HIS 250: History of Russia, 860-1991

Lectures:  11-12 MW, LM 161

Dr. Alison K. Smith  
Office: Munk 124N 
Office hours: M, 2-4 

Francesca Silano (first term)
Alex Rowlson (second term)
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.  The first term moves from the earliest Kievan state, through the rise of Moscow first locally, then on the world stage, and culminates with the Russian victory over Napoleon.  The second term traces the 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.


  1. two 4-5 page essay papers (15% each) (one each term)
  2. quizzes (15% total)
  3. one first-term exam (15%)
  4. one final exam (25%)
  5. tutorial participation (15 %)

You must receive permission from the professor (not the TA) to turn in a paper late.  Even with permission, the penalty for late papers is 3 points per day.  If you request an extension for your paper, please be exact in your request. In other words, give the reason you are asking for an extension, as well as a proposal of when you would like to turn your paper in. The professor may not accept this proposal, but it is at least a starting point in negotiations.

There will be FIVE quizzes given during lecture over the course of the year; your lowest quiz grade will be dropped. THERE WILL BE NO MAKE-UP QUIZZES. IF YOU MISS A QUIZ, THAT ZERO WILL BE YOUR DROPPED QUIZ.

Tutorials are an integral part of this course. Please come prepared for tutorials, having read and thought about the biweekly tutorial readings. Your TAs may request additional preparation if they feel it is necessary, and may also give pop reading quizzes if they so desire.

Email: please use HIS250 in the subject line of your emails to the professor.

Classroom behavior: a recent study found that people who used laptops during lectures for things other than taking notes did retained less information, and did significantly worse on a test, than those who used paper and pencil.  More disturbingly, those who were fooling around on the web in class also cause those sitting around them to retain less information. Please be aware that your computer use affects not just yourself, but also your neighbors. Also, please be aware that the professor actually notices when you’re checking your phone on your lap.

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/

Required Texts:
Textbooks:               Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Marc Steinberg, A History of Russia
Tutorial Readings:     on-line, or via Blackboard (see on-line syllabus for direct links)

Schedule of Assignments:



Textbook reading

Tutorial groups

Tutorial Readings

September 9:
September 11:

Kievan Rus’: Power

Chapters 1-4



September 16:
September 18:

Kievan Rus’: Religion
Kievan Rus’: War

Chapters 5-6, 9-10

A Groups

The Lay of Igor’s Raid (or On Igor’s Campaign and Zadonshchina

September 23:
September 25:

The Coming of the Mongols
Appanage Russia

Chapters 7-8, 12

B Groups

September 30:

October 2:

The Rise of Moscow

Chapters 11, 13

A Groups

Epiphanius the Wise:  “The Life, Acts, and Miracles of Our Blessed Father Sergei of Radonezh” (Blackboard)

October 7:
October 9:

Ivan the Terrible
The Time of Troubles

Chapters 15-6

B Groups

October 16:

Muscovite Society

Chapters 17, 18

A Groups

The Ulozhenie (Law Code) of 1649, Chapters 11 and 21

October 21:
October 23:

The Schism
Russia and the World

Chapter 19

B Groups

Essay #1 due electronically at 11:59 pm Friday, October 25

October 28:

October 30:

Peter the Great AND QUIZ #2
The Era of Palace Revolts

Chapters 20-1

A Groups

S. T. Aksakov, A Russian Gentleman

November 4:
November 6:

Catherine the Great
Eighteenth-Century Culture

Chapters 22, 24

B Groups

November 13:

Russia as Empire

Chapter 23

A Groups

excerpts from Nicholas Karamzin, Memoir on Ancient and Modern Russia, and Peter Chaadaev, “Apology of a Madman,” in Thomas Riha, Readings in Russian Civilization

November 18:
November 20:

Alexander and Napoleon
The Napoleonic Wars

Chapter 25

B Groups

November 25:

November 27:

The Decembrists AND QUIZ #3
Nicholas I

Chapters 26-7



December 2:

The Rise of the Intelligentsia

Chapter 28






January 6:
January 8

Alexander II and the Great Reforms

Chapter 29



January 13:
January 15:

The Radical Intelligentsia

Chapter 33



January 20:
January 22:

Alexander III and Reaction

Chapters 30, 32

A Groups

Ivan Turgenev, A Hunter’s Sketches, “Khor and Kalinich,” and “Bezhin Meadow" and
Anton Chekhov, “In the Ravine

January 27:
January 29:

Nicholas II AND QUIZ #4

Chapter 31

B Groups

February 3:
February 5:


Chapter 34

A Groups

V. I. Lenin, “What Is To Be Done?” Chapters II-III

February 10:
February 12:

Civil War (actually, 1917)
NEP (actually, Civil War)

Chapters 35-6

B Groups

February 24:
February 26:

The Rise of Stalin

Chapter 37

A Groups

watch Sergei Eisenstein’s The General Line (also known as Old and New)

March 3:
March 5:

Cultural Revolution

Chapter 41

B Groups

March 10:

March 12:

Foreign Policy

Chapter 38

A Groups

read three of the memoirs recorded at the I Remember website (http://english.iremember.ru/)
**please note: exact memoirs TBA**

March 17:
March 19:

Post-War Stalinism
Khrushchev and the Thaw

Chapter 39

B Groups

Essay #2 due electronically at 11:59 pm Friday, March 21

March 24:
March 26:

Brezhnev and Stagnation
The Soviet Empire

Chapters 40, 42

A Groups

the Novikov Telegram and the Kennan “Long” Telegram

March 31:
April 2:

Gorbachev and Perestroika
Shattered Empire

Chapter 43

B Groups