BA History and Russian
Please note that from September 2019 BA History and Russian will be replaced with our new BA History and Modern Languages and Cultures. More information will be available soon.
Russia remains a giant global power, a complex and fascinating community. Its language is widely spoken across eastern Europe and central Asia. Around 400 million people worldwide have Russian as their first language. On a four-year dual honours degree in History and Russian you'll develop your Russian language skills while you investigate the past. You will learn about the culture, history and society of Russia and spend your third year abroad.
You will compliment this with a broader study of history. We offer several modules and dissertation supervision in Russian history or you can choose to diversify your studies by taking in the history of the wider world. We have around 40 members of academic staff, teaching and researching in ancient, medieval, early modern, modern and contemporary history. Our historians address themes including society and culture, politics, religion, gender and the history of violence and peace, in Britain, Europe, America and the wider world. This provides you with the ideal environment to develop your historical research skills and explore your individual areas of interest as well as developing a broad range of transferable skills to help you prepare for your future.
Along the way you'll gain skills that help you to identify and analyse relevant bodies of research. You'll learn to exercise independent judgement and be critical of accepted opinion and you will develop effective written and verbal communication skills that will enable you to present your findings to a variety of audiences.
Russian courses at Sheffield focus on small-group teaching, and you will be taught by internationally renowned experts in the field. Beginners and post-A Level students follow separate Russian language courses tailored to their levels for two full years. In the first year, in addition to your language modules you will have a core module in modern Russian culture. Here you will examine novels, film, visual arts and the media, as well as the relationship between popular and elite culture.
At level two you will further develop your skills using a variety of materials and media in Russian. For your optional modules, you can choose to study Czech or Polish, or opt for literature, culture, linguistics or history. In level three, all students are taught together and you will build on the language expertise gained during your year abroad. You will further develop your command of grammar and vocabulary, which will allow for in-depth study of contemporary Russia and its relationship with the rest of the world. In your choice of optional modules you can pursue areas of interest that you have developed in your first three years of study. Modules taught in the Russian language include Russian Short Stories, Professional Russian or Russian Language through Film.
More about our academics and their research areas
How it works
Our teaching and assessment system is modular, meaning that across all three years you can tailor your course to suit you. You will have core modules at each level of your degree: these help you to develop your skills and give you a strong foundation for your historical knowledge. Our wide range of option modules give you the opportunity to complement your core learning by specialising in the topics that interest you most. These option modules offer a wide chronological and geographical coverage of history from the ancient world to the modern day and reflect a variety of approaches and methodologies, so you can choose to focus on themes such as political, social, cultural or religious history.
Each year you will take 120 credits. This is normally split into 60 credits in the autumn semester and 60 credits in the spring semester. You will normally spend an equal amount of time and credits in each subject. Most History modules are 20 credits each, although some specialist modules at level three are worth 40 credits.
Major/Minor option - you can choose to specialise more in one subject by dividing your degree so that one third (40 credits) is the minor subject and two thirds (80 credits) are the major subject. You do not need to decide before arriving in Sheffield and have the option to change the major/minor balance - or switch back to a 50:50 split - when choosing your modules for each year of the degree.
More information about Dual Honours and Major/Minors
Getting you started
The first year programme is designed to help you to make the transition from studying History at school or college to studying it at degree level. It introduces you to core academic skills and provides a solid grounding in historical study and research, giving you the foundations you'll need to deepen your understanding of historical events and processes throughout your degree and setting you off on the path to becoming an independent historian.
Our first year option modules introduce you to our main areas of teaching and research and give you insight into what you can study in the coming years, so that you can better shape your degree to your individual interests.
You will take 3-4 core modules (60 credits) and have 60 credits available to use on option modules. You will choose at least one history option module. Your Russian core modules will depend on your prior experience of the Russian Language.
Find out more about studying Russian
Want to try something new?
The flexible structure of your first year at Sheffield means that you also have the chance to experience modules from across the University - you can choose up to 40 credits of modules from a list approved by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. Our students regularly take modules in topics such as languages, Archaeology, journalism, sociology, English and Politics alongside their History modules.
Building your skills and knowledge
Your second year builds on what you've learnt so far, furthering your knowledge in areas of history that you have already encountered and introducing you to new and exciting topics. A wide range of modules will help you to explore new areas and discover where your main interests lie ahead of your final year.
These modules will not only help you mature as a historian, challenge assumptions and appreciate the bigger picture, they will also develop professional skills of analysis, judgement and communication.
We want your degree to be coherent, so our core module continues to give you a strong foundation for your historical knowledge. You will take a minimum of 40 credits and a maximum of 80 credits of history. You can choose a maximum of one document option.
Find out more about studying Russian
We want you to continue to have flexibility, so you can choose at least 20 credits of modules from another department, subject to the approval of the Department.
