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History: Nationality in Imperial and Soviet Russia


Admission requirements

BA degree


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-cultural developments and national awareness in the multinational empire of Russia and the Soviet Union, which forms the core topic of this research seminar. This is referred to as the ‘nationality question’. How did the compositeRussian/Soviet state and its many subject nations interact? And what were the results and consequences?

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.


This course is also a research seminar in the Master of History.

Mode of instruction

Research seminar.

Course load

Total course load 10 ec x 28 hours = 280 hours:
Class 28 hrs
Literature research (100 hrs);
Short discussion papers (40 hrs);
Research report (110 hrs).
Entrance test (2 hrs)

Assessment method

  • Entrance test consisting of essay questions (10%)

  • Oral presentations (2) (20%)

  • Short discussion papers (2) (20%)

  • Research report of 7000 words max (50%)


Yes, see Blackboard

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.


Students should register through uSis

Contact information

With the docent, by e-mail Dr. J.H.C.Kern


The seminar is a one term course which consists 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 (primary) sources on specific issues of the nationality question, to end with a round table for collective discussion and comparative conclusions on the basis of the individually written and presented final reports.