HIS 439:  Russia’s Empire

Winter 2013 2-4 W; UC177
Assoc. Prof. Alison K. Smith email: alison.smith@utoronto.ca
Office: Munk 124N  
Office hours: M 2-4  


Course Description:

For centuries, the Russian capital, whether Moscow or St. Petersburg, has served not only as the center of the Russian nation, but also as the center of a large, multi-ethnic, contiguous empire.  In this course, students will examine various issues facing the rulers of this unusual empire, focusing on two regions: the “old” empire of the west, and the “new” empire of Central Asia. 

In this course, too, students will produce research papers based on a particular genre of primary source:  travel narratives.  Recent scholarship has addressed the role of travel narratives in interpreting empires; we will think about the Russian empire in these terms.

Marking Scheme:

  1. class participation (15%)
  2. service as discussion leader for one class (10 %)
  3. one 4-5 page book review (15 %)
  4. weekly reaction papers (1 page each week) (15 %)
  5. one 12-15 page term-long research paper (see here for more details) (45 %)

Marking of written assignments is based on accuracy and use of historical evidence, statement and development of a strong thesis, style, and grammar.  I will often use a marking form to simplify and organize my comments and rationale.  Know, too, that although the form suggests I mark mathematically, I don’t; it’s just a tool to simplify mark.

Be warned that plagiarism is a serious offense.  Read the university’s policies on academic dishonesty, located at http://www.utoronto.ca/govcncl/pap/policies/behaveac.html.  In this course, plagiarism (ask if you’re confused about what that means) 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.

Unexcused late papers or missed exams are also not acceptable.  If you find yourself in dire straits, or anticipate a conflict, discuss the matter with me ahead of time.  The night before something is due is not ahead of time.  Do not simply fail to turn in a paper and assume I’ll accept something late.  At a minimum, the penalty for late work is three percentage points per day.

Additional information available on my website (see above) or on the online syllabus, available through the University of Toronto’s Blackboard service.

Texts  (available at the University Bookstore):
Dominic Lieven, Empire:  The Russian Empire and Its Rivals
Nikolai Gogol’, Taras Bulba
Frederick Burnaby, A Ride to Khiva
Additional materials are available online (the online syllabus has direct links to all articles)

Schedule of assignments/topics:

Week 1:          Introduction

January 9:      Empires and Nations

Weeks 2-4:     Background:  Russia: Nation, Empire, and the World

January 16:    Russia and nationalism

January 23:    Dominic Lieven, Empire, Parts One and Two

January 30:    Dominic Lieven, Empire, Chapters 6-8

Week 5:          Background:  Travel Narratives

February 6:    Travel Narratives as Historical Sources

Week 6:          Project Work


Weeks 7-9:     The Oldest Empire:  the West

February 27:  The literary Ukraine

March 6:         Memory and the Empire

March 13:       The Crimea:  Old and New

Weeks 10-11:       The Farther Empire:  Siberia, Central Asia and the Caucasus

March 20:       Siberia in the Russian Imagination

March 27:       Travels in the new Russia

April 3:            Administering the Empire