Smolny Beyond Borders

A Liberal Arts Initiative

Soviet Origins of Contemporary Russia


Course Schedule:

Monday, Wednesday 4:10 - 5:30 PM Berlin (UTC+2)

Professor: Aleksei Gilev
Semester: Spring 2024 (January 29  – May 21)
Course Level: 200
Subject: PS
Number of Bard Credits: 4 Course Title: Soviet Origins of Contemporary Russia
Max Enrollment: 22
Schedule: Mon Wed 4:10 – 5:30 Berlin (UTC+2)
Distribution Area: Social Analysis
Cross-Listing(s): HIST (History), RES (Russian and Eurasian Studies)
Language of Instruction: Russian

The similarities between contemporary Russia and its Soviet predecessor are manifested in the contemporary Russian state’s open declarations of adherence to traditions and institutions of the Soviet past. This course aims to identify such connections while keeping track of how the old Soviet institutions and practices were preserved, modified, and reinvented in Russia in the 2000s and 2010s. Such topics as political monopoly, state surveillance apparatus, welfare and gender contracts, anti-westernism and expansionism, a legacy of Soviet ethnic policies, distrust of civic activities, and the importance of informal networks in the public sphere will be covered. To explore these phenomena, we will turn to historical studies of the Soviet state and society. Different segments of the course will address elements of contemporary Russian politics that owe their potency to Soviet legacy, from those rooted in pre-Soviet Russian modernity to those that have been reinvented later. We will discuss how different legacies enhance each other and what are the ways out of the existing “history traps.” The theoretical framework of the course relies on ideas of such scholars as M. David Fox, S. Fitzpatrick, O. Kharkhordin, S. Kotkin, and A. Yurchak.