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Unit information: Russian Orthodox Culture in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Russian Orthodox Culture
Unit code RUSS20044
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Coates
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Russian
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The unit is predicted on the supposition that Russia's national religion has over the course of its history been one of the most significant influences on its cultural development, and that an adequate understanding of Russian inellectual history and Russian literature and the arts is not possible without a knowledge of the cultural forms, theology, and history of Orthodoxy. This course covers the most significant aspects of these, drawing on a range of audi-visual and written media. Topics include the adoption of Orthodoxy by Russia, the history and theology of the icon, the development of Russian church architecture, the symbolism of the church interior, ritual and liturgy, conceptions of sainthood, religious dissent and the 17C Schism, and the relationsip between Russian Orthodoxy and nationalism.


  • To introduce students to a significant body of knowledge of a complexity appropriate to second year level. The content matter will normally include one or more of the following: literature; social, cultural or political history; linguistics; cultural studies; film, television or other media.
  • To facilitate students’ engagement with a body of literature, including secondary literature, texts, including in non-print media, primary sources and ideas as a basis for their own analysis and development. Normally many or most of these sources will be in a language other than English and will enhance the development of their linguistic skills.
  • To develop further skills of synthesis, analysis and independent research, building on the skills acquired in units at level C.
  • Some options may prepare students for the experience of the Year Abroad

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will be able to demonstrate

  1. knowledge about a significant cultural theme within Russian studies
  2. skill in the selection and synthesis of relevant material;
  3. an ability to evaluate and analyse relevant material from a significant body of source materials, in both English and Russian, at a high level;
  4. an ability to respond to questions or problems by presenting their independent judgements in an appropriate style and at an high level of complexity;
  5. skills of formal academic oral and written presentation appropriate to level I.

Teaching details

Normally one lecture hour and one seminar hour per week across one teaching block (22 contact hours), often with student presentations. In units with a smaller number of students the lecture hour may be replaced by a second seminar or a workshop. Units involving film may require students to view films outside the timetabled contact hours.

Assessment Details


1. assessed presentation (20%);

2. 2000 word commentary (40%);

3. 2000 word essay (40%).

These exercises all assess ILOs 1-5.

Reading and References

Bulgakov, S., The Orthodox Church (Crestwood: SVSP, 1988)

McGuckin, J. A., The Orthodox Church: an Introduction to its History, Doctrine, and Spiritual Culture, paperback edition (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011)

Ware, T., The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity (London: Penguin, 2015)

Zernov, N., The Russians and their Church (London: SPCK, 1978)