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Russian Foreign Policy from Alexander I to Vladimir Putin - HIS00074M

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Shane O'Rourke
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

This course will look at Russian foreign policy over a period of 200 years from 1815 to 2015 . It will seek to establish the continuities and discontinuities in foreign policy between the Imperial, Soviet and Post-Soviet regimes. The course will be framed chronologically and thematically. We will seek to understand the drivers of foreign policy during this period. Among the themes to be studied will be geopolitics, ideology, Great Power Status and the need for security. By following these themes through two centuries we should see clearly what is constant and and what is ephemeral in Russian foreign policy.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

The module aims to:

  • Develop skills of source analysis and interpretation;
  • Assess a range of source material and relevant secondary works; and
  • Develop students’ powers of evidence-based historical argument, both orally and in writing.

Module learning outcomes

After successfully completing this course students should:

  • Have a understanding of the main contours of Russian foreign policy over the past 200 years
  • Understand the importance of recurring themes in Russian foreign policy
  • Be able to distinguish what is constant and what is ephemeral in Russian foreign policy
  • Understand Russia’s place in the system of international relations over the past 200 years

Module content

Teaching Programme:

Students will attend eight weekly two-hour seminars in weeks 2-9.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

  1. Russian Foreign Policy: Themes and Principles

  2. The Imperial Period (1) 1815 -1856 The search for stability – The Concert of Europe

  3. The Imperial Period (2) 1856-1914: Security Through Alliances

  4. The Soviet Period (1) 1917-1941: The World Revolution and the Soviet State

  5. The Soviet Period (2) 1941-1984 The Soviet Superpower

  6. The Post Soviet Period (1) 1984 – 2000 Search for a new path

  7. The Post-Soviet Period (2) 2000-2015 The Return of a Great Power?

  8. Concluding session: Russian foreign policy 1815-2015


Task Length % of module mark
4,000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will complete a 2,000-word essay for formative assessment, due in week 6 or 7 of the autumn term, for which they will receive an individual tutorial. They will then submit a 4,000-word assessed essay for summative assessment in week 2 of the spring term.

For further details about assessed work, students should refer to the Statement of Assessment for Taught Postgraduate Programmes.


Task Length % of module mark
4,000 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment, students will receive oral feedback at a one-to-one meeting with their tutor and written feedback consisting of comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission. Tutors are also available in their student hours to discuss formative assessment. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

Haslam, J. Russia’s Cold War: From the October Revolution to the Fall of the Wall. New Haven, 2011.

Rieber, A.J. The Struggle for the Eurasian Borderlands: From the Rise of the Early Modern Empires to the End of the First World War. Cambridge, 2014.

Tsygankov, A. Russia and the West From Alexander to Putin: Honor in International Relations. Cambridge, 2014.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.