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Unit information: Russian Orthodox Culture in 2020/21

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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

By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate an understanding of the significance of orthodox culture within Russian studies;
  2. analyse and evaluate a wide body of source materials in both English and Russian;
  3. select and synthesise relevant critical approaches to this material;
  4. formulate independent judgements in response to questions or problems raised;
  5. develop effective oral presentation skills.

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous sessions and asynchronous activities, including seminars, lectures, and collaborative as well as self-directed learning opportunities supported by tutor consultation.

Assessment Details

1 x individual presentation (40%), testing ILOs 1-5.

1 x 2000-word essay (60%), testing ILOs 1-4.

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)