Soviet Disunion: Nationalities Issues in the USSR (L3) CEES3033

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 3 (SCQF level 9)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This is a Level 3 course non-Honours course taught through Central and East European Studies (CEES). This course examines the evolution of the multi-ethnic Soviet Union, home to over 100 nationalities. Students will examine 'from below' the minority experience in the USSR. This was inextricably bound to the fundamental question that dogged Soviet leaders from Lenin to Gorbachev - whether to supress or encourage the development of individual nationalities and how to do either alongside the project to create a supranational Soviet identity. 'Soviet Disunion' addresses how nationality issues both moulded the Soviet Union and led to the fracturing of the USSR along national lines and the creation of 15 new nation states. This course will provide students with the historical context necessary understand the ethnic dimensions contemporary Russia's relationships and conflicts with its post-Soviet neighbours.


One 2-hour class per week over 10 weeks

Requirements of Entry

Mandatory: Grade D3 in CEES 2A and CEES 2B

Excluded Courses





Students will be required to write one essay of 2,500 words, comprising 50% of the grade, and a write-up report of 1,500 words (35%) in the week following their in-class 10-minute oral presentation (15%).


Adjustments and/or alternative modes of assessment will be available for students with disabilities that impact attendance and/or public speaking.

Course Aims

This course aims to provide students with a firm understanding of the major and minor nationalities of the USSR and he Russian Empire's colonial legacy. Students will have the opportunity to learn about the fundamentals of the concepts of colonisation, Russification and the Russian terms 'indigenisation', 'merger', 'drawing together' within the context of the Soviet legacy and how this impacted on the development and implementation of Soviet nationality policy across different eras and regions. The course will also the course will open new avenues to students to learn about the role nationalism has played in the processes of continuity and change that caused the Soviet collapse. In doing so, it will provide students with the historical context to understand the ethnic dimension of conflicts in the former Soviet Union including the current Russo-Ukraine War.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Demonstrate a critical understanding of the socio-political role of nationality in multi-ethnic states 

■ Undertake a critical analysis of the USSR in its multi-ethnic complexity especially by moving beyond Russo-centric and Moscow-centric perceptions of the USSR 

■ Identify and analyse the Soviet Union's complicated and hierarchical nature as an ethno-territorial patchwork federation and be able to distinguish between interpretations of Soviet 'nationality policy'

■ Utilise a range of transferable skills including the assessment of primary sources and particularly oral skills through in-class presentations

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.