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Higher School of Economics

Stalin and Stalinism in Russian History

Higher School of Economics via Coursera

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This online course presents the life and deeds of Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union from 1924 till 1953. It discusses the reasons for his actions and their results, as well as the causes of his popularity in Russia today. It offers an analysis of the phenomenon of Stalinism and of its significance for Russia and beyond.
In the late 1920s – early 1930s Stalin directed the massive and rapid industrialisation of the country and the forced collectivisation of its agriculture. The industrialisation was based on forced labour, and collectivisation on repression, but both helped to create the material base for the Soviet defence industry. In the late 1930s Stalin unleashed mass terror against the Soviet people, in which millions perished. In his view this helped to rid the country of any potential internal enemies on the eve of the coming war.
The USSR, together with its allies, won the Second World War, but at the cost of dozens of millions of lives. Stalin was instrumental in creating the post-war order. The system which he created in the 1930s shaped the USSR as it was during his lifetime and for decades after his death. It also influenced the lives of millions of people beyond the Soviet borders. Stalin and his methods remain popular among significant segments of the Russian population to this day.
The course is designed for the beginner level: for all those who want to know more about the history of Russia, particularly in the 20th century. It will enable those who take it to develop an informed understanding of the Stalin era and of the phenomenon of Stalinism. It can be taken independently or as a distance learning supplement to the off-line courses on Soviet history.


  • Stalin and Stalinism in Russian History. About this Course.
    • The first lecture introduces students to the course and to imperial Russia, the country in which Stalin was born. It describes social and economic condition and the political situation in the Russian Empire in the late 19th - early 20th century. The last part of the lecture describes Stalin’s childhood and discusses his personality and the reasons for his turn to radical revolution.
  • Between the Two Revolutions
    • Lecture 2 describes Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917 and the place and role of the Bolsheviks in them. It follows Stalin’s career in the Bolshevik party and describes his activities during both revolutions.
  • The Leader
    • Lecture 3 describes the creation of the Soviet state by the Bolsheviks, the Civil War that followed, War Communism and Lenin’s turn to the New Economic Policy. It analyses Stalin’s role in the Soviet government and in the Civil War, his crushing of his political rivals and opponents and his route to power in the Bolshevik party and in the Soviet state.
  • Stalin's Revolution from Above
    • Lecture 4 analyses Stalin’s ‘revolution from above’ and the new social and economic order created by Stalin. It outlines Stalin’s reasons for collectivisation and industrialisation and the way in which they were implemented. It analyses the human and economic costs of Stalin’s radical transformation to the country and its people.
  • The Dictator
    • Lecture 5 describes the establishment of Stalin’s unchallenged and unchallengeable dictatorship. It gives an outline of Stalin’s terror campaigns and analyses their effect on Soviet society. It also looks in the creation of the new generation of Soviet elite, moulded by Stalin.
  • Stalin's War
    • Lecture 6 is devoted to political developments before World War II and during its first years. It follows Stalin’s reasons for his Pact with Nazi Germany and its consequences. The second part of the lecture describes the retreat of the Red Army after the German invasion of the USSR (1941-1942) and Stalin’s policy during this period.
  • Stalin's Victory
    • Lecture 7 covers the period from the 1943 offensives and victories to the Red Army’s final dash to Berlin. It analyses Stalin’s military tactics and assesses his role in the war and in the making of the post-war order.
  • The Last Years of the Dictatorship
    • Lecture 8 is devoted to the post-war period, the last years of Stalin’s life. It describes the beginning of the Cold War, Stalin’s policy in Eastern Europe and Stalin’s relations with China. It analyses the Soviet post-war economy and Stalin’s attempt to return to the old order and to rule by terror.
  • Stalin and Stalinism
    • Lecture 9 analyses Stalinism as a phenomenon, its roots and its character. It gives a survey of literature about the Stalin era, Stalin and Stalinism. It also contains an interview with Oleg Khlevniuk, the top Russian authority on Stalin and Stalinism, author of Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator.
  • Stalinism after Stalin
    • The last lecture describes the long process of de-Stalinisation in Russia. It looks into the phenomenon of Stalinism abroad and analyses the reasons for the revival of the Stalin cult in today’s Russia.

Taught by

Irina Filatova


4.5 rating, based on 2 Class Central reviews

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  • Anonymous
    Союз нерушимый республик свободных Сплотила навеки Великая Русь. Да здравствует созданный волей народов Единый, могучий Советский Союз! Славься, Отечество наше свободное, Дружбы, народов надежный оплот! Знамя советское, знамя народное Пусть о…
  • The course was a useful introduction to the subject matter and provided me with more detail about an area of history I had limited knowledge of. There were a number of minor issues with the course material that could easily be tidied up (including quiz questions which sometimes relied on information that hadn't been provided in the material). There was also very limited activity in the discussion forum.

    If you want to complete the course you'll need to do a lot of assignments that rely on peer assessment. There is one every week, plus a longer essay as a final test. I actually found them a useful way of making me review the material provided. Overall, worth doing if you are interested in the subject matter.

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