” Jahrbucher  fur Geschichte Osteuropas 2007 55(3): 374-400.



Week 3 (20 September 2016 ) Identity

Jochen Hellbeck, Revolution on My Mind (Harvard, 2009)

Podliubny and Potemkin diaries from Intimacy and Terror


Week 4 (27 September 2016) Diaries

Garros et al, Intimacy and Terror


Week 5 (04 October 2016)

Research Proposal and Bibliography Due 04 October no class

Week 6 (10-16 October Mid-Term Recess) No Classes

Week 7 (18 October 2016) – Numbers and Angry Historians

Stephen Wheatcroft, 'The Scale and Nature of German and Soviet Repression and Mass Killings, 1930-45', Europe-Asia Studies, 48, 8, December 1996, pp. 1319-1353.

Robert Conquest, ‘Victims of Stalinism: A Comment’, Europe-Asia Studies, 49, 7, 1997, pp. 1317–1319.

S. G. Wheatcroft, ‘Victims of Stalinism and the Soviet Secret Police: The Comparability and Reliability of Archival Data—Not the Last Word’, Europe-Asia Studies, 51, 2, 1999, pp. 315–345.

John Keep, ‘Wheatcroft and Stalin’s Victims: Comments’, Europe-Asia Studies, 51, 6, 1999, pp. 1089-1092

Robert Conquest, ‘Comment on Wheatcroft’, Europe-Asia Studies, 51, 8, 1999, pp. 1479–1483.

Wheatcroft, Stephen. “The Scale and Nature of Stalinist Repression and Its Demographic Significance: On Comments by Keep and Conquest.” Europe-Asia Studies 52 (6) (September 2000): 1143-1159.


Week 8 (25 October 2016) The Gulag

Adler, Nanci. “Enduring Repression: Narratives of Loyalty to the Party Before, During and After the Gulag.Europe-Asia Studies, Mar2010, Vol. 62 Issue 2, p211-234.

Pallot, Judith. “Patriotic Discourses in Russia's Penal Peripheries: Remembering the Mordovan Gulag.Europe-Asia Studies, Jan2010, Vol. 62 Issue 1, p1-33.

Etkind, Alexander. “A Parable of Misrecognition: Anagnorisis and the Return of the Repressed from the Gulag.Russian Review, Oct 2009, Vol. 68 Issue 4, p623-640.

Alexopoulos, Golfo. “Exiting the Gulag after War Women, Invalids, and the Family.” Jahrbucher fuer Geschichte Osteuropas, 2009, Vol. 57 Issue 4, p563-579

Brown, Kate. “Out of Solitary Confinement: The History of the Gulag.” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, Volume 8, Number 1, Winter 2007, pp. 67-103 (Review)


Week 9 (1 November 2016) War

Vasily Grossman, A Writer at War (Vintage, 2007)


Circulate Drafts


Week 10 (8 November 2016)

Discussion of Drafts

Circulation of Drafts

Week 11 (15 November 2016 )

Discussion of Drafts

Circulation of Drafts

Week 12 (22 November 2016)

Discussion of Drafts

Week 13 (29 November 2016)  -  Khrushchev and Brezhnev

We willl watch and discuss a film. Film title to be determined in consultation with the facilitators.


Week 14 (6 December 2016) – No Class

Final Papers Due 6 December 2016 to my office during class time