About this day
For A-level and IB students
This popular and exciting day will appeal to all A-level students studying Russian history, with a focus on the period 1894 – 1964. World-class historians will present stimulating and relevant talks which are sure to inspire, inform and entertain. Topics will cover the end of Romanov rule and the Revolutions to communist government under Lenin through to the Stalin and Khrushchev eras.
The day will include an examination session providing first-hand guidance and insights to help boost students’ confidence and grades. Handouts containing key information on the topics covered and examination advice will be provided and there will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions.
We are delighted to announce that the Historian of the Soviet Union Dr Simon Huxtable will chair the day.
Programme & speakers
Nicholas II and the collapse of the Romanov Dynasty Simon Dixon, UCL
By 1900, Russia was the only surviving autocracy in Europe. This fact and the personality of the last Romanov tsar, Nicholas II made it difficult to govern. Convinced that his authority was directly sanctioned by God, and inspired by a nationalist vision of Russian history, Nicholas proved tragically incapable of marrying the modern world with the traditions he struggled to defend. His dynasty was felled by war, when he took command of his troops, and by the February Revolution that forced his abdication.
About Professor Simon Dixon
Simon Dixon is Sir Bernard Pares Professor of Russian History at UCL. He is the author of Catherine the Great (Profile Books, 2009) and has written widely about the interplay between politics and religion at the end of the old regime. In 2017, he gave the Royal Historical Society’s Prothero Lecture on the restoration of the Patriarchate in Moscow in 1917. Between 2015 and 2019 he was Chairman of the Literary Committee for the Russian Booker Prize.
The Russian Revolution and Civil War 1917 - 1921 Antony Beevor, Historian
If WW1 was the original 20th century catastrophe, the Russian civil war was probably the most influential because it shaped future events across Europe and elsewhere. The destruction and the mindless cruelty of the fighting deepened the split between Reds and Whites, creating a circle of fear and hatred between Left and Right; Lenin’s determination to annihilate the middle and upper classes contributed to the growth of Fascism. Knowledge of the Russian civil war is the key to understanding the process which led to the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War and beyond.
About Sir Antony Beevor
Sir Antony Beevor is a military historian and bestselling author who has published widely. His books include Stalingrad which won the Wolfson Prize for History and the first Samuel Johnson Prize and more recently, Russia: Revolution and Civil War, 1917—1921. He has been a visiting professor at the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at Birkbeck, University of London and at the University of Kent and his works have been translated into over 30 languages.
Ideology or Ambition? Which Best Explains the Struggle to Succeed Lenin Daniel Beer, Royal Holloway, University of London
The political struggle to succeed Lenin was entwined with competing revolutionary visions for the transformation of the Soviet Union. Lenin’s comrades jockeyed for position and influence as the party furiously debated the economic and ideological compromises of the NEP. As fears mounted that the revolution was running into the sand, Bolsheviks believed that the very survival of the Soviet regime was now at stake. It was against this backdrop of political and ideological turmoil that Stalin rose to power.
About Professor Daniel Beer
Daniel is Professor of Modern European History at Royal Holloway and a specialist on Russia. His most recent book, The House of the Dead: Siberian Exile Under the Tsars, won the 2017 Cundill History Prize and was shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize. He has written for The Guardian, History Today, BBC History, The Times Literary Supplement, Literary Review, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.
Making Literature and Art Soviet in the Stalin era Polly Jones, University of Oxford
This talk will consider the different ways that the Stalin leadership conceived of the roles of literature and the arts in the Soviet system, and how writers and artists navigated these shifting expectations. Polly Jones will examine the role of Soviet culture in fostering the ‘new Soviet person’ and in propaganda more broadly. She will also trace the debates over how much regime control and censorship should be imposed on the arts, and the aesthetic variety produced by the ongoing uncertainty about the Sovietization of culture. (Image credit: Military propaganda posters/Lee Wright/Flickr/CC-BY-2.0)
About Professor Polly Jones
Polly Jones is Professor in Russian at University College, Oxford. She is the author and editor of several books on Soviet cultural history and politics, including Revolution Rekindled. The Writers and Readers of Late Soviet Biography and Myth, Memory, Trauma: Rethinking the Stalinist Past in the Soviet Union, 1953-70. Professor Jones appears regularly on radio and TV to talk about Russian culture and history, and was consultant to Armando Iannucci’s film ‘The Death of Stalin’.
Khrushchev and the End of Terror Miriam Dobson, University of Sheffield
After Stalin’s terror, millions of prisoners were released from Soviet prison camps and from places of exile across the USSR. This talk explores the impact of these returns. Some communists came back from the Gulag and rejoined the party but other returnees struggled to reintegrate into Soviet society. We might assume that undoing the worst excesses of Stalinism generated a sense of relief within Soviet society, but the reality was rather more complex. (Image credit: RIA Novosti archive, image #9347 / V. Malyshev / CC-BY-SA 3.0)
About Dr Miriam Dobson
Miriam Dobson is Reader in Modern History at the University of Sheffield. Her research interests focus on the history of the Soviet Union, with a particular emphasis on the social and cultural history of post-war Russia and Ukraine. Her first published book was Khrushchev’s Cold Summer: Gulag Returnees, Crime and the Fate of Reform After Stalin which won the 2010 Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize. She has blogged for Russian History Blog and for Sheffield University’s History Matters.