Prof. Christine Evans History 341 Fall 2016 MW 12:30-1:45 in HLT 190

Prof. Christine Evans
History 341 Fall 2016
MW 12:30-1:45 in HLT 190
Office hours: HLT 391 Wednesdays 2-4 and by appointment
History 341
Imperial Russia
Ilya Repin, “Barge Haulers on the Volga,” 1870-1873
This course will introduce you to the history of imperial Russia, from the reign of
Peter the Great to the fall of the Romanov dynasty during the February Revolution in
1917. We will consider Russia’s rise as a great power in Europe and its imperial
expansion to the East and West, its social and economic structures and transformation,
gender roles, national and religious diversity, social, economic, and political reform
movements (and their failures), the formation of the intelligentsia and the working class
and the growth of revolutionary movements, among other topics. Russia was a vast and
eclectic land during these two hundred years, spanning from the German lands in Central
Europe all the way to the Pacific Ocean in Asia and even into North America. The
Russian tsars governed peoples from a wide variety of social groups and cultures:
millions of peasant serfs who wore wooden sandals as they waded through hip-deep mud
to sow crops; landowners who ruled over vast amounts of land and huge numbers of
serfs; brilliant artists, writers, and composers such as Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Gogol,
Chaikovsky, and Tolstoy; as well as Chukchi, Cossacks, Uzbeks, Germans, Poles,
Udmurts, Tatars, and many others. All of these cultures were dynamic; they both helped
shape and were shaped by larger global and European historical trends.
Although this course is organized roughly chronologically, we will explore
Russian history topically and thematically, focusing on both the experiences of regular
people and the dilemmas of rulers. In addition to giving you basic familiarity with the
fascinating stories and longstanding debates in Russian history, this course will
emphasize historical skills such as close reading and analysis of literary and visual texts,
including government documents, serf autobiographies, paintings, literature, and films.
Since, as historians, our study of the past is always intimately connected to the concerns
of the present, we will also pay close attention to the uses and interpretations of the
imperial past in Russia today.
Course Goals and requirements:
By the end of this course, students will be able to:
Understand and critically evaluate the major debates in Russian history from
1689-1917 and their relevance to the Russian present
Critically analyze both primary and secondary historical sources, including visual
primary sources
Compare and evaluate historical arguments based on evidence
Course requirements are two short papers (3 pp and 5 pp), a midterm and a final, as well
as active participation in class discussions.
Required Readings:
The following books are recommended for purchase at People’s books. Less expensive,
used copies are available on amazon,, and All books will also
be on reserve at the reserve desk in Golda Meir Library. These books will be
supplemented by additional primary sources and other readings that will be available on
the course D2L site. Both books will also be available on reserve.
1) Nicholas Riasanovsky and Mark Steinberg. A History of Russia. 8th edition.
Oxford University Press USA, 2010. ISBN-10: 019534197X . 7th edition (2004)
is also acceptable, just make sure you have the single volume version (or both
volumes of the two volume set). Buying an older edition is much cheaper!!
2) Leo Tolstoy. Hadji Murat (Vintage Classics) Trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa
Volokhonsky. Vintage, 2012. ISBN-10: 0307951340