After you finish your second year of study you will go to live in Russia.
You will use your year abroad to perfect your speaking and listening skills. This will happen both via study - on your intensive language course - and beyond the classroom as you interact regularly with native speakers. By becoming a part of society in your host country you will fully appreciate the customs and culture which inform the language.
Find out more
Developing your expertise
Your final year is where you can choose to focus on one of the areas of history that you're most passionate about, using the academic skills and historical knowledge that you have acquired in years one and two to undertake focussed primary source research.
All students have the opportunity to take a Special Subject and a dissertation, as we think that they are important staples of a History degree. These modules give you the chance to explore your chosen topic in detail, alongside a leading expert in the field, helping you to further develop your knowledge and research skills. The unusually wide-ranging research expertise at Sheffield means that, with modules focusing on themes such as gender and domesticity; art; war and violence; cultural change; medicine and science, you'll be spoilt for choice.
You will take a minimum of 40 credits and a maximum of 80 credits of history. You can choose a maximum of one special subject and one comparative option. You can choose a maximum of one from Advanced Russian Language and Russian Today I and Advanced Russian Language and Russian Today II. There are two dissertation options available. All students can choose to take a 20 credit dissertation. Students who wish to major in History can choose to take a 40 credit dissertation, in this case the 40 credit dissertation must be taken in combination with a Special Subject.
Find out more about studying Russian
Teaching and learning
You will experience a variety of teaching by leading historians who bring their award-winning research to life.
This will include regular lecturers and seminars complemented by individual tutorials and supervision sessions. We firmly believe in the importance of high-quality, small group teaching so your seminars will be including a maximum of 12 students in the first year and 16 students in the second and final year.
As you progress through your degree these seminars will become more important - the Special Subject is taught through 4 hours of seminar each week throughout the full academic year.
Your academic and personal development is important to us.
Our personal and level tutor system ensures that you have a wide range of support and advice available to you whenever you need it. This is complemented by a wide range of support across the University.
Your academic tutors will also be available to discuss your learning and assessment in their office hours, which they hold each week during term-time.
We use a range of assessment, including coursework, exams and presentations, all designed to help you develop a wide variety of professional skills.
As you progress, your assessment will include more analysis of primary sources and you will further develop your research, analytical and academic writing skills through independent research projects.
year one year two final year
Personalise your degree
Get the most out of your degree by getting involved with student projects, gaining work experience or spending time studying abroad.
You can gain practical experience by spending a year in industry with the Degree with Employment Experience or you can take advantage of opportunities available through the History Society and the Careers Service.
Studying history at Sheffield also gives you the opportunity to get involved in a range of exciting extra-curricular activities, helping you to engage with history in new ways and get even more out of your student experience.
These activities can also help you to enhance your CV by gaining valuable transferable skills and experience in areas such as interviewing, film-making, and working with school children.
Find out more
Degree with employment experience
Spending a year in employment as part of your degree is an excellent opportunity to put your skills and knowledge to practical use and gain experience that will help you in your future career.
There are lots of year-long placements available in the UK, as well as opportunities around the world.
Find out more
Applicants should normally have, or expect to achieve, ABB in three A Levels including History or Classical Civilisation and a modern language. Please see the University's online prospectus for full entry requirement details. If you have a question, or would like to discuss your individual qualifications, just get in touch.
Online prospectus 2018 Common questions Email us
* The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it is current and relevant. Individual modules may be updated or withdrawn in response to discoveries through our world-leading research, funding changes, professional accreditation requirements, student or employer feedback, curriculum review, staff availability, and variations in student numbers. In the event of a material change the University will inform students in good time and will take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.
These Russian Revolution essay questions have been written and compiled by Alpha History authors, for use by teachers and students. They can also be used for short-answer questions and other research or revision tasks. If you would like to contribute a question to this page, please contact Alpha History:
Russia before 1905
2. Discuss the relationship between the tsarist hierarchy, the Russian nobility and the powerful land-owning class. How did the actions of these groups contribute to the development of revolutionary sentiment?
3. On what basis did tsarism claim authority to rule Russia? What people or groups both reinforced and disseminated the idea of tsarist authority?
4. According to historian Orlando Figes, tsarism was held up by “unstable pillars”. Discuss the meaning and the validity of Figes’ analogy.
5. Compare Russia’s economy in the late 1800s to the economies of Britain, France and Germany. Why did Russia’s economic development fail to match that of her powerful European neighbours?
6. To what extent did the leadership and policies of Tsar Alexander III lay the groundwork for revolutions in Russia in 1905 and 1917?
7. Discuss the ideas, composition and methods of revolutionary movements in late 19th century Russia. To what extent were these movements able to reform or moderate tsarism?
