“When the meteor hit Cheliabinsk, it blazed across the sky, spewed out its shards, and then sank quietly into a lake. That’s what many hoped the breakup of the Soviet Union would be like. It would end with a compliant Russia as benign as the rock that is now sitting in Cheliabinsk’s museum. That has not occurred. The shards continue to resurface, and their ripples are felt far and wide.”

Anne Garrels (2016)

Twenty-five years after the demise of the Soviet Union, the legacy of the Soviet project remains palpable in the Russian heartland and across the post-Soviet space, even as new political, economic, technological and environmental challenges shape the societies of our globalizing world. In this course we will explore contemporary Russia from a historical perspective, seeking insight on the present by better understanding the past on which it is built. In particular we will examine how efforts to reform the Soviet Union ended in its dissolution. We will consider how the Soviet legacy informed the efforts to transform the social, political and economic structures of Russia and the former Soviet Republics. And we will develop a deeper understanding of the historical context and current salience of contemporary issues and challenges in what Anne Garrels calls “Putin Country.”