Skip to main content

Unit information: Gender in Twentieth- and Twenty-First Century Russia (TB2) in 2020/21

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 Gender in Twentieth- and Twenty-First Century Russia (TB2)
Unit code RUSS30071
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Connor Doak
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Russian
Faculty Faculty of Arts


When the Bolsheviks seized power in the October Revolution of 1917, they aimed not merely to create a new political system, but to transform society in its entirety, including gender and sexuality. In this course, we begin by studying Marxist ideas about gender and sexuality and then consider the extent to which the Soviets put these ideas into practice. Reading a variety of official and unofficial Soviet texts, we trace how gender and sexuality became contested political fields in the Soviet Union, and consider how Soviet citizens complied with, negotiated and resisted norms propagated by the state. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, many initially assumed that Russia would follow the path of Western-style liberal capitalist democracy, and the unique features of Russia’s sex/gender system would vanish. However, the past decade has seen a resurgence of Russian exceptionalism under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, and, with it, a new cult of virility and heightened surveillance of LBGTQ people. We conclude our course with a consideration of recent developments in Russia, such as the Pussy Riot case and the development of anti-gay laws in St. Petersburg, examining whether and how they fit into Russia’s historical trajectory.

This unit carries a formative piece of assessment, group work leading to group presentations

Intended learning outcomes

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

  1. evaluate how gender intersects with broader social, political, and cultural concerns in Russia;
  2. demonstrate a detailed understanding of Soviet and post-Soviet culture and society, and of the similarities and differences between how gender operates in a socialist and post-socialist framework;
  3. develop advanced skills of literary and cultural criticism to assess how gender operates in a set of texts by selecting theoretical tools from gender and sexuality studies as appropriate;
  4. apply and enhance academic writing and presentation skills at a standard appropriate to level H;
  5. collaborate effectively on a joint group project.

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 2000-word essay (40%), testing ILOs 1-4

1 x 3000-word essay (60%), testing ILOs 1-4

1 x formative group presentation (required to pass), testing ILOs 1-5

Reading and References

  • Anna Akhmatova, Rekviem [Requiem]
  • Isaak Babel’, Konarmiia [Red Cavalry]
  • Evgeniia Ginzburg, Krutoi marshrut [Into the Whirlwind]
  • Vozvrashchenie [The Return], film, dir. Andrei Zviagnitsev
  • Raewyn Connell, Gender: A Short Introduction. (Polity, 2009)
  • Sarah Ashwin, ed. Gender, State and Society in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia (Routledge, 2000)