How can we make sense of the Soviet Union? Whether in academic scholarship or popular culture, many attempts to represent the Soviet experiment focus either on Stalinist terror or the drama of Gorbachev’s reforms. But what happened between these two extremes? This survey course examines the three decades from 1953 to 1982, a time that is remembered by many as the Soviet Union’s “golden years” – full of contradictions and tensions, of rapid change and ossification, of unprecedented prosperity and ideological decline. We will explore a broad range of topics such as social stratification, gender, ethnicity, generational change, as well as foreign policy and regime stability to gain a better understanding of the first socialist country in the world. At the same time, we will reflect on problems of history as a discipline, including hindsight bias, periodization, and the relationship between the specific and the general.
Vladimir Shlapentokh, A Normal Totalitarian Society: How the Soviet Union Worked and How It Collapsed, Armonk, N.Y. 2001.
Susan Reid, “The Cold War in the Kitchen: Gender and the de-Stalinization of Consumer Taste in the Soviet Union under Khrushchev”, in Slavic Review 61 (2002), no. 2, pp. 211-52.
Edwin Bacon, Mark Sandle (eds.), Brezhnev Reconsidered, Basingstoke 2002.
Jeremy Smith, Melanie Ilic (eds.), Khrushchev in the Kremlin: Policy and Government in the Soviet Union, 1953–1964, Milton Park 2011.