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Culture & Literature: Russian Culture of the Thaw (1953-1968)


Admission requirements

BA degree in Russian Studies, Slavic Languages and Cultures, or Linguistics.


The so-called Thaw period in Soviet history was simultaneously an exciting and a confusing time, where the redressal of the worst Stalinist excesses was accompanied by fresh winds of change in the realm of popular culture. In this period, writers and filmmakers were able to explore new themes (science and the conquest of space, camp life under Stalin) and address traditional issues from a fresh perspective (Civil War, WW II). In addition, foreign blockbusters showed in local cinemas, television arrived in the Soviet living-room and theatre entered a new creative phase. While it is generally acknowledged that the period also witnessed a number of smaller “freezes” that curtailed intellectuals’ freedom of expression, the Thaw’s reputation as a time of hope and cultural renewal is not without foundation. Drawing on a variety of media and genres, this course offers a cross-section of the Soviet Union’s cultural output during the Thaw in which both innovative and more conservatives trends are represented. We will study a number of emblematic films and literary texts of this period, but also delve into their reception by professional critics and ordinary readers. We will explore how cultural agents of post-Soviet Russia engage with the Thaw in recent historical films and novels (German jr: _Paper Soldier). We will also consider key secondary texts that will familiarize us with other trends in Soviet popular culture during this period, and help us unpack the meaning, significance and validity of the concept of the ‘thaw.’

Course Objectives

To familiarize ourselves with the key players of Thaw culture and their literary and cinematographic texts; to acquire a better understanding of the political and social context in which these texts were produced and received; to enhance our analytical skills, particularly with respect to fictional texts, poetry and film; to develop the ability to unearth the hidden voices in multi-layered texts; to become better readers and better viewers.



Mode of instruction


Course load

Total 280 hrs (10EC)
Class 26 hrs
Literature research 100 hrs
Reaction papers 40 hrs.
Midtermpaper 50 hrs
Final paper 64 hrs.

Assessment method

  • Reaction papers, written summaries, oral presentations, performance in class (30%)

  • Midterm paper (30% ± 4000 words)

  • Final paper (40% ± 4000 words)


Yes: Blackboard

Reading list

To be announced


Via uSis

Contact information

Dr. O.F. Boele


The seminar is a one-term course comprising 12-14 meetings of two hours (in the case of a film screening four hours).