8. Many writers considered Russia’s peasantry to be the most logical source of revolutionary energy. To what extent was this true? What obstacles were there to a ‘peasant revolution’ in Russia?
9. Explain how the program of economic modernisation championed by Sergei Witte contributed to revolutionary sentiment in Russia.
10. Evaluate Nicholas II’s fitness to rule as tsar, giving close attention to this personal qualities and his political and religious beliefs.
Revolutionary and reform movements
2. With reference to three specific groups, explain why 19th century Russian revolutionary groups were unable to overthrow, reform or moderate tsarism.
3. Why did the Russian Social Democratic Party (or SDs) split in 1903? What were the short-term and long-term ramifications of this split, both for the party and for Russia?
4. According to Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin), what were the requirements for a successful revolutionary and a successful revolutionary party?
5. Discuss how the Bolshevik and Menshevik parties each attempted to foment change between 1905 and February 1917. Which group was more successful and why?
6. Discuss the size, composition and policy platform of the Socialist Revolutionary party. What role did this party play in opposing tsarism before and during the 1905 Revolution?
7. Examine the composition and policy positions of the liberal movement in early 1900s Russia. Who belonged to liberal groups and what system of government did they desire?
8. How did the formation, expansion and treatment of Russia’s industrial workforce contribute to a growth in revolutionary sentiment?
9. Evaluate the role played by the Bolshevik party and its individual members in both the 1905 and February 1917 revolutions.
10. It is often said that the Bolsheviks were a party formed in Lenin’s own image. To what extent is this statement true?
The 1905 Revolution
2. Was the petition drafted by Georgi Gapon and the Putilov workers in early 1905 a simple list of grievances about working conditions? Or was it an incitement to political revolution?
3. Explain the impact of the ‘Bloody Sunday’ shootings of 1905, both on public perceptions of tsarism and on the revolutionary movement in Russia.
4. One historian described the 1905 Revolution as “a revolution with five arms but no head”. To what extent was this true and how did it affect the outcomes of the revolution?
5. Examine the tsar’s responses to the 1905 Revolution and the growing demands for an elected Duma. What do they reveal about his commitment to reform?
6. What was contained in the October Manifesto and what impact did this document have on the progress of the 1905 Revolution?
7. Compare and evaluate the contribution of the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries to the 1905 Revolution.
8. Leon Trotsky described the events of 1905 as a “dress rehearsal” for the revolutions of 1917. What lessons do you think were learned by the Russian revolutionaries from 1905?
9. Explain how tsarist chief minister Piotr Stolypin responded to the events of 1905. How successful were these responses in reestablishing tsarist authority?
10. Explore the activities and the role of the first three Dumas between 1906 and 1912. To what extent were these bodies effective or influential?
The February Revolution
2. Discuss the actions of Grigori Rasputin between 1905 and 1916. How did Rasputin contribute to revolutionary sentiment in the build-up to February 1917?
3. Discuss the role played by the fourth Duma and its Provisional Committee in the development of the February Revolution and the overthrow of tsarism.
4. To what extent was Russia’s entry into World War I a product of tsarist mismanagement? Did Nicholas II contribute to his own doom – or was he a victim of circumstance?
5. Evaluate the argument that the tsar’s decision to take personal command of the army in 1915 marked the beginning of the end for his regime.
6. Describe the political, economic and social impact that World War I had on Russia and its people, with a particular focus on the year 1916.
7. Explain how errors of judgement and mismanagement by the tsar and tsarina in February 1917 contributed to the overthrow of tsarism.
8. Discuss the role of propaganda and public perception in bringing down tsarism in February 1917. Refer to at least three specific pieces of propaganda.
9. The February Revolution is often described as a “leaderless” revolution. Was this really the case? Which people and groups were responsible for the revolution?
10. According to one historian, “tsarism collapsed with a whimper”. Evaluate this statement, referring specifically to the actions of the tsar and his advisors.
The Provisional Government and October Revolution
1. Discuss the composition, support and political legitimacy of the Provisional Government in March 1917. Did this government have a greater mandate to rule than the tsarist regime it replaced?
2. Examine the political career and rise to prominence of Alexander Kerensky. To what extent was Kerensky a socialist, both before 1917 and during his service in the Provisional Government?
3. What challenge did the formation of the Petrograd Soviet and the issuing of its Order Number One pose to the Provisional Government?
4. Explain how and why the German government backed Lenin’s return to Russia in April 1917. How was this perceived by Lenin’s opponents?
5. How did Lenin’s April 1917 speech at Finland Stand and the publication of his April Thesis shortly after radically transform the situation in Russia?
6. Give reasons for the political instability of the Provisional Government through the middle of 1917. What were the eventual outcomes of this instability?
