HIS250: History of Russia, 860-1991

Lectures: 11-12 MW SS 2118
Associate Professor Alison K. Smith Office: Munk 124N
  Office Hours: Mondays 2-4
website: http://individual.utoronto.ca/aksmith (to make an appointment using a google account, please click here)
TAs: Francesca Silano (WR 1, 2) and Vojin Majstorovic, W 12, 1, 3, 4)

Course description:

This course surveys the broad span of Russian history, from the formation of the first “Russian” state to the resurrection of Russia as the Soviet Union fell apart.  It begins with the earliest Kievan state and quickly moves through the rise of Moscow first locally, then on the world stage. It then moves to the development of and difficulties facing autocratic Imperial Russia in the changing world of the nineteenth century, moves on to the Revolution that brought that state to an end, and finally focuses on the history of the Soviet Union.

Required text (available at the University Bookstore):
Gregory L. Freeze, Russia: A History, 3rd ed.
Additional materials are available on line or on reserve at Robarts.

Marking Scheme:

  1. two 4-5 page essay papers (15% each)
  2. two in-class quizzes (10 % each)
  3. one final exam (30%)
  4. tutorial participation (20 %)

Tutorial participation is an integral part of this course.  It means coming to tutorials ready to talk about lectures and assigned readings.  To help ensure that students have completed assigned readings, reading quizzes may be given at any time, without warning, and will factor into the tutorial participation grade.

You must receive permission from the professor to turn in a paper late.  Even with permission, the penalty for late papers is 3 points per day.

Course Policies:

Plagiarism and Academic Integrity:

Plagiarism is a serious offense.  Read the university’s policies on academic dishonesty, located at http://www.governingcouncil.utoronto.ca/policies/behaveac.htm. Plagiarism can lead to failure, not on a single paper, but for the class as a whole.

Furthermore, students agree that by taking this course all required papers may be subject to submission for textual similarity review to Turnitin.com for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers will be included as source documents in the Turnitin.com reference database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of such papers. The terms that apply to the University’s use of the Turnitin.com service are described on the Turnitin.com website.


The University of Toronto is committed to accessibility. If you require accommodations for a disability, or have any accessibility concerns about the course, the classroom or course materials, please contact Accessibility Services as soon as possible: http://www.accessibility.utoronto.ca/

One final note:  please, when sending me an email, include “HIS250” in the subject line.

Course Outline:

***readings may require login through the University of Toronto libraries; you should be able to access them directly from an on-campus computer, or via the U of T wifi service; from home, you may need to go in through the library website***

September 10:  Introduction
September 12: Religion
Textbook: Freeze, 1-13
September 17:

War and the Coming of the Mongols

September 19

The Rise of Moscow

Textbook: Freeze, 13-30
Tutorial Readings:
September 24:

Ivan the Terrible and the Time of Troubles

September 26: Muscovite Society
Textbook: Freeze, 31-73
Tutorial Readings:
October 1:

Russia and the World

October 3:

Peter the Great Transforms Russia

Quiz #1

Textbook: Freeze, 73-124
Tutorial Readings:
  • John Perry, The State of Russia under the Present Czar, excerpts (Blackboard)
October 10:

The Era of Palace Revolts

Textbook: Freeze, 124-31
Tutorial Readings:
October 15: Enlightened Russia
Essay #1 due electronically at 11:59 pm Tuesday, October 16, and in hard copy at your tutorial on October 17 or 18
October 17: Russia Triumphant
Textbook: Freeze, 132-79
Tutorial Readings:
  • Article for essay assignment
October 22:

The Rise of the Intelligentsia

October 24: Alexander II and the Great Reforms
Textbook: Freeze, 179-233
Tutorial Readings:
October 29: Industrialization and Social Change
October 31: War and Revolution
Textbook: Freeze, 234-73
Tutorial Readings:
November 5: The New Soviet State
November 7:

The Rise of Stalin

Quiz #2

Textbook: Freeze, 273-340
Tutorial Readings:
November 14:

Building Socialism

Textbook: Freeze, 341-64
Tutorial Readings:
November 19: Repression
November 21: The War
Textbook: Freeze, 364-405
Tutorial Readings:
November 26: The Cold War
Essay #2 due electronically at 11:59 pm Tuesday, November 27, and in hard copy at your tutorial on November 28 or 29
November 28: The Late Soviet Union
Textbook: Freeze, 406-450
Tutorial Readings:
December 3: The Final Crisis
December 5: Russia Reborn
Textbook: Freeze, 451-88