Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Stalin's Terror: Causes, Crimes, Consequences

HISTORY 24N

This course explores the period of Stalin's rule in the Soviet Union from 1928 until 1953 and focuses on what the Russians called "the repressions." This includes, the war against the kulaks, the Ukrainian famine (Holodomor), the operations against the nationalities, the Great Terror, the deportation of the "punished peoples," the expansion of the Gulag (prison camp system), the Leningrad Affair, and the Doctors' Plot. The origins of these events are still controversial, as are their impact on the development of the Soviet Union. Scholars also continue to argue about the numbers of deaths involved. Students will discuss the arguments about Stalin's crimes using newly available documents, memoirs, literary sources, and other materials. We will visit the Hoover Archives, view the poster and film collection there, and discuss the period with archivists. Viewing films and documentaries, we will also reconstruct the lives of the people faced with the daily threat of denuciations and arrest. "Life has become better comrades; living has become happier..." was an often repeated slogan during the  period of Stalin's terror. We will examine how that slogan translated into reality. 

Meet the Instructor(s)

Norman Naimark

Norman Naimark is McDonnell Professor of East European Studies in the Department of History, a Senior Fellow at Hoover, and has been interested in the Soviet Union since his own undergraduate days at Stanford. He studied Russian, has visited the Soviet Union (and now Russia) dozens of times since the late 1960s, and has written widely on Soviet international behavior.

"I have been fascinated with the historical figure of Stalin since I was a student. Part of that interest came from Stalin's crucial role in the development of the Cold War. But part was in Stalin's brutal terror carried out against the Soviet people. Since the fall of the Soviet Union -- and especially since the turn of the 21st century -- new documents and materials have become available that illuminate some of the darker corners of that history. I wrote one book (Stalin's Genocides, 2010) on the subject, but have found that there is much more to read, think about, and discuss when confronting that intriguing, if awful, era. I look forward to coming to terms with Stalin and his crimes together with the students."