7. Referring to specific conditions, policies and events, explain Kerensky’s statement that the Provisional Government had “authority without power” while the Petrograd Soviet had “power without authority”.
8. Explain how the ‘July Days’ and the Kornilov affair each affected the Bolsheviks and their position.
9. Describe the role of the Military Revolutionary Committee in overthrowing the Provisional Government.
10. Evaluate the ideas and actions of Leon Trotsky in 1917, comparing Trotsky’s contribution to the October Revolution with that of Lenin.
11. Was the overthrow of the Provisional Government in October 1917 a Bolshevik-engineered coup or a popular revolution?
12. Why has the Bolshevik capture of the Winter Palace become an iconic moment of the Russian Revolution? Is the significance of this event justified?
The Bolsheviks in power
1. To what extent was the Bolshevik seizure of power in October 1917 supported by non-Bolshevik socialists and ordinary Russians?
2. Describe the system of government developed in the weeks following the October Revolution. To what extent did the Bolsheviks honour Lenin’s demand for “all power to the Soviets”?
3. Explain the policy of “state capitalism”, articulated by Lenin during the first months of Bolshevik rule. What was this policy intended to achieve?
4. Referring to specific Bolshevik policies from 1917 and 1918, evaluate the extent to which Lenin and his government were able to deliver “peace, bread and land” to the Russian people.
5. Discuss the formation, sitting and closure of the Constituent Assembly in December 1917 and January 1918. Why did Lenin permit elections for this body, only to close it almost immediately?
6. Was the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk a victory or a defeat for the Bolshevik government? What were the short-term and long-term impacts of this treaty, both for the Bolshevik movement and for the Russian people>
7. Describe the Bolshevik policy of war communism. What was it intended to achieve and how successful was it?
8. Explain the conditions and causes that led to the Red Terror of 1918. Was the Terror a response to circumstances – or were the Bolsheviks destined to call on terror as a means of ruling Russia?
9. Why was Trotsky’s leadership as war commissar critical to the Bolshevik victory in the Russian Civil War? Identify and discuss five major contributions Trotsky made to the war effort.
10. Which groups or regions opposed the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War? Compare their political objectives, as well as their success in opposing the Bolshevik regime.
Crisis and consolidation
2. Discuss reasons for the formation and activities of the Workers’ Opposition. How did Lenin and the Bolshevik hierarchy respond to factionalism in the party?
3. Explain the reasons for the outbreak of the anti-Bolshevik uprising at Kronstadt in early 1921. What impact did this rebellion have on the Bolshevik regime?
4. Was the New Economic Policy, passed by Lenin and his government in 1921, a “strategic retreat” – or a sign that their revolution had failed?
5. In 1921 Lenin called for party unity and an end to factionalism. Discuss the impact that events like Kronstadt and the NEP had on unity within the Bolshevik movement.
6. “The Bolsheviks were successful revolutionaries but failures at political leadership and economic management.” Discuss the validity of this statement.
7. Lenin once likened revolutions to locomotives that must be driven fast but kept “on the rails”. Did the Bolshevik revolution lose direction because it attempted to move too quickly?
8. How did the Bolsheviks respond to Lenin’s withdrawal from public life in 1922-23? Why was there a crisis of leadership in the party during this period?
9. Many considered Leon Trotsky to be Lenin’s natural successor as leader of the party and the Soviet Union. Discuss at least three reasons why Trotsky did not assume the party leadership.
10. Explain Joseph Stalin’s career and contribution to the revolution up to and including 1922. How did Stalin ascend to the leadership of the party?
Evaluating the revolution
2. Discuss three reasons why democratic government failed to take root in Russia between 1905 and 1918.
3. “War made revolution possible but made rebuilding society impossible”. Referring to three different wars, discuss the relationship between war and revolution in Russia between 1905 and 1921.
4. “Women played an essential role in both the revolutions of 1917 and the development of the new Soviet state.” To what extent is this statement true?
5. The historian Orlando Figes called one of his Russian Revolution text A People’s Tragedy. How and why was the revolution a “tragedy” for the people of Russia?
6. The Russian peasantry was an “immovable mountain” when it came to change, claimed one writer. How did Russia’s peasants respond – or fail to respond – to reform and revolution?
7. “The Russian Revolution transformed Russia from a backward agrarian empire into a modern industrial state.” To what extent is this statement correct?
8. Was the Russian Revolution evidence that communism does not work in practice? Or did the Russian context make socialism impossible to achieve? Discuss.
9. What were the implications of Stalin’s leadership for the people of Russia? How did Stalin transform the Soviet Union in the first decade of his rule?
10. How different were Stalin’s ideology and methods from those of Lenin? Did Stalin take the Communist Party down a new path – or did he continue and expand what Lenin had started?