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Nationality in Imperial and Soviet Russia


Admission requirements



A state of nations is what the Russian Empire as well as the Soviet Union really amounted to. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 this fact has become more widely acknowledged among historians and other scholars. As a result, a new focus for research has been developed, the so called ‘imperial turn’. After decades of Russocentric exclusion, historians have ventured into the non-Russian peripheries or examined metropolitan policies towards the separate nationalities in distant regions. By way of comparative analysis, it is the interplay between state politics, social developments and national awareness in the multinational empire of Russia and the Soviet Union, which forms the core topic of this research seminar. How did the composite state and its many subject nations interact?

Course objectives

Knowledge of political institutions, social change and national-cultural identities in modern Russian and Soviet history, insight into the historiographical innovations and controversies in this field, understanding of the key-concepts of state, nation and multi-nationality in an international perspective, research abilities with (translated) primary and secondary sources, abilities of presentation and discussion of results in an expert peer group, writing an extensive scholarly research report.


See here.

Mode of instruction

Research seminar.

Assessment method

  • Essay questions (introductory test).

  • Oral presentations (2).

  • Short discussion papers (2).

  • Research report of circa 7000 words.



Reading list

Ronald G. Suny and Terry Martin eds., A State of Nations. Empire and Nation-making in the Age of Lenin and Stalin (Paperback Oxford UP; Oxford and New York 2001) ISBN 095144236.


via uSis.

Contact information

With the tutor: dr. J.C. Kern.


The seminar is a one term course which exists of twelve meetings of two hours. The seminar is divided into three parts, to begin with a general introduction in the recent historiography and working towards a set of central research questions, next come individual case-studies for research in sources on specific nationalities, to end with a round table for collective discussion and comparative conclusions on the basis of the individually written final reports.